A chart chooser for trends


In this earlier post, we introduced a high level Analysis Library for business that classifies charts frequently used to visualize management information into seven high level groupings.  Having now defined and explained the fundamental dimensions of MI, we can develop a chart chooser for each of the seven categories.

Our first grouping focuses on the fundamental business requirements to analyse trends over time.  Our trend chart chooser looks like this.


Trend chart chooser



The first thing we need to decide is what kind of comparison is called for by the business question the chart must answer.  Here are some examples:

1. What is the trend of total working capital compared to budget?

Answering this question requires a trend chart that compares modes (in this case actual and forecast compared to budget).

2. How have the proportions of consumer spending by category evolved over the last 10 years?

This question implies a trend chart that analyses the composition of items.

3. How do gross margin trends compare across our regions?

This question calls for a trend chart that compares units.

4. What is the trend in our profit and cash generation, and the profit into cash ratio?

Answering this question means comparing the relationship between items.


Having narrowed down our focus to a particular branch of the chart chooser, we can then home in on the best type of chart to answer the specific business question.  For example:

Question 1 is probably best answered by a Trend line chart because working capital is a ‘stock’ type of item.

Question 2 is a ‘part to whole’ question that is best addressed by a 100% area or possibly a 100% bar chart.

Question 3 requires us to trend a statistic for a group of units and hence is best answered by a Multiple line chart.

Question 4 implies comparing the relationship between two flow type items and a statistic, for which a multiple unit/item chart would probably work best.

Leave a Reply