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Dashboards and business intelligence explained

by | Jun 22, 2020

Dashboards and business intelligence explained

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’?

Businesses today have more data at their disposal than ever before, but this massive influx of information can be overwhelming to deal with, especially when it comes to sharing and interpreting data from across several sources. This is why Business Intelligence reporting has evolved over the past decade to handle this growing volume of complex data, and present it to companies in an easily-digestible format.

In Business Intelligence (BI), measuring – collecting data – is key, but understanding that data is even more important. Companies use BI reporting to aggregate and analyse data from a variety of sources, giving them a holistic view of all aspects of the business’s performance. This data is increasingly being put onto information management tools, like interactive dashboards, which visually display key metrics in real time, providing up-to-date insights for decision makers and teams to manage their strategies effectively.

You can use Business Intelligence dashboards to track a wide range of metrics and KPIs, which can be customised depending on the needs of your business. You can display web and marketing analytics, financials, and data from HRMS, ERP and CRM tools alongside one another, and choose which metrics you want to highlight. This is one of the key advantages of interactive dashboards: unlike traditional BI reporting, they allow you to visually prioritise specific data points, removing the difficulty of sifting through endless amounts of data to find the trends that really matter in terms of your company’s performance.

Let’s look at two example scenarios from different industries, to see how interactive dashboards can be used to successfully implement better strategies and facilitate data-driven decision making at different levels of a company:


Imagine you own an ecommerce business, and you’re planning to expand into new target markets. You want to track your sales data and expenses to ensure you’re meeting your growth targets before buying more stock and increasing your marketing budget.

You have a huge amount of data on your customers, sales, website traffic, social media engagement and online ad campaigns, but you collect it all from different platforms, which you usually view in isolation from one another.

You might normally enter key metrics from each source into spreadsheets to see the whole picture of your company’s performance, but a BI dashboard can help you connect your data sources and see them all in one place, in real time.

  • Some of the metrics you may choose to include in your dashboard to help make better strategy decisions for your expansion include:
  • Marketing-related information, such as the click through rate, the cost of acquisition for each channel you use, customer lifetime value, etc.
  • Inventory information, such as the number of products available for each category, how many items have been delivered in the last week, and how many items are currently being delivered.
  • Sales data, including refunds, vouchers, marketing costs, inventory, number of sales and their respective profit margins.
  • Social media and website performance for your business, alongside those of your competitors.

Almost any kind of business can benefit from using Business Intelligence dashboards, including traditional and offline enterprises. In recent years, more of these businesses have started using dashboards as a way of making the most out of the data they collect, especially as more aspects of traditional operations become digitised.

  • Take, for example, a gym that uses biometric technology at the door to identify whether or not someone has an active membership. You can track this data using a BI dashboard, alongside information from member signups, and automatically generate insights that will allow the gym managers to see:
  • Amount of sales
  • Member’s attendance rates
  • Churn rate
  • If it’s a chain of gyms, which gyms are performing well, and which are underperforming

Some BI tools don’t just show your company’s real time data in a beautiful and intuitive dashboard, they also use machine learning to generate predictive analyses for potential future outcomes, based on patterns in data and external variants. In the case of the gym, this could be used to create things like sales and churn rate forecasts, attendance predictions and product recommendations for which equipment to purchase. The gym can then use these predictions to:

  • Identify levels of demand over the coming months so they can adapt their costs accordingly.
  • Based on the churn forecast and the existing number of memberships, combined with member attendance rates, they can predict the maximum number of memberships that they can sell for the following month without compromising the quality of their service.
  • Increase, reduce or reschedule the training classes being conducted, based on real-time demand and member attendance.

Whether you’re a team who needs to track and share data across your organisation, or a solo entrepreneur juggling a multi-channel sales funnel on your own, dashboards are a way to simplify BI reporting and help you manage and adapt your online and offline efforts to continuously optimise growth within the ever-changing modern economic landscape.

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