Introducing Excel Dashboards for Management Reporting
Dashboard reporting allows readers to step back from the messy details to see the trends and relationships that really matter in your company.
by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports
Management reporting should
be structured like a pyramid.
The top of the pyramid represents summary reports. These reports have few pages,
which show trends and relationships about a wide variety of topics that
managers need to track.
The bottom of the pyramid contains lower-level detail, often in massive
Unfortunately, in many companies, management reporting begins and
ends at the bottom of the pyramid.
The Benefits of Dashboard Reporting
Dashboard reporting offers its readers several significant
Dashboards can distill extensive data into a single page of succinct
results. Dashboard reports can reduce the flood of paper to a trickle.
With dashboards, managers can compare many results to each other.
This gives the managers a
more accurate view of their organization, more quickly. With traditional
reports, managers tend to compare many facts from many reports received
over many days; with dashboard reports, it’s all there in front of them.
Dashboards easily can emphasize areas of performance that managers
care most about. This is because dashboards are extremely modular. It’s
very easy for Excel users to replace a chart or table that managers no
longer care about with a figure that’s critically important.
Dashboard Reporting and Excel
In the past, the move to dashboard reporting largely bypassed Excel.
many software products generate dashboard reports, there are few
resources—other than ExcelUser.com—to help Excel users create the
This is a shame because Excel is an excellent tool for dashboard
reporting. And the incremental cost of dashboard reporting with Excel is
What’s going on here? Why is Excel so underused for this application?
We can think of three reasons.
First, software companies can become quite successful by selling
proprietary software for dashboard reporting. But selling an Excel
solution offers a tiny fraction of the sales potential. Therefore, few
companies find it in their interest to promote Excel for this purpose.
Second, few people have discovered the techniques needed to create
high-quality dashboard reports with Excel. Although the techniques are
relatively easy to use, they’re not obvious.
Third, Excel easily is overlooked for high-quality reporting. Picture
in your mind a typical Excel report produced by a typical Excel user.
Compare that report with the example shown above. It’s hard to believe
that the same product—Excel—produced both reports. It’s no wonder that
people long accustomed to standard Excel reports would never think of
using Excel for magazine-quality dashboard reports.
In the months and years ahead, this section of ExcelUser.com will
help you to create dashboards with Excel. We'll show you examples and
techniques that you can use in your own company to improve your own
Our article, Getting Started With Dashboard
Reporting, provides some ideas for how to begin.