Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Understanding Sparklines
Understanding Sparklines
It’s important to understand just how sparklines can enhance your reporting. As I mention in
Chapter 2, much of the reporting done in Excel is table-based, where precise numbers are more
important than pretty charts. However, in table-based reporting, you often lose the ability to show
important aspects of the data such as trends. The number of columns needed to show adequate
trend data in a table makes it impractical to do so, and often will do nothing more than render your
report unreadable. Sparklines allow you to add extra analysis, such as trends, in a concise
visualization within your table without inundating your customers with superfluous numbers.
Take the example in Figure 3-1. The data represents a compact KPI summary designed to be an
at-a-glance view of key metrics. Although there is some effort given to comparing various time
periods (in columns D, E, and F), the ability to see a full-year trend would be helpful.
Figure 3-1: Although this KPI Summary is useful, it lacks the ability to show a full-year trend.
Figure 3-2 illustrates the same KPI Summary with Excel sparklines added to visually show the
12-month trend. With the sparklines added, you can see the broader story behind each metric. For
example, if you were to look at the Passengers metric based solely on the numbers, it would look like
it is merely slightly up from the average. But look at the sparkline, and you see a story of a heroic
comeback from a huge hit at the beginning of the year.
It’s not about adding flash and pizzazz to your tables. It’s about building the most effective message
you can in the limited you space you have. Sparklines are another tool you can use to add another
dimension to your table-based reports.
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