Excel Dashboards: Who Needs Them, Anyway?

You are not happy at work. I can clearly see that. Morale is low due to the economy, but it’s something else, isn’t it? You feel handcuffed. You keep hitting a wall. It hurts, hitting a wall while handcuffed…

You work with data. There is a formal BI tool in your organization, but it is unusable (IT is proud of it). You spend your precious time copying data from the tool to Excel. That’s why you leave work late. You could be with the guys at the bar, or playing with the kids. You enjoy working with data, but not like that. It takes ages for you to do something because of those stupid, time-consuming tasks.

More Pain

Another quarter, another quarter review. You could update a PowerPoint presentation but no, top management changed the metrics (it always does), and you have to redo everything from scratch (Sisyphus is your middle name). And because of the branding thing, only a square inch is available for real content, like those 3D pie charts they love so much.

Recently, a competitor launch an under-the-radar campaign in some counties. Your sales went south. The data was there, sleeping like angels in the IT servers. But a report was missing and the IT guys can’t tell the difference between a tortilla and Venus de Milo, so that went unnoticed. The IT is now planning a new report that will be implemented using the BI tool, as soon as all requirements are met, of course. It should be available by the end of next year. The beta version, I mean.

Guts ‘n’ Pies Management

You know that something is wrong, you just know. Data is expensive, the BI tool was/is expensive and the end result is a few tables and some fancy charts. Is this a proper decision-supporting system? It isn’t. It’s a farce called guts-and-pies management. Gut-based decisions and pies to justify the expense (I mean, the investment). And you hate it.

So You Start Wondering

You are not an Excel expert, it’s not your job, but you’ve been trying to automate as many boring tasks as possible. You ended up a reluctant advanced Excel user.

And then a while ago you discover that two charts side by side are much better than one in each slide. It’s almost a dashboard. That plotting growth against market share in a scatter plot makes much more sense than making two bar charts (by the way, there isn’t a 3D scatter plot available in Excel and this chart actually forces the audience to wake up and think; that’s why it is banned from so many organizations). You don’t know it yet, but you are discovering data visualization.

I see that you are asking some inconvenient questions, like “how can I connect a workbook to the Oracle database?”. The IT starts disliking you. Your 3D chart ratio and PPT effects are much below average. Your presentations, I’m afraid to tell you, are boring. Their opinion, not mine.

What are you going to do now?

There is no way back. You must know how deep is the rabbit hole. You must know more about Excel, about dashboards, about data visualization. Because good data analysis, visualization and communication are long-term skills that will help you stay competitive in the labor market. You can easily design a dashboard with those skills. Excel is optional, but if you want to actually implement a working dashboard in Excel you must learn some advanced formulas and not-so-advanced VBA (yes, I know, you are not a programmer, you don’t have to).

Your Current Job

Your plan is to learn how to create an Excel dashboard, find some unmet needs and design a couple of dashboards that you’ll try to sell internally. That’s a good plan, but don’t fall in love with the dashboards. Make sure they see the difference between the dashboard and the current reports, but draw a line. Consider them prototypes and tell the management IT should implement them (it should be easy, with such an expensive BI tool, right?). They will hate you, of course. Do you mind?

You are a naive if you think that these dashboards will change anything. They will not. Corporate culture changes slowly and there are many misconceptions about charts. If, in spite of everything, you like to work there,  try to find a good sponsor in the management team and work with her. It’s your only chance.


You need some good resources, so here are some of the best. Read Edward Tufte’s and Stephen Few’s books. They are not optional. Subscribe to leading blogs. Jon, Chandoo, Mike, Daniel or Debra can help you a lot. Don’t let yourself to be distracted from your goal by all those great visualizations you keep stumbling upon. And, shameless plug, you can get access to my Excel dashboards tutorial.

Turning Off the Crystal Ball

My crystal ball also tells me that you are a male, in your late twenties or thirties, graduate school educated and work for a fairly large organization, in marketing, sales or finance (not IT, God forbid!). If you are a manager you manage a small department, five people at most. Is this correct? Please don’t tell me that you are a little old lady with too much spare time… you aren’t, are you? I’m still training my clairvoyance skills and I may be misreading some signs.

So, if this is not you, who are you? And what do you need Excel dashboard for? You can undress in the comments below… And if you are not comfortable with that, you can start by “I have this friend…”.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Update: There are great comments below, so why don’t you join the conversation? And check out Chandoo’s post too.)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

35 thoughts on “Excel Dashboards: Who Needs Them, Anyway?”

