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September 14, 2010

Tableau vs. Xcelcius: Internet Usage Dashboard

SAP has been hosting an event they're calling Reportapalooza - "a festival of reporting and dashboard challenges sponsored by SAP Crystal solutions."

They challenged five of their "experts" to use SAP Crystal solutions to create an everyday dashboard. According to SAP: "All of them were great." I beg to differ. Maybe they're all cute, but not great examples of dashboards. Shame on SAP!

One of the runner's up was the dashboard Internet Usage by Brian Durning. Here's a screen shot:

You really should check it out for yourself. Some of the more serious design flaws include:
  • The giant instructions/welcome message at the capture your immediate focus. Place the instructions, if needed at all, in a less prominent position.
  • The map is at a strange angle. Many of the northern countries at the top look much smaller than those of similar size to the south.
  • There is no way to compare the countries. You have to mouse over each of them individually. Why not shade them?
  • The stock ticker in the "Internet Users by Continent" section is very difficult to read unless you mouse over it, which freezes it. However, when you freeze it, you can't see all of the continents simultaneously.

I have created a workbook using Tableau Public. You can interact with the data using the three controls at the top right.
  • Scroll through the years to see how the number of users and the % of the population in each country has changed (it's interesting to watch the changes over time)
  • Focus in on a continent using the Continent filter
  • Pick a country to filter even farther

Do you see anything interesting? I do.
  1. There has been explosive growth in China, even though they got a late start. However, there is still room for tremendous growth. In 2008, only 22% of the population was using the internet.
  2. Oceania has the 2nd highest % of users. This surprised me, although I know very little about that part of the word. My initial guess was that Europe would be 2nd.
  3. 33% of Moroccans use the internet (leads Africa)
  4. Vietnam has grown from 0% in 2000 to 24% in 2008. I've been to Saigon three times and saw internet cafes everywhere. The source data says "Internet users are people with access to the worldwide network." That has potential to be misinterpreted and not measured consistently across the world.

Let me know what you come up with. You can download the workbook from the dashboard above or you can download it here.

Indicator: Internet users (per 100 people)
Description: Internet users are people with access to the worldwide network.
Source: International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report and database, and World Bank estimates. Note: Please cite the International Telecommunication Union for thirdparty use of these data.

Indicator: Population, total
Description: Total population is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship--except for refugees not permanently settled in the country of asylum, who are generally considered part of the population of their country of origin. The values shown are midyear estimates.
  1. United Nations Population Division. 2009. World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision. New York, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Available at
  2. Census reports and other statistical publications from national statistical offices
  3. Eurostat: Demographic Statistics
  4. Secretariat of the Pacific Community: Statistics and Demography Programme
  5. U.S. Census Bureau: International Database
  6. World bank estimates based on the data from the sources above, household surveys conducted by national agencies, Macro International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and refugees statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


  1. Why would anyone use Xcelcius anymore. I got an expensive license a few years ago, then SAP bought it; support was gone and they never let me know what was going on with the product.

    And then I came across Tableau... and stopped caring about what happened to Xcelcius

  2. Jacques, I wrote an extensive evaluation of Business Objects as a whole when we were evaluating it. Unfortunately, SAP is very good at selling executive instead of those that would actually use the tools.

    You should download this workbook (if you have Tableau Desktop) and add Year to the pages shelf and play it on full speed. It's pretty cool to see the data change over time.

  3. I agree, SAP and a lot of the other big box BI companies, know how to sell. A lot of their products are just not superior to Tableau. To me the SAP dashboard is ok, but it does not tell me the story of what's going on. With the Tableau visualization, I can see a much clearer picture of what is happening.