Virginia DOT Dashboard Going Strong

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Dashboard | Tuesday 6 March 2012 8:17 pm

This transportation dashboard is just about 10 years old. It has had incredible impact on the agency and shows what quality dashboards can accomplish.

Now in its third major version, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) dashboard continues to provide clarity and value to its user base. First profiled by the Dashboard Spy, this transportation dashboard is a MUST SEE dashboard example for all dashboard design teams. Here’s a dashboard screenshot. Link to the live example will follow.

Go here to try out this amazing business intelligence dashboard example:

VDOT Transportation Dashboard

Here is some background:

The VDOT Transportation Dashboard received first place in the 2006 CodeCharge Studio Developer awards and the Center for Digital
Government’s 2005 Best of the Web award. CXI’s QMAC (Quality Assurance, Management and Compliance) development team received the 2005 Commissioner’s Award for Excellence for innovation and quality improvement. The success of the Dashboard was written about in multiple state and national publications including “Red Light, Green Light,” an article in the June 2003 issue of Government Technology magazine.

The primary goal of the original Project Dashboard was to get VDOT construction projects on time and budget and to hold the agency accountable for its performance. The system color codes projects like a traffic signal; green, yellow or red, according to the current status. Green means that the project is on time and within budget.

Yellow means that the project is at risk or slightly off track. Red means the project is behind schedule, over budget or has too many work orders. This visual method of displaying the status is simple for the general public and provides VDOT employees with a broad, cumulative view of VDOT’s performance.

Before the Dashboard, VDOT used two mainframe systems to track projects. One system tracked projects before advertisement. The other tracked monthly payments to contractors. VDOT employees had to manually calculate project totals by collecting information from both systems. The process was time consuming and VDOT
desperately needed a better management and reporting tool.

The original Dashboard launched internally in August 2002 and to the public in March 2003. While the main reason for the system is to give VDOT employees a
way to keep track of project progress, the benefits of releasing the Dashboard to the public are huge. Citizens can email the VDOT engineer responsible for the
project and immediately receive an automated reply with a tracking number. A personal response follows later. There is also a FAQ (frequently asked
questions) section for users to learn more. VDOT’s Public Dashboard received 82,348 hits (314,280 page views) in 2004, so citizens are taking notice. Overall,
citizens feel better informed about VDOT’s operations as a whole and also the status of particular projects that impact their daily lives.

The number of VDOT’s projects finishing within budget rose to 68% for the first half of fiscal year 2005, from just 22% four years ago. Internally, Dashboards have transformed VDOT’s project management. The number of projects finishing within budget has risen to 68% (in the first half of fiscal year 2005) from just 22% four years ago. “Many projects have fallen from about 200 percent over their original estimated time frames to about 30 percent over their time
frames” Commissioner Shucet stated in the Daily Press. For fiscal year 2006, 84% of projects were on-time and 86% were on budget.

The Dashboard is VDOT’s web-based performance reporting system. VDOT employees and Virginia citizens can access the Dashboard at Version 2 was launched in July 2005 and expanded the original Project Dashboard to cover all of VDOT’s operations including construction, maintenance, engineering, finance, safety, operations and environment. Users can customize reports to see statewide statistics or learn about specific projects. A data warehouse stores the information that the Dashboard displays. The data comes from various VDOT applications like the financial, construction management and utilities management systems. It can be sorted by region or a project’s size and is updated daily.


Sales Funnel Chart in Excel

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Dashboard | Tuesday 6 March 2012 7:57 pm

Here is an excellent Microsoft Excel based chart that shows sales metrics related to pipeline activity. Those of you working on business intelligence projects supporting sales teams should note the steps of the sales pipeline: Pre-Approach, Initial Communication, First Interview, Analysis, Development, Negotiation, Commitment and Follow-up. Different organizations will, of course, have different phases and nomenclature.

Here is the chart:

This example comes from the Excel Dashboarding Ace, Chandoo.

Chandoo is the head master of Excel School. They have a course on Excel for Dashboarding.

More info:


Excel School

Check it out at this link:

Here’s what Chandoo had to say in his announcement.

Excel School an online Excel & Dashboards training program. It is designed to make you awesome by teaching formulas, charting, formatting, data analysis & dashboards.

If you use Excel everyday and find my site useful & helpful, then this is a perfect program for you.

I have trained more than 700 students in this program so far and many of them have benefited tremendously. I am hoping you too will benefit from Excel School.


And, here’s what Chandoo recently emailed me about this sales funnel chart:


How to use this Sales Funnel Chart?

Using this funnel chart is child’s play when you compare with creating actual funnel of $ 1.371 Bn.

Just download the sales funnel chart template. Go to Data sheet and plug in the numbers. And your funnel is ready.

How is this Funnel Chart setup?

