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What is a bullet chart and how is it useful?

2 mins to read
What is a bullet chart and how is it useful?

The bullet chart is useful to visually track performance against a target, displaying results in a single column. The chart can display one or many columns that can be color-coded, and it looks like a thermometer. The bullet chart was invented by data visualization specialist, Stephen Lew to enhance the gauge chart. Phocas has always offered the bullet chart in its data analytics solution because it's an effective tool to understand variance.

The Phocas bullet chart has the following features:

  • Compact in size and it runs vertically based on the space available.
  • Multiple measures can be displayed
  • Select a single bullet chart to represent overall total or many bullets to compare regions, people or products
  • Easy to read and informative to the eye
  • The gray column typically represents a target, and the colored column represents your actual performance.

How can a bullet chart be used?


In the video example above, the bullet chart shows at a glance, how sales results across divisions compare to the sales results of the previous year. You can quickly see what divisions are performing well and when you hover the cursor over the chart, the actual figures are displayed so there is both a visual and number view of sales side-by-side.

In four easy steps, a bullet chart is created in Phocas data analytics to compare YTD sales by region with last year. Add another step in the data analytics solution if variance by overall result is also useful.

To start, a period is selected, here year to date is used so the numbers line up according to the current point in time (end of October) and the months of the year that have passed (10 months).

To compare the current period to last year, variance needs to be selected in mode. To see the variance visually, move from numbers to charts by clicking on the chart icon and to view the results in a bullet chart, you go into KPI charts and select bullet chart.

The results show the east division has achieved 90% of sales of the previous year's total, with two months yet to run in the year. To improve the usefulness of the bullet chart, ranges with color coding similar to traffic lights can be set. This feature makes it clear which divisions are closest to target. In this example, the north division needs to work hard to meet last year’s sales and so this chart can be sent to all divisions or just the north team.

To determine overall variance compared to last year's results, click on the use total button and three figures are displayed. a) Last year's sales b) current sales and c) variance for today is 15% or sales are at 85%. This total figure might be useful on dashboard so click on add to dashboard.

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