Reports are an essential part of all major business processes. From sales and marketing reports to financial reports – summarizing data for review or collaboration is everywhere. While reports can take different forms, piling up monotonous lines of numbers isn’t the best way to present the results of your work. Whether you need to prepare a report for clients, colleagues, or stakeholders, visualizing your data in a dashboard is a great option.
Dashboard reporting can be useful for various purposes. For example, you can create a dashboard for a one-time presentation or yearly report. Or you can build a comprehensive self-updating dashboard that will automatically pull data from various sources. Such a dashboard can become a powerful tool that will help you track your daily progress in real time and make data-driven decisions.
In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for dashboard reporting and explain how you can leverage this type of data visualization to make your organization more efficient.
What is dashboard reporting?
This is a method of presenting data in an organized way with a series of visualizations, such as tables, charts and graphs. Professionally built dashboards can be essential analytical tools that allow businesses to quickly identify trends, spot existing patterns, and make predictions for the future. In general, dashboards help organizations better understand their performance, monitor progress, and obtain valuable insights.
What is the purpose of dashboard reporting?
Dashboards allow you to transform vast amounts of raw data into concise and clear visualizations that are easy to understand. The main purpose of dashboard reporting is to make data accessible, transparent, and easy to work with. This allows professionals to use data to its fullest on a daily basis and provides a basis for informed decisions. We can say that the ultimate goal of dashboard reporting is making an organization more data-driven and efficient.
Main types of dashboards to use
Data visualization can take many forms depending on your goals. If you need to track key metrics to analyze business performance, you can use a table with scorecards and bar charts, for example. Or, if you want to analyze where your most active or promising audience is located, you can include map charts in your report. Different dashboards serve different purposes, and the best way to build useful custom dashboards is to analyze your primary goals. Once this is done, you can decide which metrics and KPIs should be included and how to better present them.
Types of dashboards by purpose
|Operational dashboard||Focuses on real-time monitoring of specific business processes and operations, displaying KPIs and metrics related to finance, sales, customer satisfaction metrics, etc.|
|Strategic dashboard||Provides an overview of key performance indicators and metrics to support high-level decision-making, with a focus on tracking progress towards long-term goals.|
|Analytical dashboard||Emphasizes data analysis and exploration, often incorporating advanced visualizations and tools to uncover insights and relationships between various data points.|
Types of dashboards by features
|Interactive dashboard||Allows users to interact with data and visualizations, making it possible to drill down into specific details or to explore data from different perspectives. For example, you can switch between different time ranges, and the dashboard will show the information related to the specified period.|
|Self-updating dashboard||Automatically refreshes your metrics in real-time without any manual effort. This can be especially useful if your dashboard needs to represent data collected from multiple sources – in this case, automatic updates can save you a significant amount of time. We’ll explain how to build such a dashboard in the Automate dashboard reporting section.|
|Static dashboard||Displays static data and metrics without allowing for interaction or real-time updates. An example can be a visualization created by a designer in such apps as Figma or Photoshop. Basically, this is a static image, often made to be used in a deck, e-book, or other assets.|
Types of dashboards by field
|Financial dashboard||Presents financial data and metrics, such as revenue and sales data, balance sheet information, gross margin analysis, and expense tracking.|
|Marketing dashboard||Tracks and analyzes marketing campaign performance. For example, it can be used to monitor website traffic, social media engagement, conversion rate, SEO metrics, and so on.|
|Sales dashboard||Displays sales data – for example, information related to pipeline management, lead generation, and revenue forecasting.|
|HR dashboard||Provides an overview of human resources metrics such as employee turnover, engagement, and recruitment metrics.|
|Project management dashboard||Gives an overview of project progress, including task completion, budget tracking, and resource utilization metrics.|
|IT dashboard||Displays key performance indicators for IT operations and infrastructure, including network performance, server utilization, and progress on the IT department’s ongoing tasks.|
If we classify dashboards by the area of expertise they are related to, this list can be continued. The only difference between all these dashboards is the type of data they represent.
