5 Interactive Chart Techniques Come Together

October 2, 2014

by Matt Allington

Recently I have been building some interactive charts for one of my clients using techniques that I have learnt from powerpivotpro.com, from searching the Web, as well as some of my own ideas.  While some of the techniques I will talk about in this post are not new, I have combined some of these old favourites with some new techniques to solve some of the problems I have come across. I want to illustrate how the combination of these things can deliver a very positive user experience, and just as importantly – anyone with a good set of Excel skills can build an interactive charting tool like this by following the patterns demonstrated.  I have created a demo of all of these concepts into a new workbook using Adventure Works so that you can see how these techniques come together for the user.  There is a link to this workbook at the end of this post.

The techniques I have used are:

  1. Disconnected slicers used to create interactive chart series
  2. Cube formulae and standard Excel to make an interactive chart title

I love these 2 tips I learnt from Rob – so user friendly.  However I came across a few problems when I tried to implement these, hence I have developed the following 3 additional techniques to solve these problems.

  1. Cube formulae and standard Excel to make an interactive legend
  2. VBA and “link to source” for interactive axis formatting
  3. Excel VBA to change which Axis the series appears on.

I have created a short video to demonstrate the 5 features built into this workbook, and I then explain each of these in more detail below.  I have not hidden the behind the scene workings so you can see these in action – of course you would normally hide these from the user.

Now let me call out the key techniques I have used to make this workbook rock.
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Cross-Filtering in Slicers with Cube Formulas

April 8, 2014

Back from Paradise, Here’s a Quick Tip

Funny thing about vacations is that everyone is waiting on you when you get home.  But man, what a vacation.

Anyway, I’m juggling my final edits to Alchemy, spending two full days with a client, AND teaching a class on Wednesday/Thursday, so today’s post will be brief, but hopefully still useful:

Power Pivot Slicers and Cross Filtering with a Pivot

PivotTable with Two Slicers.  Gender Slicer “Cross Filters” the Customer Name Slicer,
As Expected.  All is Right with the World.

Now we convert the pivot to cube formulas:

Converting Pivot to Cube Formulas

And look what happens to the cross filtering:

Cross Filtering in Slicers is Not Working with Cube Formulas

 

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Turning “OR” Slicers Into “AND” Slicers

April 3, 2014

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In this Report, We Are Only Seeing Customers Who Have Purchased
Both Accessories AND Clothing During 2004

A Post From Oceanside!

imageYeah, I’m on vacation (my first real vacation in 5+ years), so why am I writing a post?  Well, it’s before 9 am, the family is still sleeping in, and I honestly loved the idea of slipping out to write a post while looking at the ocean. 

The truth is I LOVE writing these posts – in some sense they represent Peak Fun for me, especially when they can be written at a relaxed pace with no outside pressures.  In the future, maybe I will take vacations for the express purpose of writing.  (That sounds surprisingly good to me actually).

Slicers – The More You Select, the More You “Get”

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A Simple Trick for Combating “Stale” Slicers

December 3, 2013

 
Help!  My Power Pivot Slicers Don't Auto Update to the Latest Date on Refresh!

Two Weeks of Refreshes Later…  the Report Still Thinks
Nov 15 is What Everyone Wants to See First!

Your Dashboard is Refreshed, But its Slicers are Stuck in “Yesteryear”

This is a trick I’ve been using forever but never blogged about.  Enough of you are now using Power Pivot for SharePoint (PP Server) that its time has come.  And really, it’s relevant on the desktop too.

On the day you first made this report, you selected the most recent Date (or Week, etc.) in the slicer.  And you saved the report.  All was right with the world!

But then, tomorrow comes.  And all of your slicers still have that “old” date selected, even after you refresh everything.  Ick.  Who wants to go and update all of those slicers to point to the latest date?

I sure don’t.  So, like me, you just let them sit on an old date (or Week, Month, etc.)  This forces the consumers of that report to ALWAYS click the latest date, sometimes after scrolling the slicer to the bottom.  Every time they open the report.  They.  Don’t.  Like.  That.  And neither would you.

