The Dashboard Spy

March 3, 2010

Excel Dashboards for Information Visualization

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: , , , , — dashboardspy @ 11:20 am

Really excellent examples of Excel Dashboards continue to come from Chandoo, author of Excel Forumla Helper.

Take a look at this infographic-style Excel dashboard. It’s made with Excel 2010 (now with sparklines!).

You can download this excel dashboard from Chandoo’s post: An Excel Info-graphic Poster.

Excel Dashboard

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

January 22, 2010

Dashboards Blogging Community Launches

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: , , — dashboardspy @ 6:21 am

The Dashboard Spy is proud to announce the opening of the Dashboards .ORG business intelligence community.

Dashboard design, enterprise dashboards, scorecards, kpi metrics, enterprise reporting – these are just some of the topics to be found at

Regards Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

April 8, 2008

Church Dashboard with iGoogle Gadgets

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: — dashboardspy @ 12:53 pm

Should we build our business intelligence dashboards or buy our dashboards off the shelf? The Buy vs. Build decision has been a point of consideration for IT management since the dawn of MIS departments. Given the scarcity of off-the-shelf BI dashboard products “back-in-the-day”, we mostly built our own primitive (but functional) scorecards and dashboards. We developed a “build it ourselves” outlook that took many years for packaged software vendors to overcome.  Things do change, however. With the advent and subsequent ubiquity of enterprise reporting packages came the preference of many for using installed solutions to knock out quick dashboards.

The explosion of Web 2.0 websites and technologies has created an environment that now merges the choices of “Buy” and “Build” into “Leverage freely available new technologies and approaches”. What do I mean? One cannot click more than a couple of times in today’s web without stumbling across technology that can be leveraged for our business intelligence dashboard projects. APIs are available that offer services that were unheard of (at any price, much less at no cost!) back a few years ago.  I speak of web services from companies such as Google, Amazon, Ebay, etc that allow a “mash-up” of dashboard applications. See the post on a Mashup Dashboard on Dashboards by Example.

Getting to today’s Business Dashboard Example, let’s look at how someone is leveraging the iGoogle API to provide a dashboard geared towards Church management.

As you know, the Google Personalized Homepage has been around since 2005. There was a major change in April of 2007 with a rebranding as “iGoogle”. The service was expanded and the iGoogle API allowed anyone to create a module called a Google Gadget. Google also allows users to create gadgets online through a gadget interface.

Here is the dashboard screenshot:

Church Management Dashboard using Google Gadgets

Dashboard examples like this one and a thousand others can be found at Dashboards by Example, a Dashboard Spy project.


October 23, 2007

Ask The Dashboard Spy Video Tutorials Launched

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: , , — dashboardspy @ 5:42 am

Dashboard Spy readers can now have their dashboarding questions answered by the Dashboard Spy in video format. “Ask The Dashboard Spy” is a series of video tutorials that explore various business intelligence dashboard topics.

The first video is about “Coding Dashboard Portlets in HTML” and it explains a nifty trick on how to produce a live pie chart that displays your latest data. This dashboard tutorial is meant as an introduction to coding and will be of interest to dashboard project team members who have always wanted to get more technical.

Use the link above to view the dashboard video on the main Dashboard Spy site.

Here is a look at the portlet that you will see implemented. The HTML and CSS is straight-forward. The magic comes in how we code the pie chart. Using google docs spreadsheet web services, we can easily implement a live pie chart that is driven by values on a web-based spreadsheet.

