For even the most tech- and data-savvy individuals, working with the levels of raw data produced by businesses today is overwhelming. Well-executed data dashboards solve this problem by eliminating the noise and drilling down to just the data points necessary at that moment. A data dashboard's dynamic nature helps your team get the most up-to-the-minute information right when they need it.

Our five key takeaways in this post:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems come with dashboard functionality.

  • A data dashboard provides a near real-time glance into key metrics and performance indicators (KPIs) in visualizations designed for the user.

  • Business dashboards are business intelligence (BI) tools that help everyone in your organization access the information necessary to track real-time business performance.

  • Management can make better, more informed business decisions using a well-designed data dashboard.

  • A data dashboard software is most valuable when it's customizable for each department's requirements and can be personalized to individual users.

In this post, we'll go over how to understand, design, and customize your dashboards to best leverage the complex data in your organization and make the decisions that will propel your business forward.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Understanding Data Dashboards

Whether you have an ecommerce store or you're a healthcare provider, you have data — and lots of it. Data is scattered across your organization and serves different purposes depending on the department accessing it. So, how can you help each department and individual team member access the data they need to perform the functions of their role, conduct data analytics, or run reports and forecasts?

With well-designed, easy-to-navigate data dashboards.

What is a Data Dashboard?

Data dashboards are in-program, onscreen visual data displays. The idea behind data dashboards is to put all the data an employee might need — and just that data — front and center in an easy-to-understand format. Usually, a data dashboard reflects information about an organization's business metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) so management or other key stakeholders can see the data, understand it, and use it to formulate business strategies and make important decisions.

Businesses can choose from four different types of data dashboard examples:

  • Operational dashboards

  • Analytical dashboards

  • Strategic dashboards

  • Tactical dashboards

A data dashboard is industry agnostic — anyone can use it in any vertical thanks to the ease of customizations.

You can pull up any sort of data in your dashboard, choose a date range, and use the resulting reports to make sense of what the data's telling you, such as:

  • What event took place?

  • Why did the event take place?

  • What could happen in the future?

  • What can you do now to bolster a desired event (or thwart a potential catastrophe)?

Plus, a data dashboard reflects information in a digestible manner using customizable visualizations, such as:

  • Bar tables

  • Pie charts

  • Graphs

Decision-makers can quickly review a dashboard report and understand what it means even if they're not close to the "why" behind the data.

Key Components of an Effective Data Dashboard

A few key components of effective data dashboards include visualization tools to bring data to life, widgets for users to retrieve the reports they need, and updates that happen in real-time.

Visualization Tools

Data visualization tools assist users with dashboard design so they can transform even the most complex datasets into appealing visual representations. Users can boost a dashboard's clarity provided they use the right visual presentation. 

Some of the most effective visualizations include:

  • Heat maps

  • Dot or scatter plots

  • Graphs

  • Line charts

  • Bar charts

  • Pie charts

Which visualization you choose depends on the data — what do you want to highlight? If you want to draw more attention to a certain aspect, select the visualization that best supports these findings.

Aside from the type of visualization, data visualization best practices are also important. Consider the colors, scale, and labeling methods most effective for communicating your information. Remember, however, that simplicity is key. Too many colors or design elements can make your visualizations difficult to interpret and, therefore, detract from your message.


Widgets are at-a-glance displays of dataset results that let you look at your data differently. For instance, an organization might want to know overall revenue numbers, whereas a manager may want to understand how much revenue is directly attributable to their department. The enhanced interactivity of widgets helps users at any level understand what a dataset means from their perspective.

Data dashboard widgets give users a number of ways to visualize their data, including:

Each widget type has a different appearance and a specific use that helps you visualize, interact with, and gain deeper insights from your data.

Real-time Data Updates

The freshest data results in the most informed decisions. With real-time data updates, management can make more timely decisions, get feedback on these decisions much sooner, and make changes when needed much faster than with outdated data.

Part 2: Designing Your Data Dashboard

Designing a data dashboard is all about what you want to accomplish. What is your dashboard's purpose?

To clearly display your data for stakeholders to understand its meaning, consider:

  • Layout

  • Aesthetics

  • Visualization types

Layout and Aesthetics

A clean and intuitive design is important to keep your data's story centered. The best data dashboard aesthetics:

  • Don't use decorative elements. A cluttered presentation can distract from the information. Refrain from including anything that doesn't strictly illustrate what you want the data to communicate.

  • Employ a hierarchy. Data analysis often reveals multiple stories but not all are equally important. You can use size, shape, color, and position to present the most important information to your stakeholders.

  • Use efficient visualization tools. Proper visualizations are those that are understood in a glance and require minimal or no explanation.

With a layout chosen and aesthetics planned, how you tell your data's story depends on choosing an appropriate visualization type that accurately explains what the data represents.

Choosing the Right Visualization Types

How do you decide which visualizations make the most sense? Many charts, graphs, and maps are naturally tailored to specific data types, so to choose the visualizations for your dashboard:

  • Keep related metrics in groups

  • Make it easy to find metrics

  • Maintain consistency between visualizations, layouts, and aesthetics

Some data dashboard design best practices include:

  • Let your data dashboard's purpose guide your design.

  • Everything in the design should support the intent of your dashboard.

  • Precision isn't as important as the overall big picture.

  • Use colors as contextual clues, such as green for good, orange for concern, or red for bad.

  • Use clear labeling so your audience can understand what you're displaying.

  • Monitor performance after dashboard introduction to see if your reports are helping guide and encourage the intended results.

But also remember that no rule is concrete. You know your team best. If you can increase engagement by tweaking — or breaking — some of these rules, do so.

Part 3: Customizing Data Dashboards

A major challenge of designing a data dashboard is ensuring that customizations serve the many different users and stakeholders who will interact with that dashboard. The first step of dashboard customization is to define user roles.