  1. Hi,
    A friend forwarded this to me and as I started reading your content…I was starting to believe that you were talking about me until I came up to the crystal ball..your crystal ball is wrong 🙂 …I’m an old lady…not that I have too much time to spare, on the contrary …My two young children make sure that I don’t have any spare time…My excuse anyways not to learn more!! I need a magic wand or some pixie dust! 🙂 or maybe start with your tutorial 🙂

  2. Jon: Fixed, thanks.

    Ting: Madam, I love old ladies, and gentlemen too. I’m planning a series of posts on how data visualization can improve household chores and how to to use Excel to keep the kids away from TV. Stay tuned!

  3. Jorge
    A fantastic post. Many of us have been there and come through. Some of us have even managed to bring the IT department along with us. It is only through frustration, passion, and a lack of willingness to go with the status quo that one can get through the process. When the change is made by the business user, management take notice. They question how one team can do so much without even speaking to the expensive IT department. They start asking questiosn of the IT department – how come their systems didn’t deliver what this team has done in just a few days or weeks?

    Then, with diplomacy, tact and empowerment, everyone can be kept happy. The outcome is that the IT department trusts the business user not to screw up. And then they get on with more important things such as IT infrastructure.


  4. Several years ago an IT consultant who was responsible for a custom software solution for the firm i was working for told me: “people like you, with advanced Excel skills, scare me”.
    I developed new dashboards or reports very fast with Excel, connecting to the database, so fast (and cheap, because it was included in my salary as an employee) that we decided to use them instead of programming them inside the custom application.

    I thought Excel was the most important thing in the world and tried to convince evererybody about that. I thougt that everyone needed to optimize the use of excel functions, I thougth that everyone should be an expert.
    I was deeply wrong.
    I was so excited about Excel that i forgot i’ts just a tool, maybe very powerful, but it’s not the final goal, it’s just a tool.

  5. Andy: Thanks. Religious wars (win/mac, IT/users) don’t make much sense to me and, to be true, arrogance and ignorance are always found in both sides. An IT willing to work with the users is priceless. So is a user that is able to see the organization as a whole and understands the basics of how the information should be structured and should flow through the IT infrastructure and how vital is to assure that flow.

  6. pacomegia: Yes, it happens to all of us… I wrote a while back that there should be an internal consultant for each of the office applications. He/she should actively work with the users to find bottlenecks and training needs. Making every person in an organization an expert in Excel can hardly be justifiable.

  7. This one really cracked me up – and I have been chuckling happily while reading the post!
    It’s almost the story of my professional life – at least for the last couple of years – so yes, I have just been struck by a crystal bal – and I just love the sensation!


  8. How did the struggle between “the business” and the IT group become so commonplace? We’re all out here struggling to access our data despite the amount of money being spent on data infrastructure.

  9. Actually, I’m a programmer in video games and I’m using Excel dashboard to display and analyze engineering game metrics.

  10. Ah ha! Your crystal ball is waaaaay off.

    Sure I’m a 27 year old male, and sure I have an MA in Economics and an MBA. And, ok, I do work for a 10,000+ employee corporation. But I’m not in marketing, sales, or finance.

    I am a Health Informatics Specialist in a large hospital corporation’s Quality Improvement department. My metrics can be tied to financials, but typically end up being things like ventilator-associated pneumonias per 10,000 vent days or percentage of surgical patients who received a prophylactic antibiotic within one hour prior to surgical incision.

    Before I started, these were just numbers on a page. Tables and tables and tables of eye-glossing uniformity. I wanted to add value, and the first thing I thought to do was to make the data look better. I learned about chart junk, and ditched the defaulted grid lines and thick borders around every cell. I painstakingly figured out how to create bullet charts. I started making dynamic named ranges to auto-update charts. Then the VBA…. memories of youthful QBasic tomfoolery came flooding back.

    And so the value added. Managers and analysts came from far and wide to admire the beauty, the simplicity, the automation. But this was a blessing and a curse. With more attention came more requests. More and more departments approached with ad hoc assignments, each more complicated and convoluted than the last. “Wait, so you want to drill down by this field, but it has to be entered as free-text?” “You only have one data point over the last 12 months, but you want to see how it’s trending?”

    So the gauntlet has been thrown. I can’t stop now. It goes beyond a desire to be a good employee; I want to be the visualization master. The only hope is to stay one step ahead, and the only way to do that is to never stop learning and to keep pushing the limits of MS Excel.

