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Excel Charts Water Fall

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Charts)

by

(Bridge

Jon

Thursday,

Peltier

Charts

Peltier

July

Technical

Services,

7th,

Inc.,

Copyright

2011

2012.

Waterfall charts are commonly used in business to show how a value changes from one state to

another through a series of intermediate changes. For example, you can project next years profit or

cash flow starting with this years value, and showing the up and down effects of changing costs,

revenues, and other inputs. Waterfall charts are often called bridge charts, because a waterfall chart

shows a bridge connecting its endpoints. A simple waterfall chart is shown below:

There is more than one way to create a waterfall chart in Excel. The first approach described below is

to create a stacked column chart with up and down columns showing changes and a transparent

columns that help the visible columns to float at the appropriate level. Under some circumstances this

simple approach breaks down, and another approach is described.

Here is some sample data showing how to construct a stacked-column waterfall chart. The left table

has a column of labels, then a column with just the initial and final values, then columns with

increases and decreases in value. This is the almost arrangement needed for making the chart, but I

prefer to put these values into a single column as shown at right, and let the formulas sort it all out.

The first approach most people try is to use a floating column chart, that is, a stacked column chart

with the bottom column in the stack hidden to make the others float. This range contains the

calculations needed to make a floating column waterfall chart. After the two columns of labels and

values, as in the top right table, there are calculated columns for the chart endpoints, the blank series

that supports the floaters, and up and down values. Here are the formulas; the formulas in D3:F3 are

filled down to row 7:

Cell C2:

=B2

Cell C8:

=SUM(B2:B7)

Cell D3:

=MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3))

Cell E3:

=MAX(B3,0)

Cell F3:

=-MIN(B3,0)

The chart is pretty easy to make. Select A1:A8 (yes, include the blank top cell), hold Ctrl and select

C1:F8 so both selected areas are highlighted, and create a stacked column chart.

Finish up with a little formatting. Set the gap width of the columns to 75%: format the series and on

the Series Options or Options tab, change the value for gap width. Hide the Blank series by giving it

no border and no fill, use colors that invoke positive and negative for the audience (usually green and

red, which makes it tough for those with color vision deficiencies), remove the legend.

Stacked Columns

That seems just too simple to be true. And in fact, for data like the following, which has negative as

well as positive values, the simple floating column chart approach fails.

The green and red bars are the correct length, and as long as they are located completely above the

horizontal axis, the chart is cool. But the formula computing the blank values is too simplistic, and

Excel prohibits the floating bars from floating across the axis.

You can still use stacked columns, but you need to compute two sets of up bars and two sets of down

bars, one set of each that lies above the axis, and one that lies below the axis. You also need to fix the

formula for the blank series so it floats each column above or below the axis as necessary, or provides

no float if the column spans the axis. Wow, so complicated.

But wait!

There is another approach which takes a bit longer to chart, but the formulas are easier, and the

columns in this case are able to float anywhere, even across the axis. This approach is based on line

charts and a line chart feature called up-down bars. Up-down bars connect the first line chart value at

a category to the last, like the open-close bars in a stock chart. In fact, Excel uses up-down bars as

open-close bars in its stock charts. The up bars and down bars can be formatted individually.

The range below contains the calculations needed to make an up-down bar waterfall chart. After the

two columns of labels and values, as above, there are calculated columns for the chart endpoints, and

the values before and after adding an item to the previous total. Here are the formulas; the formulas

in D3:E3 are filled down to row 7:

Cell C2:

=B2

Cell C8:

=SUM(B2:B7)

Cell D3:

=SUM(B$2:B2)

Cell E3:

=SUM(B$2:B3)

The chart-making process is a bit longer than for the floating column chart approach. Select A1:A8,

hold Ctrl while selecting C1:E8, and create a line chart.

Select one of the line series, and add Up-Down Bars. In Excel 2007 and 2010, go to the Chart Tools >

Layout tab, click the Up-Down Bars button, and select Up-Down Bars from the menu. In Excel 2003

and earlier, format the series, and check Up-Down Bars on the Options tab.

Hide the line chart series by formatting them to show no line and no markers, and format the up-down

bar colors.

Remove the legend, and change the gap width of the column and the up-down bars to 0.75. This is

easy for the column: simply format the series and on the Series Options or Options tab, change the

gap width value. For the up-down bars in Excel 2003 and 2010, format one of the line chart series,

and on the Options or Series Options tab, change the gap width value.

