Executive dashboard essentials: How to build a great KPI dashboard

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Executives need to have their finger on the pulse of their company's performance - they require up-to-date, actionable insights to make informed decisions that drive the organisation forward. This is where Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards come into play. In this post, we'll explore the crucial elements of crafting an effective KPI dashboard tailored to your executive teams' unique needs. By the end, you'll have the know-how to empower your executives to make data-driven decisions confidently. 

What is a KPI dashboard?

A KPI dashboard is a visual tool that provides a clear and concise snapshot of how your company is doing. It's like having a real-time report card for your business, showing how well you're tracking against your goals. A KPI dashboard should be laser-focused on the organisation's strategic objectives. It should showcase high-level metrics that matter most to the big picture and present this information in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand way.

Why is a KPI dashboard important?

1. Clarity and focus

A KPI dashboard highlights your business's most critical success metrics, helping you focus on what really matters. Instead of digging through piles of data, you can see the essential information at a glance.

2. Informed decision-making

With up-to-date information at your fingertips, you can make better and faster decisions. This helps in responding quickly to changes and opportunities.

3. Accountability

A KPI dashboard makes it easy to see how different departments or team members are performing. This transparency fosters accountability and motivates everyone to stay on track with their goals.

4. Efficiency

By automating data collection and reporting, a KPI dashboard saves time and reduces the risk of errors, letting you concentrate on strategy and execution instead of data crunching.

5. Trend analysis

It helps you identify trends over time, enabling you to forecast and plan more effectively. Spotting trends early can give you a competitive edge.

How to build an effective KPI dashboard for executives

Step 1: Understand your executive KPI dashboard requirements

Before you jump headfirst into creating an executive KPI dashboard, it's essential to take a step back and understand what your executive team really needs. Getting a solid grasp on their unique requirements and expectations sets the stage for building an executive dashboard that hits the mark and supports their strategic decision-making.

Identify key stakeholders and their information needs

First things first: figure out who your key players are. These will be people like the CEO, CFO, COO, and other senior leaders in your organisation. Each of these stakeholders likely has their own set of priorities and information needs based on their specific roles. So, it's crucial to sit down and find out what matters most to them. Dive into the metrics and insights they need to make informed decisions. Get a feel for how they like their data presented and how often they need to access it. The more you understand their preferences, the better equipped you'll be to create a KPI dashboard that truly works for them. Here are some questions you can ask:

General questions:

  • What are your top strategic goals for the organisation?
  • What are the KPIs you currently track?
  • Which metrics do you find most valuable for making informed decisions?
  • Are there any specific trends or patterns you are particularly interested in monitoring?
  • How frequently do you need updates on these metrics? (e.g., real-time, daily, weekly, monthly)
  • What types of decisions do you make that require detailed data and insights?
  • Which areas do you feel need more data-driven insights?
  • Are there any recurring issues or challenges that better data could help address?
  • How do you prefer data to be presented to you? (e.g., charts, graphs, detailed reports)
  • What tools or platforms do you currently use for accessing and analysing data?
  • What do you find lacking in the current KPI dashboards or reports you receive?
  • How can the current data reporting process be improved to better meet your needs?
  • Are there any additional features or metrics you would like to see in a KPI dashboard?
  • What training or support would help you make better use of data and insights?

Role-specific questions:


  • What are your primary objectives for the next quarter/year?
  • Which financial metrics are most critical for you? (e.g., revenue, profit margins, cash flow)
  • How do you track overall company performance and growth?
  • What insights do you need to better understand our market position?


  • What financial metrics are essential for your role? (e.g., budget variance, EBITDA, ROI)
  • Which aspects of financial health are you most concerned about?
  • What information do you need to manage cash flow and liquidity effectively?
  • How do you monitor and manage risks and opportunities from a financial perspective?


  • Which operational metrics are critical for you? (e.g., efficiency, productivity, supply chain performance)
  • What data do you need to oversee daily operations and logistics?
  • How do you measure and ensure operational excellence?
  • What insights help you identify and address bottlenecks or inefficiencies?


  • What marketing KPIs are most important to you? (e.g., customer acquisition cost, conversion rates, brand awareness)
  • How do you track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and initiatives?
  • What metrics do you use to understand customer behaviour and preferences?
  • What data helps you assess market trends and consumer insights?


  • What HR metrics are critical for your role? (e.g., employee turnover, engagement, headcount)
  • How do you monitor employee performance and development?
  • What information do you need to ensure effective talent acquisition and retention?
  • What insights help you maintain and improve organisational culture?

Determine the optimal level of detail for your KPI dashboard

Unlike operational dashboards that can get into the weeds with granular data, executive dashboards should focus on the big picture—think summarised, aggregated performance views. That said, it's still important to give your executives the ability to drill down into more detailed data when needed (more on this later). Work closely with your stakeholders to figure out the sweet spot for the level of detail required for their roles and decision-making processes. Aim for a KPI dashboard that provides a comprehensive overview at a glance and allows for deeper exploration when necessary.

