Visualizing target vs. actual progress – Biker on a hill chart
Over the years, we have discussed a whole heap of techniques to visualize budget vs. actual charts. Today let’s take a ride on this slope again and learn another fun, silly & awesome way to depict target vs. actual progress.
Introducing biker on a hill chart
Biker on a hill!?! Don’t worry, I didn’t fall down on a descent and lose my brain. I am talking about an Excel chart to visualize target vs. actual progress on a time line with biker on a hill analogy. See the chart, you will know:
Looks interesting? Read on to learn how to create this in Excel.
Get your data
The biker on a hill chart is suitable when you have a huge target that should be achieved in several days, each with individual target. So input data looks like this:
Let’s say this data is in a table named progress. As you can guess, first three columns are inputs. Last column is calculated with a simple SUM formula to get cumulative target values. The formula used here is
Where E3 refers to the cell above first row.
Calculate hill and biker co-ords
The hill is a simple X-Y chart with progress[Date] as X and progress[Target-Cumulative] as Y.
The tricky part is finding biker co-ordinates. We need 2 sets of values.
- Actual biker position based on the amount of work completed.
- Target biker position based on the amount of work that should have been completed.
Let’s understand the math behind this.
Actual biker position:
Y value (actual completed): This is simply SUM(progress[Completed])
X value (corresponding date): Now this is tricky. We need to find what date corresponds to the actual progress made based on the set targets. for this we need to find several things:
- Corresponding row #: Using MATCH(), we find out what value in the cumulative target column matches the progress completed so far.
- We will then find two dates between which the progress completed falls between, using MATCH formulas.
- Finally, we will interpolate the corresponding date between these two dates using simple arithmetic.
Target biker position:
Y value (target): Target as of latest date, using either VLOOKUP or INDEX+MATCH
X value (date): this is simply date in corresponding row # that is calculated above.
Create the biker on hill chart
Step 1: Create an XY chart for the hill
Setup an XY chart where X=progress[Date] and Y=progress[Target-Cumulative]. We get this.
Step 2: Add target & actual bikers
Add two more series to the chart. Target biker and actual biker using the X&Y values calculated above. We get this.
Step 3: Replace the dots with biker images
This is easy. Download a clip art image of cyclist from internet. Paste it on your Excel workbook. Remove any background. Rotate the biker image by 30° or so. As this is not a real life biker on hill, we can afford 30° gradients.
Once you have new rotated biker, reduce the image size if necessary and clone it.
Change colors using format image > Color options (see here for detail).
Essentially, go from the image on left to right.
Now that you have biker images, replace the dots with bikers using following instructions.
- Select biker image and copy (Ctrl+C)
- Click on the dot in your chart
- Press Ctrl+V to paste image
- Viola, your chart now shows bikers instead of dots for actual and target values.
At this stage our chart looks like this.
Step 4: Move the bikers up
Because Excel places the dot right on the line, the biker image too will be centered on it. So instead of looking a biker on hill, our chart looks like the biker is buried half in the hill. Not good, whether you are a fictional or real biker. So let’s pull the bikers.
We can do this by simply adding an offset value to the Y values. A value of 7 should work. But you can tweak this depending on your chart / image sizes.
Once we fix the calculations, our chart looks like this.
Extra bells and lights
Bikers are known to pimp their rides with all sorts of doodads. We can show similar enthusiasm for our biker on a hill chart and add few more details. Here is one version after adding information about current progress status and forecast date of completion.
The math for this is quite boring and simple. So I leave it to your imagination.
Download Biker on a hill – Target vs. Actual Chart Template
Click here to download biker on hill chart. Play with input data to move the biker towards target. Examine calculation section or chart to learn more.
Thanks GraH for the inspiration
Time for a confession. The biker on a hill chart idea isn’t mine. I got this from GraH, one of our readers. He left a comment on a recent blog post and I liked the idea. So I wrote this blog post explaining how we can all create a biker on hill chart in Excel.
Hui rules! But nevertheless, the creativity on this blog and the contribution of the bloggers are inspiring. And really enabling people to be aweSUM in XL, like you say.
I followed a training on Excel Dashboards in 2015 and your site was highly recommended by our cool trainer.
I became aware that XL can-do much more. Ingredients are a little imagination, dare to experiment and knowledge on how to combine techniques/functions.
In short within 2 weeks I will give a 1 hour XL awareness training in my company during open training week. I just sent a teaser with stuff I found here and on other XL-guru’s sites to my HR department. Within the next 5 minutes my proposition was approved. The reply was “Excellent idea!”
And the funny thing is that I found an XL soul-mate only a few seats away. Now we make each other crazy with challenges and/or things we learn about XL. The very first thing we made for a manager was a biker (representing his team) climbing a mounting (of work) towards the finish (the volume to reach at end of day). Depending on current status, different motivational talk appears in the title. The manager could not believe we just made a simple chart.
So thanks GraH for the cool idea.
How do you visualize target vs. actual progress?
I prefer conditional formatting icons and thermometer charts for budget / target vs. actual progress charts. Sometimes I use a bullet chart or variations of thermometer charts too. I have also used burndown charts (same concept as biker on hill charts). I like the biker on hill chart and may use it for some of my upcoming work.
What about you? What charts do you use to depict target vs. actual progress? How do you like biker on hill chart? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.
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