One dashboard can fall under two or more categories. For example, operational dashboards can be interactive, marketing dashboards can also be analytical, or sales dashboards can be both strategic and self-updating.
Dashboard reporting examples
In this section, we’ve gathered some data reporting dashboard examples that might be useful for you. They vary from relatively simple visualizations that you can easily create yourself in a spreadsheet app to more advanced pro-level dashboards that require some data analytics expertise and are built in Power BI or Looker Studio.
Custom sales dashboard in Google Sheets
Our first example is a sales dashboard built in Google Sheets. It features a geo chart representing conversion rate and total revenue across different countries. There are also several scorecards, line graphs, a pie chart, and bar chart showing such metrics as total deals, total revenue, average deal lifetime, cumulative revenue, and others.
- Google Sheets’ native functionality allows business users to easily create such a reporting dashboard. Typically, you will need to have one sheet with raw data, and another sheet where you calculate custom metrics. Then, you can connect the visual elements to the corresponding cells or ranges so that the graphs and charts reflect your metrics. Thanks to the app’s simple and intuitive interface, you can do it even without any previous experience. Such analytical dashboards can be useful for monitoring your sales efforts and adjusting your strategy based on the insights you discover.
- This can also be an example of an online reporting dashboard. You can easily share your Google Sheets dashboard with clients, colleagues, or stakeholders – it’s as simple as sending a link. If you automate your dashboard reporting, the data will always be fresh. So, everyone with access to this spreadsheet will be able to check the latest metrics in near real-time.
- For more details, see our article on how to build a Google Sheets sales dashboard – there you will find a detailed step-by-step guide and some useful dashboard templates. If sales are not your primary focus, you can take a look at another blog post that explains how to create a Google Sheets dashboard in general.
Sales overview dashboard
Let’s now move to some more advanced examples of a custom reporting dashboard. Below, you can see a comprehensive online reporting dashboard built by a team of professional data analysts. Like all operational dashboards, it provides a concise overview of the process, highlighting it from various perspectives.
- The dashboard is interactive, so you can easily filter data simply by clicking the parameters you want to select. For example, you can select Technology as a category, and West as a region. Then, all the metrics will be adjusted to separately show sales data related to technology and limited to the west. Such interactive dashboards make it easy to navigate through your metrics and turn the obscurity of raw data into clarity and actionable insights. View the interactive version of the sales overview dashboard in Looker Studio.
- This reporting dashboard self-updates automatically so that data is always fresh. To achieve this, it was connected to various data sources with the help of Coupler.io, an all-in-one data analytics and automation platform. It offers a complete set of tools that allow you to gather, transform, and analyze your data to turn it into a basis for informed decisions. In particular, Coupler.io provides a popular data integration solution that can automatically pull data from 30+ various apps and import it into a spreadsheet or database. Another handy feature is automatic report scheduling. For example, you can easily use it to power your self-updating dashboard in Google Sheets or Excel – you don’t need to be a data analyst to do this, as the solution was designed specifically for business users. We will describe this process in more detail in the Automate dashboard reporting section.
- However, for advanced data management tasks, including professional data visualization, you might need help from professional data analysts. For example, Coupler.io’s team that provides data analytics consultancy services can analyze your specific goals and help you automate your data flows, set up data analytics tools, calculate custom metrics, and build advanced visualizations. Once this is done, your team can use your tailored dashboard independently, without further assistance.
Such an automated report can be a valuable instrument for everyday use as it helps not only monitor your processes, but, more importantly, enables data-driven decision-making.
Sales lead dashboard
Here’s another example of a sales dashboard built by Coupler.io’s data analytics team. This visualization has a narrower focus, showing sales leads split by channel, country, and period. This custom reporting dashboard allows you to analyze where the most quality leads come from and how this process changes over time. It can also be used to make predictions for the future using historical data and, of course, to manage the sales process more efficiently.
