As mentioned in a previous post, a friend of mine had purchased Excel Dashboards and Reports for Dummies by Michael Alexander. As I flicked through there were several really good tips which I spotted. So, I decided to read it for myself, to see how many more tips and tricks I could pick up.
Michael Alexander has been awarded the Microsoft MVP award for the last 10 years, so he certainly knows his stuff. I have a number of Michael’s books, which I refer to time and time again. So, I know he is a great author, but how does this book compare?
Good dashboards are one of the hardest things to create in Excel. To build a good dashboard requires skills and knowledge of several different disciplines – formulas, data modeling, charts, data visualization and form controls, to name a few. This book covers all the essential skills necessary for these areas. However, you need to put these skills practice to get the benefit. This book will give you the tools you need, but is certainly not a step-by-step guide; you will need to apply some thought.
What’s in the book?
This book is part of the “Dummies” range, but it definitely requires some Excel knowledge as a pre-requisite. The book assumes “you have a strong grasp of basic Excel concepts” (as quoted from the book). If you are approaching this book as an Excel user with “a strong grasp of basic Excel concepts” you will already be familiar with some of the concepts in this book, but probably not all. No matter what your Excel level, I am sure there are areas which will be new to you or a new way of thinking.
The book is broken down into 6 main sections:
- Getting Started with Excel Dashboards and Reports – this covers the basics of what a dashboard is and how to build a good model. This includes some basic functions, and how to use Tables.
- Building Basic Dashboard Components – this covers the presentational aspects of the dashboard, such as table design, sparklines and conditional formatting.
- Building Advanced Dashboard Components – this covers areas such as trending and showing performance against a target (including Bullet Charts).
- Advanced Reporting Techniques – this covers basic Macros, Form Controls and Pivot Slicers.
- Working with the outside world – the main thought here is how to get data into the model and how to share the dashboard with others.
- The Part of Tens – advice about how to create beautiful charts and a checklist of questions to run through before distributing a dashboard.
As you can see from my description of the content, this book covers a lot of ground for a book of approx 350 pages. For me, the area which possibly needs a bit more information is getting the data ready for presentation. There are various chapters about using Pivot Tables, which link the data directly to the presentation, but I think it would benefit with more formulas and advice for getting the data ready for the dashboard.
Is this book for you?
If you are just starting to look at dashboards then this book is a great choice. You will be referring to this book again and again, as there are some more advanced techniques which you will not use initially. For me, the best thing about this book are the tips and warning sections. Being able to benefit from the author’s experience, and see how he thinks about Excel is worth the price tag by itself.
What to purchase your own copy? Buy a copy from Amazon here
The links to purchase the book are affiliate links, which means, if you purchase through these links I will earn a small commission.