Dashboards? Reports? Scorecards? Report cards? Data extracts? BI tools? Insight? Are they all the same, totally different or somewhere in-between?  Here’s our view.

We reckon there are only six types of data tool…

Yet everyone calls them different things, so we often end up misinterpreting what we all mean when we refer to dashboards, scorecards and the like. We work with many people, in different roles, in different businesses, in different sectors, of different sizes, with different objectives… but we still reckon you only need six types of data tool.

This is your all-in-one place high level view.

This may be for your Board or management team – it would show them the core business metrics that they will want to know about, such as sales, costs & profit numbers.

Or you could have an employee scorecard – to show them their performance, such as calls, sales & conversion rates.

The scorecard allows the user to spot high & low performance so they can quickly take action to investigate the root cause as/when required. It may be used daily, weekly or monthly. It could be built in an off-the-shelf tool like Power BI, Tableau or Excel, or custom-built in D3 or a bespoke user interface. It needs to be simple, intuitive and do exactly what it needs to do – just show them the key stats!

This is your everyday dashboard.

Every manager or team in your business could have a dashboard showing how their team, function or department is performing. It could allow them to select certain dates, locations or functions, so they see filtered views, if they want to. It would need to be designed specifically for each user, so they can see the data that’s important for them – there is no one-size-fits-all dashboard.

The dashboard allows the user to identify patterns & trends so they can quickly take action to implement improvements or business changes as/when required. It may be used daily, weekly or monthly and needs to be simple, intuitive and do exactly what it needs to do – give them an overview!

Dashboards could be built in an off-the-shelf tool like Power BI, Tableau or Excel, or custom-built in D3 or a bespoke user interface.

This is your full-on interactive tool.

Some people in a business need to be able to deep dive, beneath the high-level figures, into the data itself. It could allow them to slice & dice the data, in all different ways, to really see what’s causing a problem. It would need to be designed specifically for each user, so they can interrogate the data in a way that lets them do their job better – there is no one-size-fits-all interactive tool.

The interactive tool may be used daily, weekly or monthly and could be built in an off-the-shelf tool like Power BI, Tableau or Excel. It needs to be thorough, intuitive and do exactly what it needs to do – give them an interactive tool!

The interactive tool allows the user to get to the root of a problem and really explore the data, by filtering in all different ways.

This is your data extract and exporting tool.

Sometimes you need to export and extract the data you need, in the format that you need it in. It could allow them to access the information they need to create their own analysis or combine it with other data. For the right data fields to be extracted in the right format, it would need to be designed with the expected user requirements in mind.

The data extracts allow the user to get to the data they need, when they need it. It could be built in an off-the-shelf tool like Power BI, Tableau or Excel, or built into a bespoke user interface. It needs to be simple, intuitive and do exactly what it needs to do – give them the data extracts!

Data extracts may be used daily, weekly or monthly on demand, or set up as a routine automated task.

This is your fully developed insight story.

Sometimes you need to move beyond the numbers & facts, to generate actionable insight. It could allow you to identify the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ behind the data. It would need to be designed to answer a specific question or solve a specific challenge, so they can make smarter, data-driven insightful decisions – there is no one-size-fits-all insight story.

The insight story allows the user to understand what’s going on, what’s happened in the past &/or what’s going to happen in future. It could be in an off-the-shelf tool like Tableau, custom-built in D3, or in an interactive pdf. It needs to be thorough, intuitive and do exactly what it needs to do – give them an insightful story!

The insight story may be used as a one-off project basis or regularly updated, with refreshed data.

This is your professional, slick & stylish report.

There are times when you need to pull everything together into a report. This could be for your senior business leaders, clients, shareholders, employees or other stakeholders. It would need to be designed for your target audience, so they interpret it in the intended way – there is no one-size-fits-all report.

The report allows you to share the results of your business performance.

The report allows the user to understand the outcome of any data analysis you’ve done. It may be used as a one-off project basis or the report may be regularly updated, with refreshed data. It could be built in Word, Powerpoint or an artworked pdf. It needs to be thorough, detailed and do exactly what it needs to do – give them the report!


There you have it…the only six types of data tool you’ll ever need. 

What do you think? Do you agree? Or do you think we’ve missed a crucial type of data tool? We want to know – drop us a line at hello@data-cubed.co.uk or go public on our Linkedin or Twitter pages.