Career Path Dashboard in Tableau

Creating simple dashboards with Tableau is very fast and easy. I’m trying to understand the full limits of more customized dashboards compared to what I would have done in the past with Xcelsius/SAP Dashboards or even Excel. Today I have finally recreated my career path dashboard on Tableau Public, and I admit that it was a bit tricky to build the 30 different parameters into the one skill chart on the bottom right.

tableau_career_path

Click the image above or the following link: http://public.tableausoftware.com/profile/#!/vizhome/CareerPath_0/CareerPath

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Simple Tableau Mobile Dashboard

Now that I’m working with Tableau on a regular basis at work, I’ve also decided to recreate my existing dashboard examples so I can better understand the exact differences (pros/cons) between Tableau and SAP Dashboards / Xcelsius. This first posting on the topic covers the simple mobile sales dashboard that I originally posted about here.

The main point of this exercise is to leverage design elements from PowerPoint to create a more polished looking dashboard on a mobile device. I experimented with the new transparency options in Tableau 8.1, but found that my dashboard would crash when trying to layer transparent sections over graphics in the dashboard. Trying an alternative approach, I used version 8.0 and just set the backgrounds of each section to match the image.

mobile_sales_dashboard
Click on the image to seeing the working Tableau Public version. Try it on your desktop and mobile devices!

I had to make a page for each KPI (budget, actual, variance) because putting them into a single table wouldn’t show correctly over the graphic bubbles. Other than that, it was much faster to build this dashboard in Tableau and the separate pages wasn’t much of an inconvenience. I was also able to use the x/y positioning and exact sizing of elements to make sure that they were all aligned correctly and easily.

The ‘sales rep’ quick filter at the top adjusts all of the numbers, and the entire dashboard is mobile ready by default… so I’m pretty happy with the outcome on this one!

Reimagining the Xcelsius Experience

I started this blog several years back when I created my custom Xcelsius theme. But challenges when upgrading versions of Xcelsius and the fact that it doesn’t work in the mobile version has been disappointing. Now I finally have the chance to work with a more reliable solution that can produce lightweight, minimalist charts consistently. Powered by Inovista, this custom add-on suite and super simple stand-alone iPad app allows me to get the visuals I want with the bonus of accessing Business Objects BI services without needing a BI 4.1 environment!

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Balanced Scorecard on Mobile

Recently I rebuilt my Balanced Scorecard in the mobile version of SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius). While I learned a great deal from this exercise, the true lesson is that you should be designing for mobile first! While you can export to both desktop and mobile with the same file, most ‘desktop’ dashboards are over-complicated and overcrowded. Trying to convert those files to mobile will impact both usability and performance.

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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.

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