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Monday, April 5, 2010

A better way of showing current year sales vs previous year


Many a times, I have found that all the hard work that I had done behind to optimize and performance tune the reports and OLAP had gone unnoticed when it actually came to showing them to the customer. As a techie, I was super excited to see that I had tuned the report from over 36 secs to less than 3 secs and had hoped for a bigger plaudit from the customer but it all came down to one fine remark - the aesthetics don't look that great and the chart looks super compressed. This is how important aesthetics can be to your reports, if you don't do your groundwork properly there, you might not get the due credits. And SSRS 2008 really does provide a lot of options to improve the aesthetics of your report.

In one of my projects, I was asked to create a weekly chart report that would display the current year sales vs previous year sales, along with a line chart for Target. I created the rough design and found out that the chart would be too big if we go the usual column chart way, because it would need 53*2 columns and I wanted to fit the chart in one page (else it becomes too messy for the users to use the scrollbars, I avoid them in my designs if I can)


This could be tweaked with a help of a simple trick.
1) Create the normal column chart with the 2 measures (Sales and Sales (Y-1))
2) Click on the first column, and press F4 to open the properties panel
3) Expand the Custom Attributes property, and change the PointWidth to 0.8
4) For the other column, change the PointWidth to 0.35
5) Right click on the chart and select the Chart Area properties
6) Check the Enable 3D option and set the following properties as shown in the fig below


7) Voila, you will get the new column chart as shown below


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