A dynamic dashboard in Excel allows you to visualize changing data in real-time or near real-time to gain insights and track key performance indicators (KPIs). It allows non-technical users to see their constantly updating data in an easy-to-understand format without needing to regularly refresh or update their reports manually. Creating a dynamic Excel dashboard involves the following steps:
Plan your dashboard – The first step is to plan out what type of data you need to display and the key metrics or KPIs you want to track. Determine things like the data sources, the frequency with which the data will update, the visualizations needed, and how the dashboard will be accessed and updated. Sketch out on paper how you want the dashboard to look and operate.
Setup data connections – You’ll need to connect your dashboard workbook to the underlying data sources. For Excel, common data connection types include connecting to other worksheets or workbooks within the same file, connecting to external data stored in text/CSV/XML files, connecting to external databases like SQL Server, and connecting to online data sources through OData web queries. Use things like Excel’s built-in Get Data tools and functions like power query to automatically import and structure your data.
Automate data refreshes – For a true dynamic dashboard, you need the data visualizations to update automatically as the underlying data changes. This is done by setting up scheduled data refreshes using Excel’s Data Refresh tool. you can refresh the queries and pivot tables on a schedule linking to external data. For example, you may want to refresh the data daily at 6 AM to pull in the previous day’s data. You can also trigger refreshes manually.
Design interactive visuals – The dashboard should display your key metrics through various interactive visualizations like charts, gauges, maps, pivot tables and more. You can use Excel’s wide range of built-in chart types as well as more advanced types through add-ins. Ensure the visuals are formatted properly for readability and aesthetics. Add relevant titles, labels, data labels, colors, tooltips etc.
Filter and slice data – Enable users to filter the visuals by parameters to drill-down into subsets of the data. For example, allow filtering a chart by region, product, date range etc. You can add slicers, filters or combo boxes linked to pivot tables/queries for this.
Add KPIs and metrics – KPIs are critical data points that need to be prominently displayed and tracked over time. Use gauge charts, traffic lights, meter charts etc to visualize KPI values against targets. Add relevant background colors, icon graphics and call-outs. Power BI also allows building KPI scorecards from Excel data.
Format for mobile – Consider if dashboard needs to be accessed on mobile screens. Use responsive design principles like auto-fitting charts, larger text, fewer/simpler elements on mobile views. Explore tools like Power BI for reports accessible on any device.
Protect and share – Password protect or restrict access to the file if needed. Publish Power BI dashboards securely online. Share workbook links for read-only external access. This allows distributed teams to monitor metrics remotely.
Test and refine – Thoroughly test all the interactivity, refreshing, formatting on different systems before implementing the dashboard for actual use. Monitor for issues, get feedback and refine design iteratively based on user experience. Consider automation add-ins for enhanced formatting, lay-outing and governance.
Maintain and evolve – As needs change, the dashboard should evolve. Streamline the maintenance processes by version controlling the file, documenting procedures and changes. Train others to extend, refresh or make modifications as required. Monitor dashboard usage and determine if new metrics/visualizations need to be added or obsolete ones removed over time.
This covers creating a robust, dynamic Excel dashboard from planning to implementation to maintenance. Some key advantages are easy creation without coding for business users, familiar Excel interface, interactive data exploration within the sheet itself and mobility across devices. With latest tools in Excel and Power BI, sophisticated dashboards can now be built directly in Excel to drive better business decisions through data. Regular refinement keeps the dashboard aligned to the evolving needs.