Every organization measures its success—and finds room for improvement—based on how it performs against a set of important metrics known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A KPI dashboard displays all critical performance metrics in one place, allowing for a quicker, more organized review and analysis.
Elevate your KPI dashboard game
Dashboards are essential to modern business—but they don’t all perform at the same level. Across industries and organizations, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) vary wildly. There’s no single approach for designing the best KPI dashboard template, but implementing a set of time-tested strategic principles can help you tell a compelling story about your business that helps you progress toward your goals.
4 top-performing KPI dashboard examples
Every dashboard is unique—but many fall into one of four categories based on their intended purpose and audience. Each one has a different focus that allows you to tell a story more effectively, and highlight the KPIs that matter to your business.
An executive dashboard is a reporting tool for monitoring long- term company strategy by examining critical success factors. These dashboards are usually complex in their creation, and are mainly used by senior-level management. They’re also a key way for companies to track KPIs against their goals over time.
Case Study: Executive Dashboard Example University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay (UHMB)
A hospital group that serves a large geographic area in Northwest England, UHMB uses data-driven insights to support a desire for better systems.
The Executive KPI dashboard provides UHMB teams with a view of the most current data, allowing them to evaluate progress on key goals and objectives, improve clinical and operational experiences, and develop means to improve management, patient experience, and staff dynamics.
Operational dashboards are a very common type of dashboard. They’re used to monitor the current condition and present information in a simple, easy-to-view format that everyone can understand. These KPI dashboards aren’t designed for interactivity or to demonstrate progress toward a goal, but rather to provide a snapshot of the way things are now.
Case Study: Operational Dashboard Example Avon & Somerset Police Force
Based in England, the Avon & Somerset Police Force provides lifesaving services to their community.
The force uses the Operational KPI dashboard as a daily tool to monitor crime, track the location and volume of police reports, and provide a snapshot of incidents teams should be prepared to deal with.
A tactical dashboard is used to track progress toward a goal, whether on a company-wide level or for a particular team or project. Interactivity is key for this type of dashboard, as you want to be able to determine why something is or isn’t going well. They help teams determine if what they’re doing is working—and if they need to make changes.
Case Study: Tactical Dashboard Example Celebrus
Celebrus is a software vendor that specializes in customer intelligence. They wanted a simple, uncluttered dashboard to help their business users make faster, better informed decisions.
Celebrus designed their Tactical KPI dashboards to allow users to drill down into trends, discover key insights around the customer journey, and identify new customer targets based on behavior patterns.
An analytical dashboard contains a vast amount of data created and used by analysts to provide support to executives. Analytics dashboards supply a comprehensive overview of business data and middle management is a crucial part of the user group. These dashboards are used to drive decisions and play a key role in the business.
Case Study: Analytical Dashboard Example A CPG Company
Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) are items purchased by everyday consumers. In such a competitive market, it’s crucial to have an analytical dashboard that illuminates exactly what, where, and when people are spending.
CPG companies use analytics dashboards to forecast market share growth, apply historical data to track trends, and create smart comparisons to track the market against goals.
When you invest the time to create KPI dashboard templates that are visually exciting and relevant, it helps everyone in the business...
Get more value from your data
If your organization is like most, it has mountains of unorganized data. Visual dashboards provide a navigable structure and help ensure that the right people in your organization understand what the data means for them.
Engage the right people
Want to get executive buy-in on a particular project? Identify a new area of business based on trends? Easily spot problem areas? A KPI dashboard can help you rally key stakeholders across the business and respond quickly to ever-changing needs.
Create a data-driven culture
Sharing a KPI dashboard across business units can help drive data literacy in your company, creating a culture of discovery and innovation, and enabling employees at every level to drive competitive edge. When you have trustworthy and organized data, you can rely on it to make smarter, faster decisions.
What to know before you start
When creating a KPI dashboard template, you'll want to be clear about your audience, what they want, and how they’re going to use the information presented to them.
Understand the role of your audience
Knowing who your dashboard is for—a generalist, an analyst, a business manager, or an executive—will help you design it effectively. For instance, an executive audience wants to know if KPIs are being met, and gather key takeaways. Whereas a salesperson with little technical or subject matter expertise might need a simplified display that provides key customer insights or shows sales figures over time.
Find out how your dashboard will be used
In what context will your audience view the dashboard? A busy supervisor with 15 seconds to spare has different needs than a team that needs to dive deeper into quarterly numbers. Either way, it’s crucial to understand the situation. Your goal is to deliver accurate information that doesn’t cause unnecessary frustration or require outside intervention.
Provide simple, consumable insights
People are busier than ever, so you want to provide information they can quickly understand. Pay attention to the order of your content; put the high-priority items first. Use color and font size to draw attention to things you want your audiences to remember. Put the less relevant or lower-priority items near the end. If possible, provide takeaways or summaries.
KPI dashboard design principles
Designing a dashboard is about more than just making something look nice—it’s about using data to tell a story that helps your audience get what they need. Any data-driven dashboard must follow a few key design principles that add clarity and signal intent.
Implement visual cues that indicate when an element links to another page, shows whether a button is active or inactive, or provides contextual information.
Color accessibility or contrast
Some people have a limited range of color vision, so it’s important to incorporate shapes and contrast to ensure that everyone can access the information they need.
Show data in the order of importance, so users won’t miss what matters most. “F-scanning” is a common way people consume information—essentially, they scan horizontally across the page, and then down. Understanding more about this and other common scanning patterns can help you put what’s most relevant first.
A cluttered dashboard might show a lot of information—but it’s useless if those looking at it don’t understand what they’re seeing. Less is more, so avoid confusing 3-D graphics or cramming too much on a page.
Key Performance Indicators can be complex, so it’s important to know how to work with them to produce the best results. As you use KPIs in a dashboard, you’ll want to:
Identify your key metrics
Collaborate with stakeholders in your team or project to identify the exact metrics that will help you align behaviors, drive strategy, and track success. For example, a sales team that is rewarded based on year-over-year growth cares about a different number than teams rewarded on the basis of net sales. Not sure if you’ve chosen correctly? Test it out and look at the data.
Tell a story with your data
What’s the big idea you want to convey? What are the key KPIs your business cares about? Use information hierarchy to guide the reader along. For instance, if the big story is this year’s customer growth, showcase it with large numbers, and use smaller numbers to indicate the prior year.
Continue to iterate and evolve
When it comes to KPIs, you can’t “set it and forget it.” Defining the right metrics is an ever-evolving task. For instance, when a big competitor enters the market, or when customer behavior shifts, your KPIs may need to change too.
“Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.”
Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing, Stanford Graduate School of Business, The Power of Story
Rolling out your KPI dashboard: A simple checklist
Congrats—you’re ready to create a beautiful KPI dashboard! But before you share it with your audience:
Double-check that the metrics and questions support the story you want to tell.
Remove anything that creates clutter and doesn’t support your story.
Confirm that your dashboard is consistent with your company design standards for items such as colors, fonts, and graphics.
Test your visualizations with a few trusted colleagues and incorporate their feedback.
If you want your audience to do something, add clear calls to action.
After you share your dashboard:
Observe how your users are using it.
Identify what's working and what's not. Take notes so that you can make improvements, and your next dashboard can be even better.
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