The challenges facing today’s finance leaders
I returned from CFO Magazine’s Corporate Performance Management Conference last week with a sense that many finance leaders are experiencing similar problems when it comes to achieving a holistic view of company performance. I like to reflect on the common themes after a conference, and after this one, I kept coming back to the theme of “one shared challenge.” As a vendor who exhibits at several conferences per year, we’re used to hearing about a multitude of BI/analysis/data issues, but at this event, everyone seemed to be on the same page.
arcplan sponsored the CPM Conference, held around the corner from our US headquarters at the Loews Philadelphia. It brought together 150 CFOs, VPs of Finance, Directors of FP&A, Controllers, and Analysts for three days of workshops, case studies and networking. We had plenty of time to speak with attendees, and it was remarkable how many times I heard the same challenge:
I can’t connect all of my data on one screen.
I talked to many people using IBM Cognos, SAP, Oracle, and other systems simultaneously with no method to make them all work together. The inability to easily share critical business insight across the organization was a hot topic during every networking break. Again and again I was asked how arcplan could solve the issue of everyone spending their time of the process of monthly data gathering and not on the analysis…
Decision-makers depend on insightful charts and graphs to help them make fast, accurate decisions. “Insightful” charts and graphs are easy to read and understand and are the right design for your data. The wrong chart type can throw everything off and make your dashboard unusable. For example, while pie charts are most often used to display the share or percentage of a total, they’re not good for comparing the relationship between two variables – a scatter chart is better for that. While bar charts are good for comparison, if you want to compare many categories of data over time, go with a line chart.
Are you tasked with creating the dashboards that are used every day at your organization? As dashboard experts, let’s take a look at a few practical examples of why certain charts are better suited to display certain types of data versus others. If you find this article useful, be sure to view our webinar recording Scorecard & Dashboard Development: A Detailed How-To, where you’ll get more practical tips to create interactive, “go-to” dashboards.
Sales data for the year may be best displayed on a bullet graph. This type of graph displays a fair amount of data in a small space, compares measures to enrich its meaning, and is generally a simple, uncluttered visual representation of data. With a bullet graph, the budgeted sales amount for the year is represented by the entire length of the bar; the actual value is represented by the thin bar in the forefront (blue on the sales bullet graph). The shaded grey areas (in our image) represent the values “poor,” “satisfactory,” and “good.” In our image, the sales data is satisfactory, approaching good. Stacking bullet graphs allows the user to compare values with ease – here, sales vs. costs. A bullet graph would even work well as a desktop widget since it can showcase an important KPI in a simple, space-efficient format.
Would a bar chart work for this same data?
A bullet chart is actually a variation of a bar chart. Even though bar charts are useful for comparing data as well, for our sales example, it may not be your best option. With a bar chart, you’d need to have 2 columns per month – one for actual and one for the target/budgeted amount. Alternatively, you could use a stacked bar chart, but that is basically what we have here with the bullet graph, only with even more data than a stacked bar chart typically offers. Because it would be difficult to track your progress over time, a standard bar chart isn’t the most efficient chart type for sales actual vs. budget data.
Candlestick Charts vs. Bubble Charts