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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I mentioned some time I ago I was looking at the Business Objects package Xcelsius 2008. I am looking for easy ways to create dashboard style visualizations of data. I had worked with Business Objects before, pre their acquisition by SAP, but had not tried Xcelsius, which they had acquired around 2006. I downloaded their thirty day trial and went though the examples then tried some of my own spreadsheets.

Good experience overall, I was able to construct several dashboards based on Excel spreadsheets. I was impressed by the sheer number of visualization forms available. It looks like you can get this to look exactly like you want. The results are implemented in flash and can be exported to, for example, PowerPoint. It is not drag and drop, though. I have done similar things with Tableau recently, and that was much easier to learn. Tableau, though is oriented toward analyzing and deriving existing databases, as opposed to mimicking the kind of interaction you might want from a spreadsheet analysis.

It took me some time to figure out how to get the pieces working, my guess is that with a few days of training you will have it down. Some non-intuitive aspects of the interface were irriating. I used the basic 'present' version and exported to PDFs and Powerpoints. The result was an interactive dashboard that worked as expected.

It worked well with basic spreadsheets, but not with some of my own advanced Excel examples that had interlinked sheets. It also seemed to have some scale problems with larger examples.

Overall good, definitely a buy for rapidly setting up dashboards if you are already using Business Objects and have existing, non-complex Excel sheets to translate.

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