Why Business Dashboards Can No Longer Keep Up in the Modern World

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8 min read
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Business dashboards have been a staple in almost every company, team, and industry since digitalization began in the 1980s. 

They’ve given insight into what has happened in companies by using historical data to track trends and KPIs – the key word here being historical. But what happens if you don’t want history to repeat itself?

What if you want to change the course of the future through swift and immediate action?

Dashboards are no longer capable of driving change for your business in the modern world.

Business dashboards are becoming obsolete, and we’re here to uncover why. We believe business leaders like you are missing out on better solutions and an early competitive edge.  

To understand why we’re advocating for a future free of dashboards (as they exist today), we’re going to explore:

  • Why business dashboards still exist today (capabilities)
  • Why dashboards are becoming obsolete (risks/challenges)
  • What does a future without dashboards look like (solutions)

Why do business dashboards still exist?

The need for data curation has never been greater. Yet, modern businesses still rely on dated methods (business dashboards) to cater to new demands, resulting in unique challenges.

Capabilities of business dashboards

Historically, dashboards were optimal (and at one time revolutionary) as the pace of business was slower. You could live with occasional data pushes in bulk because that was the technological standard. The data was still manageable, and you didn’t have to worry about your competition outdoing you with real-time data because it didn’t exist.

The business dashboard as we know it today is no longer revolutionary — it’s the bare minimum.

While business dashboards give us a high-level overview of data, they're static in nature — what you see is what you get. Built with push signaling behavior, communication is only ever one-way, which is the first unique challenge.

Where business dashboards go wrong

Amid a world of uncertainty, one thing is clear — you don’t need 100% of your business data dumped on you at once, especially if it lacks context or clarity. Rather, your teams need data catered to their unique challenges —  data that allows them to go in-depth to find true insight.

There’s no shortage of information, but a shortage in the right information.

It’s 2023, and it doesn’t take a book on business strategy to know we all, in every business and industry, are flooded with push updates.

The traditional dashboard is just another ping, alert, and/or buzz we’re probably not paying attention to. Users, aka your teams, don't care whether these notifications are important because there are simply too many to manage.

The one-way philosophy of business dashboards neglects vital details:  

  • Which data is relevant? (quality vs quantity)  
  • How up-to-date is this data? (accuracy)  
  • How does this data help us find insights? (communication)  
  • How accessible is this data? (usability)
  • How granular does the data get? (depth)

These issues are chipping away at the relevance of dashboards in our fast-paced business environment. 

Why business dashboards no longer keep up with modern demands

Your organization can be in any stage — startup or stagnating, rapid scale or pursuing profitability — but that doesn’t mean the influx of data is slowing down.

Over time, we’ve accumulated thousands of metrics to help us gauge business performance. However, traditional business intelligence (BI) dashboards have poorly supported these metrics, inhibiting informed decision-making.  

According to a Deloitte survey, executives are feeling this exact pressure.  

67% of executives said they weren’t comfortable accessing or using data from their existing resources, while 63% say although they are aware of analytics, they lack technological infrastructure and are still working in silos.

Now let's see specific examples of how dashboards come up short in the modern business.

Problem: Building dashboards is an ongoing, lengthy process

Business intelligence dashboards take weeks or months to build. Your business may not have the luxury of sparing this time in data purgatory. 

Even when the dashboard is complete, it may not hold all your data, which means more resources are needed to input what remains. Some portion of your data must be extracted, managed, cleaned up, and organized, adding days and weeks to a process that should be immediate.  

As a result, updating traditional business dashboards may cost you just as much time as they save.

Problem: Data collection relies on manual input

Manual input subjects your business to risk from two perspectives:

  • Time ROI and missed opportunities
  • Making decisions based on outdated data


While manually inputting data is an inconvenience, time is the double-edged sword of traditional dashboards. Not only is a time gap created with updating dashboards, but pulling data and dedicating labor to these tasks are sunk costs.  

If your teams are so focused on churning away at data processing, who is doing the work that actually drives the business forward? Tasking away at data isn’t effective for strategy execution.  

