FinancialViz: Presenting Financial Data and Analysis Visually

In this section of my site I share examples of data visualization applied to reporting financial messages. Too often financial results or analysis are reported using spreadsheets or paragraphs of text. Below I share examples of how those in accounting, finance, treasury, and other areas can use visuals to effectively communicate important messages.

I've organized the examples by the message they communicate because I believe that the correct visual is based on the message, not on how nice it looks. I have organized the examples into nine categories of messages based on my years of working with financial professionals and the messages they communicate. If you'd like to see some examples organized by messages common to financial statements, check out my articles for Income/P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement.

The examples are drawn from my work with clients in customized workshops, from visuals published in the media, and from public financial statements such as annual reports. Some of the examples are makeovers where I show a visual that can replace a spreadsheet or table of numbers, some are examples of improving on a visual, and some are commentary on aspects of a visual that we can learn from and apply in our own work. In most cases I have added some tips on how to create the visual in common Office programs such as Excel and PowerPoint.

You can apply these lessons in areas such as regular financial reporting to others, preparing financial statements to be published, and creating dashboards in big data analysis tools such as Power BI or Tableau. Scroll through the nine areas below and review those examples that apply to the messages you need to communicate. If you want to see the latest examples from all categories, click here.

Trend over time (view all)
Comparing growth in Sales and Expense categories over time; Slide Makeover #92

Use an index line graph to compare trends in different data series using a common starting point

Showing a trend and comparing current value to last Q and last Y; Slide Makeover #88

Use a line graph instead of a column graph to show both the trend and comparisons to previous values.

Makeover Monday Challenge April 10 2017

Use an index line graph instead of a dual axis chart to compare trends in different data series.

Showing trends as lines, not clustered columns; Slide Makeover #82

Use a line graph instead of a clustered column graph to show trends

Showing trends in related series of data; Slide Makeover #78

A line graph is easier to see trends in multiple data series than a stacked column graph

Compare to a standard (view all)
Comparing to two standards; Issue #388 May 2, 2017

Use a column with two dashed lines to compare a value to two standards

Showing performance where we want to be below a goal; Issue #379 December 20, 2016

Showing performance where the desire is to remain below a standard (vs. the usual above the goal)

Order data to support your message; Issue #378 December 6, 2016

When comparing values, make sure the order supports the message

Makeover Monday Challenge February 29 2016

Comparing values to an average using a dashed line on a bar chart

Comparing Values (view all)
FinancialViz Makeover: Comparing common elements using color and position
This makeover shows how using color and position helps the audience compare common elements in two...
FinancialViz: Comparing Revenue & Profit in lines of business

This makeover shows a way to compare the revenue and profit from multiple lines of business

Another option for diverging bar charts; Issue #400 October 17, 2017

Use a diverging bar chart to compare two data series that are related

Replace stacked column graphs; Issue #393 July 11, 2017

Focus the audience on the comparison of the values in the important segments in a stacked column graph

Focusing the message for variance analysis; Slide Makeover #86

Focus your message with a visual that highlights important variances

Contribution of segments (view all)
Comparing Revenue components to previous year; Slide Makeover #91

Use a “steps to a total” graph instead of a spreadsheet to explain the components of total revenue

Showing breakeven analysis; Slide Makeover #89

Show the breakeven analysis on an investment visually instead of a spreadsheet or table of numbers.

Replace stacked column graphs; Issue #393 July 11, 2017

Focus the audience on the comparison of the values in the important segments in a stacked column graph

Showing the components that add up to a total; Slide Makeover #87

Use a Steps to a Total graph to visually show components instead of a spreadsheet.

Makeover Monday Challenge February 15 2016

Compare the same measurement categories across different groups visually

Small multiples makeover April 8, 2015

Compare multiple data series across multiple categories using small multiple bar graphs

Rank (view all)
Focus by using an All Others category; Issue #396 August 22, 2017

Use an All Others category when showing ranked data to focus on the most important categories

When gridlines help on graphs; Issue #387 April 18, 2017

When showing ranked values with a related data series, use gridlines to help the audience relate the values

The correct use of a pie chart; Issue #327 December 23, 2014

The correct use of a pie chart is to show one segment compared to the whole; Use bar charts for ranked values

Portion of a Total (view all)
Proportion visual using characters; Issue #395 August 8, 2017

Use ISOTYPE or group of items visuals to show proportion of the whole

The correct use of a pie chart; Issue #327 December 23, 2014

The correct use of a pie chart is to show one segment compared to the whole; Use bar charts for ranked values

Groups of text points (view all)
Executive Summary slide; Issue #394 July 25, 2017

Create an Executive Summary at the start of your presentation using text organized in shapes

Group text in shapes instead of bullets; Issue #391 June 13, 2017

Make groups of text visual by putting them in shapes

PowerPoint table alternative to SmartArt; Issue #357 February 16, 2016

Use a table to group text instead of SmartArt

Converting bullets to text grouped in shapes; Slide Makeover #83

Present bullet/sub-bullet text visually using text in shapes

Making text look better; Issue #340 June 23, 2015

Three options for grouping text in shapes instead of bullets and sub-bullets

Process/Sequence (view all)
Shapes on arrow sequence diagram; Issue #384 March 7, 2017

Use a "shapes on an arrow" diagram to show steps in a process

Visually showing procedures that include decisions; Slide Makeover #76

Communicate decisions and outcomes with a decision tree diagram instead of a numbered list

Timeline (view all)
Showing the timing of steps in a project; Slide Makeover #90

Use a data-driven Gantt chart instead of a bulleted list of dates to show timing of steps.

Creating a Gantt chart with Milestones using a Stacked Bar Chart in Excel or PowerPoint

When you need an accurate Gantt chart, you can use a stacked bar graph in Excel to create it

Download free Timelines & Calendars; Issue #371 August 30, 2016

Quickly create timeline visuals by starting with a pre-built timeline or calendar you can copy onto a PowerPoint slide