The Dashboard Spy

September 12, 2006

Airline Executive Dashboard – Sparklines spark this excel dashboard to a data visualization contest win

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: — dashboardspy @ 9:31 am


Topic: Business Intelligence Dashboard with Sparklines

What do C-level executives look for in an executive dashboard? I believe it is a concise representation of whatever business scenario the executive wishes to examine. The dashboard design problem is, of course, how to represent a lot of information without cluttering the user interface. A “hot” design solution right now in general is the idea of “sparklines”. In particular, we are seeing sparklines appear in executive dashboards more and more often. Today we examine one dashboard in detail.

Remember when we discussed the dashboard contest with the scenario about the airline management views of enterprise data? (Use the link to see the previously discussed entry by Dr. Allison). The contest was the Business Intelligence Network’s 2006 Data Visualization Competition judged by Stephen Few, data visualization expert and author of the amazing dashboard book, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data. The competition consisted of five scenario descriptions that covered various business situations. Well Andreas of, the winner of the airline management dashboard scenario, proudly wrote me from Germany to tell me about his victory. The main visual difference between the winning entry and other submissions was the use of sparklines allowing for efficient screen use. As he explains:

The task was to develop a dashboard for the executives of an U.S. commercial airline. The dashboard has to allow the executive team to monitor their business and to quickly identify anything that needs attention.

The airline dashboard was designed with Microsoft Excel and BonaVista MicroCharts. The dashboard visualizes about 500 numbers on a single screen. The dashboard looks different because it was designed using effective design principles. It avoids ineffective eye-catchers like speedometers or radial gauges. MicroCharts sparklines and bullet graphs are used as an effective means to put all decision relevant information on a single screen.

Here is the winning dashboard:

Airline Executive Dashboard

If you want, you can really zoom in on this enterprise dashboard and examine it in detail. To check out or test drive the product used to create the excel dashboards and sparklines, use these links provided by Andreas:

The dashboard won the Business Intelligence Network’s 2006 Data
Visualization Competition:

It’s an Excel dashboard that uses MicroCharts for dense information


Homework: Do your research on sparklines by starting here. Also, you must review the literature by Edward Tufte, the originator of the concept.

Tags: Excel Dashboard, Sparklines on Dashboards, Microsoft Excel Dashboards, executive dashboards, Sparkline Dashboard

So what or who is The Dashboard Spy? The Dashboard Spy is just a guy interested in the design of executive dashboards and scorecards. He could not find any executive dashboard design source books (or even screenshots of real business dashboards) and so set about creating his own. Finally convinced to post his extensive collection of dashboard screenshots online, he was amazed to find how popular it has become. If you have a nice screenshot of a digital dashboard, balanced scorecard, or any business intelligence graphic to share, please send an email to info _at_ Also check out The Dashboard Spy’s favorite books on business dashboards.

PS: If you find yourself part of an enterprise dashboard effort, you must study Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices for IT, the only book on actually implementing enterprise dashboards.

Topic: Digital Dashboarding with Sparklines


  1. Great information! I am new to the site and am having trouble seeing the images. I saw some other comments and suggestions in regards to this but still no luck. I am viewing the site directly at and have tried using both IE and Firefox (checked settings to allow offsite images). Any other suggestions. Thanks!

    Comment by Wes — September 12, 2006 @ 9:59 am

  2. Sorry you can’t see these great enterprise dashboard screenshots. Did you check if you have some sort of filter running that is killing off-site images? This can be a proxy filter or anti-spam device that is blocking the images for protective reasons. Also, go to and click around. Do you see the dashboard examples there? Please let me know. The Dashboard Spy. Also, some people have reported that their workplace proxy filter blocks gif files. It lets through jpegs but not gifs.

    Comment by dashboardspy — September 12, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

  3. I like this dashboard a lot!

    You mention that it is created using Microsoft Excel. I’m wondering how those horizontal bars, related to “year to date % target”, can be implemented in Excel? I’ve been trying with barchart but I guess I need to use something else…

    Help is very welcome!


    Comment by david — September 27, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  4. David,

    the horizontal bars (bullet graphs) can be done with MicroCharts:


    Comment by Andreas Flockermann — November 2, 2006 @ 9:22 am

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