Dashboards vs reports: Which one do you need?

According to a NewVantage Partners survey, almost 92% of organizations report achieving measurable business value from their data and analytics. Dashboards and reports empower you to extract meaningful insights from your data. While both serve crucial roles in conveying information and facilitating decision-making processes, they possess distinct characteristics tailored to specific needs and preferences.

By understanding the distinctions between the two, you can effectively leverage dashboards and reports to transform raw data into actionable insights that drive organizational success. Let's explore how to get the most value out of these data tools.

Table of contents:

What is a dashboard?

Dashboards visually represent a high-level overview of key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, and other relevant business information. Their various visual elements serve as a centralized hub for monitoring and analyzing data, allowing you to quickly assess the status of critical metrics and track progress toward organizational goals.

Liveboards take dashboards to the next level by providing real-time, interactive data visualization and analysis. Unlike traditional dashboards, Liveboards facilitate instant access to insights, seamless collaboration, limitless interaction, and easy information sharing throughout the organization.

What is a report?

A report is a comprehensive document that provides detailed analysis and documentation of data, trends, and insights. Reports offer a structured format for presenting findings, analysis, and recommendations to stakeholders within your organization. They are often used to communicate complex information, support data-driven decision-making, and document performance metrics over time. 

Dashboard vs Report: What is the difference?

Dashboard vs Report: Purpose

Dashboards are primarily designed to provide a frequent overview of KPIs and metrics, enabling you to monitor ongoing performance and make quick decisions.

Reports, on the other hand, are tailored to address specific questions or objectives and often provide a deeper understanding of underlying factors and implications.

Dashboard vs Report: Format

Dashboards typically consist of visual elements such as charts, graphs, maps, and tables, arranged in a concise and easily digestible format. They focus on data visualization to present information in a visually engaging manner, enabling you to quickly interpret trends, patterns, and insights at a glance. 

Reports are structured documents that often include narrative commentary, analysis, and visual representations of data such as tables, charts, and graphs. While they can also leverage data visualization to convey information, reports provide a more detailed and structured format for presenting findings and insights. 

Dashboard vs Report: Interactivity

Dashboards are often interactive, allowing you to drill down into specific data points, apply filters, and customize the display to suit your needs. This interactivity empowers you to explore data and perform ad-hoc analysis.

Using next-gen data visualization tools like ThoughtSpot, you can do more than just create Liveboards. Featuring AI-powered capabilities like natural language search and SpotIQ, you can move beyond “what” happened and into the “how” and the “why.” Additionally, you can drill anywhere from high-level analytics to granular insights on billions of rows of data. ThoughtSpot also offers real-time KPI monitoring through ThoughtSpot Monitor.

Unlike dashboards, reports are static documents, typically distributed or shared as PDFs. While some reports may include interactive elements such as hyperlinks or interactive charts, they are generally less interactive than dashboards.

Dashboard vs Report: Frequency of use

Dashboards are frequently accessed to regularly monitor ongoing performance, track progress toward goals, and make informed decisions. They are often integrated into daily or weekly workflows and serve as a centralized hub for data analysis. With ThoughtSpot Liveboards, you’re able to access your data in real time.

Reports are typically generated on a periodic basis (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually) or in response to specific events or initiatives. They are used for presenting detailed analysis, documenting performance metrics over time, and supporting formal presentations or documentation.

Dashboard vs Report: Audience

Business dashboards are generally designed for a broad audience within an organization, including executives, managers, and frontline staff. They provide a high-level overview of key metrics and performance indicators relevant to multiple stakeholders. ThoughtSpot further enhances this accessibility by serving as a self-service analytics tool, empowering users across all levels of the organization to independently explore data, drill down, and derive insights.

Reports are usually tailored to specific audiences or stakeholders within an organization, such as senior management, department heads, or project teams. Analysts or data teams build these custom reports to meet the information needs and preferences of the intended audience, providing detailed analysis and insights on specific topics or issues.

Considerations for implementing dashboards and reports

To successfully implement dashboards and reports, you’ll want to consider practical features beyond the basic understanding of their differences. Let's explore some key factors:

Data accessibility and integration

Dashboards often require access to data from various sources. Consider the availability and accessibility of data sources, as well as the feasibility of integrating them into a dashboard platform. 

