Scorecards and Dashboards – Is there a Difference?

Is there really a difference between a scorecard and a dashboard? I’m of the opinion that it’s only a matter of syntax or semantics. I think that dashboard is a wonderful term that includes all manners of scorecards, performance measurements and other sorts of at-a-glance kpi and metric info.

But I do get the point that the term dashboard has become somewhat diluted. I always point out the term “Dashboard” will become the “Homepage” replacement. I can’t think of anything better than a dashboard to put on the homepage. What software application wouldn’t benefit from having a dashboard as homepage?

One person that takes the viewpoint that there is indeed a difference between “dashboard” and “scorecard” wrote an article titled “WHAT IS the Difference Between Performance Management Scorecards and Dashboards?” You can view it here.

Here is the illustration they use. Take a look at this simple health dashboard:

health performance dashboard

Here is what they use it to illustrate:

Imagine that we have a dashboard that displays 3 health metrics: weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol for the person below. Let’s call him healthy Henry. A well designed dashboard can be an extremely powerful and critical tool for any business. However, there are limitations. We can see Henry’s weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, but we have no context to put it in. We don’t know if the numbers are bad or good. OK, we know they are pretty bad; but are they bad for Henry? We also don’t know if they are trending up or down, or if there is a target number and how close or far from that target Henry is. It’s possible that Henry is improving or simply staying the same. It is also impossible to derive exactly where the problems are coming from. This is the problem with a dashboard, there is no context.

Performance management scorecards look at the world differently. A performance scorecard is a representation of the progress over time. The key difference is that they provide context into where the metric comes from, using something called a KPI (key performance indicator.) KPIs can be stand-alone numbers or calculations derived from other numbers. The important factor is that they show the user not just the “What’” but the “How” and “Why.” Let’s go back to Henry and look at his Scorecard.


We can see how well Henry is doing this week relative to last week and overall relative to his goal. For example, Henry only ate 14 burgers this week, compared to 18 last week. Although he has not yet reached his goal of only 5 burgers per week, we can see from the green color coding under “progress” that he is improving. However Henry was called into his son’s principal’s office 4 times this week, which is worse than last week, thus the red color code.

This chart also illustrates which KPI inputs into which metric on the dashboard. For example Burgers Eaten affects Weight and Cholesterol, while Yoga affects Weight and Blood Pressure. In this manner, a health manager, or any manager, can use these tools to decide which metrics are important to the desired outcome.

kpi metrics scorecard

Now apply this to a business. For example, the manager of a customer service operations might care about Productivity and Quality. KPIs that could be used as determining factors include throughput (# of items processed/calls taken), adherence to schedule (% time in production vs. schedule), and items flagged for rework (not done correctly the first time.)

In this way, a manager can make better management decisions by focusing on the KPIs that matter. Then the manager can use the Dashboard for period check-ins, and the Performance Management Scorecard for more strategic decisions. When Dashboards and Scorecards are used correctly, the health of the business, and Henry, can improve.

So, what do you think? I like the story about Henry, but I’m not really sure it makes the point of there being a real difference between scorecard and dashboard. To me, a dashboard can indeed contain performance measures shown over time. Look at the hundreds of successful dashboard examples found on the Dashboard Spy blog.