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Creating waterfall charts in PowerPoint

Creating waterfall charts in PowerPoint

by Sanket on May 13, 2011 · 0 comments

in Tutorials

The waterfall chart is also known as the cascade or bridge chart. It used a lot by the finance, business analyst and sales fraternities. However there’s a small problem – PowerPoint forgot to ship them. The only way you can create waterfall charts in PowerPoint is by manipulating the stacked charts, but they turn out to be very basic. And take a lot of time. In this post, we will take a look at what the waterfall chart is and learn how we can create powerful ones in minutes using oomfo.

What is a waterfall chart?

A typical waterfall chart is used to show how an initial value increases and decreases by a series of intermediate values, leading to a final value. A simple example of this is the inventory audit of men’s t-shirts in a retail outlet.

Waterfall chart showing inventory audit of men's tshirts

As you can see, the initial and the final values are represented by whole columns, while the intermediate values are denoted by floating columns.

Waterfall charts are also used to show the contribution of parts of a whole, especially when there are negative contributors as well. A good example of this is showing the revenue and costs of a company to come to the final profit.

Waterfall chart showing company profit

Creating a waterfall chart in oomfo

In this post, we will take a detailed look at how to create the company profit waterfall chart using oomfo. Here we go.

  1. We will be using the oomfo chart builder to create our waterfall chart. If you are on Windows 2003, go to Insert Menu > oomfo > Insert chart to launch the builder. If you are on Windows 2007 or 2010, go to the Insert tab and click on the Insert Chart button in the oomfo ribbon.

    Launching the oomfo chart builder
  2. In the chart builder that comes up, select chart type as Single Series from the drop-down and then select the waterfall chart from the list of the charts.

    Selecting the waterfall chart in the Chart Selection tab
  3. Now let’s enter the data for the chart. For this go to the Chart Data tab either by directly clicking on the tab name or clicking the Next button from the current Chart Selection tab. In the data grid in the Chart Data tab, enter the figures for revenue and cost. Remember to prefix the values with a ‘-‘ sign for everything negative, which in this case are the fixed and variable costs.

    Entering data for the waterfall chart
    As soon as you hit Apply, you will see that the chart is displayed with the data you entered in the Preview pane. The positive figures add to the original value and the negative figures subtract from it to come to the total, which you can see is automatically added as a column called Total at the end.
  4. Now let’s go ahead and change the name of the last column from Total to Profits. Go to the Chart Cosmetics tab > Data Functionalities & Cosmetics > Customize.

    Chart cosmetics tab in oomfo
    This will open a new dialog box. Click on the Waterfall/Cascade tab in it and set the name of the last column in the Summation label field. 

    Setting the column name for the Total column
  5. As you can see, this dialog box also allows us to set a single color for all positive columns in the chart and another one for all negative columns. When you click on the X next to Positive Columns Color, the color picker comes up. I like to give my green a slightly earthen shade, so I went to the color picker and put together the shade.

    Setting the color for all the positive columns in the waterfall chart
    Finally, after choosing a color for the negative columns as well, hit Apply and you will see the resultant chart in the Preview pane.
  6. We are just one step away for checking out our first waterfall chart live in action. We just need to set the chart caption and axis titles. Head over to the Axis and Titles tab and put the Chart Title as Company Profit in Q1 2011. Remove the sub-title and axis titles completely as they are self-explanatory for this chart. Our chart is ready as you can see in the Preview pane.

    Setting the chart and axis titles
  7. Click on Finish to embed the chart in the slide. Position and size it the way you want.

    Positioning the waterfall chart in PowerPoint
    Finally hit slideshow and you have your lovely animated waterfall chart to play around with. 

    Waterfall chart showing company profit
  8. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could add columns that show your company’s total revenue and total costs as well apart from the final Profit? oomfo has you covered. Just head over to the Chart Data tab and add a row above Fixed Costs.

    Inserting a new row
    Enter the label that you would like to see for the column. I have kept it simple with Total Revenue. Then hover over the value column till the button for more options (a button with ellipses) comes up. 

    Options button for a data value
    When you click on it, the Chart Data Plot Properties dialog box comes up. Under  Waterfall/Cascade chart, you will see two options: Is this a sum column? and Use Cumulative Values. Checking Is this a sum column plots a column that is the cumulative sum of all the columns from the last sum column you plotted in the same way.

    Setting intermediate sum columns in the waterfall chart
    For plotting Total Revenue, Is this a sum column? sums up all the columns since the start of the chart since there are no sum columns before it. For plotting Total Costs, we will add a row at the end of the data grid and check Is this a sum column? for it. And in that case, it will plot the sum of the columns from Total Revenue column we just added, which is basically the sum of Fixed Costs and Variable Costs.

    The Use Cumulative Values does the same work as the Total column at the end. It simply sums up everything right from the start of the chart till that point.

    The company profit waterfall chart is all done after you have set up the intermediate sum columns for total revenue and total costs. Here’s what it should look like:

    Waterfall chart with intermediate sums for total revenue and costs
    Notice that the final Profit column stays undisturbed just the way we wanted.

So isn’t it easy to create powerful waterfall charts in minutes using oomfo? If you like what you see, go ahead and download your copy of oomfo now. It’s free!

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