There are 2 components to this funnel.

The blank funnel:

This is nothing but a drawing of funnel made with several cylinders. You can create such a funnel by using drawing tools in Insert ribbon.

Blank Funnel Chart - Excel

The Numbers:

All the numbers (and text) you see in the chart is made using a bunch of text boxes. Each text box refers to one value in Data sheet. Once all the text boxes are added, we just adjust their formatting and our funnel chart is ready.

The numbers & formulas for Sales Funnel

Download this Sales Funnel Chart

Click here to download the Excel workbook. The file contains 4 different funnel formats. Just plug in your funnel numbers to go.

Thanks to Shay

Many thanks to Shay for creating this and sharing with us all. If you liked this funnel chart, please say thanks to Shay.

Do you use Funnel Charts?

Back when I was working with an IT services company, sales funnel is a key part of our monthly scorecard. We would use the funnel get a view of our sales process, how it has fared compared to last month, year and whether we are in a good shape to reach our annual goals.

Star Trek Medical Dashboard

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Dashboard | Tuesday 6 March 2012 7:36 pm

Robert Allison, a real pro with SAS/GRAPH and development tester for SAS Institute, has been a long time Dashboard Spy reader with many submissions of dashboard examples. None are cooler than his recent contribution, however.

Check out this Star Trek Medical Dashboard:

Now, isn’t that cool? Check out the live version here:

I LOVE how the pulse rate “beats”.

Here is Robert’s explanation of the dashboard:


This SAS/Graph version shows that SAS can actually “DO” things that were considered “science fiction” in the past. This is a SAS/Graph version of the sick bay Medical Dashboard from the old/original Star Trek TV series.

Here are a few pictures of the original:

star trek medical scan

The original TV dashboard was actually a pretty good & well thought out design!

I tried to stick with the original design for the most part, but there were a few things that I thought were a natural ‘fit’ for a computerized version
(that they would have probably done originally, if they were able) … such as changing the color of the arrow/pointer to denote which color range the data
value was in, and also printing the numeric value beside of the pointer.

The SAS/Graph version is actually data-driven, and it could hypothetically be set up as a stored process, and made to refresh itself every second or so, and read the latest/greatest data each time it is refreshed.

One ‘trick’ I used (which might be cheating a little) is that since ods html does not support gifanim (yet), and I had to create my own html page, I didn’t get hotspots for my chart tips and drilldowns. So I ran it once with dev=png and saved the html as startrek_med_dashboard_tips.htm, and then hand-edited the html img tag to point to the gif file from my gifanim run.

But this gives my gifanim html mouse-over & drilldown capability, which I thought was a nice touch.


Thanks, Robert.

For those interested, here’s a link to the SAS code for this Star Trek medical bay scanner dashboard example.

Here’s some info on Robert. He’s got a book out! (more on this soon)

Update: His book is available here:


Robert Allison author photo Robert Allison is a development tester for SAS Institute Inc., where he uses SAS products on real-world data and reports problems and feature requests to research and development. A SAS employee and SAS user since the early 1990s, he specializes in SAS/GRAPH and Base SAS (SQL, data steps, merging, transposing, and so on) to prepare the data to be graphed. Robert received his Ph.D. from North Carolina State University and has written and coauthored several papers for SAS Users Group International (SUGI), Regional Conferences, and SAS Global Forum.

Powerpoint Mockup Tool for Dashboards

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Dashboard Design | Tuesday 6 March 2012 2:12 pm

Dashboard mockups are either done in a low-fidelity “wireframe” style using a tool like Microsoft Visio or Balsamiq or in a high fidelity style using Photoshop. The lo-fi version is often done by a business intelligence dashboard project’s business analyst as part of gathering requirements. The hi-fi (sounds like the 70s right? does anyone other than me still have their hi-fi record player? lol) version is done by a graphic designer. As many people know, Photoshop is not exactly easy to pick up.

A mockup tool that has been growing in popularity is my Microsoft Powerpoint template. It’s a high-fidelity mockup tool especially for dashboard design. However, it’s rendered in Powerpoint and anybody can use it.

Take a look at the design:

dashboard powerpoint template

You can download it here:

Powerpoint Template for Dashboard Mockups (that’s a direct ppt file download).

To get more tools and templates like this, sign up for my free business intelligence newsletter at You’ll find a brilliant assortment of tools and examples of business intelligence dashboards.

Introduction to Enterprise Dashboards

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Enterprise Dashboards | Tuesday 6 March 2012 1:41 pm

Watch this video for a primer on Enterprise Dashboards from a leading authority on the subject. Shadan Malik of iDashboards is the author of the book, Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices for IT.

