Waterfall charts in Power BI

APPLIES TO: Does not apply to.Power BI service for consumers Applies to.Power BI service for designers & developers Applies to.Power BI Desktop Does not apply to.Requires Pro or Premium license

Note

Smart narrative visuals can be created and viewed in both Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. The steps and illustrations in this article are from Power BI Desktop.

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.

Prerequisite

This tutorial uses the Retail Analysis sample PBIX file.

  1. From the upper left section of the menubar, select File > Open

  2. Find your copy of the Retail Analysis sample PBIX file

  3. Open the Retail Analysis sample PBIX file in report view Screenshot of the report view icon..

  4. Select Screenshot of the yellow tab. to add a new page.

Note

Sharing your report with a Power BI colleague requires that you both have individual Power BI Pro licenses or that the report is saved in Premium capacity.

Create a waterfall chart

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

Build the waterfall chart

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

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

  2. Select the waterfall icon Screenshot of the waterfall icon

    Visualization templates

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

    waterfall

Sort the waterfall chart

  1. Make sure Power BI sorts the waterfall chart chronologically by month. From the top-right corner of the chart, select More options (...).

    For this example, select Sort by and choose FiscalMonth. A yellow indicator next to your selection indicates when your selection option is being applied.

    Select sort by > FiscalMonth

    To display the months in chronological order, select Sort ascending. As with the previous step, check that there is a yellow indicator next to the left of Sort ascending. This indicates that your selected option is being applied.

    Select sort by > Ascending order

    Notice that your chart is sorted from January to August for FiscalMonth.

Explore the waterfall chart

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

  1. Select Store > Territory, which will add Territory to the Breakdown bucket.

    Screenshot shows adding Territory to the Breakdown area.

    Power BI uses the value in Breakdown to add additional data to the visualization. It adds the top five contributors to increases or decreases for each fiscal month. This means that February, for example, now has six data points instead of just one.

    Shows Store in Breakdown bucket

    Let's say that you're only interested in the top two contributors.

  2. 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

Next steps