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Mynda Treacy's Excel Dashboard Course Review

This is a review of Mynda Treacy's online Excel Dashboard course, which runs a 4 times each year, on her website -- myonlinetraininghub.com.

NOTE: There is only a 2 week registration period for each session, and then registration closes for a few months. If you want to register, don't delay!

You can also attend Mynda's free webinar on Creating Excel Dashboards, which is offered only 4 weeks each year.

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

Why I Recommend This Course

Here are the top reasons that I recommend Mynda Treacy's Excel Dashboard Course

  1. You will learn from an experienced accountant, and build dashboards that focus on the numbers, not the fluff.
  2. You won't waste your time -- The video tutorials are short and to the point, and move at a brisk pace
  3. You learn by doing -- The videos cover key steps and features, and you can practise the techniques in the sample files.
  4. You can add other Excel skills -- There are optional Excel videos, so you can brush up on other skills, if needed.
  5. You get ongoing support -- The course includes 6 weeks of support and feedback from Mynda.

If that's the kind of dashboard training that you want, sign up now.

Not For Beginners

This course is not for Excel beginners, because the fast pace could be overwhelming. Lots of material is covered, very quickly.

It's designed for Excel users who are beyond the basics, and who enjoy learning by seeing a demo, then practising the new skills.

What Will You Learn

I've been through the entire Excel Dashboard Course, and the content is excellent. Here are the key techniques that you'll learn:

  1. Important questions to ask, before you start working on a dashboard
  2. How to organize your data in three layers, so it's flexible, and the dashboard can be easily changed
  3. Tips on good and bad design, and where to find more resources
  4. Which chart types work best for different data types
  5. How to create interactive charts, to give users some control over the content -- with or without macros.
  6. How to use pivot tables with a dashboard
  7. Tips for distributing and protecting your dashboard

Before You Start the Course

The Excel Dashboard Course moves at a brisk pace, and you will get the most value from it, if you have basic skills in the following areas. You can click the links in the list below, to see a tutorial on my site. Mynda also has optional tutorials for general Excel skills, so you can follow those, after you enroll in the course.

  1. Building Excel charts
  2. Creating formulas, using VLOOKUP, INDEX and MATCH, INDIRECT
  3. Adding drop down lists in cells, using Data Validation
  4. Highlight data with conditional formatting
  5. Basic skills for recording and editing macros
  6. Building a pivot table

Get More Information

You can see the course details and a sample video here: Excel Dashboard Course Registration is only open for two weeks, and if you sign up in the first week, you can get a 20% discount.

To get an overview of dashboards, and to see Mynda's engaging teaching style, enroll in the free one-hour webinar (click the image below).

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

There's a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can try the Excel Dashboard Course risk free.

Detailed Course Review

I went through all the dashboard videos and Excel sample files, and you can read about my experience, below.

Note: The course might change over time, so please check the current outline for the latest content. -- Excel Dashboard Course

Getting Started

The registration email gave me the link to the login screen, along with my username and password. The website opened to the Excel Dashboard course welcome page.

The page showed the course syllabus, with details on each session, and the time for each topic in the sessions. In addition to the Dashboard content, you can go to Excel training material too, if you need more details on some of the topics.

I like the clean layout of the Syllabus page -- it's very easy to see what lies ahead, and where to get started.

Most of the videos are quite short, so you can do a bit of the course, and come back later to do more, without having to restart a long video. However, I noticed that the Tutorial links didn't change colour after I used them. That would make it easier to remember which lessons you've completed -- a minor change they could make to improve this course.

dashboard review syllabus

Session 1: Introduction

I clicked the Introduction link, which took me to the Session 1 page. Again, the layout was clean and easy to follow.

dashboard review session 1

Below the navigation buttons, there are links for the session downloads, and a space where you can ask questions or leave comments. So, if you're stuck on something, you can ask a question right away. Mynda will monitor the comments for 6 weeks, while the course is live. After that, you can still post comments, and discuss the course with other students.

For the Introduction, there is a PowerPoint download, with the session notes. You can keep this for review later, and add your own notes, or print out the slides. This is a nice feature , so you don't have to log in later, and watch the video again. You can just check your notes for a quick memory jog.

dashboard review session 1  notes 

Introduction Video

When I clicked the link for the Introduction video, it opened a new window in Firefox. There were a few seconds of music, and then Mynda introduced herself. Her voice is clear, and easy to understand. You won't need your volume set very high to hear the lesson. If you're doing the course at the office, set the volume quite low before you start the video, and adjust it higher, if necessary. You don't want to startle your co-worker in the next cubicle!

