Xcelsius Present Dashboards Bashed

The battle regarding the value of business dashboard glitz continues with the introduction of the latest BusinessObjects Xcelsius 2008 offering. It’s now easier than ever to create business dashboards with slick visual interfaces complete with shiny reflections and flash interaction.

Is this business charting bling a good thing or a bad thing? It depends on who you ask. Business users and executive sponsors typically love the professional look and wow factor. Data visualization experts tend to shake their heads and cry.

The new Xcelsius Present visualization toolset has received a “few” knocks recently (pun intended – as its detractors include infoviz expert Stephen Few).

Presented as a point and click data visualization tool for creating “stunning and meaningful visualizations”, there is no doubt that Xcelsius can easily produce eye candy crack for us graph junkies. “Stunning” is not in contention. “Meaningful”, however, is what the debate is going on about. Worse yet, as Excel guru and dashboard curmudgeon (just kidding!) Jon Peltier of PTS Blog shows in this pie chart example, the reflections in the slick graphics can interfere with data comprehension.

review xcelsius present 2008 pie chart

Click on the “more” link for the rest of this post about the new Xcelsius dashboard product:

Now on to the main bashing of Xcelsius by Stephen Few in his post “Xcelsius Present – Fast Track to Nowhere“.

The following words are strong and will offend Xcelsius lovers, so hide your eyes if you are a diehard Xcelsius dashboarder:

stephen few review of business objects xcelsius present 2008

Ouch! That’s got to hurt!

Will someone stand up for Xcelsius Present? I know that many successful dashboard projects have been powered by Xcelsius, so let’s have a look at some. Feel free to submit good examples of dashboards and data visualization using Xcelsius Present.

Here is the sales dashboard examined by Steve.

xcelsius dashboard template - unemployment data visualization

Tags: Dashboard Eye Candy, Xcelsius gauges, dashboard design, Xcelsius Present 2008 Dashboard

Related Posts:

Dashboard Eye Candy (read the comments!)

Uber Art of Dashboards (again – check the comments for interesting arguments for visual design in BI dashboards.)

5 thoughts on “Xcelsius Present Dashboards Bashed

  1. I’m not a big fan of the “glossy” pie charts, but Peltier’s addition of the non-related legend makes this particular graphic look even worse than it really is, at first glance.

    When I first looked at it, I assumed the legend was generated by the software, and was supposed to somehow relate to the colors of the pie slices – only after reading the text did I find out Peltier arbitrarily added the (unrelated) legend.

  2. “Business users and executive sponsors typically love the professional look and wow factor.”

    Why do you use the word “professional”? A better word might be “polished”, and I’d be apt to use “glitzy”. But being covered with reflections does not make something “professional”.

    Diehard Xcelsius users should not “hide their eyes” from Stephen’s review, either. Users of any tool should read about this tool, in order to learn its strengths and weaknesses, learn to use it more effectively, and learn what alternatives are worth trying.

  3. I stand corrected. Thanks Jon – I meant to say the “designed-by-a-professional-graphic-artist look”.

    Dashboard Spy

  4. The US Dept of Labour dashboard is hilarious.

    The pie chart has no volumes or proportions shows, so you have to guess, but that’s nowhere near as big a crime as the dials – nowhere does it say what the numbers are.

    Are we to assume that in the whole of the us, there are only 4.7 unemployed people? Or is this 4.7 million, or is it 4.7% of the overall population, or 4.7% of the working age population and so on…

    What’s more, there is nothing to tell us whether only having 4.7 unemployed people in the whole of the USA is a good thing or a bad thing, but I imagine it’s good. 😉

  5. P.S. Moronic might be a little harsh (perhaps idiotic?) but Stephen doesn’t generally pull his punches and he IS facing an uphill battle.

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