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What is Revenue and Sales Data Visualization?
Most of the data your organization needs to develop its strategy likely exists in spreadsheets and databases, characterized by endless rows, columns, and data points that are exploding with potential energy but lacking kinetic energy; the energy you need to make data-driven business decisions. The solution? Data visualization.
Data visualization refers to the process of presenting data in a meaningful way through the creation of charts, graphs, maps, and other visually appealing tools. Graph use in financial reports is especially advantageous as financial graphs can make complicated data easy to understand. One example is an income vs expenses graph, which clearly shows the relationship between income and expenses in a measurement period (week, month, quarter, or year). If you’re looking at income and expenses separately, it’s hard to determine whether you need to make a change. If you’re looking at income and expenses in an Excel spreadsheet, you’ll need to invest some time in data analysis to determine whether you need to increase revenues, decrease expenses, increasing giving, or take other action to achieve organizational goals. But when you’re looking at a graph, it becomes immediately apparent if your expenditures are too high, your revenues are too low, or the gap between the two creates an opportunity for new initiatives.
Data is only meaningful when it’s well-understood and data visualization exists to make data more meaningful. Common accounting graphs and charts (and the business question they answer) include:
- Gross profit margin – how much profit do you make from each dollar sold?
- Operating profit margin – what are your earnings before interest and tax?
- Operating expense ratio – what are your operating expenses in comparison to your revenue?
- Net profit margin – what percentage of your revenue is profit?
- Accounts payable turnover ratio – how successful is your company at paying liabilities on time?
- Accounts receivable turnover ratio – how quickly does your organization collect payments owed to you?
- Return on assets, return on equity, return on investment – how well does your business leverage assets, equity, and investment to gain profit?
- Cost breakdown – where are your dollars going?
- Cost avoidance – how many costs have you saved in a specified time period?
- Operating cash flow – how much cash does your organization generate?
Profit and loss are some of the most important data points for businesses, and the best graph to show profit and loss is often a stacked bar chart.
Using Excel for Data Visualization
Excel is one relatively accessible option for data visualization. While there are disadvantages to using Excel, it can be an effective way to create meaningful charts and graphs. Here’s how to make a graph in Excel:
- Either export data to Excel from your financial software like Quickbooks or manually enter data into Excel
- Highlight the data that you want to use for your financial graphs or charts
- Under the Insert tab, select Recommended Charts and determine whether any of the recommended charts meet your needs. If not, select the chart or graph that makes the most sense for your data from the manual options in the insert tab.
Once you’ve inserted the chart or graph, you can improve it using chart tools. You can add or change data labels, the chart title, the color of the elements of the chart or graph, and more. Just navigate through the design, layout, and format tabs across the top of the application and test different visualizations until you’re happy with the result.
If you aren’t an expert in Excel, you can use an online search engine to find templates by searching for terms like these: “sales forecast Excel,” “financial graphs and charts Excel,” “12-month sales forecast Excel template,” “profit margin graph Excel,” “how to show profit and loss in Excel chart,” “business growth chart in Excel,” or “sales growth chart Excel template.” Any of these searches will pull up a myriad of templates and tutorials to assist you.
Disadvantages of using Excel for data visualization are many:
- When recommended charts or the charts and graphs tool doesn’t provide what you need, you’ll have to create Pivot Tables, which can be exceptionally complicated for those without formal Excel training.
- Data entry and data cleaning can be time-consuming, tedious, and prone to errors and omissions.
- The entire process is manual, which means you only get data visualization when you have the time to create it yourself. You’re never able to simply run a chart or graph right when you need it with the click of a button or monitor changing financial conditions in real-time.
Using Data Visualization Software
Revenue and sales data visualization software is designed to achieve all of the things you can achieve in Excel with less effort, more options, and total automation. Here’s how it works.
During implementation, you determine which charts and graphs make the most sense for you. You might choose to see a daily sales chart, for example, or a monthly sales graph analysis. Most solutions will allow you to build a customized dashboard so that the charts and graphs that mean the most to you are front and center – in real-time – every time you log in.
Once you’ve built your dashboards, the program will extract data from your financial software (with your permission, of course). This means that your data visualization software has access to the financial data it needs without any manual entry, reducing the margin for error to virtually zero.
The software then uses that data to create meaningful charts and graphs that are accessible at the click of a mouse. Because financial data visualization software serves one purpose, most providers are very, very good at it, offering more attractive, diverse, and useful visualizations than you can find in Excel.
Finally, the software is typically flexible. If you need to add a chart or graph you weren’t using before, it should be simple to do that. If you need to adjust the data points contributing to a favorite chart or graph, you can do that, too. You can replace a chart or graph on your dashboard with something else, remove a visualization altogether, or add something new.
Benefits of Data Visualization Software
The pros of data visualization software are many:
- There is no data entry required; an interface between your financial software and your data visualization software allows for the seamless and effortless transmission of data.
- Because there is no manual data entry required, the margin for human error is eliminated altogether. Data flows through exactly as it exists in your financial software with no transposing, errors, or omissions (unless they existed in the source data).
- The ability to visualize important business data is no longer dependent upon your availability or technical ability to build sales graphs and charts in Excel. It’s there and ready when you are, period.
- You’re able to transition from best-guess business strategy to data-driven business decisions that drive profitability and sustainability.
- Because financial statement graphs, profit, and loss presentation, and other important visuals are at your fingertips, you’re able to clearly and immediately see the results of new marketing initiatives, efficiencies, or other changes – whether positive or negative – and then act quickly and promptly to drive desired outcomes.
- You don’t need an IT department or advanced technical knowledge to run beautiful, meaningful charts and graphs. You don’t have to hire somebody who has the skills and you don’t need extra training to use the software to its full potential.
The bottom line is this: data visualization drives the success of the organization by providing key insights, supporting data-driven decision-making, forecasting business outcomes before they occur, and illustrating downward trends early so they can be mitigated early.
Data visualization programs are beneficial for small businesses and large businesses; for non-profits and for-profits; and for organizations in all industries and geographic regions. Because data visualization is being used by the most successful companies in the world, those who don’t have access to this invaluable information will not be able to compete.
Examples of Data Visualization Software
We aren’t the only provider of data visualization software, and it’s our goal that every potential client finds the solution that’s best suited for their business needs and budget. It isn’t always us, but when it is, you can count on meaningful data visualization, best-in-class customer service, and state-of-the-art automation.
Once you’ve decided that you’d like to stop the Google searches (“sales forecast template Google sheets” and more) and start leveraging data visualization solutions for your success, it’s important to evaluate at least two different solutions – from two different providers – to find the best fit for your needs. If you don’t have a business case template already, there are many free ones to choose from online; a business case will make your comparison clear and concise.
Well-known data visualization software providers include Zoho Analytics, self-service business intelligence, and data analytics program that’s been around for a while; DOMO, a web-based business intelligence program; and Canopy, a robust web-based tool offering data around sales and revenue, enablement, and productivity. Some features, like a sales graph maker or profit and loss graph, may be consistent across all solutions, while other features are unique to one or two.
When you choose Canopy, you choose to:
- Stay ahead of risks that have the potential to impact your teams and your pipeline
- Predict future outcomes based on the data available to you today
- Use data like seller strengths and weaknesses to drive improvement and increased revenue
- Uncover and analyze key insights
You can find simple data visualization examples, request a demo, or learn more on canopy.io. Your success is our only goal.