Convert excel spreadsheets into online simulations and dashboards

There are two neat tools you can use to quickly turn excel spreadsheets into online simulations, what-if models and dashboards. They are Simulate from Forio and Crystal Presentation Design (formerly known as xcelsius) from SAP. Here's the lowdown.

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Simulate allows you to import excel models (and also a number of other tools including ithink) and then add a user interface with a drag and drop tool enabling you to add multiple pages with objects such as text, images, sliders and charts before publishing over the web.

Here is a useful little video tutorial which takes you through the entire process in overview for a simple excel model.

Simulate is free provided your models do not exceed 200 equations and you are prepared to share them with others. Simulate Basic costs $479 per year and allows you private and bigger models (up to 2000 equations) but only 1 simulation. Beyond this Simulate gets rather pricey but does allow you to create very sophisticated simulations supporting multiple users and user login.

Crystal Presentation Design

Crystal Presentation Design works in a similar way to Simulate in that you start by building your excel worksheet and then you import it to the Crystal canvas where you can start to add objects such as text, images, sliders and charts.

The main difference is that all Crystal development is done on the windows desktop whereas Forio development is done in a browser. Crystal offers a 30-day free trial and starts at about £70 for the entry level version going up to about £400 for the all bells and whistles version.

Here is an example model I built with Crystal. As well as building dashboards Crystal is also very good at building online questionnaires (in my example a Bioteams Questionnaire) where you can instantly see charts and visualisations of the entered results.

Here is a short video tutorial on SAP Crystal Presentation Design.

Note that both Simulate and Crystal currently generate flash (SWF files) which means they won't run on ipads although I believe the suppliers both have plans for HTML5.

See also my other article: Microsoft Excel: The Bumblebee's seven most useful Excel add-ins

About Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson delivers keynote conference speeches, workshop facilitation and in-house consultancy in four key business areas:

  1. Creating High Performing Teams in enterprises including Virtual and Mobile Teams (based on the Bioteams Book)
  2. Establishing effective Collaborative Business Networks enabling companies to co-operate effectively in areas such as sales and product development (based on the book - The Networked Enterprise)
  3. How to use the latest social media technologies including blogging and online communities to promote enterprises, brand, organisation or event
  4. Development of graphical on-line interactive Business Games, Dashboards and What-if Simulators for organisations to support Performance Improvement, Strategy Development and Executive Team Development.

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