In Excel 2007 there is no way to change the up-down bar gap width from within the user interface, but

you can do it with VBA. Press Alt+F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor. Press Ctrl+G (or go to View

menu > Immediate Window) to open the Immediate Window. Type the following line of code into the

Immediate Window (capitalization does not matter), then press Enter:

ActiveChart.ChartGroups(2).GapWidth = 75

Up-Down Bars

This is the negative trending data set that messed up the floating columns. The up-down formulas

work just fine.

Perfect, no problem with spanning the axis with our floating columns.

Earlier I said that its possible to use stacked columns for mixed values, and for completeness Im

going to describe the protocol here. If you dont care to read about it, feel free to skip ahead, or to

visit some of the other tutorials on this web site.

Heres the start of the calculations for the stacked-column-across-the-axis approach. Here are the

formulas for blanks above and below zero in D3 and E3:

Cell D3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Cell E3:

=MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Since at most only one of these has a non-zero value, we can replace the two formulas by a single

formula which adds them together:

Cell

F3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

+MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Lets consolidate the Blank column, and compute the other values. Here are the formulas; those in

D3:H3 are filled down to row 7:

Cell C2:

=B2

Cell C8:

=SUM(B2:B7)

Cell

D3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

+MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Cell E3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B3),B3))

Cell F3:

=-MAX(0,B3-E3)

Cell G3:

=MAX(0,H3-B3)

Cell H3:

=MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B3),B3))

Select A1:A8, hold Ctrl while selecting C1:H8 so both areas are highlighted, and create a stacked

column chart.

to

hide

it,

format

both

Up

series

the

same

and

both

Down

series

the

same.

version, except here the horizontal axis is not hidden by the bars that cross the axis.

Its easy to accommodate intermediate totals in a waterfall chart. Adjust your formulas so the Ends

series has a cumulative total and no red or green bars at the appropriate category. Construction of the

charts is the same as without the intermediate totals.

Here is how the data and charts appear for a stacked column waterfall chart with intermediate totals:

Here is how the data and charts appear for an up-down bar waterfall chart with intermediate totals:

This tutorial shows how to create waterfall charts in Excel, including the specialized data layout

needed, and the detailed combination of chart series and chart types required. This manual process

takes time, can be prone to error, and soon becomes tedious. If you want to add data labels, tedium

increases.

I have created the Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart Utility to create such charts automatically from raw

data. This utility, a standard Excel add-in, lays out data in the required layout, then constructs a chart

with the right combination of chart types. This is a commercial product which has been tested on

thousands of machines in a wide variety of configurations. Using this utility will save you time and

aggravation.

Please visit the Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart Utility page or the Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart

Utility Documentation page for more information.

Sometimes a waterfall chart may have two or more items stacked within a floating column. In the data

table below, we see that Items A and B both contribute to the accumulating value. This kind of

illustration only makes sense if the Item A and B values are all positive or all negative. Otherwise the

chart will be confusing.

This table contains calculated blank data for a stacked (floating) column waterfall:

Select the data in column A, then hold Ctrl while selecting the data in columns C through E, and insert

a stacked column chart as before.

A compound waterfall chart with up to two elements can be made using the up-down bar approach.

There can be only one set of up-down bars per axis, so one set is on the primary axis and the other on

the secondary axis.

Here is how the data is arranged for up-down bar waterfall. Here are the formulas that generate the

table, which are filled down as far as shown:

Cell E3:

=SUM(B$2:D2)

Cell F3:

=E3+C3

Cell G3:

=F3

Cell H3:

=G3+D3

Select A1:B8, then hold Ctrl while selecting E1:H8 so both regions are highlighted, and insert a line

chart.

Select the secondary vertical axis (right of chart) and press Delete.

If the endpoints are also split by item, the data looks something like this.

Construction of the chart is the same as before, starting with a stacked column chart, except there is

no Ends series.

Here the Before and After A and B values have been calculated for up-down bars:

Construction of the chart is the same as before, starting with a line chart, except there is no Ends

series which must be converted to columns. Before and After A stay on the primary axis, while Before

and After B move to the secndary axis.

Hide the legend, hide the lines and markers, and format the up down bars. The chart looks just like

that using stacked columns.

Because there are only primary and secondary axes in an Excel chart, the up-down bar approach can

only support a two-item per stack waterfall chart. The stacked column approach can support many

more items: the limitation is imposed by the legibility of the resulting chart.

Here is data for a waterfall chart with three items per stack (you could add enough items to make

your chart illegible).

The data has a calculated Blank column to float the three columns.

Select the data in column A, and hold Ctrl while selecting the data in columns C through F, and insert a

stacked column chart.

