Scorecards, Dashboards and Reports – please explain!

What used to be a ‘report’ has transformed into metaphors galore! Dashboards. Enterprise reports. Paginated reports. Mobile reports, Management reports. Operational reports. Analytics. Scorecards. Data visualisation. ServiceNow Performance Analytics. Business Intelligence. Performance Measurement…

It’s a convoluted combination of terms related to functionality, processes and content delivery mediums. These terms overlap and at times are nothing more than marketing monikers.

In an effort to put some perspective to this, and to be able to explain things to the people that actually matter, (i.e. folks that need to make decisions based on data) a couple of analogies help out.




Firstly, the game of golf.

It’s played over 18 holes and on each hole the number of strokes are recorded on a ‘scorecard’. The individual scores on holes, let’s call them the measures, are aggregated (summed) to form the metric. The overall score for 18 holes. The overall score (metric) can be tracked across time to determine if a golfer is getting better or worse.




Secondly, driving a car.

We all monitor the ‘dashboard’ to know how the car is performing at a given moment in time. RPM, speed, engine temperature etc. A combination of information that enables point in time decisions to be made. Things like: should I slow down? Is the car going to overheat?

In the context of these analogies, a simple explanation of the mediums associated with decision making is the following:

  • Scorecards display metrics that enable performance to be measured.
  • Dashboards display data in an interactive graphical format that enable analytics and data visualisation.
  • Reports display data in a static format providing snapshots of performance and/or activity at a point in time.
  • Dashboards and Reports can provide supporting information for Scorecards to explain performance.


But why is this important?   

Let’s step back and state the basics of what it’s all about:

“enabling decisions to be made based on available data”

It’s that simple!




And a key to successful decision making enablement and performance measurement is providing the right type of content to decision makers. Not only the nature of the content, but what the content is called.

IT Management are almost weary of ‘dashboards’.  It’s like everything is called a ‘dashboard’. If you want your performance measurement initiative to be a success, use the term scorecard and focus on metrics, which in turn can be supported by dashboards and reports.


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