  11. I am part of the evil empire (IT to you). However, I am not a “techie”, instead I am a project analyst/manager for the IT Business Management Office.

    My day-to-day consists of serving as a one man excel help desk for the organization and visualization and data analysis evangelist (tough job but somebody has to do it). I also create wonderful, efficient and appropriate dashboards, reports and other assorted visualizations (without no easy access to the data sources) that management will then proceed to bastardize. Management will also create not so wonderful text heavy powerpoint presentations using elements from my excel creations.

    Such is my existence… feel free to feel sorry for me!

  12. Ivan: No, you are not part of the evil empire. I’d say you are a Trojan Horse… and we need more like you. So, thanks for your sacrifice…

    Actually, that sounds familiar. If you know one thing or two about business metrics and you are an advanced Excel user, often management is tempted to move you to IT. That’s exactly the wrong path. It almost happened to me too.

  13. Dan: like I said, there is no way back, and the more you know, the more you want to know. Thanks for bringing up something that is missing in the post: hope. Most people are smart, but can’t know everything. We often have to rely on templates and defaults (we assume they are the best generic solution). When smart but unaware people get in touch with really good dashboards they love them. Change may be hard, but the seed remains.

  14. I should have said that your crystal ball is not completely cloudy. I am male with an MBA and I also work for a 10,000+ employee corporation. I was not drafted into IT, I just kind of fell into the “trojan horse” role due to my excel/data analysis skills combined with being tech conversant.

  15. 你的水晶球完全正确 [ed. Jorge: Google translation “Your crystal ball completely correct”]

  16. I read this and I thought – my god, this is very close to my actual story!

    A bit of background – BSc Psychology from UCL and after a diverse career (Psychological Start up, Education, Retail & now HR in one of the Big 4 in India) I found that I’ve always had data in the back of my mind (Stats in High school then hypothesis testing at uni) and I’ve always structured my work to fit some sort of data paradigm.

    In HR I’ve been involved in different things (PCMM implementation & Employee Initiatives) before I found my inherent attraction to Management Information Systems (MIS). I’ve taken raw data from our Oracle systems, and after much research, crafted an HR dashboard with many different metrics. It needs constant polishing, but I think its quite useful.

    But here is the point of the story. Nobody (including the head of HR nor other members of the Executive team) seem to want this type of data. They are actually content with “Guts and pie chart” management. Even if I point out certain things, I’ve actually gotten a “ohh…I’d rather not show that” reaction. There is a reluctance to use data in decision making, and I can’t figure out why.

  17. Late twenties … check
    University Educated … Check

    Thats about where the similarities end!!

    Female! Currently working for a very small exclusive organisation of 2.65 people in a somewhat voluntarily capacity that has absolutely no bearing on my honours degree in the chemical persuasion of Engineering. Read: 6 months preggers with our first (hence 2.65 people in the family) and recently resigned.

    So, in conclusion, I am little, but getting bigger, not so old, lady with a too much spare time ……

    but even the ‘lady’ part is debatable given my previous employment involved digging dirt out of great big holes in the ground

  18. Emma: you’re an outlier, just like luc and Tyra… Please don’t comment if you are an outlier. It spoils my carefully crafted world where everything makes sense… No, just joking. I love outliers. They can be a great source of inspiration.

    (Data analysts have this love / hate relationship with outliers..)

  19. Outliers are a good thing. They force us to re-examine our assumptions and re-evaluate our carefully crafted models. And speaking as a human outlier, the world is a more interesting place when it’s populated with a good proportion of outliers.

  20. Jon: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. That’s the role of data visualization too: find patterns, find outliers, and try to understand them both. Outliers keep breaking our axis scales, but we must have a good answer for that, too.

  21. I’m another quasi-outlier, kinda like Dan R above. I’m 30 with a Master of Public Health working at a rural Health Department. We don’t have our own IT Department – we rely on the county’s IT department, which has no understanding of health. Meanwhile, most of the 187 employees here have no understanding of IT. As one of the few people here who can “translate” between the languages of Health and IT, I often get called upon to make sense of numbers that nobody else here understands. I’ve created a series of dashboards which are constantly “under construction,” but are far better than the pie charts in PowerPoint (PowerPoint! Not even Excel!) that my predecessors were making.

    I look around me and I see a bunch of people who are in for a rude awakening. Recent healthcare legislation is going to require us to adopt an electronic medical record system, and nobody realizes yet how much upheaval this is going to spawn. When they do realize it, they will turn to me.