Step 2: Select the right KPIs for your executive dashboard

Now that you've identified your executive team's needs, it's time to choose the right KPIs. These should give your executives a comprehensive view of your organisation's performance, align with your strategic objectives, and empower them to make informed decisions. Here are some key factors to keep in mind when picking your KPIs:

Focus on high-level, strategic KPIs

You want to focus on high-level, strategic KPIs that provide a bird' s-eye view of your organisation's performance. These may include revenue growth, market share, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. By zeroing in on these top-level metrics, your executives can quickly gauge the overall health and direction of the business.

Align KPIs with organisational goals and strategic initiatives

Your executive KPI dashboard shouldn't just be a random collection of metrics. It should provide meaningful insights that tie directly to your organisation's goals and strategic initiatives. Take a look at your company's mission and vision statement, and big-picture objectives. Identify the key areas that drive your business's success. Then, connect the dots between your KPIs and specific initiatives.


1. Strategic initiative: Expand into new international markets

KPI: International revenue growth

Description: This KPI measures the percentage increase in revenue generated from international markets compared to the previous period.

Link: Increasing international revenue growth is a key indicator of the success of our market expansion initiative. By monitoring this KPI, we can track our progress in penetrating new markets and adjust our strategies accordingly.

2. Strategic initiative: Implement a new customer loyalty program

KPI: Repeat purchase rate

Description: This KPI calculates the percentage of customers who make a second purchase within a defined time period after their initial purchase.

Link: The success of our new customer loyalty program can be gauged by the repeat purchase rate. If the loyalty program is effective, we should see an increase in the percentage of customers making repeat purchases, indicating higher customer retention and loyalty.

3. Strategic initiative: Optimise the product development process

KPI: Time-to-market (TTM)

Description: TTM measures the time it takes from product conception to launch, including design, development, and testing phases.

Link: Reducing TTM is a critical goal of our product development optimisation initiative. By tracking this KPI, we can identify bottlenecks in the process, implement improvements, and ultimately bring new products to market faster, giving us a competitive advantage.

Balance leading and lagging indicators

To give your executives a well-rounded view of performance, you must include leading and lagging indicators in your dashboard. Lagging indicators, like revenue and profit, reflect the outcomes of past actions and provide a historical perspective. Leading indicators, such as sales pipeline, website traffic, and customer sentiment, offer a glimpse into the future and help predict upcoming performance. By striking a balance between these two types of indicators, your executives can understand where the business stands today while also anticipating potential challenges and opportunities down the road.

Consider industry-specific and company-specific metrics

While some common KPIs apply to most organisations, don't be afraid to customise as required. Different industries have their unique performance indicators that are critical to their success. For example, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company might be all about metrics like Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), while a retail company may be more focused on same-store sales growth and inventory turnover. Don't forget to consider any company-specific metrics that align with your organisation's unique goals and strategies. The more relevant your KPIs are to your business, the more valuable they'll be to your executives.

Step 3: Choose the right tool 

Choosing the right tool for building your KPI executive dashboard is crucial. You want a tool that fits your needs like a glove, is user-friendly, and provides all the necessary features to develop visually appealing and informative dashboards. The right tool will help you build dashboards that showcase your key metrics, provide context, encourage data exploration, and spark meaningful conversations about performance.

Here are some important features and functions to keep in mind when choosing your tool:

Data integration and automation

Data is the backbone of your KPI dashboard. If you want our executives to trust the insights you’re serving up, you need to ensure your data is spot-on and always up-to-date. 

Manually entering and updating data is time-consuming and a surefire way to introduce errors. To keep your dashboard running like a well-oiled machine, you must automate your data collection and updates wherever possible. This means leveraging data integration tools and APIs to automatically pull data from your sources - financial systems, CRM platforms, marketing automation tools, operational databases, etc. - and populate the dashboard. This way, your executives always look at the most current and accurate information. 

Tability data integration

Setting up scheduled data refreshes will ensure your dashboard is always up to date without any manual intervention. Some metrics, like financial data, might need daily or weekly updates, while others, like customer satisfaction scores, can probably get by with monthly or quarterly refreshes. Figure out the right refresh frequencies for each KPI to ensure you’re hitting the sweet spot between keeping your executives informed and not overloading them with constant updates.

User-friendly interface

If you want your executives to use our KPI dashboard, it must be easy to navigate and understand. Here are some design principles to keep in mind:

Simple and intuitive design

Keep it clean and simple. You don’t want your dashboard to look like a cluttered mess. Stick to a minimalist layout and avoid overwhelming your executives with too much information at once. Prioritise key metrics and use visual hierarchies to guide their eyes to what really matters. 

