This Financial Dashboard Template is an excellent ready-to-use Excel tool for finance professionals who would like to create a clean and efficient dashboard to summarize key financial metrics and results. A good financial analyst needs to be a master of dashboard creation in Excel. It’s not always a skill that comes naturally to people, and practice combined with good training is the key to success. In this free guide, we’ve outlined the most important tips and tricks for creating a dashboard in Excel. Whether you are a beginner or advanced, you will find some important takeaways in this tutorial. You can download this Financial Dashboard Template and follow along to try building your own version. In order to create an effective Excel dashboard, we recommend the following steps:
Step 1: Organize Your DataBefore you begin your dashboard creation in Excel it’s critical to have your data well organized. We always encourage analysts to use Excel modeling best practices, whether building financial models or preparing to design a dashboard. The most important part is to have all the information you plan on graphing in one area. It can very hard to link the graphs if data is spread out throughout the spreadsheet. In the image beside you can see an example of how to neatly organize your data from the financial model to be ready for the Excel dashboard.
Step 2: Setup Your PageOnce your data is organized it’s time to setup the page. The orientation can be landscape or portrait, and the size will depend on the output you’re trying to create. The most common is to make it an 8.5” by 11” page so it can easily print to paper or PDF in a standard size. Typically, dashboards are only 1 page, but you can easily create a multi-page dashboard as well. To learn how to do this, see our free Excel Crash Course. Important things to consider when setting up your page include: will the dashboard be emailed or printed; will it go to executives or lay people, is it for internal use or external use; should the information be mostly visual, or contain numbers and words as well. For the purposes of this financial dashboard template, we are using a 1-page 8.5 x 11 portrait page setup.
Step 3 :BrainstormIt’s nearly impossible to design a dashboard right on the first try. You need to brainstorm, experiment and tinker to finally come up with a great design. This step usually takes several iterations, and you may even find yourself continually changing and updating your Excel dashboard based on the feedback you receive over time.
Step 4: Select VisualsThere are lots of visual options when it comes to designing a dashboard. In our course on dashboard creation in Excel we go through all the various types of charts and graphs you can design in Excel, following our simple step by step approach. Here are some of the most common visuals to use:
- Gauge Charts
- Combined Column and Line Chart
Step 5: Focus AttentionOnce the charts are in place it’s very important to focus attention by adding attributes to the graphs. These attributes include arrows, comments, lines, boxes or anything that pops out from the screen and grabs your attention. This is one of the most important and yet most frequently overlooked steps in designing a great dashboard.
Step 6: Tell a StoryThe last step is to review your final product and make sure it tells a compelling story. Is it painting the picture you want it to? This is when you step back and take a bird’s-eye view of your data, the key messages, and compare that to the original purpose of the dashboard. If it’s not telling the story you want to tell, consider redesigning it, changing the data, or doing whatever is necessary to get your point across.
Learn More About DashboardsEnroll in CFI's Dashboards & Data Visualization Course to learn ow to build a custom Excel dashboard and use the best data visualization techniques!