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Summarizing business performance using sparklines

From: Excel 2010: Real-World Projects

Video: Summarizing business performance using sparklines

Petal Jones keeps a close eye on how the company's mail order and web sales have progressed. The company first started accepting mail and web orders from outside the Los Angeles area two years ago. When she started tracking sales in Excel, she created the Summary Worksheet or Dashboard that included the actual numbers and the conditional format that indicated how sales performance measured up against the monthly targets. The Conditional Format measures how Revenue compared to the Goal for a given month. In this case, the Conditional Format uses an icon set to indicate whether the Value is above the Goal, which is $14,600, whether it fell between $14,600 and $13,510, or weather it was below $13,510.

Summarizing business performance using sparklines

Petal Jones keeps a close eye on how the company's mail order and web sales have progressed. The company first started accepting mail and web orders from outside the Los Angeles area two years ago. When she started tracking sales in Excel, she created the Summary Worksheet or Dashboard that included the actual numbers and the conditional format that indicated how sales performance measured up against the monthly targets. The Conditional Format measures how Revenue compared to the Goal for a given month. In this case, the Conditional Format uses an icon set to indicate whether the Value is above the Goal, which is $14,600, whether it fell between $14,600 and $13,510, or weather it was below $13,510.

$14,600 was the sales goal for the month. $13,510 is the amount that is 15% less or 85% of the Goal, and then any amount that was below 85% of the Goal is marked in red. So as you can see, there were only two months out of the year, March and October, where sales were in the red. But on the other hand, there were 1, 2, 3, 4 other months where sales were in the yellow.

The good news, of course, is that the company did meet its goals six of the 12 months and those months are all indicated in green. Conditional Formats provide a useful summary of how a business performs in relation to its goals, but they don't provide any context. In other words, Petal could discover whether sales for the current month met the target amount, but she couldn't see how sales had trended for the past year without creating a separate chart. Excel 2010 introduced Sparklines, a set of small, compact charts Petal can use to add context to her summary workbooks.

The first Sparkline, a line chart, indicates how sales have increased and decreased from month-to- month over the past year. So she moves to the Sparklines group and then selects the data she wants. The data she wants on another sheet, so she goes to that another sheet, copies the revenue and clicks OK. The Sparkline just created provides the context that the Conditional Format doesn't. The Conditional Format in the other table provides an instantaneous measure, but this Sparkline indicates how sales have trended over the past 12 months.

If we want to indicate whether the sales team met their goals for each of the past 12 months, we can create what's called a Win/Loss Sparkline. To do that, on the Insert tab, click Win/Loss and select the data. The date that you use for a Win/Loss Sparkline needs to have either positive or negative values. Positive values are considered a win, which means that they are placed on the upper part of the Sparkline. Negative values are considered losses and are placed in the bottom part of the Sparkline.

You'll see what that looks like in a moment. The data in the Difference column here is perfect for a Win/Loss Sparkline, because we have positive values, such as for January and February, and negative values such as the one in March. We're ready to create the Sparkline, so we can just click OK, and there you have the 12-month Performance. As you can see the company met its sales goal six months out of the year but fell short during the other six. Now that Petal has Sparklines at her disposal, she can summarize her data using the three complementary methods. The raw numbers present the results literally.

Second, Conditional Formats indicate how the result compares to the goal. And finally, Sparklines allow her to see the last 12 months to put her present results in context. Taken as a group, the Numbers, Conditional Formats, and Sparklines give Petal a perspective that business owners require to be successful.

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Excel 2010: Real-World Projects

7 video lessons · 9750 viewers

Curt Frye
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