Today's world is driven by data, and spreadsheets help itemize the data into a digestible form so that decision-makers can move a company forward with confidence. When you hear the word “spreadsheet,” an image of a blank Excel document likely appears in your head. It makes sense; Microsoft's Excel is far and away the most popular spreadsheet software on the market. Excel reporting is the process of collecting information and presenting it all in a single sheet. The downside is that Excel was never meant to handle extreme data pools, and thus, when organizations need a tool to help expedite the process, Excel can often underperform or break down entirely.
It is not all bad news as there are plenty of tools, add-ons, and widgets that you can supplement alongside Excel to boost its performance. An Excel dashboard is similar to Excel reporting in that it can display large data sets. This then allows you to expand upon simple reporting by getting a quick overview of your data by making it easier to track KPIs, metrics, and other data points in one central place. Think of the dashboard as a screenshot containing a summarized version of all the data. Excel dashboard widgets are helpful tools to improve on the overall quality of the dashboard.
Creating a dashboard in Excel can seem quite challenging at first glance, especially if you are not using the platform consistently. Luckily, it mostly boils down to properly importing your data over to Excel and selecting your preferred format. The challenge starts when you get to the visuals and layout—that is where widgets can save the day.
The key to creating the best Excel dashboards is by understanding that at the core of many dashboards widgets are used to display the most important KPIs. The first thing to note is that a dashboard widget is composed primarily of four elements. Here is the general process for building an Excel dashboard widget.
Step 1: You need a label name to display on the widget. The name that will represent the selected KPI for the widget to display. You will want to link the label name to the sheet your raw data is on, so that your display name in the widget will match the format.
Step 2: The second step is about getting the actual data value. To get this information to appear, you will follow the same path as in step 1.
Step 3: A data trend line to display performance over time. Once you have selected the data, you can pick the type of graph that best represents the information from the drop-down menu under the insert tab.
Step 4: The difference between the selected variable and a previous one (ex. This month versus last month). You can achieve this effect by creating a new rule under the conditional formatting menu.
While creating widgets is a unique way to display data in Excel, it is not always the most intuitive and, as we mentioned earlier, it’s not the best route for those with large data sets. Similar to widgets, add-ons can provide a different level of support. This can be a hard decision to make, so why not have both? You can! That is why we created XLCubed as an add-on for Excel, and with version 9.1 of our tool being released, we have greater support for widgets as well.
Why is our platform different? For starters, remember the process of pulling data over, and then needing to link to separate sheets in order to set up your dashboard and widgets? Excel is not a database, and thus is not secure enough to hold your valuable information. Our platform can help Excel act like one.
XLCubed optimizes all aspects of reporting and analytics. Users can connect directly to corporate databases, removing the risks of using Excel as a database and addressing the frustrations and limitations of pivot tables and other standard features of the software. To better express what we can do, here is a screenshot of what your widgets and dashboard can look like if you use XLCubed.
Using an Excel sheet and pivot tables are chock-full of limitations that XLCubed was specifically designed to improve. Our Excel client addresses the limitations of Pivot Tables and adds huge capability in analytics and data visualization. Our model helps slice and dice data to generate early traction with the business users, which is often key to a project's ultimate success. Contact us today for a free trial to see what unlocking Excel’s true potential looks like.
Discover how Fluence can help your organization plan better and close faster with more confidence.