executive dashboard

What is an executive dashboard?

An executive dashboard is a computer interface that displays the key performance indicators (KPIs) that corporate officers need to effectively run an enterprise. In simple terms, it is a computer reporting tool that presents data about an organization's performance in a graphical or visual manner.

An executive dashboard, also sometimes called a strategic dashboard, is intended to give executives a holistic overview of the enterprise and how it is performing against established KPIs. The goal is to deliver up-to-date and even real-time data so executives can make data-driven decisions whenever needed.

In IT, the term dashboard refers to a graphical user interface that organizes and presents information in a format that is easy to read and interpret. An effective executive dashboard serves as a starting point from which a corporate executive can get a sense of the big picture before digging deeper into data.

Key features of an executive dashboard

An executive dashboard is intended to deliver actionable information to busy leaders in an easy-to-navigate format that is customizable to the unique needs of the user based on their position and the organization in which they serve.

The executive should be able to establish what KPIs the dashboard will display based on how those KPIs fit with the organization's overall tactical requirements and strategic objectives. The dashboard should also have a customizable interface so the executive can configure it based on usability preferences. It should have various options for how the data can be displayed graphically so the user can determine how best to receive the required data to make it most impactful.

To obtain maximum value, the dashboard should be capable of extracting real-time data from multiple systems within the organization, from enterprise systems such as the customer relationship management (CRM) system to more department-specific applications such as the company's accounting program.

Moreover, the dashboard should have analytics capabilities and the capability to focus on highlighted information to retrieve, review and analyze information in greater depth and detail. It should also have collaboration and sharing capabilities, or the ability to integrate with collaboration systems, giving users the option of utilizing those functions if they want them.

Features of an effective executive dashboard include the following:

  • An intuitive graphical display that is thoughtfully laid out and easy to navigate.
  • A logical structure behind the dashboard that makes accessing current data easy and fast.
  • Displays that can be customized and categorized to meet a user's specific needs.
  • Information from multiple sources, departments or markets.

Importance of executive dashboards

IBM estimated that the world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

Although any single organization produces just a fraction of that data, each enterprise still generates more information than any individual can review. But executives need that data to make smart decisions for their organizations.

Executive dashboards enable that capability by quickly presenting graphical representations of critical data. Executives can then review and analyze real-time data to turn it into actionable information without spending valuable time wading through reports or getting overwhelmed with irrelevant points.

This high-level view, coupled with the ability to seek greater details on specific pieces of information, not only saves executives time but also helps them better track enterprise performance, gain better real-time insight into enterprise or market dynamics, and respond faster to opportunities or crises -- all of which boosts the enterprise's overall performance.

Executive dashboard examples

Dashboards can offer strategic, analytical and operational insights tailored to the executive using the dashboard data.

Although some executives such as the CEO might prefer a dashboard that can deliver data in all three of those areas, other executives may prefer dashboards more tailored to the specific needs of their positions within the enterprise.

For example, a chief information officer may configure their dashboard to display data on the IT portfolio and the metrics most relevant to the IT department, such as operational uptime or mean time to recover technology, rather than the KPIs for the organization as a whole. Similarly, the chief financial officer would likely want to configure the dashboard around financial, economic and accounting metrics.

The head of human resources might real-time data on employee engagement, programs and policies. The chief marketing officer likely wants displays on metrics related to their department, such as KPIs related to sales and customer engagement.

This was last updated in August 2023

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