Business Intelligence Dashboard: Definition, Software, and More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Dashboards provide business intelligence professionals with a snapshot of important metrics and analytics. Learn more about this important BI tool and how it informs strategic business decisions.

[Featured Image] Two workers look at a business intelligence dashboard on their tablet and computer.

Business intelligence (BI) dashboards present data visualizations to users at a glance. Dashboards compile and showcase key metrics in an easy-to-understand way, and thereby empower business professionals to make the most strategic, data-driven decisions possible. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about BI dashboards, including what they are, some of their most common features and benefits, and how they’re actually used in the real world.

Later, you’ll explore popular BI software with dashboard capabilities, tips for designing effective dashboards yourself, and cost-effective, flexible courses that can help you deepen your knowledge of BI tools and best practices. 

What is a BI dashboard? 

A business intelligence (BI) dashboard is a BI tool that displays data visualizations and data analytics on a single screen so they can be easily referenced for reporting and decision-making purposes. BI dashboards are flexible by design, so users can customize them to show key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics. 

Typically, BI dashboards are connected to data sources, such as databases or data warehouses, that allow them to be updated with real-time information for business users. This raw data is transformed by the software powering the dashboard into easily understood data points and visualizations that equip decision-makers with actionable insights. 

Read more: What Is a Dashboard?

BI dashboard features 

BI dashboards equip business intelligence professionals and key stakeholders with critical insights and metrics at a glance. Connected to various types of data sources, BI software has the ability to quickly conduct data analysis and create visualizations like graphs and charts on dashboards that easily show up-to-date information for users.

To ensure that users have the meaningful insights they need, business intelligence dashboards often include the following features:  

  • Interactive and customizable interfaces: Users can customize BI dashboards to view the precise data and graphics needed to make the best possible business decisions. Users can also interact with dashboards to dig deeper into data and toggle between different visualizations. 

  • Data visualizations: A key feature of business intelligence dashboards is their ability to automatically generate a wide range of visual representations. Some common visualizations include tables, bar columns, maps, KPIs, pie charts, bubble charts, and scatter plots. 

  • Connections to various data sources: BI dashboards can connect to numerous different data sources, providing users with near real-time information about critical business metrics. 

  • Pre-created templates: Not every user has the time and expertise needed to create eye-catching layouts, so BI dashboards come with templates to help users get started right away. 

  • Automatic analytics: Many BI platforms also give users analytics tools that automatically provide them with relevant insights on their dashboards. Some even use artificial intelligence (AI) to help users find hidden trends and patterns in their data sets. 

BI dashboard examples 

There are many different ways that professionals across industries use BI dashboards every day, including tracking stock market fluctuations, illuminating department store sales nationwide, or highlighting the demographic makeup of a hospital’s patients.

Here are two other examples:

Hotel chain leaders could create dashboards that monitor seasonal occupancy, the regional performance of different locations, and total revenue for the year. Equipped with these visualizations, decision-makers could potentially plan resource allocation throughout the rest of the year, paying particular attention to key periods of high and low occupancy from one location to another. 

A sales manager for a digital health platform, meanwhile, might use a dashboard to track their quarterly objectives, total sales to date, and sales forecast for the rest of the year. These metrics could provide them with a clear understanding of their overall performance and enable them to adjust their strategy accordingly. 

BI dashboard benefits 

There are many benefits to using business intelligence dashboards. Some of the most common that businesses experience include: 

  • Improved decision-making: BI dashboards provide decision-makers with actionable insights at a glance. 

  • Freed resources: BI dashboards centralize important information for relevant stakeholders, ensuring they spend their time and resources taking action rather than searching for data. 

  • Improved efficiency: The data-driven decision-making that BI dashboards enable helps businesses make more strategic investments and improve their overall efficiency. 

  • Shareable and accessible output: BI dashboards can be shared across an organization, ensuring everyone can access critical information that helps them effectively do their jobs. 

  • Up-to-date data: BI dashboards can be connected to external data sources, which allows them to be updated with near real-time data. This ensures that decision-makers have the freshest, most relevant data on hand.  

BI software

There are many different BI solutions out there with dashboard functionality. The precise solution that works best for each organization will inevitably depend on their unique needs, resources, and use cases. 

Some of the BI software with dashboard functionality that you might consider investigating include: 

Read more: 5 Business Intelligence Tools You Need to Know

Practice Power BI online

Ready to start visualizing data yourself? 

Coursera’s Getting Started with Power BI Desktop guided project provides step-by-step instructions on core Power BI functionality. Learn how to import, transform, and visualize data on Power BI in as little as two hours.


Dashboard design best practices 

Dashboards are simple but powerful tools that can help users make informed decisions and improve business performance. While many people may struggle to make heads-or-tales of raw data itself, visualizations laid out on a dashboard help them to quickly grasp what it's saying – and empowers them to act. 

To ensure that your layouts and visuals are as impactful as possible, keep these design tips in mind when creating your BI dashboards: 

  1. Keep your audience in mind: Different users have different needs, so make sure to consider the precise use case of your target audience. How will they use your dashboard? What data will they need to do their jobs best? 

  2. Tell a good story: The visualizations you put on your dashboard should communicate something relevant to its users. What is your dashboard trying to tell others? 

  3. Choose relevant visualizations for each data type: Different visualizations convey information in different ways. After all, a pie chart and bar graph can technically convey the same data points, but they do so in very different manners. When creating your dashboard, make sure to pick visualizations that effectively convey data in the easiest-to-understand way for your users. 

  4. Structure your dashboard for impact: Consider how people consume and read information. It’s wise to put the most important information at the top and to put contextualizing information further down. You’ll also want to think about the sequence in which you lay out your visuals. What sequence best tells the story you’re trying to convey with your data? 

  5. Keep it simple: Too much data has the potential to overwhelm users and hide important information from them. When in doubt, then, it’s best to keep your dashboard to only a handful of impactful visualizations rather than loading it up with graphics. 

Explore business intelligence with Coursera

Business intelligence is all about using data to make better business decisions. Whether you’re hoping to start a career as a professional in the field or simply want to expand your decision-making abilities in the workplace, a BI professional certificate from Coursera can teach you what you need to know. 

In Google’s Business Intelligence Professional Certificate, you’ll learn in-demand skills like data modeling, visualization, dashboarding, and reporting in less than two months. Design data visuals that answer business questions and then create dashboards that effectively communicate data insights to stakeholders from industry leaders at Google themselves. 

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