Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Key Questions to Ask Before Distributing Your Dashboard
Can I maintain this dashboard?
There’s a big difference between updating a dashboard and rebuilding a dashboard. Before you
excitedly send out the sweet-looking dashboard you just built, take a moment to think about the
maintenance of such a dashboard. You want to think about the frequency of updates and what
processes you need to go through each time you update the data. If it’s a one-time reporting event, then
set that expectation with your users. If you know it will become a recurring report, you’ll want to
really negotiate development time, refresh intervals, and phasing before agreeing to a time table.
Does my dashboard clearly display its scope and shelf life?
A dashboard should clearly specify its scope and shelf life. That is to say, anyone should be able to
look at your dashboard and know the time period it’s relevant to and the scope of the information on
the dashboard. This comes down to a few simple things you can do to effectively label your
dashboards and reports.
➤ Always include a timestamp on your dashboard. This minimizes confusion when distributing
the same dashboard or report in monthly or weekly installments.
➤ Always include some text indicating when the data for the measures was retrieved. In many
cases, timing of the data is a critical piece of information when analyzing a measure.
➤ Use descriptive titles for each component in your dashboard. Be sure to avoid cryptic titles
with lots of acronyms and symbols.
Is my dashboard well documented?
It’s important to document your dashboard and the data model behind it. Anyone who has ever
inherited an Excel worksheet knows how difficult it can be to translate the various analytical
gyrations that go into a report. If you’re lucky, the data model will be small enough to piece together in a
week or so. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll have to ditch the entire model and start from scratch. By the
way, the Excel data model doesn’t even have to be someone else’s. I actually went back to a model
that I’d built six or so months earlier, only to find that I’d forgotten what I had done. Without
documentation, it took me a few days to remember and decipher my own work.
The documentation doesn’t even have to be highfalutin’ fancy stuff. A few simple things can help in
documenting your dashboard.
➤ Add a Model Map tab to your data model. The Model Map tab is a separate sheet you can
use to summarize the key ranges in the data model and how each range interacts with the
reporting components in the final presentation layer.
➤ Use comments and labels liberally. It’s amazing how a few explanatory comments and
labels can help clarify your model even after you’ve been away from your data model for a
long period of time.