Alvin Toffler writer and futurist said “You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment.” At times the more data you have, the more confused you are. Dashboard is a tool which will enable you to increase the visibility of the information inside the gigantic data collected from different sources by visualizing, summarizing, validating, correlating & reflecting on the data so you can use your - intelligence and judgment - to take informed decisions.
There are numerous software options available for creating dashboards, Microsoft Excel 2010 is one of my personal favorites, because it is a tool which is available on almost all the knowledge workers’ desks and one of the best tool for both designing and delivery of the dashboards. As Microsoft Excel 2010 started its journey as a modeling tool and over a period it created a reputation for a good tool for collecting data and perform calculations on the same, due to the same fact people have difficulty to accept it as a good information design & dashboard creation tool. This article aims to clear the misconceptions.
Myth One: Poor Data Collection
Throughout my career I have seen people using Excel as a database; they enter data into Excel like sales information, customer relationship information & financial information and use the entered data in several ways But for large firms, the information is already collected through their ERP, CRM & other MIS systems. At the same time data is so dynamic that it is changing every minute, in this case entering all the massive data into Excel spreadsheet is not a practical idea at all.
The catch here is you can use Microsoft Excel’s “Get External Data” feature to connect with your enterprise systems like ERP, CRM and even your proprietary legacy systems. The same feature can be used even for connecting with your text files, which you can create from your reports.
Myth Two: Complex to Condense Data
For creating dashboards, data condensing is an integral activity that needs to be performed by dashboard developers. A famous misapprehension about the use of Excel in general is that you need to learn loads of formulas to perform simple functions like summarizing data.
Excel’s PivotTable is a feature which can condense data containing hundreds of thousands of rows as quick as blink of the eye. And the best part is that it has a nearly ‘zero learning curve’.
Myth Three: Bad charting
When we use the word Excel Charts, people perceive the big rectangle with a Title at the top and a Legend box at the right with a little space for communicating data.
From the version Excel 2007 onwards, you can create magazine quality charts. Further in Excel 2010 Microsoft added a tool named sparklines, which can create cell sized charts, which can plot 100s of data point, in a size as small as your thumb.
Myth Four: It’s not interactive
Most of the people think that Excel 2010 can perform only calculations on static data and users cannot interact with it to view different trends & patterns
You can use Excel 2010 Forms Control & Data Validation through which your dashboard users can quickly spot key trends when they have interactivity with the dashboard, and can view the data in different ways and sequences. Forms Control & Data Validation can make your dashboards alive, which can respond on clicks and can change data based on selection of the users. You can use hyperlinks buttons (for navigation), comments (for hover-over), checkboxes / option buttons (for clicks), themes for changing colors / effects with a click), dropdown lists / validation lists / slicers (for selection & filters).
Myth Five: Lack of Delivery options and Accessibility
Today publishing one’s work on the Internet is one of the most common things which one wants to do with their dashboards & reports. When we say Excel, people think that this application can only be run on big fat desktop machines. Furthermore you need to install the same in each and every PC in which you want to use the same.
But with Microsoft Excel 2010 you have options to directly email your dashboards as PDFs, publish the same to web or save it to SharePoint. So, your corporate users can view it, and even use Office 365 to publish your dashboard online to be viewed even on an iPad or any smartphone
Articles on BusinessExcelNooruddin SuraniTools for Managers
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