Tability UI
Accessible across devices 

Executives are always on the move. They need to be able to access your KPI dashboard anytime, anywhere. That's why you must ensure your design is responsive and looks great on any device - whether a desktop, tablet or smartphone. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to navigate a dashboard that's not optimised for mobile. Make sure the design is mobile-friendly so your executives can keep their finger on the pulse no matter where they are.

Tability mobile

Interactivity and drill-down capabilities

You don’t want your executives to just passively consume the data you’re serving up - you want them to be able to explore and dig deeper when they need to. Here's how you can make that happen:

Custom views and filters

Every executive has their own unique needs and priorities. Give them the power to customise their dashboard views and apply filters to see the data that's most relevant to them. Maybe your CFO wants to zero in on financial metrics while your CMO is all about customer satisfaction scores. By allowing them to tailor their views, you can help them focus on what matters most without getting bogged down by irrelevant data.

Tability filters view
Drill-down options

Sometimes, top-level metrics don't tell the whole story. That's where drill-down capabilities come in handy. Executives should be able to click on a KPI and dive deeper into the nitty-gritty details behind it. This is especially important when they spot an anomaly or want to understand the root causes behind a particular trend. 

Artificial intelligence assistance

AI can provide data-driven recommendations, real-time monitoring, and personalised insights to help you better track progress towards your goals and KPIs. This enables you to proactively adjust things where necessary and ensure continuous alignment with your organisational priorities. 

Tability AI

Step 4: Design your KPI dashboard

Layout and presentation are key when creating an executive KPI dashboard that truly makes an impact. You want your dashboard to deliver valuable insights, be visually engaging, and be easy to navigate. 

Keep it clean and clutter-free

Your dashboard should be a breath of fresh air—not a cluttered mess. Embrace whitespace and keep your design clean and minimal. Avoid the temptation to cram too much information onto one screen. Instead, prioritise your most important KPIs and give them room to shine. A clear, uncluttered layout will help your executives quickly focus on what matters most without getting overwhelmed.

Use a logical, intuitive layout

Organise your KPIs in a logical, intuitive way that aligns with your business goals and your executives' thought processes. Group related metrics together, and use clear headings and labels to guide your users through the data story you're telling. 

Leverage visual hierarchy

Not all KPIs are created equal—some will naturally be more important than others. Use visual hierarchy to draw your executives' eyes to the metrics that matter most. Play with font sizes, colours, and placement to create a clear information hierarchy. 

Choose the right data visualisations

Choose charts and graphs that effectively communicate your data and align with your executives' preferences. Bar charts and line graphs are great for showing trends over time, while pie charts can be useful for displaying proportions. 

Step 5: Launch your KPI dashboard

Launching your dashboard is an exciting milestone, but it's also an opportunity to set your executives up for success. Here's how to ensure your dashboard launch goes off without a hitch:

1. Build anticipation

Before you officially launch your dashboard, build some buzz around it. Send out a teaser email to your executive team highlighting some of the key features and benefits they can expect. You might even consider creating a short video tutorial to give them a sneak peek of what's to come. 

2. Plan a formal introduction

Once your dashboard is ready, don't just send out a link and call it a day. Plan a formal introduction to walk your executives through the dashboard and show them how to make the most of it. This could be a live demo, a webinar, or an in-person training session. Use this opportunity to highlight key features, demonstrate how to navigate the dashboard, and answer any questions your executives may have.

3. Gather feedback and iterate

Your dashboard launch is just the beginning. To ensure that your dashboard continues to meet the needs of your executive team, gather feedback early and often. Send out a survey or schedule follow-up meetings to collect input on what's working well and what could be improved. Use this feedback to iterate and refine your dashboard over time. 

👉 Download our free KPI dashboard launch plan template

Best practices for designing a KPI dashboard

1. Avoid KPI overload: Keep your dashboard concise

A common pitfall to watch out for is trying to cram too many KPIs into your executive dashboard. When you overload your dashboard with metrics, you risk diluting the impact of the most critical ones and causing information overload for your executives. To sidestep this issue, be ruthless in your selection. Choose only the KPIs that truly matter to your executive team. A good rule of thumb is to aim for no more than 8-12 key metrics in your main KPI dashboard view. This way, your executives can quickly absorb the essential information without feeling overwhelmed. 

2. Provide clear, concise explanations of KPIs

Ensure that each KPI is explained clearly and concisely. This can include brief descriptions or tooltips that spell out the purpose and meaning of each metric. Keep it simple—no one wants to decipher technical jargon when they're trying to make big decisions. Where it makes sense, provide context or benchmarks to help your executives understand how your KPIs stack up against industry standards or your own historical performance.


1. Revenue Growth 

Description: This KPI measures the percentage increase in revenue compared to the previous period.

