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Case Study: 12-Month Rolling Dashboard on Hosted 0365 SharePoint 2013

Updated on May 13, 2016

The Sad Tale of a Difficult Dashboard


In a hosted 0365 SharePoint 2013, I have to display a rolling 12-month view of Software
Licenses Owned & Planned contrasted against the current server license requirements needed
and planned.
(This is basic Software License Management, and there are plenty of COTS products that
will skin this cat, but they're not an option. Consider this is a case study, so stretch
your mind and not focus on THIS particular problem, but the possible solutions of other
similar scenario.)


There is a rather normalized set of lists that facilitate data entry by different
factions. Procurement enters the software purchase. Environment supplies the requirements
of the servers. (These are disparate, so SharePoint is great that people worldwide can
enter data.) But, as you can imagine, there are 4 lists: Software, Procurement, Server,
Server Software.

Current Solution:

What we have cobbled together so far is the ability to make a DataExtract view on both the
Server Software and the Procurement lists, and that is the basis of a connection to an
Excel spreadsheet. That extraction is a good basis, but then within that spreadsheet,
there is a "working" tab, that then provides further transformations to complete the ETL
functionality for the metrics.

From there, multiple tabs are made showing charts for each product group, displaying
overages, underages, money spent or planning to spend etc.

Rolling 12-Month View

The user selects a start date, and from it, the 12-month rolling view is produced. It goes from the first day of the entered month, and rolls out the 12 months. For example, if the user enters any value in January 2016, then the 12 month view should show Jan - Dec 2016.

The date is updated every 6 months, to keep up with proper forcasting. As far as I know, there is no way to simply produce this in any Business Intelligence (BI) application. (i.e. Excel, PowerBI, etc.)


1. The first problem is that the size of an individual spreadsheet with all of this
Extracted Data, then the working tabs, and all of the "dashboard" content makes the Excel
file so large, that it CAN NOT be used as the basis for a SharePoint Excel Web Services
web part. So, we "split" the spreadsheet into a Data and Dashboard spreadsheet file.

2. We do not have a fileshare. The OneDrive concept has taken over, and there is no longer
a fileshare. All employees have a OneDrive library that they can share, but this is NOT a
good Enterprise solution, IMO. Also, to display the spreadsheet in the Excel Web Services
web part, the dashboard spreadsheet needs to be stored in a SharePoint Document library.
Don't forget that there are now two spreadsheets, linked, and fortunately, Excel can find
the linked spreadsheet if it is in the same DocLib.

3. Updating the content in both spreadsheets is now a chore. First, the Data spreadsheet
must be opened and the data Refreshed. Then, the Dashboard spreadsheet has to be opened,
and the content Updated. (There's no data in the dashboard, only references to the data
via formulas.) Keep in mind that performing these actions creates a new "version" of the files in the Document Library. (I'm fairly sure this is a horrible long term solution, but haven't done the math on it. I try to purge old versions on a regular basis.)

Desired Achievements:

A. Assuming that I decide to stick with this concept, the first desired outcome is to try to automate the "Refresh & Update" process. I've tried several methods, but the challenge of the two linked spreadsheets, in a SharePoint Document library, with all of the built-in "Click to Enable Content" and other Microsoft Office-isms makes this very, very challenging.

B. I've started working on an method inside of Access where the all of the calculations are done within an Access Database (not a web database, as it isn't strong enough to do that heavy lifting. No Action Queries nor Crosstabs.), and that will result in porting the data to the Data Spreadsheet, and will allow for easier maintainability down the road when new products come or go.

Other Facts:

i. We have PowerBI at our disposal, the free version, and as much as I'd like to produce the dashboards there, the same issues still exist, and more. First, PowerBI doesn't link directly to SharePoint lists, so you MUST use the PBI Desktop. Next, there are refresh issues, and also space limitation issues, due to having the free version vs. the paid version.

Concepts Wanted!

Do you have any thoughts?

Knowing that the data must be stored in SharePoint lists, produce a rolling 12-month view, and the dashboards displayed on a SharePoint Page (or maybe PowerBI), what would you do?


What would you use to solve this problem? Sharepoint and ...

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