Decision making

The global pandemic taught us how taking weeks or months to make a decision can put any business at extreme risk. Human input creates dependencies and lag effects, which affects confidence in your reporting.  

As a result of this uncertainty, we begin to understand why leaders in the Deloitte survey weren’t comfortable relying on their data to make decisions. 

Problem: Lack of prioritization

No single person in your organization can possibly manage all your data at one time. Yet, this is how traditional dashboards function.

Your people care only about the data relevant to them — anything else is stealing focus away from what needs to be accomplished.

A good dashboard provides actionable information. There needs to be a reason for it. When you see a dashboard, you should immediately know what needs to be done.

Unfortunately, dashboards don’t provide this visibility. The best they can do is display the data available, leaving you wondering:

  • What are the important KPIs?
  • Where are they located?
  • What change is considered normal, and what is abnormal?

Therefore, the data on these dashboards is neither distinguishable nor actionable — and any additional manual filtering or analysis they require defeats the sole purpose of having them.

comic demonstrating the irony of having too many kpis and have a kpi to show how well the data is understood
Comic via Tom Fishburne

Problem: Lack of AI and machine learning integrations

Manual inputs create the dilemma of catching problems or signals too late. 

Without AI and machine learning, users will need additional time to detect anomalies and assess their relevancy based on static thresholds.  

We are approaching the point of technological singularity“A hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change.”

With business behavior constantly evolving, critical questions arise:

  • Shouldn't capabilities like KPI thresholds evolve too?
  • How do decision makers know when and how to adjust metrics?
  • How do we know inputs aren’t laced with human error?

A lack of intelligent automation increases the chance that minor incidents slip through the cracks. Once gone undetected, they can quickly spread, turning into larger problems with a lasting negative impact on your business.

Problem: Data is surface level

Decisions need to be made with as much detail and context as possible.  

A modern business “dashboard” needs three successive capabilities:

  1. Tell you what has occurred
  2. Give you a deep dive into why
  3. Uncover the driving force behind it  

A traditional dashboard, at its best, will somewhat accomplish capability #1, but lack the depth to inform you of #2 and #3. Harvard Business Review reports,  

“Although they can convey snapshots of important measures, dashboards are poor at providing the nuance and context that effective data-driven decision-making demands.”

Consequently, dashboards can’t connect and correlate unexpected changes across different metrics, i.e., anomalies. Therefore, decision makers will waste time trying to understand the whole story behind the data and risk making misinformed decisions.

Problem: Alert fatigue

As mentioned, traditional dashboards rely on static thresholds, which constantly need to be reset based on changing business behavior.  

However, relying on human input to constantly update these thresholds is both impractical and inconsistent. Thus, alerts may be suddenly (and inaccurately) triggered across different KPIs, putting many operations teams into overdrive.

They become fatigued after spending time sifting through “alert storms,” ultimately taking the sense of urgency out of the alert’s purpose.

Without urgency, there is no focus, which ultimately harms the execution of your strategy. Yet, the challenge remains of identifying which alerts are worth considering as an anomaly, false positives, repetitive, or minuscule.  

In dealing with the challenges of your modern business, the solution should be to reduce the quantity of alerts, while maintaining their quality. 

What does a future without business dashboards look like?

There’s only one thing we know about our future in business — there will always be more data to sort, organize, and manage. No matter how advanced your current solution is, you can’t out-dashboard bad data management.

Rather than trying to curate dashboards into a perfect-in-the-moment, yet fragile combination of visualization and sourcing, it’s time to rethink the idea of dashboards themselves.

As a modern business, you’re seeking ways to make your data work smarter. Why continue spending hours of your week tediously checking in on endless KPIs, trying to make sense of what the endless stream of data means?

With the surge of AI making headlines everywhere this year, any reluctance to what everyone claims is the “next big thing” is understandable. Business observability solutions provide advanced analytics, visualization tools, and predictive capabilities, all to help you identify problems and create solutions quicker.

After reading this article, though, you have an understanding of why business dashboards are becoming obsolete. Embracing business observability as a concept is the next evolution in your business operations.

Check out our ultimate guide to business observability software

Business Observability Software

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Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps get you where you want to go.

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