What Not To Do When Creating a Dashboard

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When used properly, dashboards are highly effective business intelligence tools. However there are many mistakes that can be made when designing a dashboard,  that can ultimately result in a less effective and sometimes even confusing layout.

Some of the primary things to avoid when creating dashboards are:

  • Clutter
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irrelevant charts
  • Clutter:

When you design your Excel dashboard you should keep in mind that you want reports that are clear, succinct and to the point. What you definitely do not want, is a dashboard that is so full of various charts and data that it is impossible to get a clear overview.

  • Lack of Focus:

To create an effective dashboard, the designer must first know exactly what information he or she wants to receive from the dashboard. There is no point including a chart on the amount of water purchased for the staff canteen, or the figures spent on a specific advertising campaign, when this sort of data can be included in more general charts focussed on expenses. If you want that kind of specific detail, you can include it through drill down features, or even create a separate dashboard for detailed expenses. Always remember that a dashboard should display KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), that help managers and executives decide what changes and decisions should be made to boost the company’s performance. The designer of the dashboard therefore needs to know exactly what the KPIs are, so that the dashboard can reflect the relevant information.

  • Irrelevant Charts

Again this is a very key error that can easily happen when putting together an Excel dashboard. Even small business generate a huge wealth of information, and just about any aspect of a business’ day-to-day operations can be charted and potentially included in a dashboard. It is therefore necessary to be clinically precise when creating your dashboard. Remember you can always go back and edit the specifications if you find that you have included certain charts that are irrelevant to your decision making, or if you have omitted data that is highly important. Business intelligence software such as an Excel dashboard can make an immediate difference to how you run your business, but it is important to constantly adapt your software to your needs and to your operation.

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Oct
10

Some Background Information on Dashboards (Part 2)

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Business Intelligence software such as dashboards were developed to help the executives of large organisations interpret the masses of data generated by their operations on a near constant basis. The better and more effective the dashboard, the more informed the users and therefore the better placed they were to make judgement-based decisions.

At the current time, dashboards are graphic and integrated representations of the various figures and performance indicators of a given enterprise. They can be grouped into two categories, data-based and model-based. Data-based dashboards are directed more towards relaying and interpreting data from databases, data warehouses and OLAP programs, while model-based dashboards are designed to analyse using a set of rules, algorithms, forecasting, decision trees and simulations.

In the current business climate, it is more important than ever for decision makers to be as informed as possible when it comes to the performance and status of each aspect of a large organisation. In order to make an informed decision elements such as forecasts, performance metrics and current trends need to be taken into consideration. A competent and well developed dashboard application can provide all of these features.

Excel Dashboard

Sep
9

Create Dials and Speedometer Scorecard

admin

In this article we will take an Excel source containing scorecard information and convert into dials and speedometer charts.

We will also create few bar trending charts.

Consider the below sample data

Source File: You can download the excel file here

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The above excel file tracks few metrics such as safety, quality and revenue. This is just a sample data and may not make sense in actual world but just imagine a manufacturing company that wants to track its overall safety and quality score and also track its total revenue. Now the company may use its own method at deriving the individual safety and quality scores.

They may have a dedicated team to collect safety violations and product defects and then use some formulae to convert those data into final score for any given month. We are not concerned with any of the methods on how those scores are generated. You are the dashboard person and the company has provided you the metrics by each month and now your job is produce a nice dashboard that shows relevant charts for the given data.

Since the data is tracked for each month, it makes sense to show a line or bar chart trending for the metrics.

Dials and Speedometers are relevant when we need to show performance of a single value. So in this case, since we have 12 month data, how do we show single value on the meter chart?

One solution is to show an ‘Average’ value for the safety and Quality metrics or we could show a dial that shows the current month values.

So the GOAL for this exercise is: Show bar chart for Safety trending 12 months and show average and current month value on the dial chart.

Dial chart requirement: For the dial chart, we are measuring the performance, whether we are on track or missed the goal. In order to achieve that, we create three new columns for safety such as ’safety_bad’, ’safety_ok’, safety_good’. These values need to be decided by the company management. If you are not sure, then look at previous year data and decide what should be good and bad values. The dials are used to guide the company to perform better or atleast improve that portion of the company operation represented by the metric.

