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Create a Waterfall Variance Chart

Watch Me: Creating a Waterfall Chart

Explains how to create a set of variance waterfall charts by breaking down data by time, sub-accounts, and location.

Use a waterfall chart to visually represent data that shows where you started, where you ended, and how you got there. You can configure a waterfall chart by specifying a start value (reference value) and an end value (comparison value) and the waterfall steps.

You can  breakdown waterfall steps by time, dimension, or on a metric, such as total cost of sales or net income. You can use a variance analysis to compare a revenue plan with revenue actuals that shows the positive and negative variance across a General Ledger revenue sub-account or across different geographic regions.

Suppose that revenue for the first quarter was positive but not as high as expected. You want to use a set of waterfall charts to illustrate potential root causes for the lackluster performance. The following waterfall charts break down revenue by 1 time (for the quarter), 2 metric (revenue sub-accounts), and 3 dimension (location).

Example Revenue Waterfall Chart with Q1 Step

Example Waterfall Charts by Product Revenue Sub-accounts and Service Revenue Sub-accounts

Example Waterfall Charts by Product Revenue Location and Service Revenue Location

Suppose that sales of smartphones, mobile subscription services, and maintenance contracts generates revenue for your business. For this analysis, you want to focus on total revenue with a deep dive into product and services revenue. 

This article will walk you through how to create this set of waterfall charts for the quarterly business review. This is an intermediate walkthrough, for users who have completed Discovery training or have completed a few of the beginner chart examples.

See Waterfall Chart Settings for setting options and descriptions.

Create a Waterfall By Time

Your first waterfall chart will provide a summary of the revenue for Q1 by time. You will change the breakdown to display data by time. 

  1. Create a dashboard for your presentation and go into edit mode.
  2. From the left pane:
    1. Charts tab: Drag and drop Waterfall Chart Icon to the design area to create the waterfall.
    2. Accounts tab: Drag and drop a revenue account to the chart.
      Example: Revenue, a rollup GL account for product, services, maintenance, and other sub-accounts
  3. From the Appearance Settings tab: 
    1. Rename the chart to: Q1 Revenue Summary
    2. Change the Open & Close, Positive and Negative Variance colors to match your corporate branding.
    3. Keep the remaining appearance settings.
  4. From the Data tab, make the following changes:
    1. Rename the account. For example, from 4000 Revenue to Revenue.
    2. Change the Breakdown from Metric to Time and and choose Quarter as the Period Breakdown.

No other data setting change is required for this example. 

  1. From the Time Settings tab:
    1. Change the Stratum from Month (the default) to Quarter. The Period will switch from the current month to the current quarter.
    2. Change the Period and choose the prior quarter.
      Example: Choose Q1-FY17

If your charts are intended for future, ongoing quarterly reviews, you can set relative time to analyze data for the prior quarter. For example, if your presentation occurs in Q2, but you are showing results from Q1, configure Time Settings as:  Granularity = Quarter, Span Type = Relative, and Relative Period = -1.

Create a Waterfall by Metric

Your second set of waterfall charts will provide more detail of Q1 revenue by breaking down data by revenue sub-accounts.

Create two waterfall charts:

  • Product Revenue
  • Services Revenue
  1. Create a waterfall chart and add a Product Revenue account to the chart:
  2. From the Appearance Settings tab: 
    1. Rename the chart to: Revenue - Product By Location
    2. Change the Open & Close, Positive and Negative Variance colors to match your corporate branding.
    3. From the Axis section, toggle the Axis Start From Zero to the left.
      Experiment with this setting to change the focus of the analysis.
    4. Keep the remaining appearance settings.
  3. From the Data Settings tab, make the following changes:
    1. Rename the account. For example, from 4000 Revenue to Revenue.

No other data setting change is required for this example. The default breakdown is Metric. Product Revenue sub-accounts will comprise the waterfall steps.

  1. From the Time Settings tab:
    1. Change the Stratum from Month (the default) to Quarter. The Period will switch from the current month to the current quarter.
    2. Change the Period and choose the prior quarter.
      Example: Choose Q1-FY17

Repeat these steps to create a similar waterfall chart for Service Revenue.

Create a Waterfall by Dimension

Your third set of waterfall charts will provide more detail of Q1 revenue by breaking down data by location. 

Create two waterfall charts:

  •  Product Revenue
  • Services Revenue
  1. Create a waterfall chart and add a Product Revenue account to the chart:
  2. From the Appearance Settings tab: 
    1. Rename the chart to: Product Revenue - By Location
    2. Change the Open & Close, Positive and Negative Variance colors to match your corporate branding.
    3. Keep the remaining appearance settings.
  3. From the Data tab, make the following optional change:
    1. Rename the account. For example, from 4000 Product Revenue to Revenue.
    2. Change the breakdown from Metric to Dimension, and choose Location as the dimension value.
  4. From the Time Settings tab:
    1. Change the Stratum from Month (the default) to Quarter. The Period will switch from the current month to the current quarter.
    2. Change the Period and choose the prior quarter.
      Example: Choose Q1-FY17

Repeat these steps to create a similar waterfall chart for Service Revenue.

This completes the steps for creating a series of waterfall charts.

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