What are the differences between dashboards, reporting and data mining tools?



When we started DashThis, we wanted to build a dashboard tool, because that’s what users kept telling us about. They said that it would great if they had a simple dashboard tool that would connect to Google Analytics easily.

So, that’s what we did. Even our name comes from the word “dashboard“.

But the first comments were showing us issues: Can we change dates? Can we do drilldown? Can we list the entire keywords list? Can we do this and that?

Ho. I see. You don’t need a dashboard tool. You need a reporting tool!
Excuse me? No, I want to give my clients a custom Google Analytics dashboard!

We learned to deal with the dashboard vs report confusion and built a tool they wanted. But we still fight some feature requests as we believe there are three distinct analytics area, and they each need a specialized set of tools. Mixing them and trying to fit them in an all-in-one tool is a mistake in our opinion.

Here are the three types of analytics tools:

The dashboard: A dashboard gives you a snapshot of the actual performance. It shows what’s happening right now, sort of like your car’s dashboard. You need to know what the actual metrics are in order to drive, not the past performance or the future predictions. We also believe a dashboard is not the place to add insights and comments.

The data mining / BI / Big Data tool: This is the toy for the hard core analyst. It’s used to discover trends, confirm strategies or track performance in its minutest details. The tool needs to be powerful to let you slice and dice data at will. You don’t do this in a dashboard nor do you give this tool to your boss or client.

The reporting tool: The reporting tool is to create, well you know, reports! A report, unlike a dashboard, will give you a historical and contextual view. Past month’s performance, last 7 days, 5 year trend, etc. You don’t use a report as a dashboard nor do you use a report to drill down. The report is the piece of paper you give your boss or client so they can make decisions. The report is the place to add insights and all your expert valuable comments.

The reporting tool: This is where DashThis fits in. Not in the data mining game. Not in the dashboarding game either. We do reports and we are pretty good at it!

But hey, we love you even if you keep saying dashboard instead of report. And we’ll still keep marketing the word dashboard because that’s what our users are searching for even though, at the end of the day, they really want reports.