Dashboards Explained: Operational, Strategic and Analytical

As dashboards continue to play an integral role in daily business operations, end users benefit from them as a means to understand what matters and how to take business action. While more and more business users are beginning to understand the importance of dashboards to their business, there’s still a lack of education on the three different types of dashboards.

We understand the need to create dashboards at the departmental level, but within those internal departments, there’s a need to create different types of dashboards depending on your data and audience. While data has been seen as an overly complicated entity, dashboards don’t have to be complicated. In this blog post we’ll unpack the differences between operational, strategic and analytical dashboards.

Operational Dashboards

Much like the name suggests, an operational dashboard focuses on performance monitoring and operations for your business. An optimal operational dashboard monitors your business in near real-time or real-time and is crucial not at the company-level, but at the departmental level as well.

Since Operational dashboards measure performance and help organizations understand their internal operations, every department should invest in creating their own operational dashboard. A sales operational dashboard differs from a Marketing one as both departments have different operational goals.

An example of an real-time operational dashboard is inventory for an eCommerce company. On an operational dashboard, in one glance, you’ll be able to see inventory, shipments and returns. The benefits of an operational dashboard are quick alignment, fast decision-making and autonomy.

Strategic Dashboards

While an operational dashboard provides a focused view and examines activities within certain parts of the business, strategic dashboards provide a high-level view into the business. Again, much like the name suggests, strategic dashboards offer insights into business strategy and should show only the most critical metrics and KPIs.

Think of a strategic dashboard as a mechanism to measure KPIs and as a means of communicating and aligning goals across an entire organization from Product to Sales. Since strategic dashboards are high-level, it’s easy for anyone within an organization to look at the KPIs and track performance against goals.

An example of a strategic dashboard is a high-level Sales dashboard that tracks:

  • Average Contract Value (ACV)
  • Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
  • Number of Customers
  • Pipeline Funnel

Analytical Dashboards

Where strategic dashboards present broad insights about the business, analytical dashboards focuses on the specific activities and disciplines within a department. Analytical dashboards is where you can drill into the data to get a more detailed view into what’s happening with your business.

Analytical dashboards provide in-depth insights that allow you to make more complex decisions about your business, Marketing spend, product features and customer churn. The insights discerned from an analytical dashboard should then be filtered back up into a strategic dashboard as a way to establish target goals and strategy.

Analytical dashboards allow you to answer “why” and “what if” questions and are designed to give you insights at the specific level. Examples of Analytical dashboards include:

  • Comparing Sales trends over time and forecasting
  • Digital Marketing dashboards that measure campaign performance

How to Pick the Right Dashboard

Now that we understand the difference between these three dashboards, how do we pick the right dashboard? Here are two crucial questions to ask before creating either an operational, strategic or analytical dashboard:

  • What is your objective?
  • Who is your target audience?

For example if you want to track company KPIs for an investor meeting, an operational dashboard tracking business throughput wouldn’t resonate. Rather, a strategic dashboard that provides high-level data so you can show year-over-year growth would be appropriate.

With the potential of offering so much information, it’s easy for dashboards to lose focus and provide information overload. Above all, dashboards are meant to give you insight into your business. Before opening up your analytics tool, make sure that you’re creating the right dashboard for the story you want to tell.