Show Performance with Variances in Your Excel Dashboards

By Michael Alexander

In Excel, an effective and informative way to display performance against a target is to plot the variances between the target and the performance. The standard way to display performance against a target is to plot the target and then plot the performance. This is usually done with a line chart or a combination chart, such as the one shown here.

A typical chart showing performance against a target.
A typical chart showing performance against a target.

Although this chart allows you to visually pick the points where performance exceeded or fell below targets, it gives you a rather one-dimensional view and provides minimal information. Even if this chart offered labels that showed the actual percent of sales revenue versus target, you’d still get only a mildly informative view.

The following figure shows the same performance data you see in the preceding figure but includes the variances (sales revenue minus target) under the month label. This way, you see where performance exceeded or fell below targets, but you also get an extra layer of information showing the dollar impact of each rise and fall.

Consider using variances to plot performance against a target.
Consider using variances to plot performance against a target.