My Favorite Mockup Tool for Dashboards

Since becoming a full-time BI consultant focusing on dashboard development, I have found that mockups and wire-frames are critical tools of the trade. While I have tried other tools (I particularly liked Balsamiq), I’ve realized that I always come back to PowerPoint. Why? Well for a number of really good reasons…

1.) It’s Powerful – shapes, layers, and hyperlinks to mimic navigation

2.) It’s Universal – Everyone can move stuff around, add comments and share with others, without needing special software. Images and PDFs are also pretty universal, but not as easy to edit.

3.) It’s Reusable – Many elements can be reused for different dashboard wireframes, and best of all, I can use backgrounds and custom shapes from PowerPoint as image components in SAP Dashboards.

4.) It’s Familiar – After using PowerPoint for 15+ years, it has become the fastest way for me to produce a good wireframe.

On the other hand, it can be frustrating and inefficient when you start to have a bunch of custom shapes and diagrams spread across numerous PowerPoint files. While I have several ‘template’ files, but works as well as the PowerMockup add-in. It gives you a separate menu to store custom diagrams and comes with huge stencil library on it’s own. And when you’re done, anyone else can open and edit the file and see the stencils as native PowerPoint shapes.


SAP Dashboards for Mobile

I’ve been working on converting some existing dashboards and building new ones for SP5 to display in the MoBI app. So far I’ve been able to get pretty far, but I am finding that I need to layer objects differently and mouse-overs work differently since they appear on top of everything and you can’t see values in the bottom layers if you are stacking charts. Here is a screenshot from the iPad of my ‘Infographics Dashboard’ conversion.

Keep posted as I continue to develop for mobile and I will share some of my tips and tricks. I’ve already been able to create a dynamic sales funnel, so I’m pleased by that, but disappointed that there is no XY or Bubble Chart. I also miss the spreadsheet component, which gave me the ability to fine-tune larger visual displays with a single component (instead of numerous shapes and text boxes).

– Josh

Xcelsius Tag Cloud

I have been thinking about creating a tag cloud in Xcelsius for some time. I had tried the Web 2.0 add-on, but it was never officially released for production and I found it to be very buggy. So the only thing left to do would be to create my own.

To make sure that this would work properly, I stuck with proven components. Ron Keler from has taught me about EIC connectivity as part of our latest portal integration project and that seemed like the easiest way to accomplish the tag cloud functionality.

Tag Cloud Example

Read on for more details…


Charts with Breakfast

I have a pile of chart examples from the WSJ that I thought would be fun to replicate. This morning while having my coffee and breakfast, I decided to put a quick template together. This example uses bubble sizes above a column chart to display another measure across the X-Axis (time in this example).

I would say that a combo chart or two small bar/column charts side by side would be more effective, but I could see this style being used in more of an Infographic style presentation.

Chart Sample 1


Replicating Explorer with Xcelsius Pt.1

I’ve been working with Explorer more lately and I was curious to see if I could replicate the core functionality in Xcelsius. While it’s clear that a dashboard would never be as powerful as the stand-alone Explorer tool, I thought that it would be an interesting challenge just to see how close I could get.

As soon as I started I knew that I would really need the Centigon Essentials bundle in or to accomplish the task. The filtered sort is the bulk of the functionality, so that component is critical. The advanced sort will be perfect for sorting the filtered results, and the input manager is really nice for keeping track of drill-paths. Finally I decided to use the background builder for my solid-colored backgrounds with rounded edges instead of using images.

Below is the link to my beta version. I still have a lot of clean-up to do, especially with the charting options, but I wanted to post my progress so far. Please let me know what you think and if there are specific improvements that you would like to see. I will post my XLF on my blog once the project is complete.

HTML5 Tree View Control

My colleague Ron Keler recently posted on his blog about making a tree view control. I was excited to give this technique a try since it really demonstrates the power and flexibility of a true HTML5 dashboard solution.

It turned out to be a lot easier to implement than I expected. In this example I used the jQuery Plugin: Treeview, but there are a number of other freely available solutions in the jQuery community. While I was working on my own example, I decided to also address the ability to dynamically change chart types as mentioned by Pieter Hendrikx in his blog post SAP Dashboards or ZEN wishlist. This example uses a single data set and one chart to display different series and to toggle between a bar, stacked bar, column and stacked column chart without reloading the page.

Please let me know what you think.