This part is a summary of the most important descriptions of the International Business Communication Standards Association (IBCS-A). The Association describes the Basic visualization principles in the chapter “Express”. As a HICHERT(R)IBCS CERTIFIED CONSULTANT, I do follow this rules because they improve tremendously business communication.
EXPRESS – Choose proper visualization
EXPRESS covers all aspects of choosing the proper visualization in reports and presentations.
Proper visualization means that reports and presentations contain charts and tables, which convey the desired message along with the underlying facts as quickly as possible. This chapter covers utilizing the correct types of charts and tables, replacing inappropriate visualizations and representations, adding comparisons, and explaining causes.
Use appropriate object types
Choosing the correct type of charts and tables is of prime importance for the comprehension of reports and presentations. The following presents in detail different types, layouts, and examples of business charts and tables as well as their proper application.
A chart is a graphical object, in which visualization elements such as columns, bars, and lines represent data. This section discusses the types, layout, and examples of single charts. Overlay charts and multiple charts are discussed in the CONDENSE rules CO 4 “Add elements” and CO 5 “Add objects”. The most important groups of business charts are those showing development over time (charts with horizontal category axes), those showing structural relationships (charts with vertical category axes), and those showing x‑y charts, scatter plots, and bubble charts (charts with two value axes), see figure SUCCESS rule EX 1.1. Other chart types are of lesser interest in business communication and will be treated in a later version of the standards.
Looking at charts with horizontal and vertical category axes, the basic chart selection matrix displayed in the figure here on the left aids in selecting the right chart type for time series and structure analyses. In addition, the basic chart selection matrix displayed in the figure here on the left aids in selecting the right chart type for scenario analyses.
In the following sections, the correct usage of charts with horizontal category axes, charts with vertical category axes, and charts with two value axes is discussed in greater detail.
Charts with horizontal category axes
Charts with horizontal category axes (short: horizontal charts) typically display time series. Use the horizontal category axis as a time axis. Vertically, the visualization elements represent the data per time period or point of time (there is no need to show a vertical value axis as the visualization elements carry their own values). Time category axes run from left to right and show characteristics of period types (e.g. months or years) or points of time (dates).
In general, the data series of a horizontal chart is represented by columns(single, stacked, grouped), vertical pins, horizontal waterfalls, or lines. Vertical pins can be considered very thin columns. Because of their importance for the IBCS, they are dealt with in a separate section.
Charts with vertical category axes
Charts with vertical category axes (vertical charts) typically show structural data. In general, present structural data of one period or one point of time in the form of bars.
Use the vertical category as a structure axis. Horizontally, the visualization elements represent the data per structure element (there is no need for a horizontal value axis as the visualization elements carry their own values). Structure axes run from top to bottom and show characteristics of structures (e.g. products or countries). The sequence of these elements depends on the intended analysis; see the UNIFY section about “Structure analyses”.
In general, the data series of a vertical chart is represented by (horizontal) bars (single, stacked, grouped), by horizontal pins, or by waterfall bars. Do not use lines in vertical charts as they could be interpreted as trends or developments, which do not exist in structure analyses.
A table is a communication object in which data is arranged in two dimensions, i.e. (vertical) columns and (horizontal) rows. The row header (row name) describes the content of a row, the column header (column name) the content of a column. The data are positioned at the intersections of rows and columns called table cells. “One-dimensional tables” (tables with one or more columns but without row headers) are called lists and are not covered here. Table types are defined by a set of columns and a set of rows in order to fulfill specific analytic and/or reporting purposes.
Column types are columns with similar content falling under similar column headers. Typical column types are time columns (with monthly or yearly data), scenario columns (with actual or plan data) and variance columns (ΔPL or ΔPY).
Row types are rows with similar content falling under similar row headers. Typical row types are measure rows (e.g. sales, cost, profit) or structure rows (e.g. Italy, France, UK).
Table types are distinguished by their analytic purpose in variance tables, time series tables, and cross tables. Tables serving more than one analytic purpose are called combined tables.
Time series tables
Time series tables are used for time series analyses, combining time columns with measure rows or structure rows. A typical example for a time series table is a sales analysis by countries (rows) and years (columns).
Variance tables are used for scenario analyses, combining scenario columns and variance columns with measure rows or structure rows. A typical example for a variance table is a sales analysis by countries (rows) showing different scenarios and different variances (columns).
Cross tables are used for structure analyses, combining structure columns with structure rows. A typical example of a cross table is a sales table with countries in rows and products in columns.
About Tobias Riedner
Tobias Riedner foundet WYCDWD.com in 2015. He works and worked as innovator, consultant, analyst and educator in the fields of business intelligence and data warehousing. He learned a lot from the best consultants, managers und educators in the past and shares his knowledge worldwide. He works for a steady growing traditional company which is a leader in industry 4.0.