Create a Dashboard: the Manual

Check: Is my data set suitable for a Dashboard?

(If you don’t know what "Dashboard" means in this context, please read carefully the text at http://esl.jrc.it/envind/dashbrds.htm, download the Dashboard by clicking into the blinking icon and play at least one hour with the software).

Creating a Dashboard from your own data set is fairly easy. Your starting point may be a spreadsheet that is organised as follows:

Nature Economy
Emissions of
harmless stuff
Emissions of
toxic stuff
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Inflation rate
Austria

123

456

123000

2%

Belgium

234

567

234000

3%

Zambia

456

82%

45600

2%

If your data set can be organised like this, it is a Dashboard candidate!

Your indicator columns may look totally different, and instead of countries you may have cities, regions, companies or development projects in the rows – the important thing is that you have a reasonable number of "indicators", and "countries" that can be compared to each other.

Here is an example for school teachers:

Natural Sciences Social Sciences
Mathematics Physics Chemistry History French
Alan

10

5

7

12

1

Barbara

5

7

8

13

5

Chris

4

12

2

5

1

Adding the essentials

Your basic indicator set needs some more columns and rows, so that the Dashboard software can interpret it better. Perhaps it is a good idea to use a template: After installation of the software, do the following:

Step 1:   Close the Dashboard, then restart it from your Windows Start menu (if you don't find a colourful icon there, or under 'All Programs', create a shortcut from c:\db_circs\db_circs.exe and put it into your Start menu)

Step 2:   press F4

Step 3:   when you see the message box asking "Create your own Dashboard" etc., click "Yes"

Step 4:   once Excel is opening, Micro$oft will probably warn you of utterly dangerous macros; nonetheless, you MUST enable them if you want to play with the Dashboard ;-)

Step 5:   Before continuing, save the spreadsheet e.g. as C:\db_circs\data_src\TestDash.xls.

OK, having done that, you will see in Excel a table similar to this one:

PARAS: Name=<Nature & Economy>, Codes=<NE>
MAIN_THEME Nature Economy
IND_NAME Emissions of harmless stuff Emissions of toxic stuff GDP growth Inflation
GB_RULE min min Max min
IND_NO N N E E
IND_UNIT

Tonnes/capita

Kg/capita

%/year

%/year

Austria

123

456

123000

2%

Belgium

234

567

234000

3%

Zambia

456

82%

45600

2%

Create my first Dashboard

What's wrong if Excel tells me "Book 1 has 5 columns and 9 rows (that does NOT look so good)"?
The Excel macro selects the current area and then counts the number of rows and columns for the selected area. If by accident you left an empty row or column somewhere, and clicked into it, it warns you that you may not have selected the right cells.

What do all these funny parameters in UPPERCASE mean?

PARAS: Name=<My own Dashboard ( myself)>, Codes=<NES> See below – here some key parameters are being defined
MAIN_THEME (main cluster names, e.g. Nature, Economy, Society)
IND_NO Everything in this ROW that starts with a valid ind_no code will be interpreted as a valid indicator
IND_SOURCE Where you got the data from, e.g. Eurostat
GB_RULE good/bad rule: min=less is better, any other value means: MAX, i.e. more is better. Fans of targets may use pseudo countries like !Maxi, !Mini, ~Opti
SHORT_NAME The indicator name that will be displayed when there is little space (i.e. in the 3-dial view); if not specified, the full names will be used. Avoid UPPERCASE letters, it looks ugly.
IND_NAME The full name of the indicator
IND_UNIT Dollars, tonnes, …

The most complicated of these parameters is PARAS (check also the help bubble in Excel):

Name=<whatever you like to see in the Windows caption of your Dashboard>

Codes=<NES> (e.g. Nature, Economy, Social – this defines the number of your main clusters, and corresponds to the first letter in the IND_NO codes; note that the IND_NO codes are case-sensitive – thus you can temporarily comment out columns)

Desc=<Descriptive title> (e.g. Core health indicators in the state of Absurdistan)

DefSrc=<Default data Source> (put your name here, if you invented all the data yourself; otherwise, use the optional IND_SOURCE row)

DefLnk=<Default Link to the Internet> (when you right-click into the blue globe of the Dashboard, and then click on Data sources, your browser will open and go to this link; override this URL for specific indicators with an optional IND_LINK row)

DefUnit=<tonnes per hectare> (if nothing is specified in the IND_UNIT row, the default unit will be used; if no DefUnit is specified, % will be used)

(note that the keys are case-sensitive, i.e. DefSrc, not Defsrc, and that values must be enclosed in <brackets> - the software looks for Codes=<xxx>, so don’t put spaces after =)

Last update August 2007. If you have any problems, do not hesitate to . I am always curious to see how people use the Dashboard. On my wishlist is a crispy example at companies, universities or projects level.