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Is Your Excel Dashboard or Report Accurate?

Nothing kills an Excel dashboard or report faster than the perception that its data are inaccurate. Before you send out your finished Excel dashboard or report, be sure to check your reporting mechanism. Your reputation is on the line! Here are three factors that establish the perception that a dashboard is accurate:

  • Consistency with authoritative sources: It's obvious that if your data doesn't match other reporting sources, you have a data credibility issue, especially if those other sources are deemed to be the authoritative sources. Be sure you're aware of the data sources that are considered to be gospel in your organization. If your dashboard contains data associated with an authoritative source, compare your data with that source to ensure consistency.
  • Internal consistency: It's never fun to explain why one part of your dashboard doesn't jive with other parts of the same dashboard. You should ensure some level of internal consistency within your dashboard. Be sure comparable components in different areas of your dashboard are consistent with each other. If there's a reason for inconsistency, be sure to clearly notate those reasons. It's amazing how well a simple notation can clear up questions about the data.
  • Personal experience: Have you ever seen someone look at a report and say, "That doesn't look right"? He's using what some people call gut feel to evaluate the soundness of the data. None of us look at numbers in a vacuum. When you look at any analysis, you bring with you years of personal knowledge, interaction, and experience. You subconsciously use these experiences in your evaluation of information. When determining the accuracy of your dashboard, take into consideration organizational anecdotal knowledge. If possible, show your dashboard to a few subject-matter experts in your company.
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