This blog post is the first in a series of blog posts that features the winners of the 2008 Excel dashboard competition.
“A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”
—Stephen Few, Information Dashboard Design (2006)
The dashboards were judged on the clarity and effectiveness of their design, particularly
- Clean and clear organization
- Effective table and chart design
- A single-screen display, properly designed for the web, screen or print outs
Furthermore we honored the technical aspects of the dashboard, did it use effective (Excel) techniques for
- The Dashboard layout
- Data management, pulling data from a database or data warehouses
- Data logic and calculation : YTD figures, variances, etc….
- Dashboard delivery: Sharing the dashboard via PDF, the web or as an Excel Workbook
Today we will review the winning entry, Wades Stokes Bank Dashboard:
“When I took over a CFO position a couple of years ago, I found a company ruled by PowerPoint. The company controller was spending inordinate amounts of time preparing for the country board 25-page PowerPoint presentations on the monthly results, and we spent hours arguing over numbers rather than discussing the business.
At the time, I had just read Lou Gerstner’s autobiography, in which he described how he resuscitated IBM. In one key scene early in the book, just after taking the CEO position, Lou Gerstner leaned over at the beginning of one presentation from a division head, turned off the projector machine, and asked something like, “Why don’t we just talk about your business?”
In my position, I felt just the same. I wanted to talk about the business, not argue on numbers rolling off an endless procession of slides. So, we needed to get all the main monthly numbers for our bank on one A3 or A4 piece of paper so that we could talk about our business, not argue on the details. On the dashboard I did not include the banking specific KPIs on asset-liability management or treasury issues since they were covered in a different regular meeting - my focus was on the country boards, which was comprised of the business unit heads and the heads of support groups.
Now, I have been a fan of information visualization since my sister gave me Edward Tufte’s first book in 1989, and I had found MicroCharts from reading Stephen Few’s blog where he described the winning entry in a contest from a few years ago. So, needing a quick start, I started playing with this tool. In the dashboard, I incorporated a number of graphs I think I got from Charles Kyd’s e-book on dashboards (www.exceluser.com), but I also used a basic layout from Timothy Dearden of Morgan Stanley that I saw at a budgeting conference in Amsterdam. The result came together in a couple of weeks between other projects.
I do have to admit that it didn’t stem the PowerPoint tide dramatically – our operations still live and breathe slides. However, though I have taken a new job, I think the report is still “live”, and I do think that a number of the themes and tools (sparklines, small multiples, high data-ink ratios) have started to catch hold and are infiltrating throughout the group’s reporting.”
Wade Stokes has been working as the Head of the Change Management Office, Baltic Banking, in the Swedbank Group, for the past year. Prior to this he worked as the CFO of one of the Baltic banks within Swedbank. A U.S. citizen, during the past fifteen years, Wade has worked as CFO for a number of mobile telecommunications companies in the Baltics, Russia, and Denmark.
Download the Bank Dashboard (needs MicroCharts installed) or as PDF A3 printout
Having in a board meeting a printed A3 report with all relevant information available, summarized in detail, truly achieves More Information per Pixel - or shall we say More Information per Dot.
“All history of improvements in human communication is written in terms of improvements in resolution: to produce, for viewers of evidence, more bits per unit time, and more bits per unit area. Slideware is contrary to that history. Trading in reductions in resolution for user convenience or for pitching may useful in mass market products or in commercial art, but not for technical communications.”
— Edward Tufte, Ask E.T Forum, Nov 10 2006
Printed dashboard reports have a much higher resolution than on-screen dashboards, and therefore allow you to show more KPIs, charts, tables and sparklines on a single page. When a certain KPI is being discussed, a person can express his opinion and refer to a specific chart, table or figure available for everybody in the meeting.