How to Measure KPIs in Excel Like a Pro (Explained for Beginners)
To measure KPIs in Excel like a Pro, identify the kind of KPI dashboard you want, import your data into Excel and clean it up, use Excel charts to create visualizations, and then move the charts to a separate sheet to create your KPI dashboard.
Many people are surprised to learn that the popular spreadsheet Excel can also be used to build KPI dashboards for tracking progress toward achieving their objectives.
Yes, you can use Excel to build dashboards to track your key performance indicators (albeit these dashboards have many limitations, and creating them comes with several challenges).
However, given that many people use Excel as their data management system, the popular question is, “How can one build Excel dashboards for measuring KPIs?”
This article will answer this question. At the end of the article, you’ll be able to create KPI dashboards in Excel like a Pro.
We’ll also look at the limitations of building and using an Excel KPI dashboard. Lastly, we’ll explore a more effective alternative to Excel for measuring KPIs.
Step-by-Step guide for measuring KPIs in Excel
An Excel KPI dashboard is simply an Excel spreadsheet (with visual elements like charts, tables, diagrams, etc.) where you visualize metrics and KPIs to track business progress.
You can create this Excel spreadsheet for tracking KPIs in five steps as follows:
1. Identify the type of KPI dashboard you want
Identifying the kind of KPI dashboard you want to create will set you up for success because it answers questions regarding the dashboard’s productivity.
To identify the type of KPI dashboard you want to create, answer the following questions:
What is the purpose of the dashboard?
Whether the KPI dashboard will be used to share insights or drive action will determine the best visual elements for it.
What metrics will be measured?
The number of metrics you want to measure will determine the number of elements the dashboard will carry, hence its overall structure.
The types of metrics also determine the kind of visual elements, as specific elements are best for visualizing certain metrics.
You may also like: The Art of KPI Selection
How often will the Excel dashboard be monitored?
Updating Excel dashboards requires going back to work on the data, and doing this frequently may introduce human errors into the system.
So, when dashboards need to be updated very frequently, a more intuitive tool that updates in real time is best.
What are the probable data sources?
Excel connects to limited data sources. So, if your data sources are outside Excel’s coverage, you may want to use another tool.
2. Import your data into Excel
You use data sets to create visualizations. So, after determining the type of KPI dashboard you want to create in Excel, the next step is to import your data from wherever they are to Excel.
Excel is not a dedicated dashboarding tool, so it is limited in terms of data collection. However, it supports enough to get you going. Excel allows you to import data from a number of data sources.
To get started with importing your data into Excel, open a new Excel worksheet and add a separate sub-sheet.
Click the “Data” tab on the top menu to begin. Then find your data source in the “Get External Data” button.
Click “From Access” to import data from the Microsoft Access database.
Click “From Web” to import data from a Web page.
Click “From Text” to import data from a text file.
Click “From Other Sources” to add external data from sources like SQL server tables, SQL Server Analysis cubes, and XML files.
Click “Existing Connections” to add external data from a list of commonly used sources.
After selecting your data source, follow the prompt to complete data extraction.
When importing from an external source, you may be prompted with a security notice telling you the external source may be unsafe. Click “Ok” to continue.
3. Clean up the data
Step two brings your raw data into Excel. However, raw data sets are usually filled with incorrect, incomplete, duplicate, and other erroneous data.
So, importing raw data into Excel should be followed by data cleansing (also known as data scrubbing), which involves identifying and fixing data errors.
Data cleaning improves data quality, ensuring that only consistent, accurate, and reliable data is used for visualization and business-decision making.
Cleaning up raw data in Excel can be tasking. You need to go through the raw data to eliminate duplicates, remove extra spaces, remove non-printable characters, correct wrong figures, fix text columns, etc.
However, Excel provides some resources to make data cleansing less daunting. You’ll find these in the “Sort & Filter” and “Data Tools” buttons under the Data tab. They include:
Quick sort: Quickly arrange numbers in ascending or descending order (Z to A: from highest number to lowest; A to Z: from lowest to highest number).
Sort by specific criteria: Sort data based on specific criteria, including font color, cell color, and cell icon.
Filtering: Display only the rows that meet certain conditions (while temporarily hiding the other rows of unwanted data).
Remove duplicates: Delete duplicate rows from the data set.
Text to columns: Separate the content of one column into different columns (e.g., separate one column for name into two columns for first name and last name).
