When talking about charts that are uncommonly used in Power BI, Waterfall Chart is usually not so far down on the list. Why? Who knows?
Maybe users take one look at the chart (or the name *wink wink*), see the colors or weirdly placed bars and think it must be one of the difficult ones to use or a hard one to interpret.
When on the contrary, it’s quite easy to create & interpret & it can be extremely useful in uncovering interesting insights in your data.
The primary function of the Waterfall chart is to display the running total of a given value over a period, in a manner that can reveal variance.
It can also show how a selected factor (e.g. location, product categories, etc.) affects the total (either positively or negatively).
The chart leverages three attributes:
1.Position: to show the current total value
2. Color: different colors to show the direction of variance. Positive or Negative
3. Length: to show the magnitude of variance. Small difference or Large difference
Consider this simple example of Monthly Profit/Loss of a business:
The above report shows profits in all months except April and May. When you plot this on a Waterfall Chart, more details will emerge.
Now with a waterfall chart, we can tell the following:
1. Profit grew from 1,000 to 2,000 from January to March and ended at 1,500 in June. This is shown by the positions of the bars as at each month.
2. Profit increased every month from January to March, then dropped consecutively in April and May before increasing again in June.
This is shown by the colors. Green depicting increase and Reddish depicting a decline in profits.
3. Of the four months that produced an increase in profit after January, March had the highest increase (shown by the length of the bar) while the loss in May is far bigger than April’s loss. Also shown by the length of the bar.
Putting all of these in Variance perspective, we can also say there was:
If we wanted to know why our profit is low for example, April and May are the causes. They negatively affect the Total Profit.
In this post, I will be showing a simple demonstration of how to create a simple Waterfall Chart with Power BI.
In case you don’t already have this data & you would like to practice along, download the Superstore dataset I’m using here.
Let’s get to it then;
After importing the data into Power BI;
1. Navigate to ‘report view’
2. Click on the chart icon on the Visualizations pane & expand to fit the report page.
3. Notice the 4 requirements that appear in the Details Pane as the chart is selected.
4. From the Fields pane, drag Year into the Category pane & Sales into Values. The result is shown below.
As you can see that even without filling all fields (i.e. Breakdown & Tooltips) yet, the visual already looks relevant.
Interpreting the chart above;
For better clarity & understanding, turn on the chart’s data labels in the Format pane.
Now we can see the respective amount made for every year above the bars.
To dig further & explore more changes, let’s make use of the Breakdown field;
5. Drag and drop ‘Category’ into the Breakdown field. The changes appear as shown below;
Don’t fret, let’s look through this together;
For example, the chart shows that in year 2015, the sales for Technology and Office Supplies decreased (indicated by the red bars).
You’ll be able to see the percentage decrease and other info. when you hover your cursor around the red bars i.e. Tooltips
You can decide to continue exploring by;
Waterfall is a very straightforward type of chart, doesn’t ask for much yet reveals a lot. It’s one of my favorites. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be one of yours too (haha).
If you have time to spare, check out my last post on how to use Scatter Plots in Power BI.
Thanks for reading, see you soon.