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PowerPoint 2010 and Excel 2010: Perfect Partners for a Digital Dashboard

PowerPoint 2010 and Excel 2010: Perfect Partners for a Digital Dashboard

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Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by MVP Glenna Shaw as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010" series. Glenna Shaw is a Most Valued Professional (MVP) for PowerPoint and the owner of the PPT Magic Web site and the Visualology blog. She holds certificates in Accessible Information Technology, Graphic Design and Professional Technical Writing.

Excel is an obvious choice for creating digital dashboards, but when you use PowerPoint as the medium to display your dashboard elements you gain some significant advantages.

The most perceptible advantage is the ability to design an elegant and attractive dashboard.  While this may not seem so important, you’ll find that users are more apt to use dashboards that are visually appealing.  And you can use the formatting features of PowerPoint to visually group elements through the use of color, enclosure, proximity, etc.

With PowerPoint your dashboard is guaranteed to display on a single screen without concerns of scrolling side to side or up and down to display the entire dashboard and a PowerPoint dashboard will display full screen without the toolbar.  These features are important because the point of a dashboard is to display the data on a single screen so it can be absorbed at a glance.  By using PowerPoint as your dashboard backdrop, your users can easily view the important data on a single screen without the distraction of an application toolbar.

My friend Rick Altman graciously allowed me to use data from his annual Presentation Summit event to create this dashboard.

A new feature in PowerPoint 2010 is the ability to add a spreadsheet as a table.  This allows you to take advantage of Excel’s conditional formatting feature to create a very nice table with graphic elements for a dashboard.

PowerPoint’s interactivity features allow you create multiple dashboard pages without having to use code.  In the dashboard example above, interactivity is used to display annual event details.  Drill downs can easily be added to dashboard elements through the use of a hyperlink or action setting to a new slide.

A feature unique to PowerPoint is the ability to put your charts in motion in a manner that allows the data to be easily absorbed.  Typically displaying changes on a chart requires a click, then view, click then view.  This breaks up the user’s ability to easily absorb the information that they are seeing.  By placing charts in the exact same position on a series of slides, the user can literally scroll through the changes using the page up and down keys, in effect putting the charts in motion in manner that’s easily comprehended.

Creating dashboards always requires significant effort creating tables, graphs and charts.  While this dashboard uses only embedded charts, you can also choose to link the elements from your excel spreadsheets.  Simply add charts or tables by copying and pasting from the spreadsheet.  Your elements will remain linked to your spreadsheet and when you update the spreadsheet, you’ll also update your dashboard.

With PowerPoint 2010 as your dashboard medium, you can also experiment with other unique features such as animation effects and triggers.  You could even embed a video on your dashboard.  With the power of Excel 2010 and PowerPoint 2010 combined, the possibilities are endless.

Finally, the new Office Web Apps provide the perfect vehicle for sharing your dashboards.  You can view the dashboard example and download a dashboard template from my SkyDrive.  A more comprehensive version of this article is available on Office Online.

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