# Month: August 2013

## Designing Bullet Graphs in SSRS – Part 2

August 14, 2013

The concepts in this 3 part blog series is heavily borrowed from the book Information Dashboard Design, authored by the data visualization guru – Stephen Few and is going to concentrate on the following topics:- I) How to make Bullet Graphs in SSRS
II) Deciding the Color
III) Multiple points of comparison
IV) Alternatives to bar
V) Differentiating measures that need to be read differently
VI) Positive and negative values
VII) Values within a distribution
VIII) Future Projections In my previous post (Designing Bullet Graphs in SSRS – Part 1), I started off with how to make a bullet graph in SSRS and lightly touched upon some design related topics. This post will carry on from where I left. IV) Alternatives to Bar The primary measure of the Bullet Graph is typically depicted as a bar. Whenever we use a bar to encode a quantitative value, the scale should start at zero as per visualization best practices. For accurate comparisons, it is sometimes useful to narrow the quantitative scale of the bullet graph, which means not starting the scale at zero (for eg, in cases where we know that the values is always going to be between a particular range). In such cases, we can use a mark to encode the primary measure instead of the bar. Follow the steps below to reproduce the same:- First, let us see how a completion rate of 97.5% would look in a bullet graph against a target of 98 where the completion rate (primary measure) is visualized as a bar. You can see that it is very hard to notice the difference. However, see the difference below when we visualized the bar as a marker. 1) To achieve the results, change the bar to a X symbol using the same technique as discussed in the previous post (see Multiple Points of Comparison) 2) Also change the scale properties as appropriate by using expressions (for this example, I hardcoded it as between 90 and 100, however the best practice is to use expressions to make it dynamic). V) Differentiating Measures that need to be read differently Consider the chart below where the Revenue and Expenses are placed next to each other. These measures need to be read differently as we know that having more of Revenue and less of Expense is good. The background colors help in a way to distinguish this as we can see that the light colors (which denotes good) are there at the end for Revenue and at the beginning for Expenses. However, a better way to differentiate them would be to display them as below:- Now straightaway we can see that Expenses is to be read differently than Revenue by the direction of the scale. To do this, follow the steps below:- 1) Right Click on the scale and select Scale Properties. 2) Check the tick box to Reverse Scale Direction. Now we should be able to get the desired result. VI) Positive and Negative Measures Bullet graphs which display both positive and negative values are especially useful when we try to compare variances between 2 measures (E.g., Sales vs. Target for customers). To achieve the same, follow the steps below:- 1) For this demo, I am using a dataset that returns Customers, Sales, Target and the Low, Medium, High values of the qualitative ranges 2) Drag and drop a matrix to the report layout. Now, add Customer to the Rows and a bullet graph to the column as shown below. Also add Sales as LinearPointer1, 0 as LinearPointer2 and Target as LinearPointer3. I also made some modifications like changing the bar color, reducing the width & height of LinearPointer2 and changing the color to Gray (as it is supposed to be the 0 line and hence need to be differentiated). 3) I also changed the max and min value of the scale to 30 & -30 respectively. 4) The 3 ranges are also changed as 0 – Low, Low to Medium and Medium to high. Now we should get the desired results. The rest of the topics will be covered in my next post – Designing Bullet Graphs in SSRS – Part 3.

## Designing Bullet Graphs in SSRS – Part 1

August 13, 2013

Two weeks back, I bought myself the second edition of  Information Dashboard Design, authored by the data visualization guru – Stephen Few. I had read the first edition but was intrigued by the 6 new chapters in the second edition. Hence, I decided to buy it and I must say that I am really happy with my decision. One of the new chapters that particularly struck me is on designing Bullet Graphs, a simple invention that Stephen Few had invented specifically for dashboards. There are a whole lot of posts on how to make the bullet graphs in SSRS, but most of them (if not all) just talk about how to develop a basic bullet graph. That is when I decided to write a blog series on how to design and develop advanced bullet graphs in SSRS. The concepts in this series is heavily borrowed from the book and is going to concentrate on the following topics:- I) How to make Bullet Graphs in SSRS
II) Deciding the Color
III) Multiple points of comparison
IV) Alternatives to bar
V) Differentiating measures that need to be read differently
VI) Positive and negative values
VII) Values within a distribution