People often write to me –
“Chandeep, What should I do to become really good at creating Dashboards ?”
These kind of related questions are arriving my Inbox more often than others, so I thought of putting together a well structured post that talks about –
Dashboard creation is a strategic process. You carefully have to carry out the steps in a particular order to get it right. If you bounce around and do random things, you’ll find yourself doing multiple iterations to get it right or there is a good chance that you won’t get it right at all.
The process isn’t complicated, it is fairly straight forward
Problem #1 – What is the Content of the Dashboard ? I call this the Pre-Excel Phase. You’ll find yourself doing things like..
Problem #2 – How are you going to present it ? Everything here needs you to work problems out in Excel.
The number one mistake that I see most people do is that they jump to the visualization part even before they are completely sorted with the content of the Dashboard. It doesn’t work like that (at-least it has never worked for me)
You need 3 core skills to be able to get better at creating awesome dashboards
Skill #1 – Knowledge of the Business / Process – Our first stage is Dashboard planning (the “What Content” problem). You’ll only be able to understand what metrics are important for the business when you understand the business or the process thoroughly.
Skill #2 – Advanced Excel Skills – “Advanced Excel” is a very abused term (at-least in India).
Just because one doesn’t know a certain excel technique, does not make the technique advanced. Also “advanced” is a very relative term. The Dashboards that I make today would certainly have been very advanced for me a 2 years ago.
What I mean by “Advanced Excel” is that the user should be able to apply Excel (Formulas, VBA, Pivots or other tools) to model and crunch data and find answers to business problems
Skill #3 – Visualization Skills – Some people are pretty good with Excel. They can write all the complex formulas, build complex logic, write VB code or even drill down into Pivots. But are terrible with Visualization and Charting (like my brother)
Charting and Visualizing skills are extremely important because
Business or the Process Knowledge – Unfortunately there is no course that can teach you this skill. The more you’ll learn about the business or the process the more you’ll stay into it. But I would like to make a couple of suggestions that have personally helped me in my career
Your business understanding is directly proportional to the relevance of the questions you’ll seek to answer from the data
Advanced Excel Skills – To become an advanced user of Excel. Here are the few things that you must master
Visualization Skills – If you suck at Charts you’ll not able to come up with a sophisticated and dynamic visualizations
Personally speaking, I cannot say at any point in time that I have completely mastered all these skills. With efforts put in, you just keep getting better with time 🙂
If you are video lover, here is a short video presentation. This presentation is part of my new course on Business Intelligence Dashboards