View the interactive version of the sales leads dashboard in Power BI.
Performance by Ad Group dashboard
- This omnichannel reporting dashboard shows near real-time marketing data and allows you to track costs and analyze how conversions change depending on the ad channel, product, and specific campaign. Powered by relevant data, a reporting dashboard like this one can be used to quickly optimize your marketing campaign and ensure that the budget is spent in the most efficient way. This data reporting dashboard is interactive as well – you can switch between channels, select different time ranges, and explore your data from various perspectives.
- This dashboard is created in Looker Studio and is connected to a self-updating spreadsheet. Thanks to Coupler.io, the spreadsheet contains only the latest data pulled automatically from such apps as Google Analytics, LinkedIn Ads, and Google Ads. When it’s time for the next scheduled update, Coupler.io transfers fresh data from these sources into the spreadsheet, and after this, the connected Looker Studio marketing dashboard automatically reflects the changes.
View the interactive version of the Performance by Ad Group dashboard.
Other marketing dashboards
See more marketing dashboards on Coupler.io’s data analytics consultancy page in the Actionable dashboards section.
Customer success dashboard
Here’s another example of a useful online reporting dashboard. It allows you to see how your customer support team performs and how the customer satisfaction level changes over time. You can also analyze which channels your customers prefer to reach out for help. You can filter results by a specific channel or period.
View the interactive version of the customer service dashboard.
Customer cohort analysis dashboard
This management reporting dashboard shows such metrics as repurchase rate, customer lifetime value, and average order value split by user groups, or cohorts. The dashboard can help you determine seasonal patterns, track changes influenced by other factors, and use the obtained insights to improve customer retention and maximize customer lifetime value.
View the interactive version of the Customer cohort analysis dashboard.
Best practices for dashboard reporting
Let’s now explore some tips and best practices that can help you streamline your dashboard reporting process and build useful and insightful visualizations.
Keep in mind main dashboard reporting requirements
- Relevance. The dashboard should only display the right data and metrics that are relevant to the intended audience and their decision-making needs.
- Accuracy. Data and metrics displayed on the dashboard must be accurate, up-to-date, and consistent. Various dashboard tools can help you with this.
- Clarity. Data and metrics should be presented in a clear, concise, and easy-to-understand format, using appropriate visualizations and charts.
- Customization and interactivity. The dashboard should allow users to customize and filter the data they see, to better meet their specific needs and requirements.
- Security. The dashboard should ensure that sensitive and confidential data is secure, with proper access controls and data protection measures in place.
If you want to drill down into details, please check our guide on Data visualization best practices. You will learn how to organize your data visually, ensure that the dashboard is tailored to your audience’s needs, and more.
Automate dashboard reporting to boost efficiency
This is arguably one of the most important tips, as it allows you to take your dashboard reporting to a whole new level. Even the most beautifully designed, comprehensive, and useful dashboard won’t let you use your data to its fullest potential if you have to update it manually. This will inevitably result in incremental updates, slower pace, and outdated metrics. If it’s an operational dashboard or complex marketing dashboard that needs to comprise metrics from multiple data sources, then, regular manual updates simply make no sense. On the other hand, you can use reporting software that will refresh all your metrics automatically so that your dashboard will always display near real-time data. Whether you are building a SaaS dashboard, HR dashboard, or anything in-between, automation will be an enormous improvement.
As an example, we can take a look at Coupler.io’s data integration solution that we already mentioned above. It’s very simple to use, and it allows you to quickly transfer your data from 30+ sources to Google Sheets, Excel, or BigQuery. You just need to choose the apps you want to connect, then link your accounts for the selected source and destination, and specify what data exactly you want to export and where to transfer it.