    Dashboards are going to be the future of public health. Electronic medical records are useful only when we have a way to access the information inside them in a meaningful way. But our IT department can’t help us; they see our data only as rows and columns. The health department managers can’t do it; they stare slack-jawed when I show them how to use the SUM() function. So that leaves me. Little old me, with my VLOOKUP() and my INDIRECT() and my jury-rigged, VBA-free dashboards.

    I thank you for your blog and I welcome any help you can give me.

  22. Hola Jorge:
    Me llamo Eduardo, tengo casi 50 años y mi primer contacto con las computadoras fue por medio de las tarjetas perforadas que alguna productora de dulces utilizaba para empacarlos. Soy de profesión economista y por gusto aficionado a la fotografía, la lectura y el Excel, entre otras muchas cosas. Desde hace varios años trabajo con información estadísticas de diverso tipo y el Excel ha sido una herramienta muy útil para procesar información y dejarme a las puestas del cómo interpretarla, si es que hay tiempo para ello. El Excel también ha sido un medio excelente para comprobar que siempre hay un medio más fácil para realizar tareas repetitivas. Aunque no siempre el tiempo liberado es para disfrutarlo para la familia. Siempre se te cargará la “chamba”, pues no todos saben hacer “esas cosas”.
    Ahora, conviviendo con un gremio bastante reacio al uso de la información estadística y que en su mayoría prefiere, en cualquier condición, un amplio texto que cualquier lenguaje no escrito. El caso es peculiar, pues en mi conocimiento progresivo del Excel y las representaciones gráficas, he llegado a la necesidad de conocer y, por puro gusto, aprender a diseñar cuadros de mando.
    Por supuesto me encantaría ganar el acceso a tu tutorial, pero si no es así, ya se te puede agradecer, con otros muchos blogs, el goce por la forma de resolver de manera imaginativa una diversidad de problemas.
    Coincido contigo, no modificaremos la forma de pensar de los mandos, pero cómo nos divertimos en el intento. Se gradece el sarcasmo en tus textos. No es una cualidad muy difundida tomarte la vida de una manera más liviana a lo que es en realidad.

  23. I really thought you knew me, apart from the age and education, that is. I have very definitely become the reluctant Excel expert over the years – I don’t quite go back to VisiCalc, but I do fondly remember UltraCalc – yes my next significant birthday is 60!

    I have managed to extract great inspiration from this (and the other sites noted) in my search to present meaningful information (note: not data) in major corporates where a slide is no good unless it has at least 500 words, or a 30 x 12 table. I delight in being able to do so much more with one or two trend lines and a simple bar graph. OK, I did flirt with 3-D in the 80’s, but I managed to kick the habit very quickly 😉

    It keeps me young (really) and ahead of those 20-something graduates with sooo much to prove. I really like it when they say – “you can’t do that in Excel!”. I just smile and show them (some) of how it’s done.

    So thanks to those real Excel heroes, I’m still gainfully employed in (gulp) IT, but I’m very definitely not a techie – I manage assets for a living, and if you can make that interesting with a bit of Excel wizardry, you can make anything exciting – thanks guys!

  24. Jorge

    After all these years you don’t know me at all! I can’t say it surprises me as although I know you quite well and you’ve certainly helped get me out of a couple of tricky situations in the past, I haven’t put the work into this relationship. I feel suitably ashamed, all take and no give. Allow me to rectify this somewhat. I am 42 and a contracting data analyst, I served my time as a corporate wage slave, now I’ve gone freelance, excel for hire! No college education (the University of Google was my alma mater), completely self taught. Yes I work in a large corporation, but I am a self employed data smith. Data is my anvil, Excel is my hammer, dashboards are the sword of truth!

    One of my biggest hurdles is getting across the idea of storytelling to management. Dashboards are the myths and legends of ‘Business Intelligence’ (horrible term) telling us what has happened and what might happen. They provide context and insight, a vital step in the DIKP process (Data – Information – KNOWLEDGE – Power) providing decision makers with the Knowledge to make Powerful decisions. Unfortunately big ticket BI tools are infected with the Hollywood disease ( all cgi, no story) and many feel let down with the promises made. However with time and patience and perseverance we can fulfill those promises that Big BI made – with Excel. More Sundance than Cannes, the Indie Dashboard movement (is there one? I think so, and you’re part of this Jorge) can make strides. Low investment in the physical tool (everyone’s got Excel, right?), the people are often already in the business fighting the good fight, unheralded. All we need is a rallying cry, a call to arms! This is happening now, the Excel Heroes are showing the way.

