Creating ROI Models with SAP’s Crystal Presentation Design

If you need an ROI or other type of model for your website, I strongly recommend trying SAP’s Crystal Presentation Design tool.  Essentially, Crystal Presentation Design lets you transform any Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into a Flash model that can be embedded on a website or in an Adobe PDF, Microsoft Powerpoint or Word document.  The cool part is that you can hide the ‘ugliness’ of the spreadsheet and control a user’s input to what you want them to see as well as simplify their user experience by using sliders and spinner gadgets.  [Note that you will have to get the Crystal Dashboard Design Personal if you want to use the Flash option to embed on your website.]

This tool has a bit of a history over the past 10 years and I have used this tool since it was started as Xcelsius by Infommersion in the early 2000’s.  In 2005, Business Objects acquired Infommersion and the product was renamed Crystal Xcelsius.  Then in 2007, SAP acquired Business Objects which recently renamed the product as Crystal Presentation Design.  Knowing the original Infommersion CEO from my days at Oracle has also added to my fondness for this product.

While researching background info for this post, I ran across a blog entry titled Xcelsius Will Always Be Xcelsius by BI expert Paul Grill.  In the post, Paul makes a case that SAP should not have renamed Xcelsius and I thoroughly agree.  In my mind, the SAP “mouthful-of-a-product-name” will always be Xcelsius to me, so I will use that naming convention for the rest of this blog post.

What can you do with Xcelsius?   Xcelsius lets you easily create stunning presentation-quality models and dashboards using standard Excel spreadsheets.  In the SAP website, they tout that you can create a model in “just a few minutes”.  That may be an overstatement, but you should be able to create a workable model in about 30 minutes.  Part of the challenge is that you have to think of the enduser experience when you start your project as you are just presented with a blank slate when you begin an Xcelsius project.  Actually, there is a lot you can do with Xcelsius including bringing in external feeds and extensively formatting the output.  One of the uses for Xcelsius is to use it as a reporting dashboard.  Thankfully, there are a number of pre-built templates and help for getting started with the tool.

Can you show us some examples?  My most recent project with Xcelsius was to develop a revenue model for the Morphlabs website.  A screen shot of the model is below and here is a link to this project:

Morphlabs MSP Revenue Model

Two of the models I created for the iRise website in 2008 are still available too and here are screen shots of these models which show how graphics can be incorporated into the models too.

iRise Re-Work Model

Link to iRise Re-Work Model

iRise Project Delays Model

Link to iRise Project Delays Model

Recommendation —Xcelsius gets high marks from me and is ideal for adding interactive ROI features to your website.  Xcelsius comes with a free 30-day trial so you can check it out for yourself before investing $195 in the product (or $895 for the Dashboard Design Personal).


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