There are play, pause and rewind buttons in the video viewer, so you can stop or go back to review something that you missed. You could have both the video and the PowerPoint file open, side by side, and jot down notes and questions as you watch the video.

dashboard review session 1  video

As promised in the syllabus, Mynda explains how the course will run, and shows us a typical Excel dashboard. She tells us that the course will have a fast pace, and she assumes that you have the Excel skills.

You'll watch the videos to get an overview of the material, then work with the sample files to practise your new skills. If you need a refresher on specific Excel topics, you can review those topics in the Excel videos, then come back to the Dashboard videos.

The key part of this session is the list of questions to ask, before you start working on a dashboard. You'll save time, and reduce frustration, by following this advice. The answers to those questions will help you with the next step, which is sourcing the data for the dashboard.

That video was 8:47 in length, but the time passed very quickly.

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

Session 2: Getting Your Data Ready

After watching the Introduction, I clicked the Go To the Next Session button, to go to Session 2. Impatient, I almost clicked it again, because it didn't seem to work. However, the Session 2 page has a Go To the Next Session button in the same place! So, be sure to read the page heading, before you click that button again. Don't be an impatient button clicker, like me!

There is a PowerPoint presentation to download for this session, and no Excel file.

  • We learn that we should organize our data in three layers, so it's flexible, and the dashboard can be easily changed.
  • Mynda shows examples of data layouts and explains the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • She also gives us data model tips, to make our dashboards more efficient, reliable, and easy to understand.
  • Finally, Mynda gives us a list of key formulas and features for creating dashboards. These aren't explained or expanded on, just listed. You can post a comment in the session page, if you need help finding information on any of those features.

Session 3: Design Principles

In this session Mynda shares her tips on good and bad design, and where to find more resources. There is a PowerPoint presentation to download for this session, and no Excel file.

Good design is key to getting your dashboard's message across. She shows us a heat map that shows where the most important information should go in the layout, and where the less important data should go.

She shows examples of bad charts, and talks about ways to improve them. Mynda also shows better charts, and gives tips for improving those too. Colour is important, and she shows examples of using it for effect.

She summarizes the design principles, then add a few more tips on design, and adds a link to a website for more examples.

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

Session 4: Display Principles

The first three sessions were short and sweet. Now we're into  the meat of the course, and session 4 has 22 dashboard videos, 16 related Excel videos. There is an Excel workbook to download, in either Excel 2007 or Excel 2010 format. I'll use the Excel 2010 workbook. There's no PowerPoint presentation this time, so I guess we can make our notes in the Excel file.

When I opened the file in Excel 2010, I got a Protected View warning, because the file was downloaded from the Internet. If you get that, just click the Enable Editing button, and the file will work correctly.

dashboard review session 4 enable 

The file is well organized, with a menu sheet that takes you to each part of the lesson. You can also check the boxes when you have watched the video for that lesson. At the right side of the menu, there is a place for notes.

dashboard review session 4 workbook

On the lesson sheets, you'll find all the charts and data from the videos, plus notes to remind you of the tips and tricks. When you finish a lesson, click one of the Back to Menu buttons, to find the next lesson.

dashboard review session 7 navigate

Video 1: Introduction & Tricks for Trending

This video is longer than most of the others, at just over 13 minutes. It covers display principles, such as which chart types work best for different data types.

  • We see how minor changes in data can be distorted to look more significant, and learn a rule to avoid that problem.
  • In another example, we see how to show data when two series have similar data values, and keep the chart clean and simple. Other chart examples shows how to reduce clutter in the chart axes, make chart labels easy to read, and create in-cell charts.
  • We see how to arrange data for multiple years, so each year is a different colour in the chart, and the effect is a continuous series. Another example with the same data shows a chart with actual and forecast data. These are  nice tricks, with a sophisticated result.
  • Next we get some chart label tips -- good tricks for keeping the axes tidy, and easy to read. Mynda then gives a good example of using the logarithmic scale in a chart, and how it helps to display some types of data.

Video 2: Secondary Axis

We see an example of when to use a secondary axis, and a couple of ways to set them up.

Video 3: Smoothing Data

Mynda shows simple ways of smoothing data in charts, with easy to apply techniques. There were a couple of steps that I didn't follow completely, so this will be something to explore in the sample file later. When the course is underway, remember that you can ask questions in any lesson, if you're confused.

Video 4: Sparklines

Sparklines are new feature in Excel 2010, and there's lots to say about them -- this video is one of the longer ones, at 15:34.

