Designing an effective dashboard is an art and irrespective of the technology used for building the dashboard there are certain rules of thumb which should not be ignored.

Rule 1 – Understand the audience for the dashboard because that will help determine how the dashboard is going to be used and the expected level of interaction.

Rule 2 - Understand the amount and depth of interaction that will be necessary within the dashboard and make recommendations accordingly to the business.

Rule 3 – Always do an analysis on the best technology that should be used to fulfill the business requirements. There still may be instances when your recommendation may differ from customer's perception of best technology to use for building the dashboard. Especially in scenarios when the customer's technological environment consists of multiple BI tools.

Rule 4 – Before beginning the design, understand the meaning and significance of the KPIs that should be displayed in the dashboard.

Keeping these rules in mind if you are building an Xcelsius 2008 dashboard which comprises of a fully functional Excel spreadsheet in which the data and formulae can be imported or directly entered, a canvas on which the various components are placed and linked to the data in spreadsheet, and a wide range of components like charts, gauges, dials maps, slider menu, fish eye menu etc. Then, following some simple techniques, you can avoid rework and common pitfalls. For details on definitions and how to use a component in Xcelsius refer to the Xcelsius 2008 user guide.

  • First, if you are not able to install Xcelsius on your machine with Microsoft Office 2010, there is already a work around posted on multiple websites. You would need to edit the .msi file for Xcelsius. InstaEd program (http://www.instedit.com) can be used to edit the file. Under Tables look for the Launch Condition and you will see a condition checking for office versions. Replace the text with one of the other conditions of "Privileged OR Installed" but the trick is that the length of the text must be exactly the same or the byte count of the msi file will change and will not run. Save the changes and you will be able to install the software.

  • Before starting any development with Xcelsius it is very important to conceptually design the dashboard first. Try to categorize the pieces required in a single dashboard and analyze the level of dependency that will exist between different components.

  • Designing the navigation logic beforehand will avoid lot of rework. Organize the embedded excel spreadsheet logically and utilize the different excel tabs for different purposes. For example use one tab to capture the entire user input data, utilize another tab to store all the links that might be called within the dashboard. Create another tab for the dynamic visibility logic etc.

  • Do not forget to change the default excel limit in the dashboard to the maximum number of rows that you expect to be populated and therefore will need to be bound.

  • Use the fish eye picture menu if zoom in / out capability is required

  • Use slider picture menu if you wish to include a scroll in the menu. This is useful when there is less space available for accommodating a large number of menu selection items.

  • For a simple menu item Label based menu can be used in conjunction with image components to give the look of a button.

  • An Icon and Push button both can be used for achieving dynamic visibility in Xcelsius but with an Icon only two values can be linked to a single target cell. Whereas with Push button multiple source cells can be linked to multiple target cells; wide range of data can be manipulated. Push button can be easily used to reset any section of the dashboard to default values.

  • Another common use of a push button is in the form of close buttons for any pop up boxes incorporated in dashboard design (for example metadata boxes can be displayed and closed).

  • Each component in Xcelsius needs to be bound and layered logically. Therefore use the following options carefully:

    • Send back - Moves the selected components to the bottom layer. These components are not visible by default and at times the background image for the dashboard is set up as the bottom layer.

    • Bring to front - Moves the selected components to the top layer. This component will be visible by default unless specified otherwise.

    • Send backward - Moves the selected components one layer closer to the bottom layer from its current position. Visualize this as clicking on a particular button will display another image component layered just below the current component.

    • Bring forward - Moves the selected components one layer closer to the top from its current position. Visualize this as having two image components A and B with A layered on top of B. Bring B forward will display B by default unless specified otherwise in dynamic visibility logic.

  • A Label component can also be used in place of URL component to open external links. For example - <>http://www.google.com"target="_blank">. Enable HTML formatting in the properties. Note that target="_blank" opens the link in new.

  • If you are using CUIDs in your dashboard design, then ensure that CUIDs assigned to your report or folder in development, test and production environment are consistent. Ideally same CUID is assigned to an object in the business objects development, test and production environment automatically and no action is required from your end.

  • Grouping similar components together helps in moving components together and also making any property changes only once. Ungroup the components first if a change needs to be made only to an individual component.

  • Copying and pasting of components works in Xcelsius. This saves some time if the same component needs to be used in the dashboard but with different property attributes.

  • While using QaaWS for connecting to external data use the Refresh Option wisely. "Refresh every" option should only be used when data is expected to change frequently during length of time user will interact with dashboard. In most of the cases "Refresh before components are loaded" will serve the purpose.

  • If you get errors like – "Problems Accessing Excel: Exiting" then one of the fix is to open the Task Manager window and Kill all the Excel Processes running. Launch the application again.

  • Always keep a backup copy which is current for your Xcelsius development work to avoid any loss of work due to excel getting corrupt.

If the dashboard being developed will be static or will involve interaction to the extent of drilling up or down the levels of data then explore the option of creating such dashboard using WebIntelligence.