Using Excel dashboards is more than just finding ways to visualize data in an appealing fashion - it's about creating business insights and enhancing decision-making capabilities. Dashboards are designed to bring together massive amounts of information onto one easy-to-read platform, allowing users to quickly pinpoint areas that need attention and make informed decisions with greater confidence. It’s no wonder why Excel dashboards have become so popular these days.

With that said, it's important to know how to utilize your Excel dashboard to its full potential. Knowing how to create an effective dashboard design and how to make use of its abilities can maximize the potential of any dashboard.

Let’s take a look at 10 Ways to Maximize the Potential of an Excel Dashboard.

2. Open the Data Model

When it comes to maximizing the potential of an Excel dashboards, one of the most important aspects is data management. By forming what is known as a data model, the data you are working with can be linked and organized for efficiency. Opening the data model helps you create a dashboard that will be more cohesive, easier to read and dynamic.

a. Explaining how data management makes it easier to build efficient Excel dashboards

A data model is essentially a link between two or more separate tables of data which allows them to be viewed in one dashboard. Without this structure, reading multiple data sets at once can become overwhelming and confusing. When you have a data model in place, it allows you to draw cleaner conclusions by organizing and linking all the data in one dashboard.

A data model also allows you to winnow down what you see in a dashboard, so you can focus only on the most essential data for your project or analysis. You can add filters to further narrow down what you see as well. An Excel dashboard allows you to visualize both structured and unstructured data in one place. This helps you to quickly identify patterns and identify any areas that need attention.

b. Pros and cons of linking data to create a dashboard

Linking data to create a dashboard has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the main advantages is that linking data to a dashboard can allow you to consolidate information from multiple sources. This eliminates the need to manually input data every time you need to look at it. Linking data also allows you to access up to date information quickly and easily.

However, linking data can be complicated and it can be difficult to troubleshoot any errors that might arise. It is also important to ensure the data is secure when sharing and updating data sets. Once the data is linked, you will also not be able to make any changes to the underlying data sets without breaking the links.

3. Utilize Charts

Charts are an essential part of any Excel dashboard. When used effectively, they help to bring clarity and understanding of the data. Charts make it easier to comprehend complex data sets and surface patterns and insights. Let's take a look at the various types of charts used in Excel dashboards and how they can be customized.

a. The most important types of charts to use for dashboards in Excel

When it comes to creating an eye-catching Excel dashboard, the right chart type is key. The most commonly used charts for dashboards are line charts, bar charts, and pie charts. Line charts provide a great visual representation of trends and patterns over time, while bar charts can easily compare different categories or segments. Pie charts are best for illustrating proportions.

b. Options for customizing charts

Using the chart options in Excel, you can customize the look and feel of your chart. You can change the color and style of the graph, add grid lines and labels, and legend. You can also add data markers and change the type of chart to best represent your data. With these options, you can create an effective and visually appealing Excel dashboard.

4. Employ Conditional Formatting

Microsoft Excel provides powerful tools to enable us to visualize and analyze data. Among them, Conditional Formatting stands out as a powerful tool that helps users to identify, distinguish, and communicate insight from data. Conditional Formatting is a feature in Excel used to differentiate cells based on user-defined conditions or rules. Used judiciously, it can help any Excel dashboard be more meaningful and powerful.

a. Overview of the Role of Conditional Formatting

The most important purpose of conditional formatting is to reduce the effort required to identify important elements within a chart or table. Instead of having to scan through a long list of different numbers to understand the meaning behind them, conditional formatting allows the user to see quickly which values are important or require further investigation. This could be accomplished by automatically highlighting the numbers in a green and red range, which indicates that they could be either good or bad. This can be further defined with more detail like varying shades of colours, icon sets, text and even data bars.

b. Pros and Cons for the use in Dashboards

Using conditional formatting in Excel dashboards can be beneficial in three ways when done correctly. Firstly, it allows users to quickly identify trends in the data being presented. Secondly, it provides insights on a wide variety of metrics like quality, range and speed. Thirdly, it can make the dashboard look aesthetically pleasing.

However, there are also some potential downsides to the use of conditional formatting. For example, if overused, it can become distracting, or misinterpreted by audience members. Additionally, minor formatting issues may arise if it is not updated regularly or if the data changes over time.

5. Add Buttons and Shapes

Adding buttons and shapes to an Excel dashboard can give users greater interactivity and visual appeal. Buttons and shapes provide a range of options and can be used in different ways to make dashboards more intuitive and engaging. Here are the different types of shapes that can be used and the many ways they can impact your dashboard.

a. Different types of shapes that can be used

Using shapes in Excel dashboards offers a lot of flexibility. In addition to basic shapes like squares, rectangles, and circles, users also have the option of importing other complex shapes into their dashboards. Common shapes include hearts, arrows, stars, and animals. You can also use lines or curves to draw attention to important data or to link different elements within your dashboard.

b. How buttons and shapes can give Excel dashboards greater interactivity

Buttons and shapes can be used to add interactivity to an Excel dashboard. By making it easy to navigate and view data, you can ensure that users engage with the dashboard and gain a better understanding of the data. For example, you can add buttons to allow users to quickly switch from one dashboard to another. Or, you could add shapes to allow users to click and reveal more detailed information about a particular data point.

You can also incorporate animated shapes for added visual appeal. Animations can be used to show changes in data over time or to indicate the relationship between two different data sets.

Incorporate Calculations

Adding calculations to dashboards is essential to make the most of one’s data. They can provide insights, create visualizations that communicate complex information, and facilitate accuracy in making data-driven decisions. Calculations should be taken into consideration when creating a dashboard.

The Importance of Adding Calculations to Dashboards

Calculations are essential to efficiently analyze data stored in spreadsheets. Dashboards can provide summaries of the underlying data, but calculations link the associated measures to each other, adding a layer of complexity and context. Utilizing calculations to examine the data further renders deeper insights than just accessing data points.

The Types of Calculations That Should be Taken into Consideration

There are a number of calculations that should be incorporated into any dashboard. These include:

  • Average calculations
  • Sum and subtraction calculations
  • Percentage calculations
  • Proportional calculations
  • Standard Deviation calculations
  • Correlation calculations
  • Equation or function calculations

By factoring in these calculations, one can maximize the potential of an Excel dashboard, utilize analytics to guarantee sound decisions, and ultimately optimize the work within one’s organization.


In this post, we have discussed 10 tips to maximize the potential of an Excel dashboard. These tips include following guidelines like using proper data presentation techniques, leveraging the advantages of dynamic charts and pivot tables, having a systematic thought process in place while analyzing data, utilizing the scenario manager tool and many more.

Maximizing the potential of an Excel dashboard can lead to amazing results. It helps us see into the essence of data, discover hidden opportunities and trends, sometimes that too in real-time. It also helps in getting a clear picture of the market, estimating customer behavior and even predicting future trends, helping businesses make an informed decision.

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