Dashboards and reports in Power BI are very similar tools in appearance, and they both perform many of the same visualization and data analytics tasks. Even users that have years of experience with Power BI may be unsure whether to build a dashboard or report for a given project. 

However, if you want to generate the most accurate insights, you need to understand the differences between dashboard vs report in Power BI. This guide will help you decide which tool is right for you. 

The Differences Between a Dashboard vs. Report in Power BI 

A dashboard in Power BI is a single page that displays the most important information from one or multiple detailed reports. You can think of Power BI dashboards like headlines in a newspaper—they’re designed to show you the most important information and insights so that you can make decisions quickly. 

This is also why Power BI makes these dashboards shareable. They’re perfect for presenting complex information in its simplest form so you can share insights with upper management or your teams. 

By comparison, a Power BI report is much more detailed—and harder to share. These reports consist of many visuals like pie charts, heat maps, and tables. You can slice data, dice it, filter it, or compare multiple data points to reveal hidden patterns. 

Going back to the newspaper analogy, if a dashboard is the headline, then a report is the news story underneath it. While these reports take longer to read, they also provide you with more information than dashboards. 

In addition to these basic differences, there are a few more subtle differences between dashboards vs. reports in Power BI: 

Sharing options availableNo sharing options (but users can subscribe to report pages instead) 
One pageCan contain multiple pages 
Displays information from multiple reports or data sets Only displays information from one data set at a time (but looks at it from multiple angles)
Hides data set fields from the pageUsers can click on data set fields for a more detailed view 
Limited visuals available (displayed as widgets) Users can include any Power BI visual or create their own custom visuals 
Data is read-onlyData can be changed 
Automatically refreshes when data changesHas to be manually refreshed 
Users can program email alerts based on the dataNo alerts are available 

These aren’t the only differences, but they are some of the most important. To help you decide, consider what you would like to do with your data and select the tool that best supports those goals.

When Should You Use a Dashboard vs. Report in Power BI? 

Deciding whether to use a dashboard vs. report in Power BI is easy once you know what each tool does.

You should use a dashboard if:

  • You are a C-suite executive who needs to look at the bigger picture;
  • You want to share information in a meeting;
  • Upper management wants to know how the company is performing overall;
  • You and your team don’t have time to generate or read multiple reports;
  • You’d like to summarize a particularly complicated report or data set;
  • You want to track daily key performance indicators (KPIs);
  • You don’t want to refresh your data manually;
  • Project managers or sales managers need to receive alerts based on the data (like an email alert when a sales goal is reached);
  • You and your team want to quickly track progress toward certain goals from a mobile device (by making it a featured dashboard, it will be the first dashboard displayed in the Power BI app).

Many users default to using a dashboard because it’s the easiest to build and doesn’t require any computer science or data science knowledge.

However, if one or more of the statements below is true, then you should use a Power BI report:

  • You need to interact with your data to find hidden patterns or trends;
  • You aren’t sure what the next step is and you want to use data to drive the decision (reports are ideal for coming up with new business strategies);
  • You have time to drill down through the data;
  • Your job requires you to examine the data (e.g. an accountant, data scientist, or marketing strategist).

Even the simplest dashboards rely on more detailed reports to function properly. A dashboard can only display the information it’s given, and the information comes from complex data sets and reports. It’s not a question of whether you need a dashboard vs. report in Power BI—it’s a question of which tool is right for each individual task you have to perform. That’s why virtually all businesses use a combination of dashboards and reports to achieve their goals and operate efficiently.

What’s the Best Way to Generate Reliable Insights? 

The main reason people use Power BI is to leverage data and make better business decisions. Some businesses use multiple dashboards to ensure everyone stays on the right page. Others create more reports to discover new insights.

However, even if you use the perfect combination of dashboards vs. reports in Power BI, this approach still has limitations. For example, if you’re not collecting the right type of data or the quality of your data is poor, then it doesn’t matter how many dashboards or reports you create. Your insights will be flawed.

This is why it’s important to create an effective system for collecting, storing, normalizing, and governing your data. Third-party data analytics firms specialize in this type of work. They can also build custom Power BI dashboards and reports for you based on your staff’s workflow and your business strategy. These firms can also set up predictive analytics models that you can export to Power BI, so you can think ahead and make better decisions about your company’s future.

Generating accurate insights is a complex process that involves looking at historical data, real-time data, and projections to identify the best possible path to success. When you combine the robust visuals of Power BI dashboards and reports with powerful predictive modeling and tight data governance, you’ll come up with novel solutions and strategies to drive your business.

To make the most of your Power BI dashboards and reports, contact Tek Leaders today. We specialize in comprehensive data analysis systems. We offer secure storage, automatic normalization, custom Power BI dashboards and reports, and predictive modeling using innovative machine learning technology. If you’d like a free business strategy audit, you can reach us by email directly.