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Posts: 10
Reply with quote  #1 


I’m looking for feedback to improve an approach to give budget managers the info they need to track their budgets on a monthly basis. Key indicators include:

  • ·         Spend to date ($)
  • ·         Total budget ($)
  • ·         % of budget spent to date
  • ·         % of budget time period elapsed
  • ·         “Ideal” spend to date (based on % of budget period elapsed, i.e., if 25% of time period elapsed, then 25% of budget “should” be spent)
  • ·         Variance from ideal spend expressed as “Spending Status”: very slow, slow, OK, fast, very fast.
  • ·         “Burn rate” – average amount spent per month
  • ·         “Ideal burn rate” – average amount spent if budget were spent equally each month
  • ·         Remaining Budget ($)

I’ve the used the approach here –attempting to balance all the pieces – but am concerned it’s too packed and that the colors, while useful in highlighting budgets of concern, are also distracting. Welcome any suggestions for alternatives.



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Posts: 167
Reply with quote  #2 

I might only use a modified version of Burn Rate and Budget Remaining.

For Burn Rate, consider actual over expected where expected is adjusted to reflect how the "cash flow" really works (not annual/12 but "seasonally" adjusted).  YTD target is 100%.

For Budget Remaining, consider a 2 segment bar - one segment for spent and one for remaining.

Some of the colour choices have poor contrast and are difficult to discern - http://www.colorbrewer.org is a good resource for making colour choices.  And, it's always good to check with a black on white printout.

Hope this helps,

Bill Droogendyk

Posts: 10
Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Bill,

Thanks for the suggestions on burn rate and the link to colorbrewer. Very helpful and appreciated!

Best regards,

Posts: 200
Reply with quote  #4 
The first thing that I'll say is - you're about 98% of the way to a bullet graph with these...why not make them bullet graphs?

In addition, some thoughts:

- I agree completely about the colors being a distraction.  This is another area where a bullet graph helps - it already has the 'good, ok, bad' built in.

- On the same note, you'll find the common suggestion to highlight items that may need attention, or be in danger, is to use a colored disc next to the item, rather than highlighting the whole bar.  A small circle that starts out a faint red when things are starting to go over the line, progressing to a fully saturated deep red when things are in really bad shape, while the rest of the chart remains in neutral color, will do a LOT more to make it clear what needs attention than having various colors all over the chart.

- Again on the same note, your choice of blue for good and red for bad is fine, but green in the middle seems on odd choice.  I would make the neutral values a neutral color - in this case I would go with a medium to light grey. 

- I am not sure why there are three different markers for the three different 'ideal' or target measures.  It seems another unnecessary clutter.  You also don't have the vertical line as the budget marker in the legend.  

- This is more about content than design: there seems to be a lot of redundancy.  Do we really need one chart to tell us what the budget is, and how much is used, and then another to tell us how much is left?
- On the same note, 'budget spent vs time elapsed' is really the same information as 'actual spend rate vs. ideal spend rate'
- One more time on that note, unless your spend pattern *really* is even across every month, I find the 'even' value being named 'ideal' to be rather misleading.

- Lastly, it's a little confusing that the grey bar for each budget extends all of the way to the end of the chart, when the budget it's self is apparently much lower.  I am not sure it makes sense to have each budget use the same scale...I suppose it depends on the overall purpose.  But I would think that in this case, what you are looking at is each budget's performance in relation to itself, and that a separate chart comparing the total budgets to each other would suffice for inter-budget comparison. 

That's a lot of text in this post now, I hope it's not too muddled... :)

Posts: 10
Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks for the detailed review and suggestions. Already working on incorporating them.

I appreciate your taking the time to comment and this all helps a lot!


Posts: 4
Reply with quote  #6 
Just thought id add a couple of points:
- every second row has a gray shading - this "non-data" ink could be removed
- the length of the bars indicate some kind of performance and so does the colour.  I think you probably need one.  then, as previously mentioned, you could mark those of special interest.

its a pretty good treatment of a reporting need - maybe bullet charting would be better

:) chris
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