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Build a Dashboard in 60 Minutes Using Xcelsius

Jesper Moselund Christensen COMERIT
2010 Wellesley Information Services. All rights reserved.

In This Session ...

Get started with a dashboard project using the Xcelsius 30-day trial version Obtain best practices for Xcelsius dashboard development and design Build an Xcelsius dashboard in less than 60 minutes Learn to build a dashboard using Xcelsius after this session

The End Result A Simple Sales Dashboard

What Well Cover

Define your dashboard prototype project Get you hands on the Xcelsius 30-day trial version 10 dashboard best practices 10 steps to build a dashboard using Xcelsius Publish the dashboard Wrap-up

Why a Dashboard Project?

So why does my company need a dashboard? You have a great data warehouse with a lot of information but the users still do not use it! Your users keep on complaining about the report functionality You do not have any C-level users Business users are starting to build their own dashboards using various tools Your management demands that you build them a dashboard because their peer in another company has one There are many different reasons. Dashboards have a lot of hype around them because they can be used to deliver business value through fact-based decision making.

How to Get Started with a Dashboard Project

Define a clear scope for the dashboard prototype, such as: Define standard dashboard layout, look and feel, and best practices Build one or two dashboard prototypes using Xcelsius Define the expected scope for dashboards to be deployed Define the dashboard creation, maintenance, support, and rollout processes Describe technical implementation requirements Prepare cost estimate for the rollout and deployment Prepare a business benefits case for the rollout and deployment Compare the business benefits to the costs, and make recommendations

What Well Cover

Define your dashboard prototype project Get you hands on the Xcelsius 30-day trial version 10 dashboard best practices 10 steps to build a dashboard using Xcelsius Publish the dashboard Wrap-up

The Xcelsius Free Trial Offering from SAP

SAP offers two versions of Xcelsius in the free trial offering: Xcelsius Engage More complete package Xcelsius Present Purely a presentation tool to Microsoft Excel The version available is Xcelsius 2008 SP3
Recommendation: Download the Xcelsius Engage version as that has more features and can integrate to SAP NetWeaver BW
Source: SAP

How to Get the Free Trial Software

The free trial software can be downloaded from the Web site Quick link is; this will redirect you to the SAP location

How to Get the Free Trial Software (cont.)

The Xcelsius trials are at the bottom of the page


How to Get the Free Trial Software (cont.)

Fill in your information


How to Get the Free Trial Software (cont.)

Now you are ready to download the trial version It is a 540mb file Save the file to your computer


Installing the Xcelsius Trial Software

Extract the Zip file to a folder and start the installation using the setup.exe file

You will have received an email with the key code to be used during the installation


Using Xcelsius Trial Version

As this is a trial version, you will see this nice intro every time you open Xcelsius. Just click Continue.

Once your trial expires, you can enter the key code you get when you buy Xcelsius and all your work is still available and fully functioning


What Well Cover

Define your dashboard prototype project Get you hands on the Xcelsius 30-day trial version 10 dashboard best practices 10 steps to build a dashboard using Xcelsius Publish the dashboard Wrap-up


The Five Most Important Things to Remember

Perception is everything it has to look good and be intuitive Users are not all the same they do have different requirements Make it simple Make it fast Create good online help


10 Best practices for Xcelsius dashboards

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

8. 9. 10.

Position the most important items in the dashboard to the top left Use the correct chart types to communicate the information Use the correct color scheme Use preattentive variables to make important information stand out Organize the embedded Excel workbook using colors and tabs Keep only the data that is needed in the embedded Excel to improve performance Set a standard canvas size that keeps the dashboard to one page Layer and position your objects correctly before grouping them Define standard templates for your company that can be reused for several dashboards. Make them look and work the same way. Use the native SAP NetWeaver BW integration to get SAP NetWeaver BW data into your dashboard


1. Positioning KPIs on the Dashboard

Consider how the users eyes move across the page

Web Page Eye Movement According to a Few Web Sites



2. Chart Types to Use and Not to Use

Which is bigger? US Mid-Cap or US Small-Cap

Which is easier to read?

Source:, Stephen Few


2. Chart Types to Use and Not to Use (cont.)

Which shows change over time better?

