Monday 23 December 2013

Key Performance Indicator Approaches (Redmond Pie-Gauge)

The "traditional" approach to presenting Key Performance Indicator (KPI) values on a dashboard has been to use circular gauge.  Something like this:

Stephen Few has proposed the Bullet Graph as a much more effective visualization, and I tend to agree with him, but there is just something about circular objects that appeals to people.  Even though we tell them that Pie Charts don't work as well as Bar Charts for a certain visualization, they users demand Pie Charts.  Propose a Bullet Chart and they request a gauge.  I tend to push back on these requests, but not always militantly.  I will allow them because I understand that there is an emotional element within dashboard design that needs to be catered for.

When I do push back though, I like to be able to present alternatives.  Within QlikView, we have several different options for presenting KPI type information.  For example, the data can be presented in a straight table with a linear gauge:

The gauge here is effectively acting as a modified Bullet Graph.  I discuss the creation of this in my QlikView for Developers Cookbook.

Another effective way of presenting this information is by using a horizontal bar chart to display the percentages:

This chart quickly shows the user the relative performance of each country.  The colored blocks show the extent by which a country has exceeded, or failed to reach, the target.

Building a chart like this led me to think about other ways that this could be presented and led to the design of the Redmond "Pie-Gauge" (*** can't find anything like this usage online, but let me know if you have seen it before ***):

This, I think has a couple of things going for it.  Firstly, it works like a good pie chart should - low cardinality part-to-whole comparison.  The circle represents either the total sales or the total target - whichever is higher.  The segments add up to the whole.  It also works as a circular gauge, showing the extent of good performance to the right and sub-target performance to the left.  The size of the segment shows how that plus or minus performance compares to the whole.

So, it gives users the circular objects that they have an emotional attachment to and also gives a reasonably effective visualization.

Personally, I like my new chart design, but it might not be my first recommendation as a gauge alternative.  I quite like this Bar Chart representation:

Here, we can see the percentages as sized blocks versus the actual values.  We can quickly see that although Germany exceeded target by 25%, the Japan 20% represented a much larger actual value.  Similarly, the US 5% drop versus target is actually a much larger dollar value than the UK's 7.1% drop.

I would be interested in hearing other peoples' points-of-view on this subject and what they think about the Pie-Gauge.  Would it be useful for me to follow up with a post on how to create it?

Stephen Redmond is author of QlikView for Developer's Cookbook
He is CTO of CapricornVentis a QlikView Elite Partner. We are always looking for the right people to join our team.
Follow me on Twitter: @stephencredmond


  1. I like the first bar chart best. I find the pies confusing since the whole pie has different meanings depending on sales being larger or smaller than the target.

  2. The "whole" will always be different and have values. In this case, the segment going to the left has one meaning and the one going to the right has another - which is visually obvious.

  3. The sample here uses pattern instead of color. There is a reason for that - the pie charts themselves look better than the color option. Can be difficult to make QlikView pie charts look good.

  4. Stephen,

    Nice alternative to pie and/or gauge chart. I'd love to see a follow-up article that shows how to create Pie-Gauge chart.


  5. Stephen,

    As you write, the last Bar Chart has more information than a Pie-gauge can have. I have used that in some cases, and I find it better.

    How would you show it in a Pie Gauge, if you are 125% ahead of budget?

  6. Hi Stephen,

    Your post has preempted some of the points I was going to pick up in my next post (I was also going to reference Stephen Few and knock gauges).

    I shall probably go with what I was thinking anyway - but will certainly give a nod back here if I do.


  7. "Would it be useful for me to follow up with a post on how to create it?"
    Yes, please or can you give us a sample QVW to download?


  9. Hi Stephen Redmond,

    Where in the cookbook you describe the building of the bullet chart?
    The gauge here is effectively acting as a modified Bullet Graph. I discuss the creation of this in my...

    kind regards,


  10. Hello Stephen

    Thanks for that very informative post. I very much like your last horizontal bar chart and I have tried to build that on my own.

    I am struggling though with placing the %-age deviations at the end of the bars. How can you make it display always at the right place?

    Many thanks in advance for your help.


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