You can create dashboards and dynamic reports directly in a spreadsheet app or connect your destination file or database to a specialized data visualization tool, such as Looker Studio or Power BI. When Coupler.io automatically refreshes your data in a spreadsheet or database, the dashboard built in one of the visualization apps will be updated as well, with zero manual effort. Here’s what the settings for the custom schedule looks like in Coupler.io. As you can see, you can select the interval for the updates, from every 1 month to every 15 minutes, as well as the days of the week and time range when you want to have your data refreshed.
You can sign up for Coupler.io and test the solution during the 14-day free trial, no credit card required. As it’s very easy to use, it’s a good fit for professionals with no technical background who want to automate their dashboard reporting process.
Stick to the basic design rules
There’s no need to be a designer to create a useful and insightful dashboard – after all, data matters more than beauty. However, there are some basic design principles you should keep in mind. First of all, it’s best to use only one to two main colors, and then add darker and lighter shades of the same colors to show gradations. For example, you can select blue to represent sales leads on your graph. In this case, you can use dark-blue to show high-quality leads and light-blue for low-quality ones. Another rule is consistency – this means that you should only use one color for each data type. For instance, if your dashboard contains several graphs representing sales leads, then you should use the same color for both graphs. This makes it easier for the audience to quickly find relevant information and understand it in a glance.
Another important thing is maintaining proportion. For example, if you have a bar chart comparing 50 deals in January to 100 deals in February, the second bar must be exactly twice as long as the first one. In other words, the sizes of visual elements should correspond in the same way as the numbers they represent. If this is not the case, your custom reporting dashboard will be misleading, and data could be interpreted incorrectly. See more misleading data visualization examples.
One more useful rule is labeling all visual elements on your dashboard as clearly as possible. Your audience should be able to easily understand what exactly is represented by each chart, graph, scorecard, or their elements. In addition to this, all numbers should be accompanied by units so that it’s absolutely clear whether your graph depicts millions or billions, kilograms or kilometers. In general, your dashboard shouldn’t contain unlabeled elements. All these rules are simple but very important for building a useful data reporting dashboard that presents information clearly and facilitates decision-making.
Benefits of dashboard reporting
Although some reports still take the form of endless data lines and columns without any color or graphical elements, dashboard reporting is quickly gaining popularity thanks to the enormous benefits it offers to businesses, such as:
- Data-driven decision-making. Dashboards provide real-time insights and visual representations of key data and metrics, which can help teams and executives make informed business decisions more quickly and accurately.
- Increased efficiency. If you automate the collection and presentation of data with dashboard software, even a simple online reporting dashboard can provide enormous value. It will save significant time and increase efficiency compared to manual reporting methods.
- Better data representation. Visual format makes data easy to understand, and it’s one of the main benefits of dashboard reporting. It allows you to highlight the most important metrics, show correlations, and interactively switch between different filters to explore your data from various angles. It helps users quickly identify patterns, trends, and outliers in the data.
- Increased transparency. Dashboards can turn raw data into clarity, making every process, campaign, or activity fully transparent for everyone. When all the stakeholders have access to real-time data and performance metrics, there is no place for any obscurity or confusion. This provides an excellent basis for obtaining business insights.
- Better collaboration. By providing a centralized and accessible view of data, dashboards can help improve collaboration and communication between different departments and stakeholders.
What’s the best way to organize dashboard reporting?
The answer depends on your company’s size and the amount of data you collect on a daily basis. For small to medium businesses, the optimal way to organize the dashboard reporting process will be by creating dashboards in-house. This process can be easily automated with the help of dashboard reporting tools and data integration solutions such as Coupler.io. Affordable pricing makes it a good fit even for small companies.
If your organization is rather big and the amount of data you accumulate is significant, and especially if this data is scattered across multiple data sources – in this case, it might be useful to request help from a team of data analysts. They can help you build pro-level dashboards tailored to your specific needs, and then your team will be able to use them independently as a valuable source of actionable insights. External experts can also help you streamline your data flows, and leverage business intelligence.Back to Blog