What’s the Difference Between a Dashboard and a Balanced Scorecard?

These two buzzwords cause confusion among business professionals as they are used synonymously. From the first look, one might have an impression that “dashboard” and “scorecard” are interchangeable, but there are some important distinctions that I’d like to analyze in this article.

What’s the difference between a Dashboard and a Balanced Scorecard?

I’m presenting the results of the comparative analysis in the form of a table. I compare “dashboard” and “scorecard.” As long as the most used form of the “scorecard” today is a Balanced Scorecard, in my analysis I’ll focus on this very framework.

The Differences Between a Dashboard and a Balanced Scorecard

Dashboard Balanced Scorecard
Is used for… performance measurement / monitoring performance management
As a measurement tool is… metric KPI (Metric + Target) – learn more about the difference between metric and KPI
Measure is linked to business objectives… is not linked linked (aligned)
It measures… performance progress (the current value versus the target value)
It is updated… in real-time periodically (monthly)
It focuses on… operational (short-term) goals strategic (long-term) goals (more about the difference between strategic and operational goal)
Its purpose is to… give a high-level idea of what is happening in the company plan and execute a strategy, identify why something is happening and what can be done about that
Its helps… visualize the performance to understand the current state align objectives, KPI, and actions to see the connection between them
In automobile it is… automobile dashboard (shows how your car is operating) GPS (shows when and how you will arrive)

Contrast the Process of Design

The Balanced Scorecard design process is up to down (with some exceptions). It starts with global business objectives and then moves down to KPIs level.The dashboard is more oriented on an operational level; as a result the process starts with the identification of relevant metrics and monitoring of their values. If something happens on the dashboard, an executive needs to analyze the cause and effect connection between various parts of the business system to find out what is needed to be done to fix the problem.

Dashboard Process Balanced Scorecard Process
1. Identify the goals of the dashboard and metrics 1. Identify and map business objectives on the strategy map with a case-and-effect connection
2. Design a visual interface with charts and diagrams 2. Define KPIs with targets and benchmarks, align KPIs with business objectives
3. Monitor performance regularly 3. Define action plan according to the strategic objectives

Contrast the Process of Usage

The dashboard and the Balanced Scorecard are tactical and strategic tools respectively. Their usage processes are different as well.

Dashboard Process Balanced Scorecard Process
1. Business system generates events. Performance of the process is calculated and presented in the form of measures 1.  Responsible employee follows business objectives from the strategy map
2. Operational dashboard visualizes measurements in the form of a chart, a diagram or a gauge 2. Employee executes the action plan that is aligned to the specific business objective and it is measured with selected KPIs
3. If the performance of the process is not on the normal level, a dashboard generates notification to the responsible manager 3. KPI is reported to the Balanced Scorecard, its value is compared with target values and thresholds (stop-lights):

  • Update is displayed for the specific KPI
  • Visualization of the changes on the strategy map and on KPI charts
4. Responsible manager researches and follows cause and effect links to identify and fix the problem in a timely manner 4. Responsible manager tracks the progress according to a developed plan and suggests updates when necessary

Common Features of a Dashboard and a Balanced Scorecard

Let’s have a look at the common features of BI dashboards and strategy scorecards.

The Users of a Dashboard and a Scorecard

It is hard to distinguish who uses the dashboard and who uses the Balanced Scorecard. Some companies reported that their Balanced Scorecard is available only for executives, other prefer to share it with all of their employees.

A Dashboard is supposed to be available for supervisor roles only, but some companies think that this valuable information can help line-level employees in their daily job as well.

Dig into Cause and Effect

What happens when a supervisor receives a warning signal generated by a dashboard? After having a first look at what is going on a supervisor is supposed to understand the cause and effect relation between business objectives, actions and measures.

That sounds very close to what the Balanced Scorecard framework suggests doing with business objectives on the strategy map.

Measure and KPI

Although many sources tend to differentiate measures (no target) and KPIs (with target), in practice most companies follow the idea of the KPI in the dashboard as well by assigning some synthetic benchmark.

Dashboard Example

BI dashboard in BSC Designer Online

Dashboard vs. Scorecard
Sign-up with a free plan to access Dashboard vs. Scorecard as well as 30 other scorecard templates.

Dashboard helps to get an idea of how customer service is performing now:PROs:

  • We can track current performance data
  • Historical information is displayed for the metrics

CONs:

  • It is not clear how certain metrics contribute to the overall strategy
  • The action plan for the KPIs is not displayed

Balanced Scorecard Example

Balanced Scorecard strategy map in BSC Designer Online
Dashboard vs. Scorecard
Sign-up with a free plan to access Dashboard vs. Scorecard as well as 30 other scorecard templates.


The Balanced Scorecard’s strategy map allows to see the big picture of what’s happening in the organization.

PROs:

  • We can see the business goals and cause-and-effect connections between them
  • Initiatives and metrics are visualized on a single page

The benefits of having business goal on a strategy map

CONs:

  • We don’t have space to visualize all operational indicators here
  • We don’t see historical data for the indicators

More Examples of Dashboards and Strategy Scorecards

At the examples page, you will find more business scorecards that combine BI dashboards and Strategy Scorecards.

Free Strategic Planning Course by BSC Designer

Automation of the Dashboard and Strategy Scorecards

Users of BSC Designer can easily automate both dashboards and strategy maps in the same scorecard. You can find more details in the respective section of the manual for Dashboards and for Strategy Maps.

What do you think about a dashboard/balanced scorecard hybrid? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

What's next?

  • Access templates. Sign-up with a free plan at BSC Designer for immediate access to 30 scorecard templates, including Dashboard vs. Scorecard discussed in this article.
  • Master skills. Check out free video tutorial for the Balanced Scorecard. Master your strategy planning and execution skills with Strategy Execution training.
  • Automate. Learn what Balanced Scorecard software is and how it can make your life easier by automating strategy execution, KPIs, and strategy maps.
Online wizard will help even inexperienced users to create a professional strategy map with business goals, KPIs, and initiatives.

Strategy Map Wizard – Balanced Scorecard in 6 Minutes

Answer simple questions - build a professional strategy map in 6 minutes.

Strategy formulation and description might be a time-consuming project even for an experienced strategist. This Strategy Scorecard Wizard will make the whole process fast and intuitive.

Start now!

More Examples of the Balanced Scorecard

Customer service strategy map with KPIs
8 STEPS To Create a Strategy Map By BSC Designer
Corporate Governance Dashboard with KPIs
Cite as: Aleksey Savkin, "What’s the Difference Between a Dashboard and a Balanced Scorecard?," BSC Designer, November 24, 2013, https://bscdesigner.com/dashboard-vs-balanced-scorecard.htm.

3 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between a Dashboard and a Balanced Scorecard?”

  1. Interesting article. Most people are not sure about the difference between scorecard and dashboard. Thanks for clarifying. Both are important and serve difference purpose.

  2. Excellent learning text and very understandable! Few CEOs, business strategists, performance managers, and program/project managers know these substantial differences.
    Congratulations!

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