How to Make a Waterfall Chart in Excel



waterfall chart
This is a chart that is useful in reviewing variances and monitoring change from one period to another. Favourable (positive) variances are green, and unfavourable (negative) variances are red. In this example I used a statement of cash flow. Increases or inflows in cash are favourable, while decreases or outflows of cash are unfavourable.


On the data tab all that is required is the change column (B), and the remaining formulas can stay intact.

If you were to track the changes in an income statement, you want to be careful to make sure favourable changes are positive and unfavourable ones negative. For example, if sales are up 100,000, that should be favourable since it has a positive impact on net income. However if expenses are up 100,000 that is unfavourable since it has a negative impact on net income, so although it is technically an increase, the change should be negative. This is where the cumulative change column is helpful because it shows you the running balance, and the ending figure in that column is what you are reconciling to. If that number is not correct then you know somewhere a sign is wrong or an amount is missing.


The remaining columns (D:H) simply have to do with the appearance of the chart. Columns D:E are positive changes, G:H are negative, and F represents the amount that is not visible or blank. The purpose for the blank values is what allows the waterfall chart to create the effect of starting from the last position and just showing the change in the cumulative value.