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Simplifying Time Calculations and the User Experience using Disconnected Slicers

June 25, 2013

Guest Post by Jeff Lingen [LinkedIn]

How does PowerPivot fit in an enterprise BI environment

We don’t even know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know what it can be, we don’t know what it will be, we know that it is cool.

Zuckerberg’s early assessment of Facebook was a lot like how I felt after first discovering PowerPivot 3+ years ago. I knew it was cool but had no idea how it would fit into an enterprise business intelligence environment. For a long time PowerPivot for me was just a cool thing that I used for my own data analysis or for proto-typing tools that I would eventually turn into “enterprise-level” solutions. Today I need a pretty compelling reason not to use PowerPivot for almost all of my organization’s analytic requirements. So where does PowerPivot fit into the enterprise BI environment and how do you get associates engaged and use it to provide value?

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Adding a Minimum Threshold Slicer to “Stores That went negative” Technique

April 30, 2013

 
Thursday’s Post “Fixed” The Number of Negative Stores for a Month at 8.  Now We Vary That Threshold That With a Slicer.  PowerPivot is Amazing :)

Thursday’s Post “Fixed” The Number of Negative Stores for a Month at 8.
Now We Vary That Threshold That With a Slicer.

Let’s take Thursday’s post and extend it a bit.

In the picture above you’ll see that I have 5 selected as my threshold on the new slicer, and 48 months “qualify” for that threshold – there are 48 months where at least 5 stores were negative.

Now let me select 9 on the threshold slicer:

Raising the Threshold to 9 Weeds Out 10 More Months, Only 38 Months Exhibited 9+ Negative Stores.  Did i mention that PowerPivot Rocks? :)

Raising the Threshold to 9 Weeds Out 10 More Months, Only 38 Months Exhibited 9+ Negative Stores

How’d I Do This?

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Guest Post: Always Show Yesterday, Today, or Tomorrow’s Data

March 28, 2013

 
Today we have a new guest poster – Miguel Escobar.  I’ve been talking to Miguel in email and Skype for a long time now and feel silly that I haven’t asked him to do a guest post until today.  But now, I have, so I can stop feeling silly.

From his writing style and creative approach to solving problems, I think you’ll see that he fits right in.

Cool trick: Always show Yesterday’s, Today’s or Tomorrow’s Data

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Executive: Are these values correct?
Excel-guy: yes, but you need to check the dates slicers to see what dates the report is using
Executive: Ugh… I just want to click on the report and see the latest values

If you ever had this situation before let me tell you that you’re not alone on that one…I’ve been there before and it’s time to give you some cool easy tricks on how to set up a Powerpivot report that shows you the yesterday, todays, tomorrow, next week or any type of timeframe (forecasting or that sort of scenario).

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Toggling Conditional Formatting On/Off via Slicer

February 28, 2013

 
PowerPivot Makes it Easy to Toggle Conditional Formatting On and Off via Slicers

The One and Only “Sam Rad”

imageAt the Microsoft MVP Summit last week in Seattle/Redmond, I got to see and hear a lot of cool things.  But none of that compares to seeing old friends and colleagues – some of the most extraordinary people I have ever known (and ever WILL know).

People like Sam Radakovitz for instance, aka “SamRad.”  A veteran Excel team member who briefly left to do other things but is now back on Excel.  This is Very Good News.

(Actually this is a theme – a lot of former Excel program managers in particular have “come home” from other places and have rejoined the team.  I expect this next release of Excel to be something special).

In addition to being a numbers/technical guy, Sam is very visually gifted.  He takes bland stuff and makes it sing.

We all could learn a thing or two (or a hundred) from Sam.  Even in spreadsheets, presentation quality has tremendous impact.

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Stars and Snowflakes and Bears, Oh My!

January 31, 2013

 
Stars and Snowflakes in PowerPivot.  Snowflakes are slow and evil.

A PowerPivot Model with “Single-Step” Relationships is a “Star,” and one with “Daisy-Chained” Relationships is a “Snowflake.”  Snowflakes are Often Slow.  And Evil.  Don’t trust them.
(Images taken from page 194 of the book).

