Dashboards compared to balanced scorecards

A dashboard presents crucial data all in one place. A dashboard (nee Executive Information System) often uses thermometers, graphs, colors, arrows and dials to convey the information. A dashboard that I developed for a law department had on one page 12 indicators of the department’s activities and outcomes.

Below the department level, litigation groups could be the most avid users of dashboards, for the reason that they can quantify many of their elements and outcomes (new cases, days of trial, documents produced, success rates, dollars spent, law firms retained).

A balanced scorecard, as proselytized by Kaplan and Norton, collects a raft of metrics in four categories but doesn’t try to present them all at one glance with visual dramatics (See my post of Dec. 9, 2005 on data visualization software; March 8, 2006 on a balanced scorecard at Northwestern Mutual; July 25, 2005 on how to best embed metrics in reality; Aug. 27, 2005 about a British law firms scorecard.).

A dashboard emphasizes key information in a format that is striking and easy to absorb. A balanced scorecard has a four-ply structure, uses qualitative indicators, a cares less about presentation (See my post of Aug. 24, 2006 on balanced scorecards at UTC.).

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