  • Mynda gives a short background on Sparklines and shows the different types that are available. She explains how to add Sparklines, and format existing Sparklines.
  • We see how Sparklines handle hidden and empty cells. I had to rewind here, to see where the setting is on the Ruler, because Mynda moved very quickly when selecting it.
  • The next example was data with negative values, and we saw how to adjust settings for that. We also learned how to change the data source for the Sparklines.
  • After showing the third type of Sparkline, Mynda showed how to add sparklines to a named Excel table, and showed that it's easy to add them.
  • We also saw the effects of different axis types on the sparkline appearance, and issues with dates.

Video 5: Formatting Tricks

We see a couple of simple formatting tricks for highlighting and annotating specific data in a chart. This is helpful for a static chart, but won't be useful in an interactive chart where the values might change frequently.

Video 6: Highlighting Comparisons

Mynda shows formulas and conditional formatting that indicate changes in data.

Video 7: Top and Bottom Ranking

Useful formulas and tips for highlighting top values in a chart.

We see the steps for setting up the chart, and formatting the series and labels.

NOTE: In a later video, Mynda shows a more efficient way to select the data for this chart.

Video 8: Frequency Distribution

Mynda shows a histogram and explains how to set one up, using formulas to analyze the data.

Video 9: Target vs Variance Charts

We see several examples of charts that show variance in a chart, and learn which scenarios are best shown in the different chart types.

Video 10: Performance Against Target Range

Mynda shows how to set up our data to show a target range and the actual results, for comparison.

Video 11: Bullet Graphs  

This is another long video at 12:47 in length. Mynda explains how to create vertical and horizontal bullet graphs which were invented by Stephen Few.

Written instructions for creating bullet graphs can be daunting, with a long list of detailed steps. It was helpful to see the chart built in just a few seconds, and then you can follow the step-by-step instructions in the Excel file, for practice. And it was nice to see Mynda give credit to Jon Peltier for his instructions on building a horizontal bullet graph.

Video 12: Win/Loss/Draw Conditional Format

The Sparkline feature in Excel 2010 can show win/loss data, but doesn't handle draws. Mynda shows a workaround for this, using conditional formatting.

  • She gives helpful tips for formatting the tables and the formatted cells.
  • She even recommends a free font for a creating simulated sparklines, and there is a link in the Excel sample file.

Video 13: Dynamic Data Range    

This video starts with a Sparkline example, but Mynda assures us that other versions can use the dynamic range tips too.

  • We see how to create a dynamic range with a named Excel table or by using Excel formulas.
  • There is also a link to a tutorial on the function, if you want more information. I like that -- it doesn't slow down the video for those who are already familiar with the function.

Even if you're not using sparklines, this is a very powerful technique.

Video 14: Dynamic Labels    

This short video shows how to create text on a chart that will automatically update if the data changes. I use this tip in many of my charts, and it's a good reminder to use this technique.

Video 15: Text Formulas    

Building on the previous tip, this video shows how to create more complex text labels on a chart. This is another good tip, and vital for charts in an interactive dashboard. The tip should include an option for zero values though. It might be a rare occurrence, but should be handled. Also, if only the first part of the text is variable, the remaining text could just be tacked on as a standard setting.

Video 16: Symbols in Formulas and Charts    

This is a nice trick for including symbols in chart labels, and one that I haven't used before. Again though, it should also handle zero values, and that would only need a minor tweak to the technique. The warning at the end of the video was interesting, and of course I tried to find a workaround. I was partially successful, but the results weren't as nice as in the sample file.

When I tried to insert the symbols, I couldn't see a subset option, so that part was confusing. I finally figured out that I had to select Unicode in the drop down list at the bottom right, and then everything worked as promised. But in Excel, never say never! ;-)

Video 17: Charting Non-contiguous Ranges

This quick video shows a more efficient way to select the data for the example shown in Video 7

Videos 18-22: Charts and Data Validation

Since I first went through the course, Mynda has added 5 new videos in this section:

  • Embedding Graphics in Charts
  • Dynamic, Dynamic Data Validation List
  • In Cell Charts
  • Panel Charts
  • Step Charts

Optional Excel Videos

I watched a couple of the optional Excel videos, and they covered basic information for features that were used in the Dashboard videos. You might not need to watch any of these, but check the titles and take a peek at anything that doesn't sound familiar. You might learn a few new tricks!

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

Session 5: Interactive Controls

There are 16 videos in this session, and a sample Excel file in either Excel 2007 or Excel 2010 format. The workbook has macros, so enable them if you want to test the macros.

Remember, there is a spot for comments, below the download links. It's interesting to read the questions and answers, and you can add any comments of your own.

