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I like to use a simple shading schema to clearly denote which cells will get updated with data and which ones never really need to be touched.
And, in this example, let’s say we’ve got three different metrics that we’re updating: Revenue, Orders, and Web Visits.
For the purposes of this example, we’ll go with months.
Let’s leave the first row alone — this is where we will populate the “current value,” which we’ll get to later.
That will give us the “Current” value for each metric.
Let’s call this Main Data and define it by going to Formulas » Name Manager and clicking on New (this is Excel 2007 — it’s somewhere else easier to find in Excel 2003).
Define a new range with a Workbook scope that encompasses all the columns and all of the rows of data (starting at row 3): There are lots of ways to dynamically define Main Data.
(Note: I abhor many, many things about Excel’s default settings, but, to keep the example as familiar as possible, I’m going to leave those alone.
This basic approach is one of the core components in the dashboards I work on every day, and it can be applied to a much more robust visualization of data than is represented here.
This blog isn’t really focussed on all of the myriad ways that Excel can be contorted to represent data effectively, but I’m a big believer in using tools as effectively as possible to remove as much rote report generation as possible.