Data validation: Prevent invalid data from being entered into a cell (e.g., you could reject numbers greater than 5,000).
Consolidate: Combine data from multiple ranges into one range.
4. Create visualization for specific data sets
After getting accurate and reliable data, you can begin KPI dashboard creation. With your data in an Excel Sheet, building your Excel Key Performance Indicator dashboard is as simple as using different visual elements to present your data.
First, select the cells you want to create a visualization for. Then click the “Insert” tab and select the chart you want to use to visualize your data.
Excel offers different charts for displaying your data - the bar graph, column chart, pie chart, line chart, area graph, scatter diagram, radar chart, etc.
You’ll also find a “Sparklines” button with charts that you can use to show a trend over time.
After choosing a chart to display your data, the visualization appears over your data set as below.
You can easily customize the chart from the “Layout” tab to change the chart title, axes, legend, data labels, etc.
You can then select other sections of the data set to create further visualizations. You may also use a pivot table in your dashboard.
5. Create a full-fledged Excel KPI dashboard
Having several visuals and your data on the same sheet creates a cluttered space. So, the final step in creating Excel dashboards for measuring your key metrics is to separate the visuals from your data.
To do this, create a sub-sheet in the same workbook and manually move the visuals to it.
This sub-sheet becomes a single-sheet view of multiple charts for visualizing key metrics and gauging business objectives. It becomes your KPI dashboard, so you may have to name it accordingly.
There’s no way around manually moving the charts. You have to copy them from the original sheet and paste them into the new sub-sheet.
That’s it! You now have an Excel dashboard to visualize your KPIs and track progress toward your business objectives.
You can measure monthly gross profit, sales performance, monthly expenditures, quarterly employee turnover, and other metrics critical to your business.
Just import all your data to Excel, use charts to display the data, and move the charts to a new sheet to form a KPI dashboard.
The key performance indicator dashboard sheet is automatically updated whenever you edit or make changes to your data in the Excel workbook.
KPI Dashboard Excel Template
It is not enough for KPI dashboards to show all your KPI charts in one spot. They must display these charts in a concise and visually helpful way.
Thus, building KPI dashboards that tick the boxes requires more than lumping together several charts of your data set. You have to get chart-type right and structure these charts effectively to provide a data story you can easily follow and glean actionable insights.
This is where a KPI Dashboard Excel template (or Excel KPI Dashboard template) comes in!
Excel KPI dashboard templates are pre-built KPI dashboards in an Excel file showing some of the most commonly tracked metrics for a business function.
They are stunning and functional, featuring the correct visual elements and structure to give you a discernable view of your business performance.
With these Excel KPI dashboard templates, you do not have to build your KPI dashboard in Excel from scratch.
You simply download the template and customize it by entering your data into the data field. The beautiful visualizations will automatically update to reflect your information.
There are many free templates online for Excel KPI dashboards. You’ll find many for tracking marketing performance, sales performance, customer support performance, etc.
What are the limitations of creating a KPI Dashboard in Excel?
Whether you create your Excel KPI dashboard from scratch or use a template, you’ll find that Excel dashboards are limiting.
The limitations of Excel dashboards include the following:
Daunting creation process
Building an Excel KPI dashboard requires a lot of manual effort. First, you need to import your data into Excel manually. Then you need to roll up your sleeves to clean it up.
Identifying erroneous data and fixing them can take several grueling hours. Any mistake will introduce errors into your dashboard, which can negatively affect the decisions.
The laborious data cleansing required makes creating KPI Excel dashboards undesirable as a company grows. As the size of the company increases, so does the volume of its data, making data cleansing more grueling.
Lastly, copying and pasting is required to move the charts to a single sheet, which does not make the process any easier.
Does not allow collaboration
Excel used to be a blocker for collaboration. Recent improvements to the Excel co-authoring experience allow co-workers to share and collaborate in Excel files.
However, collaboration in Excel dashboards is still behind collaboration features in intuitive KPI management tools.
Does not update automatically
Excel is a static spreadsheet that does not provide real-time access to data.
Even when you connect it to a data source, Excel does not update your data automatically. Hence, data in your Excel workbook and the dashboard is always outdated.
Excel is a desktop app, so its dashboards are not mobile-friendly. You cannot access your Excel KPI dashboard from your mobile device.
While you can view your Excel dashboard via the XLCubed mobile app, it’s not as responsive as viewing it on a desktop.