Some of the videos show techniques that don't use programming, so these are perfect if you're working in an environment where macros are a problem.

Video 1: Form Controls Introduction

We see how to set up our Ribbon, so we're ready to start using Forms Controls. Mynda shows the steps in both Excel 2007 and 2010.

Video 2: Check Boxes

This video demonstrates a clever use of a check box, so users can quickly modify a dashboard chart. Mynda shows how to set it up, explains how it works, and suggests other uses.

Video 3: List Boxes

We see how to use a List Box to select an item to see in an interactive chart. This builds on the technique that we learned in the previous video, and takes us beyond the Yes/No option that a check box provides.

Video 4: Option Buttons

The video shows us how to add option buttons, and set them up to control the chart display. This technique is better for a short list of items, and use List Boxes for more than a few items.

I was confused by the grouping that Mynda showed, which she mentioned was only available in Excel 2007. Then, as she explained the grouping, I saw that it was something different than Group Boxes, which are covered in the next video.

However, with all the fiddling it takes to set these up, I'll stick with List Boxes.

Video 5: Group Boxes

This is the next step in working with Option Buttons, if you need to control different sets of data.

Video 6: Scroll Bar

In this video we see a simple but effective example of using a scroll bar to control the chart display in a dashboard. I hadn't thought about this use before, and it makes good sense. In some workbooks I'd use a different function, but this function works well in this small example.

Video 7: Buttons

We see how to add a button to the worksheet, and make it run a macro. One quibble is that typing something on the button doesn't change its name, it changes its caption. Mynda mentions referring to the Excel videos for more information, but I don't see any listed on the Session page. Checking back on the main menu, I can see that the Excel macro training has links in Session 7.: Automating your Dashboard.

Video 8: Combo Box with Macro

In this video we see how to add a combo box, so users can select items from a drop down list. This adds a very small control to the dashboard, which can affect the display in multiple charts. We learn how to use one of Excel's most powerful functions, to work with the combo box results.

Then we see how to record and revise a macro, and set the combo box to run the revised macro.

We'll look at Slicers for Excel 2010, in a later video, but this technique save dashboard real estate, and can be used in older versions too.

Videos 8-16: Additional Topics

Since I first went through the Dashboard course, Mynda has added 8 new videos to this section.

  • Combo Box with Macro
  • Dynamic Date Filters 4 Ways
  • Animated Charts
  • INDIRECT Function Tricks
  • Dynamic Named Range with OFFSET
  • Dynamic Named Range with INDEX
  • Dynamic Ranges for Charts
  • Rollover Technique
  • Scroll and Sort Table

Session 6: Analysing the Data

This session covers my favourite Excel topic -- Pivot Tables. There are 5 videos, two Excel files to download, and a long list of Excel tutorials on related topics. The Slicers video and workbook are only applicable if you're using Excel 2010, and some of the pivot chart features are different in earlier versions.

I did not do any of the optional Excel lessons for this session, but there is a great list of topics, related to analysing the data.

Video 1: PivotCharts

We see how to create a pivot chart, and filter to show different data. If you're using Excel 2007, use the filters on the PivotChart Filter Pane. We see how to move the chart, and a quicker way would be to right-click on the chart, and click the Move command.

Video 2: Slicers - Excel 2010 Only

The Slicers feature is only available in Excel 2010, so you can skip this video if you're using Excel 2010. Download the workbook though, so you'll have it as a reference when you upgrade to a newer version.

  • We see how to insert and format Slicers, and make them the best fit for our dashboard.
  • Mynda shows the benefits of Slicers versus the pivot table filters, and explains their drawbacks related to dashboards.

Video 3: GETPIVOTDATA Function

I'm very familiar with the GETPIVOTDATA function, but watched this video anyway. It's interesting to see how someone else uses Excel's features and functions, and I might learn some new tricks.

Mynda gives a good explanation of how the function works, and shows how to modify it, to be flexible. To demonstrate the flexibility, Mynda selects values from a drop down list on the worksheet. She doesn't mention that those lists were created with data validation, but you can see the example in the workbook.

Data validation isn't one of the topics in the optional Excel videos for this session, but you're probably familiar with that technique anyway.

Videos 4-5: Additional Topics

Since I first went through the Dashboard course, Mynda has added 2 new videos to this section

  • Capture Slicer Selection in Formula
  • Slicer & PivotChart Dashboard Overview

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

Session 7: Automating Your Dashboard

There are 3 videos in this session, and five related Excel videos on working with macros. There is no sample file for the dashboard video.