Dashboard portlet sample

Tags: Ask The Dashboard Spy Video Tutorial, Coding Dashboard Portlets in HTML, Dashboard Software

October 30, 2006

Hospital Performance Scorecard – using enterprise dashboards to track health care KPIs

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: , , — dashboardspy @ 10:12 pm

Digital Dashboards

A fair number of Dashboard Spy readers are interested in enterprise dashboard techniques for tracking hospital and other health care facility metrics. I’m always glad to accomodate business dashboard and scorecard requests and have a couple of hospital performance scorecards to show you today. These digital dashboards are from the Hospital Report Research Collaborative based at the University of Toronto. These scorecards serve to rank the hospital’s departments both internally and against peer facilities. These digital dashboards use technology from

This first digital dashboard screenshot shows the hospital’s organizations and their clinical performance KPI figures:

Hospital Unit Performance Snapshot Dashboard

This second screenshot shows the performance scorecard. The Scorecard tab on the left is active. Other available tabs are Strategy Map, Initiatives/Actions and Commentary.

Hospital Performance Scorecard Screenshot

This last screen shows a split view of performance metric and report.

Hospital Performance KPI Metrics

Tags: Digital Dashboard for Hospital Performace Scorecarding

Homework: Do you understand the fundamentals of measuring hospital performance? Take a quick look at these books on hospital performance. When dealing with healthcare financial management, how do we juggle compassion and respect for our fellow humans with the realities of corporate management? Learn more about this rigorous field with these healthcare financial management books.
So who is the Dashboard Spy? No one really knows, but his growing collection of enterprise dashboard screenshots has captured the imagination of the executive dashboarding community. From excel dashboards and custom-built business scorecards, to xcelsius and flex-based visualizations, the dashboard screenshots at serve both as nuggets of inspiration and warnings of what not to do on an enterprise dashboard. These hits and misses will enlighten and entertain. Technology-neutral, and always business-driven, the Dashboard Spy website is the place to go to learn about the latest enterprise dashboard packages. Check out the Dashboard Spy’s latest recommended book, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.

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

May 15, 2006

Sales & Marketing Performance Dashboard – What not to do on a Dashboard – Carrying the dashboard metaphor too far

Filed under: Dashboard Screenshots — Tags: , — dashboardspy @ 9:52 am

Here is a performance dashboard screenshot that is full of information critical to sales and marketing departments. It has plenty of good metrics and KPIs like win/loss ratio, sales pipeline, top performers, lead status, pipeline, compliance and top performing media.

The information gathered is good. However, the interface leaves me shaking my head. I’m sorry to say it, but this is an example of what NOT to do. I’m about to rant now, so look out. Some dashboards are great, but others are just dogs. I have a pet peeve about the literal use of the dashboard metaphor. It was fun and perhaps even instructive for the users to grasp the concept, but only for a brief period back in the early days of the business dashboard. Note that the date on this dashboard screenshot is 2003. Dashboards as a concept were around for a long enough time by then that the use of an automotive dashboard graphic theme was inappropriate and amateurish. I believe that this dashboard product is still in existence so some poor users are still driving their business like a driving video game. Please correct me if I am wrong and send me some updated dashboard screenshots to show me that the product has been updated.

Why show an actual steering wheel in your dashboard? It “drives” me crazy. Dashboarding has grown up and users “get it”. No need for heavy-handed use of the dashboard metaphor. For fun, I think I will look for other steering wheels in executive dashboards. If you have any screenshots, please send them to The Dashboard Spy.

Enterprise Dashboard Screenshot

PS. IF you want to see one that implies the metaphor without showing the actual steering wheel, go to the Virginia DOT Dashboard.

Homework: I know that graphic design doesn’t come easy for most technical people or business users. If you are on a dashboarding project and have some input on the design of the dashboard, you must study up on the basics of graphic design before you weigh in. Start with the book titled The Elements of Graphic Design: Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type. As one amazon reviewer states: “I am a software developer by trade, but I also do graphical design for user interfaces and web sites. I can’t afford to absorb a large amount of material on this subject just to extract the essentials. This book is exactly what I need. The book is short, sweet, loaded with excellent examples and it teaches many of the essentials in an easy, enjoyable manner.”

So what or who is The Dashboard Spy? As his about page states, The Dashboard Spy is just a guy interested in the design of enterprise dashboards. 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.

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