If a project is a living, breathing thing, the Project Dashboard is the monitor displaying its vital signs, providing an instant assessment of the project’s overall health. The Project Dashboard is a visually-based communication tool used to report the status of the project in a one-page report. The project reporting summary is intended to highlight status, assess key performance indicators and highlight risks or needs.
Projects are the lifeblood of businesses, governments and non-profits. The tendency of organizations to support multiple, overlapping and mission-critical projects in parallel is becoming the norm rather than the exception. In such a fast-paced environment, top management and key project stakeholders need access to current project status on demand. The project dashboard format is perfectly suited for busy leadership team with little time to read lengthy status reports.
Let’s examine some of the key attributes of the project dashboard report and how they contribute to the power of this tool.
It focuses on data, not dialogue
The project dashboard presents the most critical tasks, budget, schedule, resource and risks front and center in the dashboard. While these attributes are standard across most projects, each organization may have specific metrics which are critical for its project reporting. Prior to constructing a dashboard, convene with your team for input. What data are available? Which data must be tracked? How can we present the data consistently? While achieving consensus on the format and presentation of the data may take some work, it is central to the dashboard’s purpose. The data should speak for itself and be accessible in a useful, easy-to-digest fashion.
The data-driven, visually oriented and succinct communication style is especially suited to communicate project status across language barriers. Globally dispersed project teams benefit from having visual and standardized means of communication. The dashboard is a tool ideally suited to communicate status within such a dispersed project structure.
It standardizes project reporting within an organization
The dashboard allows an organization to view and compare project metrics which, by consensus, are found to be crucial for project and enterprise success. In the example template provided, a red, yellow and green “traffic light” system standardizes reporting of budget, schedule and resources. While these “project management triangle” constraints are universal, the dashboard captures practically any metric. Cost variance, percentage of completed tasks and key milestones are just a few other key performance indicators (KPIs) which are illuminating, actionable and easy to track across most projects. Additionally, Project Management Institute provides guidance on some of the Earned Value metrics for digital dashboard in a 2006 conference whitepaper. 
It is easy to compare status change, track risks month-to-month
The utility of the dashboard lies not just in its organizational power for the project manager, but for all stakeholders. Lucidchart, a software-based Dashboard tech service summarizes this clearly. “When all stakeholders have access, each team member and decision maker can stay abreast of developments, needs, and progress on both a high- and granular level.”  The standardization of format provides this benchmark to allow comparison between reporting periods.
Real Time Dashboards
The development of web-based collaborative tools has rocketed forward, facilitating automated workflow and real-time data visibility. Naturally, the electronic project dashboard followed from these developments and a host of electronic dashboard suites for sophisticated, real time data tracking are available. Most of these are completely customizable and fully adaptable to a capture project workflow. If you are looking for an excellent review of ten of the best, including comparison of feature sets and tools, check out the Digital Project Manager. 
About our Template
The goal of the template provided at https://freeprojectmanagementtemplates.com/ is not to compete with the web-based counterparts, but rather to provide an easy-to-adopt tool for individuals and small businesses seeking to build a PMO on a shoestring budget.
Free Project Management Templates provides two, fully-customizable low tech templates for high impact project reporting. Consider the example of a fictitious project to install a lyophilizer in a manufacturing facility. Some of the key features are:
- Easy to follow “traffic light” system of red, yellow and green for project resources, budget, schedule and overall status.
- List of project milestones, including forecast, actual and status
- Summary of current project risks and issues
- Financial information, broken down by resources (headcount), external (out-of-pocket) spend and capital expenditures. The financial dashboard displays project expenses by year, in total and in comparison to the approved amount.