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First let us create the date hierarchy columns from the Period column. You need to make sure that the Period column is an actual Excel date column, else the hierarchy will not be generatedImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right click on the period column, select Create -> Add Year, Quarter, Month columns

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As you see we added the year and month columns. We may not use all of the above columns but having them ready gives us the option during the chart building.

Now right click on the “Name” and select ‘Create Chart”

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We selected the ‘Bar’ chart type

For the x-axis we select the month column and for the y – axis we select the Safety metric

Next, we click on the “Create Chart” button

This action takes us to the below dialog

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We rename the chart to ‘Safety’ and then click on ‘Fully Apply’

This action create the below chart (You may need to move the screens and dialog around to see the chart behind)

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Now having the chart wizard open, we change the selection to ‘Dial’ chart

Check the Dial chart options below

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We modify the options as below

  • You can type the low and high range values for each range on the dial.
  • In our case, we have defined the safety bad, ok and good values in our spreadsheet so when our goals change, we just change the spreadsheet and the dials will automatically take care. Also, what if we needed different goals for each month so rather than hard coding the range in the chart, we get them from the excel file

 

 

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We first change the label sequence for the “Region Name” from “Bad” -> “Warning” -> to “Good”. For the dial chart the labels are not used so make sure that the colors are selected appropriately.

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You may click on the color icon to change the colors of your choice

Next, we select the range boundary values

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The safety_bad value from our spreadsheet represents the lower boundary of our bad region, “safety_ok” represents the upper boundary of our bad region, similarly ’safety_ok’ is the lower bound for our ‘ok’ region and so on. For the ‘Good’ upper bound we simply typed a value but as general practice we should have one more column for the upper bound of the final region. In our case the final region is ‘Safety Good’.

Next, for the pointer value, select the column that you want to show on the dial chart. In our case we select ‘Safety’ and aggregation as ‘Avg’

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Next, we click on “Create chart”. This action shows the dialog below

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We change the chart title to ‘Average Safety’

NOTE: remove the double quotes in the SQL statement for the group by. This will cause an error.

Click on ‘Fully Apply’

Here is our final Dial Chart

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Next, create a dial chart to show current month value

We will change some conditions on the main Qlet. Right click on the “Name” and select ‘Duplicate’

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It creates an exact copy of the qlet table. We change the name to ‘Current Month’

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Right click on the ‘Period’ column and select ‘Create’ -> Create Date Filter

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This action shows a dialog as shown below

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First change the operator to ‘Between’

Next select ‘First Day of Month’ for the from and ‘Last Day of Month’ for the To val.

Click on ‘Use This Filter’

This action applies the filter to the Qlet and it shows only currrent month row

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Next, right click on ‘Current Month’ and select ‘Create Chart’

All of the settings remain the same except the ‘Aggregation’, make sure to select ‘NONE’

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Once all the three charts are done, we arrange them as below

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Similarly, you may create the charts for “Quality” and “Revenue”

Aug
8

How to build Excel Dashboards – 12

admin

Previous – Excel Dashboard Tutorial – 11

How do you share your Excel Dashboard with users?

Now that you have built the dashboard, you can share the dashboard in multiple ways.

Create a PDF output of the dashboard and send as email attachment.

Click on the PDF icon on the toolbar as shown below and it will instantly create a PDF output
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PDF output

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” Create Static HTML output. Click on the HTML icon on the toolbar. This option creates a static html page that you can put in on the web. Users cannot interact with the dashboard. It is just a snapshot image of the dashboard at the time the output was generated. It does not refresh automatically. You will need to regerate the output again when the data is refreshed.

” Desktop Sharing. You can put the dashboard definition file (icv) on a file share directory and other users can view the dashboard through the Dashboard viewer. You may need separate license for dashboard viewers for desktop.