User Customization Options

Data dashboards require well-defined user roles and permissions. Customizable widgets tailored to each user role lets users further drill down to the specific data story they need.

Once you've defined roles, review the overlap. What needs are the same among users? Where do these requirements diverge?

A good data dashboard effectively communicates your data. To be truly successful, you need some foresight into various user scenarios and circumstances. Users should be top of mind when designing dashboards.

As you build your dashboards, consider such aspects as each user's:

  • Level of technical knowledge

  • System familiarity

  • Goals

Equally as important as ensuring users can access the dashboard information they need is ensuring your data dashboards seamlessly integrate with all the systems housing your data.

Integration with Data Sources

A brilliantly designed data dashboard is meaningless if it doesn't portray reality. Your data dashboard program has to connect with every system housing your business's data.

Properly integrating your data sources with your data dashboards:

  • Boosts operational speed: The right integration helps your team assemble and prepare data for analysis. Thankfully, the automation of data gathering means fewer or no manual operations, making data accessible whenever it's needed, fostering efficiency, boosting productivity, and leading to a better overall use of resources.

  • Minimizes or eliminates data errors: Integration helps reduce mistakes during data collection and entry. Data integration tools review collected data, notify you of errors, and maintain your entries in one place. Updating data and removing any mistakes is as simple as running periodic reports.

  • Improves organizational success: Integrating your data gives you an omniscient view of your business, whereas disparate data sources can only give a small snapshot—it's like trying to guess a resulting image from one puzzle piece.

When employees don't have to manage multiple logins or check for data discrepancies, your whole business operates more smoothly, and you benefit from an increased understanding of your business.

Part 4: Leveraging Data Dashboards for Decision-Making

Data dashboards are the bridge between your data and the strategies you can implement once you understand that data.

For example, a data dashboard can help your company:

  • Optimize marketing plans

  • Drive growth

  • Increase scalability potential

  • Maximize ROI

  • Evaluate departmental performance

  • Analyze departmental strengths and weaknesses

Using a data dashboard can help you streamline your operational processes, which can help you stand out in an ever-crowded market. Your data dashboards harbor valuable insights that can help you make the best decisions for your business's future.

To use your data dashboards for the most impactful business outcomes and enhanced profitability, consider dashboards that offer:

  • Real-time data syncs: Real-time data visualizations offer the most up-to-the-minute overviews of your business.

  • A responsive and intuitive user interface: User adoption directly correlates with ease of use.

  • Analytical features: Drill-down capabilities help users get to the heart of what the data means, while predictive analytics can help teams understand where changes are needed to meet future goals and challenges.

Interactive dashboards are a smart inclusion in your overall business strategy.

Part 5: Benefits of Using Data Dashboards

What can you expect once you've set up data dashboards for your organization?

The benefits of data dashboards are many, especially if you:

  • Set up and regularly review and adjust your business's KPIs

  • Ensure quality and consistent data with strong data governance policies

  • Conduct regular dashboard audits to make sure insights are as relevant as possible

  • Involve your key stakeholders in the creation and design of your data dashboards

When you do, you can enjoy such data dashboard benefits as enhanced decision-making capabilities with supporting data and increased efficiency throughout your organization.

Create Smart Data Dashboards When You Integrate Your Data with

Dashboard tools for businesses offer real-time insights into business performance and help decision-makers present data in a streamlined fashion, make data-driven decisions, build initiatives, and craft strategies that lead to genuine success. Use the tips and best practices you've learned here or experiment with a blend of these with your own intimate knowledge of your business.

With as your data integration partner, you can seamlessly prepare your entire data ecosystem for data dashboards. Sign up for your free, 14-day trial to try it yourself.

Unsure exactly what your business needs in a data dashboard or integration partner? Schedule an intro call with a dedicated integration support specialist to walk you through benefits and use cases. We'll help you ensure your data always gives you the information you need to make the decisions that lead to growth and scalability.


What is the best way to secure a data dashboard?

The best way to secure a data dashboard depends on the nature of your business, how many users you have, and other factors. You can secure your data dashboard using:

  • Role-based access controls. Role-based access control, or RBAC, lets you define and assign user roles to employees granting or restricting access to only data that's pertinent to an employee's role.

  • Encryption. Encryption is really a must in most organizations today. End-to-end encryption secures transmitted data from sender to receiver and all points between, ensuring confidentiality and security.

  • Multi-factor authentication. MFA adds additional security by mitigating unauthorized access. The multiple layers of verification helps protect an organization from threats.

  • Real-time alerts. Monitoring your systems in real-time proactively protects your business from threats, alerting you when a suspicious action takes place so you can discover security issues before they happen and mitigate the damages of a potential breach swiftly.

How often should data dashboards be updated?

You should update or refresh data dashboards on a regular basis to ensure your dashboards reflect the latest information. Create an update schedule in your dashboard based on where your data comes from, how often it's updated, and other relevant business needs. You can update your dashboards manually or set up automatic refreshes with triggers or the update scheduling features of your dashboard. Remember to test your data dashboard after an update to make sure it still functions as it should.

Can data dashboards be integrated with all types of databases?

Yes, your data dashboard can connect with all of your data sources, wherever you store your data, including databases, host files, cloud storage services, and more.

What are the most common mistakes in designing data dashboards?

Some common data dashboard design mistakes include:

  • Creating a dashboard that's so big it requires scrolling or toggling to other pages

  • Not providing enough information to give the reported data context

  • Providing too much information or being too precise with figures

  • Not directly expressing relevant information or giving information that's not pertinent

  • Choosing the wrong kind of visualization

  • Choosing too many focal points in one dashboard

  • Poorly arranged data

  • Detracting from important information with irrelevant decorative elements