Look at this picture carefully because there’s more here than what meets the eye. This is a dashboard view of a car that could have been sold fifty years ago, but in many ways, cars still provide dashboards that may not look similar–but still do provide the information that a driver needs. You can see the speed, can find out how much fuel is left, and also know how many miles or kilometers the car has driven.
And in many ways, PowerPoint can help you create dashboards outside the realm of your car, that can provide you with continuously-updated information–valuable information that can change the way you work, and take decisions.
Before we proceed further, do understand that this article is not a step-by-step tutorial for you to make sure that PowerPoint gets comfortable with dynamic data. Rather, this article will take you into the realm of possibilities. Imagine creating a digital dashboard in PowerPoint that gets data from various sources. And then imagine seeing it all on one slide that gets dynamically updated, as you read the rest of this article!
Shouldn’t every CEO have such a dynamic PowerPoint slide displaying on a large screen on the wall of their office? He or she could just look up at the data changing without having to open multiple emails, call other people, or even log into many online services? And everything could be driven by automation.
On second thoughts, why restrict this benefit to just the CEO? Why not go ahead and place such dashboards at multiple places in your office–or a home office? But let’s face reality: some information is only intended for the CEO.
CEO or no CEO, did you miss an important detail? Where did the emails, calls, or online services step in from? If you read the first post of this series, we only spoke about Excel integration! So please accept my apologies for getting so enthusiastic. When I mentioned Excel, that was just to share a small example. Excel integration with PowerPoint is just the beginning. If you can imagine something on your PowerPoint dashboard, there certainly is a solution out there created by some developer, some data-geek, or even an add-in vendor. Yet, a large majority of PowerPoint users have no clue that this is doable.
But why use PowerPoint for these dashboards? Glenna Shaw provides the perfect answer.
I prefer PowerPoint for dashboards because I have complete flexibility in the design of the dashboard. Whether I need to apply corporate branding, and/or want the dashboard to be more attractive and therefore more engaging, PowerPoint allows my dashboards to have style without sacrificing substance. Because let’s face it, if your dashboard doesn’t look good, no one will use it.
Glenna Shaw, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, United States
One of the data-geeks, who creates PowerPoint add-ins that make creating such dashboards easy is Kurt Dupont from PresentationPoint.
Want to avoid that you present your company with the sales figures of 1999? You then need to look at dynamic presentations in PowerPoint so that your data is continuously updated. Even better, create PowerPoint-based dashboards of all important data that you want to see at a glance.
Kurt Dupont, PresentationPoint, Belgium
So now, in the rest of this post, let us make a list of everything that you can possibly add within a PowerPoint dashboard. Here are some ideas:
1. Charts from Excel
This is the first idea that everyone comes up with, and although this is simple and easy to achieve, the results can be amazing and informative. Also, remember that Excel uses the same branding options via Office Themes that PowerPoint does–and this fact can result is some cool, coordinated dashboards!
2. Social Content
With social content now available to anyone via an API, it’s easy to show how many followers you gained on Twitter, or how your Facebook posts are faring. You can also set up a rotating-slides dashboard with tweets from your company’s social handle, which is already explained in our Displaying Tweets in PowerPoint Using DataPoint post.
3. Big Data
So what is big data? Here’s a quote that might help:
From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes every two days…
and the pace is accelerating.
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google from 2001 to 2015
Picture Source: Wikimedia Commons
This is a famous quote from Eric Schmidt, and media houses love to use this quote since it provides a comparison that makes it easier for you to understand the magnitude. There are some critics too, but even they agree that the numbers could be larger and not smaller! Read Eric Schmidt’s “5 Exabytes” Quote is a Load of Crap by Robert J. Moore if you are curious.
What doesn’t change though is that presenting trends emanating from Big Data in PowerPoint dashboards is a killer application. There are people whose businesses runs solely around this objective. Many times, you can use PowerBI to create visualizations of Big Data that can be presented using PowerPoint. Microsoft provides some help in the Export reports from Power BI to PowerPoint page on their site.
Pictures can be a great addition to your PowerPoint dashboards, especially if they can change at frequent intervals. You can easily rotate a bunch of pictures from a folder, or even from an online source such as Flickr. These options may help designers and photographers get their daily inspiration on a dashboard. Other people may want to see photographs of under-construction sites, new employees, new or upcoming products, and more.
It’s very debatable why you would want to have emails displaying on a dashboard, but there have been people who want this feature. One scenario could be that the CEO wants a personal email addressed to the entire company shown on multiple dashboards placed in one or more locations. Another reason is that a specific inbox is created for this very purpose, and all emails sent to this inbox are displayed–this could work well for a support department where it can be helpful to know how customers are responding to support requests.
This is more easier to understand than email! You may want to take an RSS feed of news from a vertical industry site, and set it to show on a dashboard so that you are aware of important events, as they happen. Or you may be part of a news organization that wants news snippets from various sources shown on a dashboard that rotates frequently.
You can show textual and visual messages, or even create pictures with inspirational quotes, and set them to show on a dashboard. While such dashboards will work anywhere, they are often used in educational and religious organizations.
Alerts are a broad category that could encompass stock market quotes, forex trading rates, commodity prices, and more.
Many businesses are based on weather, or even weather-driven–and it’s great for them to have a dashboard that shows weather conditions and forecasts in locations that matter to them.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg, and we looked at larger-picture scenarios that cover the main reasons to create and display PowerPoint-based dashboard systems. But there must be many other scenarios that we have not explored, and there must be many scenarios that people haven’t even conceptualized yet. Clearly, so much is expected to happen in the dashboard industry. If you want to share some thoughts, please leave a comment.
On the other hand, do you want to brainstorm your own brain for ideas? And what if you almost know what you need on your dashboard, but are wondering if the result is worth the effort? Either way, here’s some advice.
Your dashboard is effective if your target audience can use your PowerPoint dashboard to get critical insights at a glance. Great dashboards are tailored to a specific audience to track information, improve education and/or to help make more informed decisions… quickly.
Mike Parkinson, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, United States
I wish to thank Glenna Shaw, Kurt Dupont, and Mike Parkinson for their help in creating this post.