Here is a snippet from the Enterprise Dashboards book:

From Shadan Malik:

The term dashboard has acquired an exciting new meaning for those in information technology management as top organizations throughout the world e embrace the idea of empowerment through improved real-time information systems. What does a “dashboard” mean in the business sense? A dashboard is a rich computer interface with charts, reports, visual indicators, and alert mechanisms that are consolidated into a dynamic and relevant information platform.

Information management is a field in our new information-saturated and fast-moving business culture. Corporate America is currently abuzz with talk about enterprise performance management, balanced scorecards, busi- ness activity monitoring, and regulatory compliance. The most exciting new development in these discussions is arguably how enterprise dashboards can serve as live consoles to manage such business initiatives. Currently, some good books and journal papers outline the concepts and value behind various new information management initiatives, but few resources are available that fully explore the issue of dashboard implementation. The only available insight into the world of dashboards at this time is confined to the manuals of the software, which facilitate dashboard implementation or spe- cialize in specific solutions with a dashboard interface. As of the writing of this book, I have found no book on the subject of enterprise dashboards. This book will shed light on the neglected subject of dashboard implementation, one that I have had the opportunity to explore, practice, and preach over the past few years.

5 Use Cases for Quantitative Data Display

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Dashboard | Tuesday 6 March 2012 1:25 pm

Dashboard Spy readers know that whenever Stephen Few, a leading expert in information visualization and dashboard data design, publishes his “Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter”, I’m right there waiting to soak in his precious gems of knowledge. His recent issue presents the 5 purposes for which we display quantitative information.

First, let me tell you where to download his latest issue, then I’ll tell you what he said.

Type of Quantitative Display (This is a direct pdf download.)

Few starts with his purpose – “to describe these types & provide basic guidelines for their effective design”.

We present quantitative information for various purposes. Each purpose requires that we design displays in particular ways to achieve relevant outcomes. What are these purposes? If we exclude quantitative displays that are used for mathematical purposes (e.g., a mathematical proof), we can identify five fairly distinct but at times interrelated purposes for which we display quantitative information:

  1. Lookup
  2. Narrative
  3. Monitoring
  4. Exploratory Data Analysis
  5. Prediction 

You should read the article for yourself (as well as subscribe to get future issues), but here is a quick snippet of explanation of each type of quantitative display:


Narrative displays are used to inform, explain, or persuade. Narrative (story) is an explanation. It answers questions: “How did we get to this state?” “What caused this to happen?” Its primary goal is communication, resulting in understanding and informed action.

Exploratory Data Analysis:

Exploratory data analysis (EDA) displays support the following two purposes:

  • Data exploration to find facts of potential interest in a set of data
  • Data sensemaking (a.k.a., data analysis or descriptive statistics) to determine what the facts mean.

Understanding the business situation is the immediate goal of these activities.


Monitoring displays support the following purposes: 1) Maintaining ongoing awareness of what’s going on and how well things are doing, and 2) reporting situations that require prompt action, either to correct a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. As such, displays of this type may prompt and support decisions.


Lookup displays, often called operational or production reports, are used to look up facts that are needed to do one’s work. As such, the information is usually presented in tables (i.e., arranged into columns and rows). As such, they communicate primarily through verbal channels (words and numbers that must be read) rather than visually (graphics).


Displays of this type are used for predictive analysis (a.k.a., predictive statistics or “what if” analysis) to anticipate what might happen in the future given specific conditions, based on an understanding of what has happened in the past.

Common Digital Dashboard Layouts

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Dashboard Design | Wednesday 5 November 2008 1:08 pm

While business dashboards can adopt many distinct designs in terms of look and feel, there are a core number of basic layouts that they tend to follow. I suppose this comes from grid-based design in general and the prevalence of the template approaches in popular presentation layer technologies such as tiles and struts.

When designing custom layouts for dashboard applications built in-house or creating a custom layout in an off-the-shelf dashboarding software product, I tend to follow the 3 or 4 column approach with portlets of various sizes spanning the different columns as needed. Can’t picture what I mean?

Take a look at this dashboard layout picker from a dashboard software package (iDashboards 5.0).

idashboards dashboard layout

What is your most commonly used layout? Do you mostly arrange portlets containing charts and graphs of various metrics and KPIs? If so, maybe you choose the 3×3 layout for 9 charts. More likely, you mix up wider portlets for text content.

It would be interesting to find out how these various digital dashboard layouts are ranked in terms of usage.

Click on the “read more” link below to see how the iDashboards software product handles the dashboard layout selection process. Screenshots of the dashboards can be found below.


