Dashboards vs. Scorecards - What’s The Difference?

You often hear both of these terms being used interchangeably - and at other times it seems like they are two different things. Recently we did an internet search to see if we could come up with some definitive definitions for scorecards and dashboards from a credible source. After a bit of reading, we came up with the following ideas.

A dashboard or scorecard interface finally makes it easy for a majority of users to quickly find, analyze, and explore the information they need to perform their daily tasks.

There is a subtle distinction between a scorecard and dashboard. Each tool merges elements from the other, but at a high level they both target specific and different levels of the business decision making process.

At the highest, most strategic level of the decision making spectrum sit scorecards. Scorecards display periodic snapshots of performance associated with an organization's strategic objectives and plans. The goal of the scorecard is to keep the business focused on a common strategic objective by making comparisons within your department, company and/or industry to indicate your direction. The primary measurement used in a scorecard is the key performance indicator. These key performance indicators are often a composite of several metrics or other KPIs that measure the organization’s ability to execute a strategic objective.

The common industry perception is that a dashboard displays information about a company at a given point in time that can be used to make better business decisions. Dashboards fall down one level from a scorecard in the decision making process; as they are less focused on a strategic objective and more tied to specific operational goals. An operational goal may contribute directly to one or more higher level strategic objectives. Within a dashboard, the execution of the operational goal itself becomes the focus, not the strategy. The purpose of a dashboard is to provide the user with actionable business information in a format that is both insightful and intuitive. Dashboards leverage their data primarily in the form of metrics and KPIs.

When we were doing our research, we stumbled across Dan Holowack’s blog. He provides us with a metaphorical solution to our problem that might help you better remember the differences between the two:

Imagine for a moment that you're driving a car...

DASHBOARD

All the instruments in your center console are displaying current-state information. The speedometer says you're traveling 45 km/h and the RPM gauge is at 3000. The odometer tracks and displays total distance traveled and a fuel gauge says you're at half a tank. All these indicators display information for a 'single point in time'.

SCORECARD

Knowing all this dashboard information is great, but here's why you need a scorecard... you're heading straight for a BRICK WALL (10 seconds to impact). It's fascinating how the dashboard can give you so much information, but it's all quite useless without the support of Scorecards. Consider the Scorecard to be your own eyes. You notice you're passing all the other drivers on the road and decide to slow down (for fear of a speeding ticket!). Similar to how you compare cars on the road, the Scorecard should make comparisons within your department, company and/or industry to indicate your direction (are you heading for a brick wall?).

Source: Dan Holowack, Love Data Intelligence blog

A nice little round-up for this post comes from TDWI : “Whereas a dashboard informs users what they are doing, a scorecard tells them how well they are doing. In other words, a dashboard records performance while a scorecard charts progress. In short, a dashboard is a performance monitoring system, whereas a scorecard is a performance management system.”