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2008 Excel Dashboard Competition Winners

After much deliberation and debate, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2008 Excel Dashboard Competition. We were impressed by many of the entries, and thanks to all of you who entered. It’s good to see MicroCharts being put to effective use, and adding value in such a variety of business scenarios and sectors. We had entrants from a broad range of industries including Banking, Insurance, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Oil and Gas and Pharmaceuticals.

The winners are:

1) Wade Stokes - Bank Dashboard

Displaying many disparate Banking Key Performance Indicators, and designed as the basis for the Management review of business performance, it truly achieves More Information per Pixel.

2) Jim Uden – Outpatient Surgery Center Dashboard

Developed for Meridian Surgical Partners, as a one page snapshot for the review and presentation of partnership level business operations and trends. Jim also includes probably the best associated description of dashboard content and the thought processes involved which we’ve seen.

3) Hitesh Patel - Pharmaceutical Sales Dashboard

Developed by Hitesh Patel and Mike Askew of Data Intelligence, for Bristol Myers Squibb. A key report for the Regional Sales Managers, containing the information required to run the business in terms of cash, growth, share, and competitive performance.

Congratulations to all 3 of our winners. Have a look at our competition page for screenshots and some background on the winning entries. Over the next few weeks we’ll be analyzing the entries in more depth at http://blog.xlcubed.com. We’ll overview each, cover some of the techniques used, and hopefully suggest some further improvements.

Read More


Posted on : Jul 20 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Chart Rules, As Simple as Possible, But Not Any Simpler!

In chart design it’s good to make things simple, but you certainly should avoid oversimplification. As Einstein said:

"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler"

Seth Godin presented in his blog The three laws of great graphs:

1. One Story
2. No Bar Charts
3. Motion

Effective chart design rules are simple, but reducing it to this set of 3 rules certainly is an over-oversimplification.

Particularly rule 2 is flawed. Seth details rule 2:

"NO BAR CHARTS
Bar charts are dramatically overrated, primarily because they’re the first choice in many graphing programs.

The problem with bar charts is that they should either be line/area charts (when graphing a change over time, like unemployment rates) or they should be a simple pie chart (when comparing two or three items at the same scale).

Jorge, Kaiser and Jon already wrote some critical posts about this rule, where Jon suggested to replace rule 2 with

Choose Chart Types Intelligently

We are working tightly together with Stephen Few on a new product that helps business users creating effective charts with Excel and are therefore we are quite familiar with Stephen’s design principles.

Its an easy to learn set of rules

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Hermann Grids, An optical Illusion Best Avoided

An interesting optical illusion is the so-called Hermann Grid illusion: the effect of seeing gray dots at the intersections of a black grid on a white background or a white grid on a black background.

image_thumb3

 

 

 

 

While it’s an interesting optical illusion, it’s something we should avoid in management reporting:

image_thumb16

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Color in Motion

A very, very cool Flash Movie about Color in Motion. An interactive Experience of Color Communication and Color Symbolism of Claudia Cortes.

clip_image002

 

 

 

 

Enjoy !

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Win Lose Charts - English Premier League 2007 - 2008

With hindsight, it’s easy to look at it with hindsight” - Glen Hoddle

Little did we suspect midway through the season that the Premier League would turn into a 2 horse race. Poor starts by both Man Utd. and Chelsea were transformed into a consistent run of good form which would extend the drama to the very last day of the season.

With one game left to play, the top two were level on points with Manchester having a superior goal difference. If Chelsea could achieve a better result than Manchester, then they would clinch the league in the final game…

The English Premier league currently has 20 teams requiring a total of 380 games per season. The results of sporting leagues are usually displayed in a league table format. During the course of a season we see teams occupy different table positions. The standard table format however leaves out the important historic story of the league.

This is how soccerstats.com shows the final league table.

image

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Effective Management Reports? Interview with Rolf Hichert

Professor Rolf Hichert is the foremost specialist for information design for financial professionals in the German speaking world. His seminars have been attended by thousands of CFO’s, financial controllers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK. Recently my friend Martin from INTALIGN had the pleasure to interview Professor Dr. Rolf Hichert about his view on what makes an effective management report:

Professor Hichert, your extensive research claims management reports are often ineffective and largely misunderstood, mainly because they are simply never read. Yet we all continue to create these complex documents. Why is that?

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Business Visualization, Recession and Miscast Charts

When the economy is growing and consumers happily spend all their money, “eye-catching”, dubious “professional-looking” charts seem to make sense in the grand scheme of a resource-wasting economy. But under recession, and on the threshold of a long economic Winter, those miscast charts are just bad jokes that should be banished from every book, every magazine, every meeting room.

