Saturday, September 30, 2006

Excel Sparkcharts

Charley Kyd from does some pretty amazing stuff with charts and dashboard reporting.

Charley writes books and newsletters and these are great resources.

Here is an excerpt fropm his latest newsletter about Sparkcharts

I've just posted an article about a new Excel add-in that every business user of Excel should take a close look at. It's an amazing product, and I want to tell you more about it here.

The product is SparkMaker Basic. It provides a selection of Excel spreadsheet functions that return sparkcharts rather than numbers.

So what's a sparkchart, and why are the functions so amazing?

The answer begins with Edward Tufte. He's Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science at Yale University. He's spent much of his professional life finding and explaining ways to present data more clearly.

Several years ago, Tufte invented the idea of 'sparklines', which are word-sized line charts. Then, less than two years ago, Bissantz introduced SparkMaker Pro for Microsoft Office. This product included many features and priced it at $200.

Last week, the company introduced the $60 SparkMaker Basic, which includes only Excel functions. From an Excel user's point of view, SparkMaker Basic has the best of Pro's features, for one-third of the price.

Because Bissantz includes a variety of chart types in addition to lines, their product generates sparkcharts, not merely sparklines.

For many people in business, however, a sparkchart is an idea that makes no sense at all. Many people in business create charts that fill a computer screen, or a printed page. What possible use is a chart about the size of one of the words in this sentence?

When you think about it, however, you probably could use word-sized charts in most of your Excel reports:

In addition to showing Month and YTD results, you could include tiny charts that show how each line item has trended over the past year.

When you have any data in rows or columns, you could use sparkcharts to quickly display patterns in those numbers.

You could show the relative measures of performance for each item in a table in a report.

You could set up a traffic light or an exception indicator that helps to explain why the exception has appeared.

Considering the little amount of spreadsheet real estate they take up, the little effort they require to learn and use, and their low cost, sparkcharts offer an impressive return on investment.

Right now, the primary product is the Excel dashboard book. But he has several more books in the works. You can learn more about the dashboard book on his site.