5 Myths about Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards

I spend a lot of time talking about Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards.  Why?  Because they have made a tremendous difference for me.  There are 4 main benefits.

Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards
Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards
  1. Save your time by instantly updating periodic charts, graphs, and reports
  2. Declutter your brain to focus only on important business metrics
  3. Maintain laser-focus on the important metrics in your area
  4. Make you the “go to” person for your team and department

But many people don’t believe Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards are even possible.  Like there is something magical about them that puts them beyond the reach of mere mortals.   Here are 5 common myths some people believe about Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards.

1. Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards Need Obscure and Mysterious Excel Hacks

All my Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards are built around Pivot Tables, and functions such as OFFSET, DMIN, and DMAX.  These functions are enough to make new updates waterfall throughout the Dashboard.

Of course, I use more Excel functions than this.  I use INDEX/MATCH and LOOKUP all the time.  They’re great at adding detail and scope to basic datasets.  I also use IF and IFERROR, too.  But these usually have nothing to do with automated updating.  Mostly they keep the whole workbook looking nice and professional and eliminate distracting Excel errors.

2. Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards Means You have to Be a VBA Programmer

Don’t be one of those people who think that creating beautiful, fully automated dashboards requires a bunch of hand-coded, dense Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).  These people see some of the amazing things a Telecom Dashboard does and assume there’s coding magic under the hood.  Especially because of the automation.  But that’s a mistake.

Time of Day Traffic Distribution
Time of Day Traffic Distribution

An understandable mistake.  But still a mistake.  When you consider that an Automated Excel Telecom Dashboard requires no additional work whenever the data is updated it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Visual Basic might be necessary.

But it’s not.  Absolutely not.  Telecom Dashboards can be 100% automated using common Excel functions and standard techniques.  I’ve already shown you these several times.

You can see how it works in this short video I made: Stop Monthly Reporting Madness.

3. Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards Can Only Be Done Using a Vendor OSS

Let me start by saying that sometimes, the Vendor OSS is the only solution.  And it is possible to create useful reports and interesting visuals with the vendor OSS.  But it usually seemed to me like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.  And the vendor OSS is a one-trick pony: I can’t use it to do anything else.

I never used the vendor OSS for anything but set parameters and sometimes make a report.  Most of the time, I only use the OSS to generate the raw data,  raw data which I couldn’t get any other way because the vendor required me to use the OSS!   But I’d usually just export the OSS data, process it a bit using AWK or Perl, before importing it into Excel to do my final analysis and make my reports.

And no matter what, I use Excel a dozen times every day.  I use it for other analysis and reports, budgets, project tracking, forecasting, tables for PowerPoint.  Anything I could learn about Excel doing one task helps me in all those other tasks. 

Admit it:  Excel is a Swiss Army Knife for Telecoms.  You use it every day, all the time, in so many ways.  A vendor OSS is hard to use, only does a couple things, and you only use it when it’s the only choice.  You chose Excel because it gets things done! 

 

4. Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards Requires the Latest Version of Excel

I admit that Microsoft continues improving Excel.  Recent versions have more and more capabilities.  Recent improvements to Excel Tables look interesting.  Maybe someday these new functions will become as standard as the ones I use.

However, in my own Telecoms experience, we never had immediate access to the latest version of Windows, Office or Excel.  I know many people who still use Office 2007.  All the functions I use have been a part of Excel for years and years. They a rock solid and bulletproof, even in .xls version of Excel.  They are reliable, well documented, and the Internet is full of examples and tutorials.  Here’s a good example using Pivot Tables

5. Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards Takes a Long Time to Set Up

There is a tiny amount of truth in this myth.  Sure, it does take a little longer to set up an Automated Excel Telecom Dashboard than it takes to set up a normal Excel workbook. The part that takes the most time is to make all your charts and data fit nicely onto a single page.

But this is the same situation as with many business cases: a trade-off between one-time setup cost compared to a recurring benefit.  An automated dashboard takes a little longer to create, but you reap the benefit every time you use it. 

I believe it is almost always a worthwhile bargain.  There are so many other benefits from decluttering, clarity of purpose, ready access to decision-ready analysis, and perceived competence among your peers and co-workers that it’s a slam dunk.

Conclusion

Once you’ve created your own automated Excel telecom dashboards you’ll wonder why you messed about for so long with the other kind. 

If you need help getting there, sign up for my free cheat sheet Top Tips for Automated Excel Telecom Dashboards

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