Bella Reporting Standards

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The day before yesterday Rolf and I raged again. We took apart annual reports of large corporate groups. We made fun of tachometers. We showed how charts lie. We established rules. We defined standards. Some of the rules are in the example. Time runs from left to right. Only structure is shown top-down. We don’t use funny patterns. We label directly. We never label twice. We avoid legends and scales.

Rules for charts

Charts show profits (Gewinne) of TUI AG, a major German company for tourism (Touristik, red), shipping (Schifffahrt, blue), and logistics.

The yellow river – only common to the Chinese

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Rolf had a great idea: A map is easy to understand, because rivers are blue and forest is green. It took a while before everyone acknowledged that.

Map with partly inverted colors
Maps are understood, if they adhere to the common notation

In business reporting one day values, currencies, periods and variances are graphed this way and that way the other day. Rolf insists that months are less wide than quarters and quarters are less wide than years.

Map with partly inverted colors

If such a notation is used consistently, graphical elements not only illustrate proportions but reveal additional content at a glance. This is a milestone in advancing communication between controllers and managers.

Speaking of color: For the Chinese red is a sign of good luck, while in the West it is a sign of danger. But that’s a different story.

Rich tables for high resolution reporting

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

What is better: tables or charts? That was discussed in the past. Some said a chart is worth a thousand words. I think a picture is worth a thousand words. And most charts need a thousand words to be explained. They are so awful, mostly. Because it is so hard to standardize a chart and there are lots of things that can go wrong. Bissantz loves graphic tables. Me too. Charts are tightly integrated into tables. You have the best of both worlds in one concept. Graphic tables are easy to standardize and you can integrate almost every chart type in a table. Sparklines provide time-series. Horizontal bars are good for almost all types of comparisons. Graphic tables maximize data-to-ink ratio. They are fine grained and with high resolution. The graphical elements provide easy orientation for your eyes. The numbers provide all the details. Typical problems of legends and labeling never arise. I provided some examples in the “Radar chart trap” and in “Small things that make a big difference”. Today, I explain how to create waterfall charts in tables.

A waterfall chart is a variant of a bar chart. It shows how an initial value is changed through other values which lead to a final value. In Excel, you can use invisible columns but this is tricky. Rolf has a nice Excel template for free. Data entry is not so easy. Formatting is very nice.

GM scheme Hichert

Jon has programmed an Excel add-in. Formatting is not so easy. Data entry is very nice.

GM scheme Peltier

In both cases a chart is the result. If you turn it around it is still readable, perhaps even better.

GM scheme turned

Turned around it fits perfectly into a graphic table. Subtotals are also easy. This is how Bissantz has done it in DeltaMaster.

GM scheme in Pivot

It is possible in Excel, too. Just use the REPT function and a few tricks. I show you how in an example Excel sheet.

DB-Scheme inExcel