Your presentation-development partner … demonstrate and inspire!

Framework: DD015 – dd015_v04


This waterfall chart has a subtotal. You can eliminate it by replotting the data differently if you wish. Subtotals can be added or eliminated simply by replotting data. This build shows values that equal the subtotal column and then, ultimately, the total column. You can color the segments and subtotals to reflect a category of data. You can add a layer of labels under the column labels or you can add a legend.

Part of series: DD015 Data-Driven Charts 015 – Waterfall Charts

Series Keywords: waterfall, sum, arithmetic, addition, subtraction, totals, subtotals

Waterfall bar and column charts are simply a way to add and subtract values and show a total. They were first developed and used at McKinsey & Co., Inc.; but they are very widely used now. These types of charts are a variation on the subdivided bar charts and subdivided column charts. They need to be calculated, as the worksheet won't do the work for you.

Here's how they work. The worksheet is set up with the first column as a spacer column: the bars/columns have no fill or line. That means that they are invisible, but they provide a place on which to "stack" the next segment (the segment you want to be visible). The first bar/column, any subtotals that you need, and the ending bar/column all touch the baseline. All other segments "float" on top of the invisible spacer stack. Open the worksheet and see how the data is plotted. If you need more explanation, look at the tutorial for this series for an explanation of how to plot the data in the worksheet.

The space for labels below the horizontal baseline in the column waterfalls is sometime very small. You can move these labels up under the segment, so they float along with the segments. This is actually a good way to label these segments. Remember that you're always trying to make it easy on your audience and not force their eyes all over the slide to get the information they need. Keeping the labels next to the plotted objects is a good thing to do.

Key search words: waterfall, sum, arithmetic, addition, subtraction, totals, subtotals

Top Share