10 Best Practices For Business Intelligence Dashboards

If you want your business intelligence dashboards to succeed, you'll need to make sure you follow these best practices along the way. Here's what to know.
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Business intelligence (BI) dashboards are increasingly used by companies around the world. If you use one or intend to, knowing some business intelligence best practices can help you avoid pitfalls.

Here are 10 business intelligence best practices to follow as you design a dashboard and choose which information to display.

1. Identify Your Reporting Requirements

BI dashboards make it easy to gather statistics and turn them into reports. Before diving into that task, clarify what to include in the review and which departments will read it.

For example, the accounting department likely needs substantially different metrics than your customer service team. Get confirmation of the necessary details and the intended audience first to save yourself from wasting time on extra work and including irrelevant information.

2. Choose a Dashboard to Meet Your Needs

There are several kinds of BI dashboards on the market:

  • Strategic: These aggregate crucial details about your organization’s current status and health while highlighting opportunities for expansion.
  • Analytical: Dashboards that show data variables across a set timeframe and help you spot trends.
  • Operational: Choose these dashboards if you want to focus on key performance indicators and real-time operations changes.
  • Tactical: Mid-level managers most commonly use these dashboards, which give deep dives into a company’s processes by showing weekly metrics and trends.

Find business intelligence dashboard examples based on the category above that most closely matches your needs before investing in a solution. Doing that increases the chances of feeling satisfied with your investment.

3. Design Your Dashboard to Minimize Distractions

One of the most useful dashboard design best practices to follow involves getting rid of superfluous information. Make your dashboards useful for everyone by following the five-second rule. Pick the dashboard’s content carefully so that anyone looking at it can get the details they need in a few seconds.

Scrutinize the information and verify that each graphic or text snippet serves a well-defined purpose. If it doesn’t, take it out. Adding too much data to your dashboard could make it more challenging for people to focus on the parts that matter most to their work.

4.  Call Attention to Relevant Numbers

Some viewers may appreciate graphic helpers that highlight statistics. For example, one of the Power BI dashboard best practices Microsoft recommends for its product is to use a card visualization for numerical figures.

If you use a different BI product without that feature, consider other ways to help numbers stand out. For example, you might put them in a bright color or increase the size of the figure compared to the surrounding text.

5. Restrict Dashboard Access to Authorized Parties

Working with a BI dashboard also means engaging in the appropriate security measures. Some content management systems allow you to only give administrative capabilities to people with the right credentials. You could take the same approach with your BI interface.

Think about setting role-based privileges based on whether a person requires editing privileges for their work or only needs to look at the content. Adjust or remove an individual’s access as appropriate — such as when they get promotions or leave the company.

Also, encourage everyone to demonstrate good password hygiene, including using a different password for each service and never sharing credentials.

6. Arrange Your Data According to the Inverted Pyramid Model

News professionals understand the inverted pyramid approach well. It involves mentioning the most important information first in an article and devoting the most overall space to it. The less-crucial details appear near the end of the piece and may only encompass a single paragraph.

You can follow dashboard design best practices by letting the inverted pyramid model dictate how you show the data. For example, feature the main details inside the largest panes or sections.

7. Select the Right Kind of Chart

Charts can be ideal for helping executives interpret data and use it for decision-making. You’ll get the best results when you pick a chart type that aligns with your needs and the type of data presented.

For example, line charts work well for showing trends over time, while pie charts let you show how single categories relate to an overall value. You might also use a vertical bar graph to help users compare differences side by side. The main thing to remember is that no one chart is the universal ideal.

8. Include the Most Important Information on a Single Screen

If you’ve spent time checking out business intelligence dashboards, it may have become obvious that all the crucial details are immediately presented and don’t require swiping between several screens. Allowing people to see the essential material on one screen is the best approach because it increases clarity and helps you stick to your main points.

Think about how some of the people who see the content may have packed schedules and might feel eager to get the information they need without wasting time. We discussed earlier how you should cut out unnecessary information to prevent distractions. This is a related point, but it’s a tip that encourages you to think about which data to show first while remembering your audience’s requirements.

9.  Consider Optimizing Your Dashboard for Mobile Users

Web designers know how important it is to design content for mobile phones, especially since many people view it on those devices more often than their computers. One of the related Power BI best practices is to tweak your dashboard for those who look at it on smartphones.

Doing that involves switching the content from Web View to Phone View in the dashboard upper-right corner. You’ll only see that option as the dashboard’s owner. While in Phone View, you can adjust the layout so that it appears differently to phone versus computer users by rearranging tiles or changing their sizes and shapes.

If you use a different product, determine whether it has a mobile-friendly option.

10. Display Data in the Proper Context

As you design your chart, pay attention to how factors like the relative size and color of content on the BI dashboard could lead people to draw certain conclusions — not all of them necessarily correct. Ensure that you use labels and source citations to help people see the data in the right framework and not get the wrong ideas.

You’ve probably seen at least a few dashboards that looked fantastic at first glance but later realized they did not offer enough context. In that case, you probably came away with some questions and uncertainties. Including reference points for the statistics and charts on a dashboard helps viewers feel confident while digesting the material.

Tips to Guide Your Efforts

These business intelligence best practices will help you get the most out of any dashboard you purchase and use. Remember that it’s also valuable to devote sufficient time to training yourself or your colleagues on how to use the tool. Each BI on the market has different features and layouts.

The more thoroughly you get acquainted with them, the easier it’ll be to get the results you want.

Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews has been writing about smart tech, big data and AI for five years. Her work has appeared on VICE, VentureBeat, The Week and Houzz. To read more posts from Kayla, please support her tech blog, Productivity Bytes.