    These are uncharted waters. There may be dragons. Data Management and Integrity often leaves a lot to be desired, conflicts with IT will take place (we are on the same side dammit!), management need to be won over, ogres slayed, damsels rescued – whatever!

    Thank you Jorge, you’ve taught me a lot already and inspired me on my journey. I look forward to learning more and I promise, this time, I’ll keep in touch.

    Keep up the good work.

  25. Nice article. My cristal ball says
    1) You’re readers have acces to the internet
    2) Have a desire to convert figures in usefull information
    3) Know the difference between right and left click
    4) Appreciate your blogging

    Information is knowledge. Knowledge is power. Power without control is nothing.

  26. Jorge,

    Okay, I’m not even going to try for the most interesting post because Andy W is going to run away with that one. Your Crystal Ball was pretty accurate in my case: I’m 30, I have a Master of Public Administration, and I work for a medium sized local government (about 450 employees). KPIs are not used as commonly in the public sector, at least on the local level, and so I think of our local government as being fairly progressive in using them (we just refer to them as “performance measures.” I coordinate our city’s performance management initiative and oversee the selection of performance measures, the collection of performance data, and the analysis, interpretation, and presentation of the data. I have created a fairly robust dashboard (actually, 12 dashboards – one for each department) for our management level staff’s consumption. I find that I am always tinkering with the dashboard, looking for ways to make it more relevant and more efficient in its operation. Developing the dashboard has been a great experience because I have been involved in everything from determining what information is to be presented in the dashboard, to crafting the dashboard itself, to using the dashboard as an analytical tool and presentation platform. It is a bit of a struggle to keep up with it all, but I get a great deal of satisfaction from showing off my work. Thanks for your article – I’ve added you to my morning routine and I’ll be back regularly!



  27. Brad Biggers: Good (Power)Point. We often forget PP. We can make some decent charts in Excel, but PP is hopeless (or was, I don’t use it much, can’t really tell). In lots of fields and organizations people “are in for a rude awakening”. That’s why they should be pushed (they should push themselves) away from their comfort zone. And that means learning, a lot and fast.

    I am not sure if dashboards are the future, I suppose so. But I’m absolutely sure that, in order to make sense of large volumes of data we need to have a good visual translation of those data sets. A chart can tell a story, but if you want to be a good storyteller you must add details, add characters, to tell a more believable story and a story that holds your audience’s shorter and shorter attention span. And you can train that with dashboards.

    Eduardo: Our English-speaking readers don’t know this, but Portuguese people (and Brazilians too) try very hard to be understood by our Spanish-speaking neighbors. We call it “Portunhol”. The results are, well, mixed, just like Spanglish in the US. So, I will not try to answer in Spanish, but I understand you.

    Excel is almost 30 years old. A large proportion of information workers used Excel all their professional lives, and even before, in school. They may not know the details, they may not be advanced users, but the metaphor is familiar. That’s why it makes sense to use Excel to help them and raise awareness for better visual representation of quantitative data.

    Well, written text is not bad per se. People may favor a more qualitative approach, and that’s important too. Often if you talk to the right person you learn more about a market than conducting an expensive survey. One do not exclude the other. Picasso said something like “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”. Personally, I’d like to paint like a child: being able to manage qualitative information after a life time using Excel.

    John N: I have 3D skeletons in my closet too… We all have to learn.

  28. The story you wrote is right on! But your visualization of me is slightly off, I am a 28 year old female with a BS in Biomedical Science. Honestly, I don’t really know how I fell into the data world. Right after I graduated, I worked as a laboratory technician, then I started learning some QA/QI functions, I then somehow swirled into a real QA position at that company and then into another one at a new company, and then was hired as a Quality Improvement Coordinator (my current position) at a small non-profit. Within the first few months of being in this position I was somehow labeled as a “Dashboard Engineer” when I really knew very little about data analysis, statistics, and dashboards in general. I love this company and I do want to stay here but I am feeling a lot of pressure from the guys on top to make better and better dashboards and to report more and more data! And as you guessed, my data sources are limited, its difficult to get changes made and the managers of the databases never have any time for me and it takes months to get any of my requests answered. When I request a new report, by the time its made, I usually don’t need it anymore, I have found some work around that as you said, keeps me at my desk till 9pm. I am frustrated because I am expected to be an expert even though I have never claimed to be and have no training or previous knowledge of this dashboard world! I am self taught and trying to learn more everyday, but I currently feel stuck, I don’t have time to advance my skills because I am working so hard just to keep my head above the water. Oh yeah, I feel like I am the only person being held accountable for anything. You know that old phrase, don’t shoot the messenger, that does not apply here. It seems as though its not only my job to create the dashboards, and report the data but also to make sure that I am finding all the problems in the company and fixing them too (okay, so what is everyone else supposed to be doing?) Please Help! I need to keep my job and in order to do that I need to become the expert that everyone is expecting me to be. Thanks!