Video 1: Linking to Access

Mynda goes through the steps of connecting to an Access database, and displaying the data in Excel.

  • She gives good tips on selecting the data, and details on working with large amounts of data.
  • She shows different ways to connect to the data, and limit the fields that are retrieved.

Videos 2-3: Additional Topics

Since I first went through the Dashboard course, Mynda has added 2 new videos to this section

  • Incorporating New Data Automatically
  • Auto Refresh PivotTables

Session 8: Putting It All Together

This session looks exciting -- we're finally putting all the pieces together, to create a dashboard. There are 9 dashboard videos, and a sample Excel file to download.

Video 1: Quick Re-cap

This video is a short review of the design principles that we learned at the start of the course.

Video 2: New Dashboard Tour

Mynda shows the dashboard that we're going to build, and points out the new types of charts that we'll be including. We get a tour of the sample workbook, which is nicely laid out, and a good model to follow.

She calls one chart a waterfall chart, but refers to it as a pyramid chart in the next video. So, just ignore that minor slipup -- they don't have a different kind of waterfall chart in Australia.

Video 3: Pyramid Chart

This video shows us how to build a pyramid chart, starting with the data layout, and detailing the formatting steps.  

Video 4: Array Formula Alternative to SUMIFS

Mynda uses an array formula to summarize the data for one of the dashboard charts, and explains how the formula works. She then creates the chart, and formats it, reminding us of the dashboard design principles.

Video 5: LARGE and SMALL Array and DAVERAGE

We see how to create a worksheet data table, using array formulas and database formulas. It's not mentioned in the video, but for any of the database functions, the criteria range needs a heading in its heading row that exactly matches one of the data table headings.

This is a good example of using a database function, and it's important to understand how to set up the criteria range.

Video 6: Rank Values with PivotTable

We see how to create a pivot table, and use the Rank feature to show a country's rank on the dashboard. The Rank function is only available in Excel 2010 pivot tables, not in earlier versions.

Video 7: Scatter Chart

This video shows how to create a scatter chart from the data, and highlight the data point for the selected country. Mynda gives tips on formatting the chart, to make it easier to read, and prevent distorting the data.

Video 8: DMAX, DMIN, DAVERAGE

We learn how to create another worksheet table that uses database functions to summarize the data. This time the database column headings are pointed out in the criteria heading row. We also use SUMIFS to summarize data, and created a column chart.

There were a couple of fumbles while creating the column chart, but that might help you avoid those problems in your own charts. Some of the charts could be created more easily if the top left heading cell were left blank.

Video 9: Formatting Quickly

This video shows the final steps in formatting the dashboard. Mynda gives tips and shortcuts for putting all the pieces together.

Note: When you align the charts, they line up with the one that's furthest to the left -- it doesn't matter in which order the charts are selected.

The video is title "Formatting Quickly", but you can see that you'll still have to do some tweaking to get the layout exactly the way you want it.

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

Session 9: Distributing your Dashboard

When I went through the course, this section had one video tutorial, that covered publishing tips. Now this section contains 5 videos.

  • Checking and Publishing
  • Excel Web App -- Introduction
  • Preparing Your File for Excel Web App
  • Publish with Excel Web App
  • Password Protection

Session 10: Bonus: Tour de France Dashboard

This section has been added since I went through the course, and it contains 5 videos:

  • Dashboard Overview
  • SUMIFS Formulas as a Lookup
  • INDEX, MATCH and OFFSET
  • INDEX, MATCH Multiple Match Array
  • Zoom Images VBA Code

Final Homework Challenge

The final challenge is to download a workbook with sample data, and a set of instructions. This assignment is optional, but you should take advantage of it. Create a dashboard, then send it to Mynda for her review and feedback.

Since I went through the course, Mynda has added 2 videos to this section:

  • Dashboard Tour
  • Dashboard Workings

More Downloads

At the bottom of the Syllabus page there are links to download more files.

  • Example Files: 3 Excel files with sample dashboards. Be sure to download these, for future reference. They'll give you even more ideas for creating your own dashboards.
  • Index File: Contains a list of all the topics covered in the course, and in which session that topic is covered. It's a great idea, and if you want to review something, you'll know exactly where to look.

Get More Information

You can see the course details and a sample video here: Excel Dashboard Course Registration is only open for two weeks, and if you sign up in the first week, you can get a 20% discount.

To get an overview of dashboards, and to see Mynda's engaging teaching style, enroll in the free one-hour webinar (click the image below).

Free Excel Dashboard Webinar

There's a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can try the Excel Dashboard Course risk free.

 

 

 

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