Business Intelligence

Book Review: Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few

A couple of months ago, a colleague lent me Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data by Stephen Few.

What a great book. I read it in one afternoon. It goes through a bunch of different software systems you can buy or implement in regards to Business Intelligence and Dashboards, KPI, Reporting, etc. It explains why most are worthless, and don’t convey information in the best way. Finally at the end it explains some great ways to convey the most information visually to the end user of your dashboard.

It talks about things like sparklines and bullet charts. It goes into why 3D, Thermometers and Gauges are pretty much the worst things you can add to a dashboard.

After reading the book, I was intrigued by the possibilities of getting information out to people in better way. Bullet graphs/charts, sparklines, well how? They don’t have them in Excel.

I then stumbled upon, and MicroCharts –

It’s an add on type product that allows you to create bullet charts and sparklines and share excel over the web (kind of like Excel Services). Looks promising.

I am also reading a book about Information Dashboard Reporting in Excel 2007 and they actually walk you through on how to create bullet graphs from scratch in Excel, pretty sweet.

If you are sick of some of the limitations of SSRS, sick of some built into dashboard products that you might have used, and also want to display your information visually to your end users, instead of just raw data, then I would say read this book, right away, and go from there,

By Steve Novoselac

Director of Digital Technology @TrekBikes, Father, Musician, Cyclist, Homebrewer

5 replies on “Book Review: Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few”

I’m going to pick this book up as I have been looking for Dashboard info for quite awhile. When I’ve asked fellow SQL geeks about it, they don’t “get it.”

Mr. Novoselac, have you tried SAP’s Xcelsius product?


What I’d like is some kind of interactive dashboarding option to work with MSSQL. I provide the basic query, and provide the user with buttons on a form and whatnot so they can update the dashboard objects in real time without any coding knowledge on their part.

Unfortunately, the executives won’t allow us to upgrade to Office 2007.

Any suggestions?


then, go around the executives 🙂 Yeah, Excel 2007, or Performance Point/Sharepoint, Reporting Services with Report Builder, otherwise you need to buy some 3rd party system, etc. I don’t know, I like Excel 2007, I haven’t found much better.. there are add ons for it, to do sparklines and bulletcharts, etc. Couple Excel with Excel Services and you have your dashboards right there


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