For more, test your graph IQ at

Source:, Stephen Few


3. Using Color Effectively

Colors share a powerful

connection with emotions, so you want to be conservative Colors on opposite sides are complementary and look good together in a cockpit

Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666 and identified 12 basic colors


3. Using Color Effectively (cont.)

Choose colors within the same shade

Color definitions:
Shade: base color mixed with black Tint: base color hue mixed with white Tone: base color + gray or another base color + a complementary color

Source: PowerPoint color palette


3. How Do You Pick Your Web Cockpit Colors?

A monochromatic scheme uses a single pure color with a number of tints and shades to provide variety
Pros: Extremely unified and harmonious; effective for establishing an overall mood Cons: Can be dull because of the lack of variation and therefore can lose the interest of the viewer
Analogous scheme
Source: Xcelsius Theme

Monochromatic scheme

An analogous scheme uses any three colors which are side by side on a color wheel
Pros: Great selection of possible combinations makes this scheme versatile. The similarity makes the schemes harmonious, with great results because it is soothing and restful. Cons: The use of more than three colors can dilute the overall effect of this scheme. 23


3. How Do You Pick Your Web Cockpit Colors? (cont.)

Triadic scheme: Pick any three colors on a triangle. This scheme is very appealing and well balanced.
Pros: Extremely stable, each color perfectly balances with the other. It is useful for presenting information in bold, decisive patterns. Cons: The vibrancy may be too much and detract from the message.
Split scheme Triadic scheme

Split scheme: Any two colors that are side by side on a color wheel.
Pros: This scheme has more variety than a simple complementary color scheme. Cons: It is less vibrant and eye-catching; it is difficult to harmonize the colors.



4. Visual Appearance: Eight Preattentive Variables

Color Position Brightness Orientation Saturation Size Texture Shape



5. Xcelsius Embedded Excel Organization

Use multiple sheets (tabs) General information about the Xcelsius model and legend Maintenance procedure One or more data sheets avoid having too many data tables in one sheet Use colors to identify tabs in large models Use one standard for all models


5. Xcelsius Embedded Excel Organization (cont.)

Sheet layout guidelines Spacing Leave blank rows and columns (do not start in cell A1) Allow for vertical and horizontal scaling Use Spreadsheet Formatting (Legend) Use color coding to identify data type Use labels and formatting to identify data This should be standard color in all Xcelsius models Create a standard workbook that can be used in new Xcelsius models An example of a standard workbook is included on the conference CD

6. Xcelsius Embedded Excel Performance

Reduce the Excel overhead Use lightweight functions like VLOOKUP and MATCH Avoid SUMIF, COUNTIF, and nested IF statements Use a light volume of data to be visualized Max 2000 lines Load data that is displayed within components Avoid having data in Excel that is not visualized in any components Use parameterized queries Variables in SAP NetWeaver BW queries


7. Xcelsius Canvas and Object Management

Set the canvas size to 900x600 This is supported by most screen resolutions without introducing scrolling (one page)

Give good descriptions to the components that are added to the model This can be done in the object browser


8. Layering and Positioning of Objects

Layer components correctly First define the order Then group them to make changes easier

Use a grid to control positioning and alignment


9. Create and Use Standard Templates for Your Company

There are a lot of templates included in Xcelsius that you can use as a base to create a dashboard They have good step-by-step guides They can serve as a good reference

Additional templates, including the one well use later, are included on the conference CD

10. Integrating Xcelsius with SAP NetWeaver BW

Several options exist to integrate data from SAP NetWeaver BW into Xcelsius: Article in BI Expert magazine describes how to use a custom function module as a Web service Via SAP BusinessObjects and QaaWS Via SAP BusinessObjects WebI and Live Office Native integration available from SAP NetWeaver 7.01 SP05 and Xcelsius 2008 SP02. This is the one to use!


10. Integrating Xcelsius with SAP NetWeaver BW (cont.)

The native integration of Xcelsius in SAP NetWeaver BW includes additional functionality such as: Integration into the SAP NetWeaver Portal which makes it easy to publish the dashboard Integration into the BEx runtime environment (no need to install SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise)

A good Webinar by Ingo Hilgefort is available on or directly at


What Well Cover

Define your dashboard prototype project Get you hands on the Xcelsius 30-day trial version 10 dashboard best practices 10 steps to build a dashboard using Xcelsius Publish the dashboard Wrap-up


10 Steps to Create a New Dashboard

1. 2. 3. 4.

