Dashboards for businesses: Why you need one and top services for building it

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The advantages of dashboards — which bring together and simplify complex reports — are indisputable. A dashboard can clearly show key parameters and metrics that can't be presented in a single report. Dashboards allow people to easily understand large data sets and assess the current situation at a glance. In other words, dashboards reveal secrets in your information.

Want to build a dashboard based on data stored in Excel, Google Sheets, Google Analytics, your CRM, and your call tracking system? To save your team’s resources and avoid mistakes when collecting and aligning information, use OWOX BI Pipeline.

What is a dashboard and why do you need one?

A dashboard presents all relevant data on one screen and visualizes the results of calculations in the form of graphs, charts, and tables. This way of presenting information helps viewers perceive information more easily and considerably simplifies decision-making.

Example dashboard from OWOX BI:

example dashboard

A selection of the most popular dashboards among our customers.

Advantages of dashboards:

  1. Not necessary to combine data manually
  2. All KPIs are visible on one screen
  3. Can set the required refresh rate

One more advantage of dashboards is the ease of setting them up. No matter what data visualization service you're working with, you just need to perform these steps:

  1. Merge data into the selected repository (for example, Google BigQuery)
  2. Connect data sources
  3. Choose the period for analysis
  4. Build a report based on the information for this period

Criteria for a good dashboard

Characteristics of a good dashboard include:

  • Well-planned data visualization – You can quickly and easily see where ROI sinks or what ad platform isn’t working.
  • The right context – At first sight, it’s clear what charts are about and what information is presented in the form of diagrams.
  • The opportunity to select dates – You can easily change the reporting period for advertising campaigns.
  • Interactive widgets – Data can be filtered according to selected parameters (country, city, device, campaign, etc.).
  • The ability to compare data – You can compare selected data with the same data for the previous period to estimate the efficiency of advertising campaigns.
  • The ability to monitor changes – You can monitor changes with a chosen frequency – for example, measure traffic once a day, once a week, or in real time.

A good dashboard provides useful information for decision-making and insights, and a bad one doesn’t give a definite answer to your questions. 

ROPO dashboard in OWOX BI:

ROPO dashboard

To make a good dashboard, you need to understand the purpose of the dashboard, how it can help you today, and what challenges it will help you solve in the future. For example, the ROPO dashboard in the screenshot above helps you answer questions such as:

  1. What share of total business revenue can be attributed to ROPO sales?
  2. Which cities have the largest share of ROPO users?
  3. Which online campaigns are most effective at motivating users to make offline purchases?

Common mistakes when creating dashboards

  • Too many details and elements distract users and turn the dashboard into a carnival.​
  • Metrics, axes, and charts are named oddly. 
  • Data isn’t visualized using appropriate charts/graphs. For example, a pie chart is chosen to demonstrate decay over time. 
  • The purpose of the dashboard isn’t clear from the report title, leading to confusion.

If you want to learn more about data visualization, we recommend the blog by Stephen Few, an American expert in data visualization and the author of Information Dashboard Design and The Data Loom.

Marketing reports: Efficiently dealing with business tasks

It’s important to estimate the efficiency of marketing. As marketing is always a cost item, it’s necessary to understand if it’s worth spending on it. To prove that it is, you can use different kinds of reports depending on the characteristics of your business.

To understand what kinds of reports you need, answer the following questions:

  1. Who is the decision-maker and what decisions will be made on the basis of this report?
  2. What questions would you like to answer with this report?
  3. What metrics, dimensions, and segments are needed for creating a meaningful report?
  4. Is this report periodic or a one-time thing?
  5. Do you need to update the report manually, and will you use filters on it?
  6. What services do you use to build reports: Google Sheets, Excel, Google Analytics, or something else?

Different businesses need different reports because the marketing requirements of companies differ. Read our article about the 10 most common reports for e-commerce and retail.

Dashboard creation services

Google Analytics

The most popular web analytics service from Google uses widgets for dashboard customization. In general, there are three options for creating a Google Analytics dashboard:

  • Create a dashboard without widgets, starting with a blank slate
  • Create a dashboard with a set of default widgets (an initial set of reports)
  • Import a dashboard from the Google Analytics Solutions gallery

The standard Google Analytics dashboard can be altered to achieve a dashboard that displays all the information you need.

For example, here’s a dashboard about website visitors (from Dashboard Junkie). You can see the country and the city in which your clients are in, their browsers, their screen resolutions, etc.

dashboard Junkie sample

The Google Analytics Solutions gallery gives you access to all of the most popular dashboards. Besides just browsing for the right dashboard, you can search by categories with recommended dashboards, reports, and segments.