“Hey, Why Did Things Get So Slow?”

Got a great question this week from Dave Boylan:

“I think I read in your book that you should always use dimension (lookup table) data in your slicers and page fields (even if the same data is in your fact/data table) because they behave better and perhaps use less memory.  This makes sense as my fact table has 2MM rows and the slicer has three distinct values.”

Yes – if you have a lookup table, you should use fields from that lookup table on your pivot, rather than their equivalent fields from your data table.  My recent post on using fields from your date table on the pivot is just one example of this.

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Modeling Viral and Marketing Growth, Part 3 of 3

January 24, 2013

Why am I doing this in PowerPivot?  Primarily as a challenge.

This is a question I should have answered before I even started down this road.

To be honest, I did it primarily as a challenge – to stretch my brain a little bit.  If I were faced with this exact same task in my daily work, undoubtedly I would just use normal Excel formulas.  In some ways, this modeling exercise has been a deliberate misuse of PowerPivot.  A handful of parameters with no source data whatsoever – this is NOT what the PowerPivot engine was built for, which explains why the PowerPivot solution is actually significantly more difficult than the Excel solution.

“So you’ve been deliberately wasting our time??”

No, I do think there is real value in this exercise, for two reasons:

  1. Brain-stretching with new techniques always comes in handy later.  For instance, on the first post Sergey commented that he’d been thinking about loan amortization measures and this could be applied to that.
  2. I can see this technique being added, as a supplement, to a broader PowerPivot model.  For instance, a model containing lots of real customer data over time, and then a [Projected Customers] measure that forecasts future customer populations based on various assumptions and/or marketing investments.

So with that in mind, here it is:  the final installment of viral/marketing modeling in PowerPivot.

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Modeling Viral Growth and Marketing in PowerPivot

January 18, 2013

A Tale of Two Charts

Let’s say you operate a business that relies heavily on “word of mouth” – customers recommending your product/service to their friends and colleagues. Or at least, you THINK it relies heavily on that sort of thing.

You need to decide how much to spend on traditional advertising – to supplement the social/viral marketing that your customers do on your behalf.  Take a look at each of these two charts – the captions for each attempt to capture the knee-jerk conclusions you might draw:

 
Modeling Viral Growth versus Traditional Direct Advertising in PowerPivot

“Advertising?  We Don’t Need No Stinking Advertising!
That is SO Yesterday!  We’re Viral Baby!”

Modeling Viral Growth versus Traditional Direct Advertising in PowerPivot

“All These Youngsters and Their ‘Viral This’ and ‘Social Media That’ – That’s All Just Fancy Excuses to Be Lazy – You Clearly Need to BRING Your Message to the Customer”

If chart 1 reflected reality, you may opt to spend very little on traditional advertising.  But in a chart 2 world, you’d be silly to rely on viral growth.  But which one (if either of them) describes your situation?

Back in October, Rahul Vohra (CEO of Rapportive) wrote a two-part blog series on this topic, posted here on LinkedIn.  I took a note, at the time, to revisit his work and “convert” it to PowerPivot.

It’s a very different kind of problem from what I normally do in PowerPivot – this isn’t about analyzing data I already have, but about calculating future outcomes based on a handful of parameters.  And that leads to some different kinds of thinking, as you will see.

 

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“Initializing” Slicers with too Many Values to Scroll

December 11, 2012

 
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Has THIS ever happened to you?  We’re not even out of the Aarons yet.

Simple and Slick

Yesterday I saw Ken Puls post a really simple and effective trick – intentionally introducing a BLANK() measure in your pivot just to add a spacer column or row – and my response was “simple and slick, I like it.”

Well today I’m in Michigan, conducting some PowerPivot training/consulting, and that makes today a great day for a similarly slick and simple trick.  Because hey, I’m not even here right now.  Who’s writing this post?? Smile

First Initial!

Over in the Customers table in the PowerPivot window, add a simple calc column:

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