Shared dashboards may be incompatible
Microsoft has improved Excel over the years, and some features are not carried over to newer versions. Unfortunately, this affects the functionality of Excel dashboards.
Some charts may break when you share an Excel dashboard with someone who uses another version.
What is a more effective alternative to Excel for measuring KPIs?
The limitations of Excel mean it is a no-no for creating dashboards to track and visualize your key performance indicators.
There are different strategy management and KPI tracking tools that outperform Excel for measuring key performance indicators. However, Kippy leads the pack.
Wherever Excel fails, Kippy succeeds. For example, the platform is not plagued by version incompatibility. It simplifies data import, makes it easy to create visualizations for KPIs, provides real-time access to data, and supports collaboration.
However, Kippy’s main strength is that it is more than a dashboarding tool. It is a full strategy management tool that helps you execute your strategy.
Kippy’s strengths include helping you get the best KPIs to measure your objectives, align everyone with your strategy, track your key performance indicators, and visualize your employee performance.
Let’s elaborate on these points in more detail:
Selects the best Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your objectives
Kippy trumps every strategy and KPI management software because it uses AI to generate the best KPIs for your objectives. With other solutions, you have to go through the challenging process of finding the right KPIs.
This usually requires countless hours of reviews and consultations with teams, managers, and other stakeholders. Only after getting the right KPIs can the tools be deployed for tracking them.
However, Kippy simplifies KPI selection by furnishing you with accurate KPIs for your objectives in seconds.
On the “Home” tab, click “Strategy.” Enter your objectives into the field. Then when you click the bulb icon, you’ll see suggested KPIs for your objective.
You may also like: How To Set KPI Targets That Drive Business Growth
Aligns everyone with strategic objectives
Kippy helps you align everyone in your organization with your strategy. You can enter your objectives in minutes, then invite your teams to iteratively cascade your top-level objectives down your organizations.
This way, company-wide objectives inspire team objectives, ensuring that everyone works towards achieving the same goals.
Kippy allows collaboration on dashboards
Kippy allows collaboration, so you and your team can monitor, analyze, and review KPIs together. From the “Collaborate” tab, click “Invite,” then enter the colleague’s email address and assign them a role.
“Users” can only propose KPIs and submit actuals, while “Managers” can assign and approve KPIs, review actuals and appraise.
Kippy will email the person their login details, allowing them to come in and collaborate with you on the KPI dashboard.
Provides automated alerts
Kippy provides automated alerts for KPIs to the right people at the right time. This helps you to make the most out of time-sensitive situations.
You define status thresholds for your KPIs. Then when a KPI target value moves beyond your set status threshold, you get notified so you can act promptly.
Kippy dashboards provide analytics that delivers insights
Excel dashboards do not allow users to explore a KPI in more detail, limiting our understanding of performance.
For example, while an Excel dashboard will show you that sales revenue has dropped, it does not allow you to explore the KPI further to know the reason for the decline.
However, Kippy is a sweetheart in this regard. Kippy lets you dive beyond the surface data to analyze KPI data for more insight.
On the “Home” tab, click “Drill Down.” Then select a specific KPI target to learn more about the progress the different aspects of your organization are making towards achieving it.
Kippy provides real-time access to data
Kippy provides real-time access to data. In the “Details” section of the “Home” tab, you can view details of targets and actuals per KPI in a specific time period.
The Kippy platform includes appraisal workflows
Kippy also features appraisal workflows allowing you to follow the performance of your teams. You can view the feedback they’ve been getting throughout the year to gauge how other workers perceive their work.
Takeaway: Kippy provides a better alternative to Excel for a holistic KPI measurement
Excel is a popular data management system that can also be used to build dashboards for tracking KPIs. You import your data to Excel, clean it up, and use Excel charts to display the data.
However, Excel KPI dashboards have several limitations. Besides the daunting process of creating them, the Excel dashboards do not allow collaboration, do not update automatically, and are not mobile-friendly.
Thus, your dashboard data will be outdated, and your team may be unable to work together effectively on KPIs.
Intuitive KPI tracking tools are better alternatives to Excel KPI dashboards. Kippy is the leading tool as it offers holistic KPI management.
Want to effectively track your key performance indicators and put your business on the path of success? Use Kippy as your strategy and KPI tracking tool. Book a demo with us today, and see how Kippy can help you.