Similarly, reports may involve compiling data from multiple sources into a single document. Assess the ease of data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) processes required to generate comprehensive reports, and look for connectors that might help streamline report creation.

Solutions like ThoughtSpot seamlessly connect to various data sources, enabling immediate answers through search queries, Liveboards, and even threshold alerts. Those alerts might look like a push notification to your mobile device, email, or other alert through a SaaS application you’re often working in. These seamless connections are ideal for both report and dashboard functionality.

User training and adoption

ThoughtSpot Liveboards and other modern dashboard solutions offer intuitive user interfaces designed for ease of use. However, data fluency training and enablement are always reccomended to ensure effective utilization of features and functionalities. The time commitment required to train business users may be higher with legacy dashboarding tools like Tableau and PowerBI, which largely cater to more technical data teams and analysts. 

While they may require some initial training on data sources and procedures, Reports are descriptive and therefore easier to interpret., That said, report-generation tools are largely managed by a data team or analyst. That means, any future changes to the report structure or drill down into the data will require additional consultation with the data team. These delays can hinder real-time decision-making in a real-world environment.


Some advanced dashboards like ThoughtSpot's Liveboards offer customizable features such as drag-and-drop functionality, dashboard layout customization, and user-defined filters. This empowers users to drill into their data, answering the next question and the next—ensuring they are able to attain the next-level insight that drives impactful change at your organization. 

Not all dashboarding solutions offer this same level of customization. Be sure to evaluate your vendors of this criteria in order to empower your front-line workers to make real-time, data-backed decisions.

Because consistency is crucial for comparing the same information over time, reports are typically more fixed in terms of formatting, layout, and content customization. However, one-off reports can adopt a more ad-hoc style, offering the flexibility needed to track varying metrics.


Whether you’re using a legacy dashboard or a modern Liveboard, they will require ongoing maintenance to ensure data accuracy, dashboard performance, and compatibility with evolving data sources and business requirements. Evaluate the scalability of the dashboard solution to accommodate increasing data volumes, evolving data sources, and shifting user demands.

Reports are regularly updated to reflect changes in data, analysis methodologies, or reporting standards. As you assess your options, consider the ease of updating, distributing, and scaling your report generation processes to handle the growing needs of your business.


Dashboards facilitate real-time collaboration and communication by providing shared access to live data and interactive visualizations. Assess the collaborative features of dashboard platforms, such as annotation tools, commenting capabilities, and user permissions management. For instance, with ThoughtSpot’s note tiles, you can provide important directions for how to read or use a specific visualization.


Reports enable comprehensive documentation and formal communication of findings, insights, and recommendations. Consider how reports will be shared, reviewed, and distributed among stakeholders, as well as the need for version control and audit trails.

Cost and resource allocation

Dashboards can involve upfront costs for dashboard software licenses, implementation, and training, as well as ongoing expenses for maintenance and support. Evaluate the total cost of ownership (TCO) of dashboard solutions relative to the expected benefits and ROI.

Reports require investments in generation tools, data analysis software, and human resources for report creation, validation, and distribution. When investing in a solution, be sure you’ve also allotted the necessary resources to sustain report creation as part of a new or existing role within the organization.

Dashboard vs report: Which is the better option?

The decision between reports and dashboards depends on your specific data requirements. Each offers unique benefits and comes with its own set of limitations. Ultimately, both dashboards and reports leverage advanced data visualization techniques to enhance understanding and decision-making.

Modern dashboard solutions like ThoughtSpot Liveboards excel at providing a quick overview of business operations, offering real-time data updates and interactive features for on-the-go insights. That’s why many businesses like Staples, Petsmart, and CVS utilize ThoughtSpot for both Liveboards and reports. 

Take Fabuwood, a cabinet manufacturer that traditionally relied on PowerBI for sales reports. To scale the business, the team needed a solution that didn’t require an analyst for every data request. With ThoughtSpot, they replaced 50 manual reports with interactive Liveboards—a significant time savings that continues to pay off week-over-week.

Fabuwood testimony

Maximizing data insights

Striking a balance between the dashboards and reports ensures scalable informed decision-making across your organization. Thankfully, innovative BI solutions like ThoughtSpot offer highly customizable and interactive dashboards and reports tailored to diverse use cases so you never have to choose.

Get the best of dashboards and reports—schedule a demo today.