Build a Financial Dashboard (Free Template Included)

Learn how to make a professional financial dashboard from scratch.

5 minute read
Example Excel Financial Dashboard

What Is a Financial Dashboard?

A financial dashboard is a tool to track financial data visually, and often includes graphs, maps, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and more. These dashboards are typically built to help management easily extract insights from the data. By using financial dashboards, companies can make data-backed decisions to drive their performance forward.

Types of Financial Dashboards

While there are hundreds of different kinds of financial dashboards, below are three of the most common dashboards used by finance professionals monitoring a company’s finances.

Budget vs Actual Dashboard

Actual vs. Forecast Dashboard

Every month or quarter, professionals working in financial planning and analysis (FP&A) need to assess how they allocate company resources. To make this assessment, they build an actual vs forecast dashboard to see how each department has performed relative to the planned budget. As you can see in the example above, the dashboard not only contains the budgeted and the actual figures, but also the variance between them, both in absolute terms and in percentages. This type of financial dashboard can also be used for personal finance tracking for those who want to track household monthly income and expenses.

Break-even Analysis Dashboard

Break-even analysis dashboards are often used for new projects where it is unclear when projects will become profitable for a company. The break-even point is defined as the point at which total cost and total revenue are even, meaning there is no loss or gain. From there on, the project will be deemed profitable. This type of dashboard will often include the unit economics of a project, which covers things like price per unit, variable cost, and fixed cost.

Cash Flow Dashboard

A cash flow dashboard is used for finance professionals to understand how much cash the company has left before it runs out of money. This is particularly important for early-stage companies such as startups, as they often rely on external capital to maintain operations while unprofitable. Key metrics here include cash in the bank, burn rate (tells you how many months you have left before you run out of cash), and main cash inflows and outflows.

Tools to Make Financial Dashboards

While there are dozens of business analytics tools in the market for building financial dashboards, Microsoft Excel is the easiest for beginners. Excel will allow you to manipulate the data, insert the relevant charts and visuals, and make everything dynamic to create a professional-looking financial dashboard in just a few steps. We’ll cover some financial dashboard examples later on in this article.

If you’re not very familiar with Excel, consider checking out our Excel skills for finance article where we cover the most important Excel skills used by finance professionals.

More advanced business analytics tools include Microsoft Power BI and Tableau, which are the industry standard business intelligence tools. Although Microsoft Excel can do similar tasks, both Power BI and Tableau can make more advanced dashboards with larger datasets in a fraction of the time.

Currently, 97% of Fortune 500 companies use Power BI, so if you’re looking to learn how to use the industry-leading business intelligence tool, we recommend you check out our Power BI for Business Analytics Course.

Financial Dashboard Examples

Example Excel Financial Dashboard:

McDonald's Example Excel Financial Dashboard

Example Power BI Financial Dashboard:

Example Power BI Financial Dashboard

Key Metrics to Include in a Financial Dashboard

The key metrics to include in a financial dashboard are:

  • Number of Customers: How many customers have completed a purchase.
  • Average Sale Price: The average sale price of your product or service.
  • Total Revenue: The revenue generated by the company.
  • Total Profit: The profit (revenue minus expenses) generated by the company.

All of these metrics are essential for management to make important decisions such as investing in new geographical regions, opening new stores, or increasing prices.

Key Visuals to Include in a Financial Dashboard

While the key metrics tell us the important numbers, the key visuals in a financial dashboard should tell a narrative, like the company’s overall trend. Some of the key visuals to include are:

  • Line Chart: Often used to show financial figures (Ex. revenue or profit) over a period of time.
  • Column Chart: Used to compare categorized groups of data or changes over a period of time (used interchangeably with a line chart).
  • Map Chart: Used to show the geographical distribution of values such as the company revenue by region.
  • Pie Chart: Used to show proportions or percentage breakdowns (Ex. a company’s main revenue segments as a percentage of total revenue) 

Once you’ve defined the key metrics and visuals, you’ll want to make the financial dashboard dynamic. For this, you can use slicers, buttons, and hyperlinks so the user can quickly customize the dashboard view.

Tips for Creating a Successful Financial Dashboard

  1. The first and arguably most important part of dashboard building is working with a clean data set. This means making sure all your values are formatted correctly and don’t have any errors. Without a clean dataset, your dashboard will display inaccurate information.
  2. Second, keep the dashboard simple. The user should be able to extract the key insights from the data as quickly as possible. Often, people make the mistake of adding too many visuals, which makes it difficult for the user to understand what they should focus on.
  3. Finally, make sure your colors are consistent with your brand. It's best practice to use your company's color palette, but if you don't have one available you can always use websites like Color Hunt for inspiration.

Additional Resources 

If you want to improve your data cleaning and visualization skills, we recommend you check out our Excel for Business & Finance Course and our Power BI for Business Analytics Course. Our program graduates now work at top-tier companies including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and EY-Parthenon.

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Building a cash flow statement from scratch using a company income statement and balance sheet is one of the most fundamental finance exercises commonly used to test interns and full-time professionals at elite level finance firms.

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Kenji Farre
Kenji Farre
Senior Instructor

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