A couple of Dashboard Spy readers and I were going back and forth about some of the various terms used to describe these dashboardy things that we do. There are plenty of terms used interchangeably: Dashboard Reports, Executive Dashboards, Scorecards, Balanced Scorecards, Enterprise Dashboards, Digital Dashboards, Business Cockpits, Dashboard Widgets, Desktop Dashboards, Information Dashboard, Performance Dashboard, KPI Summary, etc.
Whatever you call these things, the common thread is that they are all visually-based presentations of business metrics used to inform management decisions.
The question is at what point do the differences matter enough that we need to differentiate the language (and the dashboards themselves). The case we argued about specifically had to do with the difference between a Dashboard and a Scorecard.
Here are some references that expound upon the Dashboard vs. Scorecard definition issue:
Scorecards and Dashboards – What’s the Difference? (An article by Serence Inc.):
Scorecards & Dashboards translate strategy into accountability and measure progress. Maybe these systems will be referred to as scoreboards?
Historically, software scorecards were a direct result and visual representation of the theoretical balanced scorecard approach to business strategy developed at Harvard Business School. Software scorecards are also distinguished by the regimented top down organizational planning process defined by the theory that underlies the scorecard interface. This process aims to identify the few key performance metrics that best indicate an organization’s progress towards stated strategic goals, and then cascades down through the organization to all supporting and contributing metrics, groups, and individuals. Software scorecards emphasize individual accountability for contributing to and achieving strategic goals.
In contrast, software dashboards evolved as the information systems equivalent of the automotive dashboard that displayed real-time changes to tactical information often displayed as charts, graphs, and gauges. Software dashboards also offered the ability to drill through top-level information into supporting data. As they evolved, software dashboards became increasingly common as the user interface for individual applications such as ERP systems and Web analytics packages.
What Do You Need to See – Dashboards vs. Scorecards (Article by Data Management Group):
The question as to the difference between dashboards and scorecards comes up constantly. This is due to many companies now using the terms interchangeably. Using the rule of thumb that for every person who asks a question there are at least ten more that also want an answer, a quick discussion here might be in line. Some comments will also be discussed surrounding what the role of each is, suggestions for each type of system, and which might be more relevant to your business (or business unit).
The names ‘dashboard’ and ‘scorecard’ are well chosen with respect to their real-world usage. A scorecard being part of a broader corporate methodology or management discipline and is a report card of how a given person, business unit or entity performed with respect to certain goals over a given time period. A dashboard being a set of indicators about the state of a process, piece of equipment, or business metric such as cash on hand or YTD sales at a specific point in time.
Here is a screenshot of the Data Management post with more elaboration of what makes a dashboard versus a scorecard:
Let’s go beyond the semantics and now look briefly at the Balanced Scorecard methodology.
Click on the more link to see the rest of this post if you are on the front page of the Dashboards By Example blog:
In a past post on this blog, What is the Difference between Balanced Scorecards and Enterprise Dashboards?, we examined some key differences.
A Balanced Scorecard has strict elements:
Components of a True Balanced Scorecard: While both Balanced Scorecards and Dashboards display performance information, a Balanced Scorecard is a more prescriptive format; a true Balanced Scorecard should always include these components: Perspectives (groupings of high-level strategic areas), Objectives (verb-noun phrases pulled from a strategic plan), Measures (also called Metrics or Key Performance Indicators/KPIs), and Stoplight Indicators (red, yellow, or green symbols that provide an at-a-glance view of a Measure’s performance). These specific components help ensure that a Balanced Scorecard is inherently tied to the organization’s critical strategic needs.
For a comprehensive look at the history of the first balanced scorecard, take a look at that Dashboard Spy link.
Other reads on the Dashboard or Scorecard issue:
Dashboard vs. Scorecard by the Manage by Walking Around blog.
Tags: Dashboard vs. Scorecard, Balanced Scorecards, BI Dashboards versus Scorecards