Published Now and Again for Business Users of Microsoft Excel.
A First Look at Excel 12
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
If you like this newsletter, please forward it to
other Excel users.
"Office 12 will be the most revolutionary release of Office, ever," Jeff Raikes,
Microsoft Group Vice President.
Several weeks ago I got my first look at Excel 12. Because I signed a non-disclosure
agreement I can't tell you anything about the product, or even my first reactions
However, I can quote other published information, like the Raikes quote
It was posted in a July 28 article at CRN.com.
For now, enough said.
Dashboards for Investors...What Would You Like
About 600 people have requested sample
dashboards of public companies. Because many people have requested the same
companies, you'll find dashboards for less than 200 of them at the link. These samples are Excel-generated bitmaps
that present data about those public companies from a manager's perspective.
But several weeks ago a visitor urged me to create an Excel dashboard report for
investors. Rather than merely illustrating Excel dashboards, as the samples do,
he urged me to create a useful tool.
I've researched this idea, and the raw data seems to be available. But creating this
solution would take some development effort, and I'm not sure of the market.
So I'm hoping you can
advise me about this project.
If you're an investor, what information would you like to see in a
one- or two-page dashboard report about a public company? What Excel data would you like to
have for your own analysis? And most important, why don't current sources for
such information satisfy your needs?
If you have any ideas or suggestions about this topic, please
send them my way.
Excel Dashboards vs Xcelsius
On many pages at ExcelUser.com you'll see an ad for Xcelsius, made by Infommersion.
At first glance it's easy to miss
the differences between Xcelsius dashboards and Excel
My Excel Dashboard Kit teaches you how
to create Excel-only dashboards for very flexible and readable reporting. But
Xcelsius gives you the power to create interactive dashboard Flash files from
Excel data, dashboards that
can be used in surprising ways.
Xcelsius can, of course, create
interactive dashboards that can be used on the
web or in Excel. But you also can use Xcelsius dashboards in...
...PowerPoint, where you can interact with them during a
presentation. This would allow you to
show the performance of different
branches or products in response to questions from the audience. And it
would allow the audience to volunteer values to use in a
...PDF Files, where your readers could interact with the data from
within their documents. For example, a PDF-based management report could include an
Analysis by Region that
allows readers to explore measures of performance for various locations.
...Email, where a
Daily Executive Report could allow selected managers to explore
month-to-date performance for the data that most interests them.
Excel as a Business-Intelligence Tool
I recently read an excellent white paper, "Keeping IT Sane In a Crazy BI
World Of Excel," by Keith Gile, Principal Analyst of
Forrester Research. But he stated, without
explanation, that "Excel is not a BI tool."
Intrigued, I found this definition for Business Intelligence at Informatica.com: "Business intelligence (BI) is a category of applications and technologies for
gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help
enterprise users make better business decisions. BI applications include
decision support systems, query and reporting, online analytical processing,
statistical analysis, forecasting, and data mining."
I've helped companies do all those things with Excel. I even did many of
those things with VisiCalc. So why, I asked the author, does Excel fail to qualify as a BI tool?
"I agree that Excel is being used as a BI tool," he wrote, "but that
doesn’t make it a BI tool. Much in the way a rock can be used to strike a nail,
but the rock should not be confused with a hammer."
He said that Excel is not a BI tool for a number of reasons, particularly:
- Lack of a central metadata repository for storing data and application
- Lack of a server component for integrating the file storage, with the
security and access rights available to users.
- Inability to natively access data stores such as DB2, Oracle 9i/10g,
I agree that his first two points are important. This is why I'm such a fan of
Excel-friendly OLAP, which
solves both problems. I disagree about his third point,
however. Dashboards can use data from any source, internal, external, or
invented (as in budgets and forecasts). No BI system can provide native
access to them all. Such access, therefore, seems to be merely a matter of
convenience and marketing hype; it's not an intrinsic characteristic of BI.
But that set me to wondering how Excel users actually are using Excel as a BI
tool. So I thought I'd ask. What do you like most and least about using
Excel for BI? Can you recommend software that makes Excel a better BI tool? What
change to Excel would make it a much better BI tool?
I hope you'll send me your thoughts about this topic. If you do, I won't quote
you by name or company unless I have your permission. To respond,
use this link.
By the way, Forrester charges $249 for this 17-page white paper. I'm trying
to arrange a way to offer it for free from ExcelUser.com.
If I succeed, I'll let you know.
New At ExcelUser
To be honest, I haven't updated ExcelUser very much in recent weeks. But the
dry spell is over.
Last week, I posted an article titled, "Three
Ways to Reduce Errors In Spreadsheet SUM Formulas." The article was inspired
by a well-publicized incident during the days that I wrote for LOTUS magazine. Because a
contractor had made an error with a SUM formula in 1-2-3, he understated his
costs, won the contract, lost his shirt, and sued Lotus.
This Monday, I posted "Predict Business Bankruptcy
Using Z Scores with Excel." From an Excel point of view, the article is
very simple, almost simplistic. But Z Scores -- and Z1 and Z2 Scores, which I also discuss --
can help you to estimate the financial health of a firm from a unique point of
In a few weeks I'll post a guest article that introduces MS Query. "About
95% of the time, after I had done a Crystal Report," the author writes, "the
person I had done it for would say, 'Can I please have that in Excel? I want to
be able to analyze the figures some more.'” Now, the author uses MS Query to
pull data from Oracle directly into Excel. In the article, however, he
illustrates MS Query techniques by pulling data from other Excel workbooks and from text files.
Soon, I plan to post my first VBA article for ExcelUser. It's inspired by the
horrible examples of VBA code that I've seen at many companies. Most of the bad
examples, but not all of them, were written by
Excel users. My working title is, "Corporate VBA Standards For Excel Users."
The article will discuss documentation and other techniques that can help
Excel users write code that other Excel users can understand.
And some time soon I'll post another article about dashboards. I'll show how
to set up very unusual traffic lights in an Excel dashboard. Rather than merely
using a red, yellow, or green arrow as a traffic light, I'll show how to display
a tiny but readable chart. Using this approach will help you to avoid a problem
that gauges also have, as I described in "Down
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