In a recession, “do more with less” is everyone’s motto. Cut jobs. Cut travel expenses. Make people work harder.

Make people work better. In an information economy, “better” is better than “harder”. Make sure people use their primary tools efficiently. I wrote about how inefficient a beginner Excel user can be. This is one of those hidden costs that no one seems to care about, except perhaps Toyota Motor Corporation CEO Katsuaki Watanabe, who sees PowerPoint as an example of waste.

That’s why Tufte is basically right, and so is Stephen Few and everyone who believes that information visualization is not a futile exercise of impression management with the sole purpose of showing off canned effects in a PowerPoint presentation. Tufte advocates a simple set of rules for better information visualization - the corporate world loves to do exactly the opposite. Until now. But can organizations afford to be inefficient (= lower return on investment) when dealing with expensive data? Can a lean organization leave junk in its management reports and presentations?

I know, the economy will not grow again just because of better business information visualization. But take a visualization rich report like these ones, imagine an eye-catching-flying-3D-pie-charts version and answer this simple question: when in recession, which one would you choose?

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Creating rounded corners in Excel Tables

Igor Asselbergs was contemplating the value of round corners in design. Is it eye-candy? Or does it add value to the user experience? He comes to the conclusion that rounded corners clearly make a difference.

image

 

 

 

 

“On the left side, you see one surface divided by a line. On the right side your eye interprets the image as two adjoining boxes.”

The effect can be explained by the Gestalt Law of Continuity. Gestalt is a set of rules based on research into perception psychology, and a very powerful tool for Excel table design. In table design this effect can help us to see the table columns as a unit.

image

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

Graphical Tables - An Alternative to Treemaps

Sean blogged the other day about using a treemap to visualize the drivers of the Australian Inflation. He got inspired to create a treemap by an NYT article that used an interactive version of the following treemap:

NYTTreemap

This chart looks nice on the first view. It makes nice use of muted colors, the shapes look well balanced and certainly the graphic designer did a good job. However, from a data visualization perspective this chart has a couple of flaws.

Ben Shneiderman designed Treemaps to visualize deep directory tree structures.

Ben explained treemaps in an article as:

“Among the growing family of visual analytic tools, treemap are flourishing in organizations that require daily monitoring of complex activities with thousands of products, projects, or salespeople. Tabular reports, bar charts, line graphs, and scattergrams are important tools, but for complex activities where there are numerous sales regions, manufacturing plants, or product lines the hierarchical structures provided by treemaps can be helpful. While tabular displays and spreadsheets can show 30-60 rows at a time on typical displays, the colorful presentations in treemaps can accommodate hundreds or thousands of items in a meaningfully organized display that allows patterns and exceptions to be spotted in seconds.[…] Treemaps are a space-filling approach to showing hierarchies in which the rectangular screen space is divided into regions, and then each region is divided again for each level in the hierarchy.”

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Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |

2008 Excel Dashboard Competition Winners

After much deliberation and debate, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2008 Excel Dashboard Competition. We were impressed by many of the entries, and thanks to all of you who entered. It’s good to see MicroCharts being put to effective use, and adding value in such a variety of business scenarios and sectors. We had entrants from a broad range of industries including Banking, Insurance, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Oil and Gas and Pharmaceuticals.

The winners are:

1) Wade Stokes - Bank Dashboard

Displaying many disparate Banking Key Performance Indicators, and designed as the basis for the Management review of business performance, it truly achieves More Information per Pixel.

2) Jim Uden – Outpatient Surgery Center Dashboard

Developed for Meridian Surgical Partners, as a one page snapshot for the review and presentation of partnership level business operations and trends.  Jim also includes probably the best associated description of dashboard content and the thought processes involved which we’ve seen.

3) Hitesh Patel - Pharmaceutical Sales Dashboard

Developed by Hitesh Patel and Mike Askew of Data Intelligence, for Bristol Myers Squibb. A key report for the Regional Sales Managers, containing the information required to run the business in terms of cash, growth, share, and competitive performance.

Congratulations to all 3 of our winners. Have a look at our competition page for screenshots and some background on the winning entries. Over the next few weeks we’ll be analyzing the entries in more depth at http://blog.xlcubed.com. We’ll overview each, cover some of the techniques used, and hopefully suggest some further improvements.

Read More


Posted on : Jul 17 2008
Posted under xlCubed |