  29. Hi Jorge,
    This post grabbed my attention a lot and as said Andy W in is great post, our comments is our way to say thanks for your blog and all your goods tips and tricks you posted so far. Thanks also to Jon and Chandoo for their great job! You’re crystal ball is really evective in my case and what to say about your story of It Dept, big BI tool projects etc… My IT dept call me “Satan” but hopefully this is a joke and I take it as a compliment! I’m a 25 years old french guy working in Flanders in a maritime shipping transport company. The day I decided to learn 4 years ago typing, MS Office and windows shortcuts (I had some hours to kill 😉 ) it was the best decision I’ve ever made! That with all the good material you post, brought me so much! This allowed me to cut – paste in dozens of badly shaped automatically out of the systems excel sheets generated (you see what I mean?) to get a nice data table from where I could designed a nice meaningfull dashboard which I’m pretty sure get stars in the eyes of my boss! (Actually a simple graph is just one thousand time more meaningfull than a table with twelve column for each month nop?)
    I will not post a book so I would say from my little, humble point of view of Analyst working in Exce that I think thatl:
    – Yes dashboards are vital and as far as the corporation is growing individuals get inundated by informations and cannot have a clear picture of what’s is going on (pretty scary for managers and company competitivity!)
    – BI tools marketing website are really sexy but when you have a look onto the thousands of data tables divided on dozens of servers worldwide of a multimillion dollars company, the complexity of plugging an external tool onto the inhouse data (and the cost of that!) makes Excel heroes far more effective alternatives for giving the data visualization needed in many cases.
    – Yes even if the average excel user look at me as a weird animal. 50 WPM, conditionnal formatting, pt tables, vlookup, named range, indirect, sumif, if and rio de Janeiro colors are enough to do a great part of my job! Knowing VBA is surely an asset but no need to be a programmer, thing which I think is also a hell of a Job!

    A million thanks to you bloggers of the Data analysis from Excel sphere!
    Thanks Andy for the “DIKP process” and your post!
    If I’m not getting fired during the next global economic crisis a part of the reason will be your fantastic passion and willing to share your knowledge!


  30. Thank you so much for this post Jorge! It has never been said better. Stephen Few has come close, but you have our experience down perfectly. I have tried to explain this situation to so many bosses and now I will direct them to this post. I have been lucky in my work (Public Health, Cardiac Services, Government Child Protection) in that I have built great relationships with IT folk. While they want to build the ‘big report systems’, most of them recognize the need for ‘business’ analyst to have access to the data. Unfortunately, the only tools we usually have for reporting are Office products. Thanks to sites like yours, we have been able to build good enough systems with Excel (I say we, because I have worked with a number of other analysts who have followed yourself, Stephen Few, Charley Kid, and John Peltier – to name a few). BTW, I’m an extreme outlier – MA Sociology, Female, 49 years old.

  31. Many systems offer true dashboard capabilities, but they are usually part of BI (Business Intelligence), complex and expensive applications, that only enterprises may afford .Excel is without any doubt the most popular and affordable “BI” solution, but it basically lacks the components and the structures that could make it an affordable and widespread tool for implementing true Excel dashboards solutions that do not require specialized systems 

    Some attempts have been made to “force” the native charting tools of Excel to emulate true dial gauge charts , but so far the quality and ease of use are quite limited 

    DashboardPlus aims at filling the gap by adding to Excel true dashboard capabilities! 

  32. Oops I am in IT. I have a degree in CS from Univ of Maryland, 12 years of service in US Navy cryptography/networks, have worked as a network engineer and for the last several years been the lead in performance engineering and capacity planning.

    I am now bringing that all o bear (or is it bare) to create new data visualization for network systems to improve our proactive attempts at a high quality network for our clients/customer.

    I guess I am an anomaly – I love this stuff!!!!!

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