There are two main varieties of dashboards: analytical dashboards and operational dashboards.
Analytics dashboards are just that, analytical. They are created for the sole purpose of gaining knowledge and insight from data. Users of these dashboards seek insight into the past and the future, wondering what happened and what's to come.
Operations dashboards, on the other hand, are not created specifically to learn. They exist to manage the day-to-day occurrences of a business.
Like analytical applications, operations dashboards are capable of revealing data trends. Their key function, however, comes from their ability to drill down through current intelligence to get alerts and recognize probable issues that may arise.
Well, the answer to that question depends completely upon certain parameters:
First and foremost, why do you need any dashboard in the first place? If you need deeper insight into your business or are searching for trends, use an analytical dashboard. If you are interested in KPI awareness or time sensitive matters, an operations dashboard if for you.
Who will be using this dashboard? The overall feel of the dashboard will be determined based on the end user. For executives or analysts, use an analytical dashboard; for managers and standard business users an operations dashboard is more appropriate.
What is the end goal? What are you hoping to achieve by utilizing a dashboard? If you have strategic goals, go with an analytical dashboard. If you are tracking against goals; an operational.
Finally, an important thing to consider is where your source data is stored. Operations dashboards are typically more suited to improving the visibility of singular systems and applications as opposed to multiple data sources.
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