Hide the Blank series, and hide the unwanted legend entries (click once to select the legend, and click

a second time on the legend entry, and press Delete).

Related Posts:

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Posted:

Thursday,

July

7th,

2011

under

Chart

Types.

Comments: 18

Comments

Comment

from

Joe

Mako

I always enjoy a good waterfall chart, thank you for these great examples.

I

remade

these

in

Tableau,

and

added

couple

of

other

features,

you

can

see

them

at:

http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/WaterfallExamples/Waterfall

(there are two tabs, and they are interactive, with values effected by the filters)

Comment

from

Bob

Hi Jon,

Really like the up/down bar approach. Always learn something here.

Cheers,

Bob

Comment

Time: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 6:40 am

from

Anonymous

Correction: Am i missing something? It seems the issue with the up/down bar approach is that it does NOT show

correct labelling for the change in value from one bar to another.

Comment

from

Jon

Peltier

Actually, the up-down bars cannot be labeled directly. You have to label one of the existing line chart series or add

a new series, and the labels have to be custom, not a simple value.

What I do is add a line chart series. I use the labels I want to show as the X values, which Excel ignores, treating

them as valueless categories. I use the vertical position as the Y values. I add the series, move it to the secondary

axis, then delete the secondary X and Y axes. Then I label this series using the category labels option, and hide the

markers and lines.

So you see, its still easier than stacked columns, especially when the bars cross the axis.

Comment

from

Maher

Absolutely great tutorial.

Comment

from

GB

Excellent

Comment

from

Cesar

Jon,

Do you have a version that can cluster different data sets within each up and down bar, like having a stack bar

within each up and down bar, allowing each element in the stack to be a different color?

My specific application is for a multi-location system. I want to show the growth each year at each location (up

stack, unique color for each, say from a green palate), the new product declines from each location (a down stack,

each location with a color from a blue palate) and the drop from legacy products (a down stack, each location with

a color from a red palate).

The charting can get much more granular but the risk is having directors that may get lost in a busy chart.

Your thoughts?

From data-density man in Texas

Thanks.

Comment

from

Jon

Peltier

Cesar Ive actually built something like this. Its rather complicated. It uses the stacked column approach with several

shades each for positive and negative changes. Instead of a pattern of one bar and one gap, there are two bars

and one gap. If all items move in the same direction, the two adjacent bar stacks are identical, with the same

values for the same shaded bars. It the items move in different directions, then the first bar shows the increases

and the second shows the decreases.

Comment

from

Sicco

Jan

Bier

Jon,

great chart, I will use the up-down bar.

For the labels, although you explain the method it was not so clear to me. For reference of other readers and

possibly to include in the instruction: is the below how youd do it for Waterfall Chart with Intermediate

Cumulative Totals?

Column

Column

Column

A-E

holds

the

information

as

proposed

holds

G

in

my

holds

the

second

table

label

my

of

the

paragraph

information

Yvalue

Formula

F2:F8=MAX(B2,C2)

Formula

G2=F2/2

Formula G3:G8=MIN(D3:E3)+ABS(MAX(B3:C3))/2

This distributes the value of the initial,medium and end column and the change portion of the up down bar in the

middle of all bars.

Is there an easier way that I am overlooking?

Kind regards, Sicco Jan

Comment

from

Jon

Peltier

Sicco Jan Yes, thats a good way to do it, pretty much the same way that my commercial utility does it. Even though the

added series is plotted on the secondary axis, you can delete the secondary Y axis (right of the chart) and all data

will use the primary Y axis.

Comment

from

oscar

Thanks!!! Very useful

Comment

from

leandro

This Web is great.

Regards,

Leandro

(brazil)

Pingback

Time: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 2:29 am

from

Anonymous

[...] [...]

Pingback

from

Waterfall

DataRemixed

[...] A great way to view this type of financial information is a waterfall chart. Excel guru Jon Peltier shows how to

make one in Excel here. [...]

Pingback

from

Daily

Dose

of

Excel

Blog

Archive

Income

Statement

Waterfall

Chart

[...] how I got there. First, I read Peltiers post on the subject. Then I read Tushars page on the subject. Both are

for columns, not bars, but [...]

Comment

from

Carlos

This was super easy to follow and worked great. Thanks so much!

Comment

from

Mike

Thanks for your tips on building a Waterfall Chart with Intermediate Totals. One question. Only the Series Up

Data Labels are shown with the proper value. The Down Data Labels all show 0. How can I get the Down

values to also show. Thanks, Mike

Comment

Time: Monday, April 23, 2012, 4:46 pm

I figured it out. Thanks again!!

from

Mike

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