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Go to Menu Create ‘ Publish to web and it will generate a file that you can put it where the dashboard web server is and it will render the output. The look and feel is different with this option

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The web version is using a flash charting engine to the desktop Java chart engine.
Details of converting the desktop to web version are not covered in the document. Please refer online at any of our websites for more details

You can download the complete tutorial as PDF
” Web Sharing: In this option, you can publish the dashboard to web and the dashboard is available real time with all the dashboard parameters and refresh actions

Mar
3

How to build Excel Dashboards – 11

admin

Previous – Excel Dashboard Tutorial

Sales Dashboard using Excel

Summary

We built the above dashboard completely from scratch.

  • We defined Calculations
  • We defined date hierarchies
  • We built Date Filters
  • We built Date Parameters
  • We built Bar Charts
  • We built Pie Charts
  • We cleaned the dashboard layout

Next – Share Excel Dashboard with other Users

Mar
3

How to build Excel Dashboards – 10

admin

Previous – Excel Dashboard Tutorial – 9

Cleanup – Resize and Organize

Give appropriate names to each portlet.
During the chart creation if we did not provide names, now is the time to provide them.
Right click on each title and click on “Edit”

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Scale down the Size

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Note, you can drag the corners of each portlet to resize the frames and drag the title name to place them on the canvas

Screen real-estate is very important when designing any dashboard or web application. For better space utilization, we will convert the standard pie to a 3D view

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Also, while arranging the objects, keep the most important charts on the top and left area. Put all the detailed portlets at the bottom.

Avoid horizontal scrolling

Remember, do not put any objects on the right side of the scroll bar. Always, keep the scrolling to vertical as it is convienient for viewing.

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The above layout will cause for horizontal scrolling and is not a good practice.
Once you do the basic layout of placing the portlets so that they are distinctly visible, it becomes easy to use the resizing options within the tool.

Navigate to Edit ‘ Resize Mode

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Once in the resize mode, you can select each object and they are enabled for group resize and placement

Select all the parameters on the top and we will align the top edges with respect to the first one.

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As you see, each plet is shown in red with a bar on top indicating it is selected for alignment
One more, thing, you can also turn the Grid mode to see a guide for your alignment and placement

Goto Edit ‘ Show Grid

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Note: Once you are done with resize and align with one set of objects, make sure to deselect them before working on the next set of objects

It is best practice to first resize all the objects. All objects on the same horizontal line should have the same height. Select the optimum height of any object on that particular horizontal line and then right click on the title and resize the height of all the selected ones. Then apply the alignment -> Top , deselect the objects and start with the objects in the next horizontal line.

This completes our basic dashboard which is dynamic and extremely informative.
If you need to further customize the look and feel please refer to our online tutorial and reference section
http://www.infocaptor.com/user_help/bi-dashboard-help.htm

Next – Excel Dashboard – Complete Order Management Dashboard

Mar
3

How to build Excel Dashboards – 7

admin

Previous – Excel Dashboard Tutorial – 6

Create Bar Chart

Bar charts reveal important trend in your data. The very important reason we split the date into year, quarter, month, week and day components is to see if there is a trend in the sales or order information.

Right click on the Qlet title (”Name” ), and then click on the “Create Chart”

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It opens a “Chart Factory Wizard”

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1. The top drop down contains a list of all the chart types that are supported.
2. The X-Axis drop down has all the available fields from the Qlet
3. The Y- Axis drop down has all the available fields from the Qlet
4. The Y- Aggregation has (SUM, COUNT, MAX, MIN,AVG) values

The process is to pick the base column that will form the X-axis, the Y-axis is the numerical value column that will be used to plot the bar or appropriate chart type. The y-aggregation is required, usually we should pick “SUM” but you could use “AVG” or other aggregations as you see fit.

In our case, we want to see a “year over year trend for our sales growth”

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1. Select “Bar” as the chart type
2. Select “Or Year’ as the X- Axis
3. Select “Amount” as the Y- axis
4. Select ‘Sum’ as the aggregation (by selecting sum, we are telling it to sum the amount and group it by year value)
5. Click on the “Create Chart” button
6. It shows the Glet Editor for your review which is a pre-built SQL query.

