Dashboard Multi-Layer Control: A Best Practice
By Loren Abdulezer, CEO, Evolving Technologies Corporation
a Crystal Xcelsius Consulting Partner


This article gives you a best practice for providing multi-layer control of your interactive dashboard. The overall approach to multi-layer control is to set-up a mapping that tells Crystal Xcelsius exactly how you want it to behave.

Click here to open Interactive Model
Interactive Model
Figure 1

The Double Edge Sword:

One of the nice features of Crystal Xcelsius is that you can dynamically adjust the visibility of components in your dashboard. Since the dashboard design is a creation of your imagination, you have complete freedom to control what becomes visible, and when. This is fine when you have simple on/off criteria, but can be messy to construct and keep track of when you have many components that work together in certain combinations.

Rather than creating your own device from scratch, I thought I'd give you a ready-made framework you can use. It relies on creating a visual logic map, and utilizing a switching circuit to visually activate and deactivate the various components in your dashboard.

Create a context:

The methodology is straight forward and relatively simple. The first step is to create a context which can signal specific actions or modes of behavior in your dashboard. Perhaps the most obvious mechanism for this is the Crystal Xcelsius Label Based Menu (see Figure 2)

Figure 2: A Label Based Menu in Crystal Xcelsius.

The menu retrieves the name of each button from your embedded spreadsheet, and most importantly, inserts information into a specific location in the spreadsheet when a button is pressed (see Figure 2).

Figure 3: Using a menu to create a context, when menu buttons are selected.

Create a Mapping and Switching Circuit:

The menu in this example has five buttons or groups (Introduction, Calendar, Animation, Property Mgmt Calculator, and Behind the Scenes). Think of these as Groups 1-5. For each menu context, certain components should be turned on, and others turned off. This is done via a visibility control logic map in your spreadsheet (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: For each menu context (the five columns), specified groups of Crystal Xcelsius components are made visible.

In Figure 4, the "1" signifies the "on" state, and the blank (or zero value) signifies the "off" state. For example, according to the logic map, when the first menu button (Introduction)is clicked, the components in Groups 0, 1, 6, and 8 are made visible. Similarly, when the fifth button (Behind the Scenes) is clicked, the components in Groups 1, 5, and 7 are made visible.

You can designate which of your dashboard components are "members" of each group (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: The various components of the dashboard can be organized into groups that match the logic map.

To complete the process, create a "Switching Circuit" so the various components can follow a single on/off element tailored to the component and all the logic elements (see Figure 6).

Figure 6: Specific groups of components are turned on and off in unison.

Components that can be turned on or off might include individual elements like a slider, or a whole assembly of components, such as a standalone dashboard (see Figure 7).

Figure 7: A standalone Interactive Calendar can be incorporated into the dashboard.

Putting it all together:

The menu, logic map, and switching circuit are all part of your Excel spreadsheet you import into the Crystal Xcelsius work area when creating your interactive dashboard (see Figure 8).

Figure 8: All-in-one control panel for managing the visibility of Crystal Xcelsius components.

Closing Thoughts:

There are many ways to manage the visibility of components in an interactive dashboard. We offer this best practice as one that is simple and elegant, and easy to extend.

Loren Abdulezer is the CEO of Evolving Technologies Corporation (ETC), and author of the best-selling Excel Best Practices for Business. ETC, an Xcelsius Consulting Partner, is a technology consulting firm based in New York City. More information about Xcelsius can be found on Loren's web site: XcelsiusBestPractices.com. He can be reached at la@evolvingtech.com. The files referenced in this article can be found in the Article Reprints section of: http://www.xcelsiusbestpractices.com/

2005 Evolving Technologies Corporation - all rights reserved.

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