Business Intelligence, visualization, KPI
It's not easy to define business intelligence itself as it is truly a wide question. In a word, BI is a process, which turns data into information and then information into knowledge. Data, information, and knowledge these are three crucial factors. Data comes from every department, every company process, and every employee. Data is sale value and as well data is employee's age. Information is somehow a step further. Information originated from data explains what facts mean to the company. While sale values for each month are data, average yearly sale value is information, after all. While the ages of concrete employees are data, the average year of employees at one department is information. Finally, there is a knowledge that comes out of information. This knowledge has to be enough to realize how is a company doing and what to do to improve the situation. It's also enough to explain how to influence on each process to make it more efficient. And whole business intelligence is about improving company's performance, basing on data grabbing, operating and analyzing. That was BI, and what are the title dashboards?
Dashboards are tools or software products for supporting the Business Intelligence processes. It's not easy to analyze data originated from diverse departments of the company (especially operating worldwide), therefore there was a need for developing a solution able to facilitate the process. Dashboards, being somehow a framework for all data transforming processes, have become the crucial part of BI.
There are a few features stated
above which determine dashboards' role in today's business intelligence
But would be true to say that business intelligence cannot exist without dashboards? And - from the other point of view - would dashboards be useful without business intelligence?
Both these questions are inseparably connected, nonetheless some dependencies might be described. At first, business intelligence is dashboards' reason for being. It would be hard to find another sensible reason for dashboards to function if there weren't BI. On the other hand, if not the dashboards, business intelligence wouldn't play its role efficiently enough. Dashboards are required to make it "intelligent". Without them, we would be having a bunch of separate tools which wouldn't be likely to cooperate, these days.
Finally, is the role of dashboards common for all companies? No, it's not. Every company has own software implemented, therefore dashboard every time gets different tasks to cooperate. For some companies, dashboard might support planning, while for the general strategies another tool is used. All depends on managers, because there one thing is common for all. The thing is not how efficient a solution is but how efficiently a manager uses it, after all.
Role of dashboards in business intelligence is expected to grow in future. Vendors - and companies' IT departments as well - are working incessantly on improvements, therefore dashboards are expected to get better and better, and it's only a matter of time for so called ultimate dashboard to be developed. Up to now, today's dashboards support business intelligence quite efficiently, so the works on improvements aren't a priority, though.
Further reading on the role of dashboards in Business Intelligence: