Efficiency Tips

9 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Creating Executive Dashboards

Mistakes While Creating Executive Dashboards

Recently, I got a chance to work on creating an executive dashboard.

By an executive dashboard, I mean a dashboard that is used by executives to get relevant data in one place and make a decision based on the dashboard results.

Since it was data intensive, I used Excel to create it and then used specific views from it and presented it using PowerPoint. I have learned over the years that executives react favorably to dashboards presented using PowerPoint.

Now creating an Excel dashboard is a long process and it takes certain skill and experience to get the work done.

Here, I want to share what I have learned in the process of building a dashboard and mistakes to avoid when working on one.

Choosing the Wrong Metrics

Most of the time, those who are tasked to create an executive dashboard for their organizations make the mistake of including all metrics that are set by the company. While it is imperative that you consistently check your standing vis-à-vis your business goals, you have to make sure that only the relevant metrics appear on the board. Make sure that you include only the valuable metrics by choosing those that are directly aligned with your core objectives and the efforts that individual executives make towards achieving them.

Make sure that you include only the valuable metrics by choosing those that are directly aligned with your core objectives and the efforts that individual executives make towards achieving them.

Now the big question is, how to know what are the right metrics? You can only know this if you keep the objective of the dashboard in mind. Ask your clients/management on how they would be using the dashboard and what questions would this dashboard answer.

Only when you have a clear understanding of the objective, can even begin to think of the metrics that would be needed.

Trying to Include Data Just because it is Available

We live in the age of big data is more often than not, you are inundated with relevant and irrelevant data.

When creating a dashboard, don’t try to include everything just because you have the data. Ask the question – is this data helping me in answering the key questions. My suggestion is to only keep the data that is 100% relevant.

Overloading the Wireframe with Too Much Formatting Guidelines

Designers often make the mistake of thinking that colorful prototypes are what the end users want. This cannot be farther from the truth.

The creative dashboard should be kept as simple as possible. If you are to use colors, you have to make sure that it has something to do with signifying points for contrast among the elements on the dashboard. The function is the primary concern here, so focus on detailing the requirements of the organizational tasks at hand.

Not Making the Dashboard Interactive

When you design an executive dashboard, you need to consistently go back to the function of the tool.

With this being said, the dashboard has to include functionalities that will empower the users to customize their views depending on the kinds of information that they need at a certain moment.

This helps as while you are presenting the insights, your audience may ask questions that can be answered by simply changing the view of the dashboard.

This is why you need to make the dashboard as interactive as possible. Ensure that you include the necessary details and functions that will help the users gather relevant information with just a few clicks.

Failing to Add Provisions for Data Context

Yes, executives are mainly inclined towards using numeric data to create decisions and to plot out their next steps; but this does not mean that number exist in a void. The dashboard is, after all, a tool for tactical analysis. For this reason, you need to ensure that you include a provision that your clients may use to add and acquire the context surrounding the figures.

To be on the safe side, so a preliminary interview and ask the organization what their benchmarks are for evaluating the numbers. This will help you ensure that you produce a design that will include features for proper analysis.

Not Using the Right Data Representations

When creating a dashboard, you are always limited by the real estate you can use on the screen.

Ideally, you would want to use the tables or charts that your audience is familiar with. At the same time, you need to make sure that the data or charts are the right ones that answer the question your management or client are looking to answer using the dashboard.

While creating a data representation, you need to see if you can minimize the use of space while still showing the same level of details. For example, you can use comparitive charts that plot more than one type of data in the same chart.

Not using the Organization’s Business Plan as the Foundation

It is the executives’ main task to create a business plan that will propel the organization forward. As a designer, it is your task to ensure that you produce an executive dashboard that will help them achieve what they plan to achieve for their business.

Creating a board that fails to take the overall plan into account will render the exercise moot. You have to ensure that you produce a design that will allow users to assess real-time standing versus the plans that they have for their organization.

Showing Too Many Alerts

Believe it or not, alerts can be counterproductive at times. Imagine working on something and consistently receiving alerts that divide your attention and divert your focus.

As much as you can, try to keep alerts at the minimum. Have a sit-down discussion with your clients and determine which actions require immediate actions; and use your findings to design your alert mechanisms.

Ignoring User Feedback

The ultimate test of your design lies on how user-friendly it is. This is why you should do some beta tests and make the necessary adjustments based on your findings.

Feedback from people who are within the organization will help you optimize your design. By taking their opinions into account, you will surely be able to create an executive dashboard that people in the organization will be delighted to use.

7 Common MS Excel Questions Interviewer Asks

Excel questions for Interviews

MS Excel is the most popular Microsoft spreadsheet app all over the world, with billions of users using it to perform several functions. Most offices hence rely on the application for many day-to-day tasks.

Consequently, every job nowadays requires you to have functional knowledge of Excel.

Anytime you are applying for any job that needs any form of data entry, analysis, or calculations; chances are you will be required to have, at least, a basic knowledge of MS Excel.

Below are 7 Common MS Excel Questions Interviewer Asks, and which you should expect at an interview.

  1. What is MS Excel and what core functions does it perform?

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet app which you can use to record, manipulate, analyze and store data. The sections in which data is stored are called cells. Each cell is uniquely identified, depending on its column and row value. The cells can be manipulated arithmetically using core and complex functions and operations. Besides its standard spreadsheet feature, MS Excel provides programming support through VBA (Visual Basic Applications), as well as extensive charting and graphic capabilities.

  1. What do you know about Excel Pivot table?

Pivot tables are Excel’s powerful features that allow a user to extract the significant from a large detailed data set. It provides an excellent way of summarizing, analyzing, exploring and presenting data. It is also very simple to create. However, when you add either a new row or new column to any of the source data, the pivot table is not updated because the lately added data lies outside the range of the underlying data of the Pivot table. You can overcome this limitation by either manually refreshing the source data or providing a dynamic range to the pivot table. To provide a dynamic range create a Named range by use of Offset function, and use the Named range to base the pivot table.

  1. What role do Dashboards play in MS Excel?

Dashboards track metrics, KPIs, among other data points in a single visual, central place. Therefore, besides giving you a high-level view of work, dashboards help you make fast decisions while at the same time helping you keep everyone updated. Its visual nature gives you an at-a-glance view of performance in real-time and simplifies complex data. They are composed of charts, tables, numbers, and gauges. You can use dashboards in spreadsheets for a variety of purposes in a wide range of industries including making marketing dashboards, financial dashboards, project dashboards, and much more.

  1. How can you add cells, rows, and columns in Excel?

To insert a row, column or cell in Excel, right click on what you would like to add to and select Insert from the menu. The insert menu enables you to add a cell, row or column, and shifts the cell affected down or right. You can add a comment to the newly added cell to clarify any formula used, its purpose, or leave notes for other users by right-clicking on the cell and, choosing insert comment from the resulting menu.

  1. Explain some data formats in MS Excel

The most common data formats are currency, numbers, and dates. The currency format is a specialized number presentation that stores data in a particular currency form. Number format stores info as a number, and can include decimal values as well as separators for big numbers exceeding 999. Date format, on the other hand, allows you to store data as dates for purposes of calculations and formulas.

  1. What is the Ribbon as used in MS Excel?

A Ribbon refers to a section that runs along the top of the app containing toolbars and menu items available in the Excel. It has various tabs that in turn include groups of commands to be used in the application. You can maximize or minimize the Ribbon by just pressing CTRL F1.

  1. How can you use MS Excel to analyze a group of data?

MS Excel allows us to create various types of charts, such as column and line charts, or even adding a small graph. You can also create a Pivot Table, insert totals quickly, apply table styles or even use conditional formatting to come up with useful features of the data you are analyzing. For instance, you can quickly label all values less than a particular value, say average, in your data by using the IF function. This feature enables you to perform analysis of information in the shortest time possible.

Useful Tips To Create a Powerful Resume For Your Next Job

Resume Writing and Elements

Looking for a job? You’ll need a resume.

This is a formal document containing a summary of your qualifications – education and work experience – that are relevant for the job you want. The goal of the resume, also know and a curriculum vitae or CV is to get you through the door and to a job interview.

The resume is used by a potential employer to make the first screening of candidates for a job. Because of this, you want your resume to present your qualifications accurately and to be eye catching and well-written. You don’t have much of an opportunity to make a positive impression.

Your competition may be pretty stiff. Often, an employer will receive hundreds of resumes for one job opening. You need to hit a home run with your resume. It needs to make that all important great first impression so you will be the one that is picked in the end.

Maybe you are stuck and unsure how best to format your resume. Maybe you aren’t sure what to include. You can get sample resumes for just about any job opening online. Download a bunch of specific examples you can then use to fine-tune your own resume. You’ll have a better chance of getting that job you want if your resume is tailored properly to the position.

There are even sites that help you format your resume to make it more eye-catching and attractive. You can also go to sites like eresumes.com to download free samples and formats for a different type of positions.

Most employers will ask you to submit an e-resume or electronic resume. This is done online or more frequently via email. Resumes are then scanned electronically for keywords. It’s crucial for your resume to emphasize the appropriate keywords for the position you are seeking.

The scanner is programmed to look for specific words. If your resume has these words, you have a better chance to be selected. How to get the keywords right? Sit down and list out your goals, skills for the job you want, and how these goals and skills might be described. Put your resume into the appropriate format and include these keywords when you compose the various descriptive passages.

Resume Writing Tips

Your first step in landing your dream job is to create the best resume you can. It’s important that you not skimp on this step. You never get a second chance at a first impression.

  1. Use the appropriate format – There are two major formats used in resumes. These are chronological and functional. For applications within a field where you have relevant work experience, it is best to use the chronological format as this allows you to showcase your work history. The functional format is best used when you are looking at moving into a different field of work as it enables you to focus on your strengths and the skills that you are able to take with you, rather than limiting you to a particular area.
  2. Be specific with your details – Many people begin their resume with statements that are too general, such as “sold used vehicles” or “negotiated claims settlements”. When you provide actual details it will improve your resume: for example, “Within the first 12 weeks of employment I was successful in selling 20 motor vehicles” or “Successful in increasing overall customer satisfaction by 25% through negotiations in claim settlements.”
  3. Accuracy is vital – Avoid the temptation to stretch the truth in order to make a good impression. Your claims must use accurate numbers: you cannot build a successful career using false claims.
  4. Be Precise – Take the time to proofread your resume. Errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar indicate that you are careless and will result in rejections. It is essential that you have a well-crafted resume. If you have any doubts, ask another person to check it for you: quite often they will find something that you may have overlooked.
  5. Brevity is Important – Take care that your resume is not verbose. Make sure that every word is important – it is far too easy to see that a resume that uses superfluous language is lacking in substance.

Remember that even a resume that is well written is not likely to get you the job on its own. You also need to address the job search process.