GA Solutions gallery

Advantages of Google Analytics

  • It’s free
  • It has a solutions and templates gallery
  • You can adjust and compare segments in reports

Disadvantages of Google Analytics

  • Works only with information from Google Analytics
  • Automatically loads data only from Google Ads
  • Sampling of large volumes of data
  • Session information processing can be delayed up to 48 hours

Google Data Studio

This popular service from Google creates reports and dashboards and perfectly visualizes data from different sources. At the moment, it supports 18 Google connectors and 138 partner connectors. Moreover, there are 12 connectors with open-source code available.

Example of a Google Data Studio dashboard:

Google Data Studio dashboard Ad campaign sample

You can find an example of a Facebook Ads Insights dashboard made with the help of OWOX BI and Google Data Studio in the Google gallery:

Sample Google Data Studio dashboard

Data Studio advantages

  • Regularly updated
  • Free
  • Integrated with all Google products
  • Convenient for visualizing reports from Google BigQuery
  • Possible to use data from different sources in one dashboard

Disadvantages

  • No additional data alignment; data has to be prepared before loading
  • Impossible to define in advance how exactly a dashboard will look on a mobile device
  • If you use data from different sources, the service will slow down (To avoid this, we recommend you collect and merge data beforehand using OWOX BI.)

To receive quality data and reports while working with Google Data Studio, we recommend collecting raw data in Google BigQuery and building dashboards from it.

OWOX BI Smart Data

The next product on our list is OWOX BI Smart Data. This is the first service that, thanks to its ontological model, allows you to easily combine unrelated data in a single report.

Smart Data allows you to quickly receive and visualize data without the help of analysts. Simply select the parameters and indicators you want to see and the service itself will provide you with an understandable report.

OWOX BI dashboard sample

OWOX BI Smart Data provides three ways to obtain reports.

  1. Report builder. To get reports using the report builder, you need to choose the data source, the reporting period, and the necessary metrics and parameters from the list. After that, the report builder will show what reports are available. The service will also generate a SQL query itself, which you can copy if you want.
report builder Smart Data
  1. Enter a query manually. Using this method, begin to type a keyword – for example, “conversion” – and OWOX BI Smart Data will prompt you with available reports. ​
query input Smart Data
  1. Choose a report among the templates on the OWOX BI Smart Data home page. ​
OWOX BI attribution reports

You can read about each type of report you can create in Smart Data in our detailed product guide: How to build a report in OWOX BI Smart Data.

If you want to visualize a report from Smart Data in Google Data Studio, just export it and open it in Data Studio. When exporting a report, OWOX BI generates a link with report data and sends it to Data Studio. After that, the information will be available in Data Studio Explorer, where it can be visualized and used for building a Data Studio report.

Advantages of OWOX BI Smart Data

  • Works with different data sources​
  • No special technical training needed
  • Provides data segments from different sources
  • Automatically checks the quality of information

Disadvantages

  • Limited opportunities for visualization​
  • Works with a finite set of queries and combinations

Microsoft Power BI

Power BI is one of the most famous data visualization services for large companies. This is also one of the oldest data visualization services. In addition to the desktop version, there’s a mobile version that’s convenient for information validation on the go. Power BI allows you to create and share dashboards, and its interface is clear.

Power BI dashboard sample - Travel Analysis

It’s worth mentioning that there’s a free version of Power BI, so you can get acquainted with it and form your own opinion of its functionality.

Power BI dashboard sample Vehicle Sales

Advantages of Power BI

  • Can combine data from various sources​
  • Can preview dashboards and customize the display for tablets and phones
  • Integration with Microsoft products

Disadvantages

  • Not enough tools for cleaning and processing information
  • Importing and processing large volumes of data takes a lot of time

Tableau

Like Power BI, Tableau is best suited for large corporations. In addition, like its competitors, Tableau works with different data sources.

To be sure of the accuracy of your reports, collect raw data in one place — for example, in Google BigQuery with the help of the OWOX BI Pipeline.

Tableau allows you to create interactive dashboards and is easy to use, which is why this service enjoys such popularity.

Tableau dashboard

The Tableau community, with its forum of active users and a library with training resources, is one more confirmation that Tableau is one of the most popular business intelligence services.

Tableau dashboard sample

More advantages of Tableau

  • Easy integration with Big Data platforms
  • ​Supports mobile platforms
  • Gets regular updates and comes with many additional materials (courses, videos, instructions)

Disadvantages

  • Low level of data protection​
  • Data has to be prepared before loading
  • Exporting information takes a lot of time

Key takeaways

Keep in mind that your choice of visualization service will depend on the volume of data your company needs to process.

For small businesses, the capabilities of Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, and OWOX BI Smart Data will be enough. For a more advanced dashboard, it’s worth thinking about systems with greater functionality such as Google Data Studio, Tableau, and Power BI.

Want the dashboards you saw in this article? Try OWOX BI for free and you'll see how to use it to solve your marketing analytics problems.

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