Dashboards are a great way to keep track of your business. However, if you’re not using a good dashboard software, you won’t be able to build insightful dashboards for your business.
Here’s a list of features you can look for in a dashboard software while selecting one for your business.
1. Supported data sources
Wouldn’t it be great if your Dashboard Software supports all the data sources used by your business? Every business relies on various data sources such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Google Analytics, etc to run successfully. If your data isn’t supported by your dashboard tool then it’s features won’t really help much.
It saves a lot of time if your dashboard software can connect to your data wherever it is located, in-place. This helps you avoid moving your data from one location to another.
2. Integration with your infrastructure
It helps a lot if your dashboard software integrates easily with your company’s existing data infrastructure. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time & resources trying to make it work on your systems.
3. Provides unified view of all data in one place
Every business has multiple departments and processes such as marketing, sales, hr, and customer support. The key benefit of a business dashboard is to provide at-a-glance status of your business, in one place. So, your dashboard software should be able to calculate and display KPIs about all your departments, from one place. This enables you to monitor your business regularly, and respond quickly to issues.
4. Advanced visualizations
Dashboards use visualizations to transform data into insights. Lack of visualizations limits your ability to draw business insights and make decisions. A good dashboard software should provide a wide range of advanced visualizations so that you can visually present your data.
For example, every dashboard software provides a line chart but in some cases, you may want the lines to stack up and in some cases you may want them to overlap. Does your dashboard software provide these visualizations?
5. Real-time reporting capabilities
Today, most businesses use transactional data that updates every day. To make decisions, you need the latest insights on your fingertips. Real-time dashboards help you stay up-to-date about your business.
A Dashboard software should provide real-time dashboards with auto-refresh feature. It should also enable you to export dashboards in multiple formats so you can easily share a snapshot of your dashboard with others.
6. Collaboration Features
Collaboration features make it easier to share insights and enable users to make informed decisions.
Dashboards should allow users to post comments & questions in the dashboard itself. This allows others to chip in and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Dashboard creators are different from dashboard consumers. For example, dashboard creators are typically analysts or developers whereas dashboard consumers are managers and executives. Generally, people email reports to each other and discuss insights over emails. This is not only error prone but also time consuming.
Your dashboard software should enable you to share dashboards via URL and publish it in multiple formats. This allows you to integrate exported files into your custom systems for further analysis and reporting.
7. Automated dashboard creation
It’s painful to manually re-build dashboards every time your data updates. An effective dashboard software automatically refreshes your dashboards, at regular intervals. This allows users to create dashboards once and benefit forever.
8. Flexible dashboard layout
As your business grows, you dashboard requirements will evolve. You may add new data sources, start new business processes or want more detailed monitoring of existing business activities. The number of KPIs & metrics will increase and you’ll need to add them to your dashboard. You may also need to re-design your dashboard, based on your team’s feedback. For example, you may need to move the charts around or change visualization types, because it is more intuitive or it makes more sense.
It’s necessary to use a dashboard software that provides a flexible dashboard layout. This makes it easy to add new visualizations, move or change the existing ones, from time to time. Otherwise, it will seriously limit your ability to draw insights from data. For example, most dashboard software impose a rigid layout whereby your charts/tables are confined to a pre-defined grid. This makes it really difficult to accommodate wider charts that need to use more data points.
8. Ad Hoc Analysis
Although dashboards are used to display KPIs, it’s important that your dashboard software supports ad-hoc analysis as well. Otherwise, you’ll need to spend money on buying additional software or building in-house processes to simply analyze your data.
Imagine using separate software for data analysis and reporting. It only adds overheads such as training personnel to use the additional software, transferring data across the different applications, additional licensing fees and data integration.
It’s best if your dashboard software provides a graphical interface to analyze and report your data, and also allows advanced users to perform sophisticated calculations using SQL queries or APIs. This enables business users to create ad hoc reports on their own and fulfill their information requirements.
9. Role-based Access Control
Typically, dashboards contain sensitive information and therefore, should be visible to only those who have the permission for it. So, a dashboard software should have the ability to assign/revoke access permissions to control who can view or update your dashboards. You don’t want your former employees to be able to access your business dashboards.
Access permissions allow you to organize dashboards across teams, departments or business areas, and maintain information confidentiality. For example, you can compartmentalize reports for each department, team or client.
10. Responsive Interface
In today’s business, different people use different devices to get their work done. For example, analysts and developers use wide screen monitors whereas executives and managers rely on tablets and mobiles.
A dashboard software needs to be responsive enough to allow analysts to create dashboards on a Mac screen and allow Managers to view dashboards on their tablets. You may even need to project dashboards on a large screen during team meetings, or display it on a TV screen in your office for your team to stay up-to-date. A responsive dashboard interface ensures that you build dashboards once and access it anywhere, on any device.
11. Scheduled Email Reports
Executives & Managers may not have the time to use your dashboard software. They may only want a business update once in a while. Scheduled email reports are a great way to keep them in the loop.
Your dashboard software should allow you to automatically email dashboards at regular intervals. This enables everyone to be up-to-date without accessing your dashboard software.
Also, scheduled reports allow you to update different stakeholders at different intervals of time. For example, managers may be interested in weekly reports, but an executive may only want a monthly report. You should be able to create different mailing schedules for them so that executives don’t feel spammed by weekly reports.
12. Deployment Options
Dashboard software are available as standalone desktop / cloud-based / on-premise applications. Each software type is suitable for a different purpose.
Desktop-based dashboard software are light weight applications suitable for a single user. They work with files and local databases. They’re suitable for quickly generating a few reports for personal reference but they cannot be used for team-based scenarios.
On-premise dashboard software are self-hosted solutions deployed over the intranet by the IT team. Since they’re self-hosted, you need an IT team to setup & manage the solution all the time. As a result, they pose significant initial and recurring costs. They’re suitable if you have an IT team for dashboard reporting or if your business deals with sensitive data that you may not want to leave your network.
Cloud-based dashboard software make it easy to build, manage and share dashboards without depending on the IT. Since they are hosted solutions, they provide a lower cost of ownership, reduced hardware, and rapid deployments. They’re suitable for small to medium business who may not want to build a dedicated IT team simply to manage a dashboard software. Most cloud solutions (like Ubiq) are provided as SaaS, so you can pay as you go. No initial payment upfront or long-term contracts. There has been heavy adoption of cloud-based dashboard software over past couple of years and these days, most companies opt for a cloud-based solution instead of an on-premise one.
Apart from the above mentioned software-specific features, a good customer support and an easy-to-use documentation can go a great way to simplify dashboard creation for your business.