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Reporting Strategies

Introducing Excel Dashboards for Management Reporting

Dashboard reporting allows readers to step back from the messy details to see the trends and relationships that really matter in your company.

by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports

Management reporting should be structured like a pyramid.

The top of the pyramid represents summary reports. These reports have few pages, which show trends and relationships about a wide variety of topics that managers need to track.

The bottom of the pyramid contains lower-level detail, often in massive quantity.

Unfortunately, in many companies, management reporting begins and ends at the bottom of the pyramid.

The Benefits of Dashboard Reporting

Dashboard reporting offers its readers several significant benefits.

Dashboards can distill extensive data into a single page of succinct results. Dashboard reports can reduce the flood of paper to a trickle.

With dashboards, managers can compare many results to each other. This gives the managers a more accurate view of their organization, more quickly. With traditional reports, managers tend to compare many facts from many reports received over many days; with dashboard reports, it’s all there in front of them.

Dashboards easily can emphasize areas of performance that managers care most about. This is because dashboards are extremely modular. It’s very easy for Excel users to replace a chart or table that managers no longer care about with a figure that’s critically important.

Dashboard Reporting and Excel

In the past, the move to dashboard reporting largely bypassed Excel. Although many software products generate dashboard reports, there are few resources—other than—to help Excel users create the reports.

This is a shame because Excel is an excellent tool for dashboard reporting. And the incremental cost of dashboard reporting with Excel is essentially zero.

What’s going on here? Why is Excel so underused for this application?
We can think of three reasons.

First, software companies can become quite successful by selling proprietary software for dashboard reporting. But selling an Excel solution offers a tiny fraction of the sales potential. Therefore, few companies find it in their interest to promote Excel for this purpose.

Second, few people have discovered the techniques needed to create high-quality dashboard reports with Excel. Although the techniques are relatively easy to use, they’re not obvious.

Third, Excel easily is overlooked for high-quality reporting. Picture in your mind a typical Excel report produced by a typical Excel user. Compare that report with the example shown above. It’s hard to believe that the same product—Excel—produced both reports. It’s no wonder that people long accustomed to standard Excel reports would never think of using Excel for magazine-quality dashboard reports.

Looking Ahead

In the months and years ahead, this section of will help you to create dashboards with Excel. We'll show you examples and techniques that you can use in your own company to improve your own reports.

Our article, Getting Started With Dashboard Reporting, provides some ideas for how to begin.


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