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We change the Glet Name, and click on “full apply” button

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It creates a bar chart as shown above, you can drag the borders and expand the view, it will scale automatically.

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We just dragged the corners and expanded the view. Do not close the chart wizard yet, we will create other views like a rubber stamp.

By Quarter
Go back to the chart factory and only change the X-Axis column to ‘quarter’ field

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Click ‘Create Chart’

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Change the name to “By Quarter” and click “Full Apply”

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Do not worry about the size and the placement. Just drag by the title “By quarter” and place it in a position where you can see it. At the end we can re-arrange the portlets on the dashboard canvas.

The column “Or_Qtr_Disp” has Qtr, 2 digit year and the last digit indicates the quarter number. The reason we chose this value is so that we can order the quarter across multiple years.

As you see, we can clearly see a trend emerging from our data. The Qtr-98-1 has the tallest bar. Now lets create a month view so we can nail down, which month contributed to that spike

By Month
We go back to the chart factory and select “Or_Mth_Yr_NN” which contains Year, month number and month name(3 letter).

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So far the tallest periods are March and April of 1998. Why is that? Did you do special promotion, did you get extra word of mouth or publicity?

Similarly you can create slices by Week, or each Day. Note that as you go more granular, the chart may look more congested.

Now let us see which products are doing better.

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Click on apply

Change the name to “By Product” and in the SQL query below, type, “Order by 2 Desc” which will sort the products by the revenue in the descending order

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You have now found your winning product line.

But lets see how each of the products fair well within their own category.

Next – Excel Dashboard Tutorial – 8

Mar
3

How would you like your Excel – on Desktop or Web?

admin

We are releasing the web component for Excel dashboards in few days and it is going to solve a lot of pain.

You have your data in Excel, you build a dashboard in Excel Dashboard designer and you can share and distribute the dashboard as PDF or live dynamic dashboard using the “Dashboard Viewer”. This is all fine and perfect.

But how about this scenario, what if you could hit a button and publish the dashboard on your website or intranet or your local webserver?

This web based Excel dashboard is not just a static html page but a real dynamic dashboard. You can access the dashboard using a URL on your browser (Internet Explorer,Chrome, Firefox etc) and view it from any part of the world. It would be as dynamic as you see it when you are designing it in Excel Dashboard Software.

Sounds interesting? so watch out for our web based dashboarding solution for Excel which should be out in few days.

So why bother buying an ebook or a pdf tutorial which tells you how to build a dashboard in Excel when you can get the leading Dashboard software just for the same price and you easily deploy it on your website.

Jan
1

Data Governance and Excel Dashboards – Is there a compromise?

admin

Data governance is a set of processes that ensures that important data assets are formally managed throughout the enterprise. Data governance ensures that data can be trusted and that people can be made accountable for any adverse event that happens because of low data quality. It is about putting people in charge of fixing and preventing issues with data so that the enterprise can become more efficient.

Data governance also describes an evolutionary process for a company, altering the company’s way of thinking and setting up the processes to handle information so that it may be utilized by the entire organization. It’s about using technology when necessary in many forms to help aid the process. When companies desire, or are required, to gain control of their data, they empower their people, set up processes and get help from technology to do it

In general, most organizations have proliferated Excel use. When looking at business intelligence, many people use Excel to manage information and to analyze data. The issue arises when people use Excel as the key entry point of information access, meaning that individuals control, edit, and make changes to data used to plan and identify business performance and/or opportunities.

Because of the lack of validation within Excel, the ability to develop analyses based on incorrect assumptions and data manipulation are quite large. Consequently, organizations require the ability to use Excel and to interact with data, while still being able to validate the data being used to ensure proper data governance and overall compliance.

Excel Dashboard allows users to drill through to the original information without having to access a database or have an understanding of where the data resides. The overall ability to access and validate original data provides an asset to business users by allowing them to understand the context of information and how it interrelates with overall business information. When looking at compliance specifically, the ability to meet regulations and to maintain data integrity can have legal implications. Therefore, organizations require ways they can correlate Excel based analyses with original operational data to confirm that information has not been changed or compromised.

Dec
12