6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Draft your dashboard on paper Build a standard dashboard template Define the data structures that you need Add components to the canvas Add data for testing Add dynamic visibility if needed Add the real data Test the model Export the dashboard Integrate into an SAP NetWeaver portal or Web page


1. Draft Your Dashboard on Paper

You dont have to be an artist to draft a dashboard by hand


2. Build a Standard Dashboard Template

Choose the color theme Include some standard components such as logo, etc. Save this as a template so you can easily reuse it Save it to folder C:\Program Files\Business Objects\Xcelsius\assets\template


3. Define the Data Structures That You Need

Define the tables of data you need in Excel Table for the query data or base data Tables used for components


4. Add Components to the Canvas

Add the components that you want in your dashboard to the canvas and align them


5. Add Data for Testing

Add some dummy data to all your tables in the embedded Excel sheet and link to the components via the properties


6. Add Dynamic Visibility If Needed

Dynamic visibility is powerful you can reuse the space on the canvas for multiple items Use the canvas container to group items you want to show/hide For example, when clicking on Europe another component will be displayed on the right


7. Add the Real Data

Now it is time to refine the dashboard and add the real data or link to data sources such as SAP NetWeaver BW, LiveOffice or Query as a Web Service (QaaWS)


8. Test the Model

Test the model and make sure that all functionality works the way it is expected to work


9. Export the Dashboard

In this example, I will export the dashboard to HTML This is the easiest option if you want to include the dashboard in a Web page It generates an HTML file with the Embed tags and the corresponding SWF file Other options are available. These will be covered later.

<OBJECT classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" WIDTH="900" HEIGHT="600" id="myMovieName"> <PARAM NAME="movie" VALUE="COMERIT_SALES.swf"> <PARAM NAME="quality" VALUE="high"> <PARAM NAME="bgcolor" VALUE="#FFFFFF"> <PARAM NAME="play" VALUE="true"> <PARAM NAME="loop" VALUE="true"> <PARAM NAME=bgcolor VALUE="#FFFFFF"> <EMBED src="COMERIT_SALES.swf" quality=high bgcolor=#FFFFFF WIDTH="900" HEIGHT="600" NAME="myMovieName" ALIGN="" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash" play="true" loop="true" PLUGINSPAGE=""> </EMBED> </OBJECT>


10. Integrate into Portal or Web Page

It is easy to integrate the generated SWF file into any portal or Web page Use the Object tag from the generated HTML and add it to any Web page You can also upload SWF files directly to Knowledge management


What Well Cover

Define your dashboard prototype project Get you hands on the Xcelsius 30-day trial version 10 dashboard best practices 10 steps to build a dashboard using Xcelsius Publish the dashboard Wrap-up


There Are Several Options to Publish a Dashboard

SWF file Adobe AIR HTML embedded SWF file SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise PDF PowerPoint Outlook Word SAP NetWeaver Portal


Lets Look at the Most Common Ones in This Demo

SWF file HTML embedded SWF file PDF PowerPoint Outlook Word


What Well Cover

Define your dashboard prototype project Get you hands on the Xcelsius 30-day trial version 10 dashboard best practices 10 steps to build a dashboard using Xcelsius Publish the dashboard Wrap-up


Resources and A wealth of information on Xcelsius provided by SAP Great information from various Xcelsius gurus Stephen Few is a thought leader on data visualization. His Web site contains a lot of good information on how to visualize information. Forum for sharing Xcelsius information


Resources (cont.) Xcelsius forum on SDN Download some add-in components for Xcelsius Link to Yahoo maps Spinning globe and other good add-ins


7 Key Points to Take Home

Dashboards can help improve your company performance. There is almost always a business case for a dashboard. SAP has a 30-day free trial version of Xcelsius download it and use it Xcelsius is an easy tool to use. It can also be used for more complex dashboards. Build a standard template and store it in the template folder for later use Use multiple tabs and color coding in Excel to make it easier to support Avoid chart types that do not suit the data you present Use the SAP-provided templates and the ones on the conference CD to get started on creating your own dashboards

Your Turn!

How to contact me: Jesper Moselund Christensen


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