Tooltip: A positive percentage indicates revenue growth, while a negative percentage suggests a decline.

Context: Our sector's industry average revenue growth is 5%, and our target for this quarter is 7%.

2. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Description: The CSAT KPI represents the percentage of customers who are satisfied with our products or services.

Tooltip: A higher CSAT score indicates better customer satisfaction, which can lead to increased loyalty and retention.

Benchmark: According to industry benchmarks, the average CSAT score for our industry is 80%. We aim to maintain a score above 85%.

3. Highlight areas requiring attention or action

Use visual cues like colour coding or icons to show what’s on track, what’s at risk, and what’s off track. 

Tability colour coding

Green = On track 

Yellow = At risk

Red = Off track

By making it easy to spot areas that need improvement, you empower your executives to make data-driven decisions and take action where it matters most.

3. Regularly review and update your KPIs 

Business priorities change, new challenges pop up, and what was once a critical KPI might not be so important anymore. That's why it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse and regularly check in with your executive team. Ask them for feedback on how useful and effective your current KPIs are. 

Questions to ask:

  1. How useful are the current KPIs in helping you make informed decisions?
  2. Which KPIs do you rely on most frequently, and why?
  3. Which KPIs have provided the most actionable insights in the past quarter?
  4. Have there been instances where KPIs helped you identify and address potential challenges early?
  5. Are there any KPIs you feel are no longer relevant or useful?
  6. Which KPIs do you think need more focus or refinement?
  7. Have there been any recent changes in business priorities that should be reflected in our KPIs?
  8. Are there any emerging trends or new challenges that our current KPIs do not capture?
  9. What new metrics would provide better insights into your current strategic goals?
  10. Which areas of the business do you feel need additional KPIs to monitor effectively?
  11. How well do the current KPIs align with the organisation’s strategic goals?
  12. Do you find the current KPI dashboards easy to interpret and actionable?
  13. What improvements can be made to the presentation and visualisation of KPIs?
  14. Are there any specific data points or insights that are missing from the current dashboards?
  15. How well do the current KPIs facilitate communication and alignment across different departments?

4. Implement robust data security and access controls

Your executive KPI dashboard is bound to contain sensitive and confidential information. It’s important to implement airtight security measures and access controls to keep your data safe from prying eyes.

You need to establish a clear data governance framework that lays out who has access to the dashboard and at what level. Set up role-based access controls so each executive only has access to the KPIs and data that are relevant to their responsibilities.

Ensure you’re using secure authentication methods like single sign-on (SSO) or two-factor authentication (2FA) to keep unauthorised users out. Regularly review and update access permissions to make sure your data stays secure.

5. Monitor KPI dashboard usage and engagement

Creating an executive KPI dashboard is one thing—getting your executives to actually use it is another. Keep a close eye on how often your dashboard is accessed and how engaged your executive team is. Track metrics like the number of views, time spent on the dashboard, and how frequently data-driven decisions are made based on your insights.

Tability dashboard usage insights

If usage or engagement is low, that's a red flag. It could mean your dashboard isn't meeting the needs of your executives, or maybe the data isn't being presented in a way that resonates with them. Use this information to identify areas where you can improve and make the necessary tweaks to boost adoption and value.

6. Continuously refine and optimise your KPI dashboard design

As you gather feedback and monitor usage, you will probably spot opportunities to fine-tune your dashboard design. Continuously refine and optimise the visual layout, data visualisations, and navigation. Experiment with different chart types, colour schemes, and data groupings to see what enhances clarity and readability. Your goal is to present information in the most effective and intuitive way possible. 

7. Provide training and support 

Even the most well-designed dashboard won't deliver value if your executive team doesn't know how to use it effectively. That's why training and support are key. Run training sessions to walk your executives through the dashboard's features, navigation, and how to interpret the KPIs. Create documentation or user guides that explain the purpose and meaning of each metric and provide tips on how to leverage the insights for decision-making. Be available to answer any questions or troubleshoot any issues that come up along the way. 

The wrap

An effective executive KPI dashboard is so much more than just another reporting tool. Think of it as a catalyst that sparks data-driven decision-making at the very top of your organisation. By putting real-time, actionable insights right at your executives' fingertips, these dashboards give your leaders the power to spot trends, jump on opportunities, and tackle challenges head-on with confidence.

If you're ready to take your organisation's decision-making game to the next level and drive some serious business outcomes, it's time to put these strategies and best practices into action with your own executive KPI dashboards. By following the advice laid out in this post, you can create dashboards that don't just inform—they inspire. Your executive team will be equipped to make smarter, more impactful decisions that really move the needle.

Just remember, building an effective executive KPI dashboard is a journey, not a destination. It takes continuous fine-tuning and collaboration with your stakeholders to get it just right. But it's a journey worth taking. 

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Jeremy Yancey

Head of Content, Tability

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