Waterfall charts in Power BI

Waterfall charts show a running total as Power BI adds and subtracts values. They're useful for understanding how an initial value (like net income) is affected by a series of positive and negative changes.

The columns are color coded so you can quickly notice increases and decreases. The initial and the final value columns often start on the horizontal axis, while the intermediate values are floating columns. Because of this style, waterfall charts are also called bridge charts.

When to use a waterfall chart

Waterfall charts are a great choice:

  • When you have changes for the measure across time, a series, or different categories.

  • To audit the major changes contributing to the total value.

  • To plot your company's annual profit by showing various sources of revenue and arrive at the total profit (or loss).

  • To illustrate the beginning and the ending headcount for your company in a year.

  • To visualize how much money you make and spend each month, and the running balance for your account.

Prerequisites

  • The Power BI service or Power BI Desktop

  • Retail Analysis Sample report

Get the Retail Analysis Sample report

These instructions use the Retail Analysis Sample. Creating a visualization requires edit permissions to the dataset and report. Luckily, the Power BI samples are all editable. If someone shares a report with you, you can't create visualizations in reports. To follow along, get the Retail Analysis Sample report.

After you get the Retail Analysis Sample dataset, you can get started.

Create a waterfall chart

You'll create a waterfall chart that displays sales variance (estimated sales versus actual sales) by month.

  1. From My Workspace, select Datasets > Create a report.

    Screenshot of Datasets > Create a report.

  2. From the Fields pane, select Sales > Total Sales Variance.

    Screenshot of Sales > Total Sales Varience selected and the visual that results.

  3. Select the waterfall icon Screenshot of the waterfall icon to convert the chart to a treemap.

    If Total Sales Variance isn't in the Y-Axis area, drag it there.

    Visualization templates

  4. Select Time > FiscalMonth to add it to the Category well.

    waterfall

  5. Make sure Power BI sorted the waterfall chart chronologically. From the top-right corner of the chart, select the ellipsis (...).

    Check that there is a yellow indicator next to the left of the Sort ascending and FiscalMonth options

    Select sort by > FiscalMonth

    You can also look at the X-Axis values and see that they are in order from Jan to Aug.

    Dig in a little more to see what's contributing most to the changes month to month.

  6. Drag Store > Territory to the Breakdown bucket.

    Shows Store in Breakdown bucket

    By default, Power BI adds the top five contributors to increases or decreases by month.

    Shows Store in Breakdown bucket

    You're only interested in the top two contributors.

  7. In the Format pane, select Breakdown and set Max breakdowns to 2.

    Format > Breakdown

    A quick review reveals that the territories of Ohio and Pennsylvania are the biggest contributors to movement, both negative and positive, in your waterfall chart.

    waterfall chart

    It's an interesting finding. Do Ohio and Pennsylvania have such a significant impact because sales in these two territories are much higher than the other territories? You can check that.

  8. Create a map that looks at this year sales value and last year sales by territory.

    map close-up on PA and Ohio

    The map supports your theory. It shows that these two territories had the highest value of sales last year (bubble size) and this year (bubble shading).

Highlighting and cross-filtering

For information about using the Filters pane, see Add a filter to a report in Editing view.

Highlighting a column in a waterfall chart cross-filters the other visualizations on the report page and the other way around. However, the Total column doesn't trigger highlighting or respond to cross-filtering.

Next steps