Xcelsius TCO Dashboard

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Xcelsius Dashboards | Tuesday 21 October 2008 10:46 am

Dashboard Example: Xcelsius TCO Dashboard

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a popular financial estimate used to assess costs (both direct and indirect costs). Typically, TCO analyzes the financial impact of deploying information technology (to take an example) over the entire life cycle. Depending on the IT deployment, factors such as the following are accounted for:

  • End-user computer Hardware purchase costs
  • Software license purchase costs
  • Hardware and Software Implementation / deployment costs
  • Hardware warranties and maintenance costs
  • Software license tracking costs
  • Operations Infrastructure Costs
  • Infrastructure (floor space) costs
  • Cost for electricity and cooling
  • Network hardware and software costs
  • Server hardware and software costs
  • Testing costs
  • Cost to upgrade or scalability
  • IT Personnel costs
  • “C” Level Management Time costs
  • Backup and Recovery Process costs
  • Costs associated with failure or outage
  • Diminished performance incidents (i.e. users having to wait)
  • Costs of security breaches (in loss of reputation and recovery costs)
  • Technology training costs of users and IT staff.
  • Audit costs
  • Insurance costs
  • Replacement costs
  • Migration costs
  • Decommissioning costs

The following example of an Xcelsius TCO dashboard is from, a blog dedicated to Xcelsius Dashboards.

The following is just a static screenshot. You can click on the dashboard thumbnail to enlarge the image, but visit the dashboard itself to try out all the interactive elements. There are plenty of controls that you can use to model total cost of ownership.

Xcelsius TCO Dashboard Calculates Total Cost of Ownership

Xcelsius TCO Dashboard Calculates Total Cost of Ownership

Tags: Business Objects Xcelsius Dashboard, TCO dashboards, dashboard example

Reference: Have you seen this new book on Business Objects Xcelsius 2008?

Crystal Xcelsius For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))

Excel Dashboard Tutorials

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Excel Dashboards | Wednesday 15 October 2008 8:49 pm

Excel Dashboard Update:

All excel users are encouraged to watch the new Excel Dashboard Tutorial.  It’s a 65 minute lesson on how to design and construct an excel dashboard.

Excel for dashboards? Yes, Microsoft Excel is an excellent starting point for business intelligence visualization. It’s everywhere in the enterprise and is a good way to start an organization down the dashboard path.

Chandoo, the Pointy Haired Dilbert, consistently offers amazing Excel Dashboarding Tips over at his blog at He has a set of 4 great excel dashboard tutorials contributed by one of his faithful readers, Robert from Munich. These excel dashboard lessons are great and come with downloadable excel dashboard worksheets.

Take a look at these screenshots and visit Chandoo for the corresponding lessons.

Post 1 – Implementing a Scrolling Excel Dashboard Table

Create a scrolling dashboard portlet in excel

Post 2 – Add Sorting to the Excel Dashboard

Sort an Excel Dashboard Table

Post 3 – Add Percentile Information to the Excel Dashboard

Excel Dashboards with Quartiles

Post 4 – Excel Dashboards for Data Visualization

Dashboards in Excel with Microcharts for Data Visualization

Very nice job Robert and Chandoo. Thanks!

The Dashboard Spy

Edward Tufte on the iPhone Interface

Posted by Dashboard Spy | Data Visualization | Monday 13 October 2008 10:10 am

The iPhone interface offers advances in information resolution. It “elegantly solves the design problem of small screens by greatly intensifying the information resolution of each displayed page. Small screens, as on traditional cell phones, show very little information per screen, which in turn leads to deep hierarchies of stacked-up thin information – too often leaving users with “Where am I?” puzzles.”

Edward Tufte walks us through how the iPhone accomplishes this in his post and video published earlier this year titled “iPhone Interface Design”.

His basic message is that the Apple iPhone has great value as an interface because of the higher information resolution available to the end user. Computer information debris reduces information visualization resolution and steals content space away from the user. Edward Tufte lauds Apple’s approach of having the controls go away leaving the user to control the information right off the page by tapping and swiping.

When you visit the page, you’ll find that a large video will load. It’s worth the wait. Here are some screen captures from the video.

This screenshot shows an image on Edward Tufte’s iPhone gallery. It is an image with sparklines. Click on the image to enlarge it for more detail.

Edward Tufte shows an image of sparkline charts on his iPhone

Edward Tufte shows an image of sparkline charts on his iPhone

In this screen capture, you can see Edward Tufte’s finger as he swipes the screen to move the image.

Edward Tufte moves the iphone image of sparklines

Edward Tufte moves the iphone image of sparklines

Here is the stock market page from the iPhone. Note the level of the Dow Jones!

Stock Market Page on the Apple iPhone

Stock Market Page on the Apple iPhone

Here is an updated screenshot from the Dashboard Spy’s iPhone:

Screenshot from The Dashboard Spy's iPhone

Screenshot from The Dashboard Spy's iPhone

Don’t be fooled by all the green. Stocks are bouncing off their lows from the other day when the Dow Jones went below 8000!

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