Hitting the bullseye: Target visualization in Power BI for different audiences


Setting targets helps us measure progress and stay motivated towards a goal, whether it’s personal or business-related. Positive results motivate us while falling behind highlights areas for improvement. Figuring out the best way to visualize a target, for example, in Power BI, can be challenging, as it heavily depends on which actions the audience you are designing for wants to take with the results.

This article will show you different ways to display if a target is hit or missed visually. All visualizations are standard in Power BI, mostly tweaked with conditional formatting. If you are interested in AppStore visuals, I mention some at the end of the article.

Asking the right questions

Before you start creating the visual, it’s important to understand what you want to visualize and why. Also, don’t forget about defining (together with your audience) the actions resulting from answering whether or not a target was hit. Why? Because this will help you choose the best visualization for your audience! It seems simple, but for example, a statement like “We want to see if we hit or miss our sales quota” can be visualized in several ways. Some of the questions you can ask are:

Daily target visualization – using a Power BI Matrix visual

Visualizing daily targets can be tricky. Quickly comparing specific days in bar and line charts can become difficult due to the amount of data.

Unfortunately, the custom visuals provided by Power BI don’t offer a calendar that makes it easy to visualize daily results. However, a workaround can be to use a matrix visual in combination with conditional formatting.

In the example provided, you see a daily overview for January till March with colored columns when a target was either missed or hit. Using just 1 bold color makes it easier to interpret the information. If you would color this visual red and green, the visual gets busy and harder to interpret.

Daily - Target Hit or Missed - Matrix Visual Power BI Conditional formatting
The top visual focuses on the targets missed, while the bottom visual focuses on the targets hit.
  1. The visual at the top highlights the days where targets were missed, making it easy to identify any patterns. For example, in this case, days 12-17 were commonly associated with missed targets.
  2. The second visual focuses on the days when targets were met, maintaining a positive outlook while still displaying the days when targets were not met in gray.

Using a matrix visual with conditional formatting in Power BI can help identify patterns and track missed or met targets in a visually appealing and easy-to-interpret way. 

Visualizing a monthly fixed target

Using A Power BI Line And Clustered Column Chart Or A Matrix Visual

When visualizing a target monthly, you should check if the target is flexible or fixed throughout the year. For example, some companies have a specific percentage or amount they want to reach every month, regardless of the month. At the end of the year, they want to see an overview of all the months and the targets hit or missed.

In this example, I’ve chosen two different approaches.

  1. For the first one, I used a matrix visual and applied conditional formatting just like for the daily target. This graphic only gives you insights if the target is hit or not. You don’t see the details of, for example, the amount by which the target was hit or missed. You could choose this visual for a company update or if your audience does not need/want to see more details. In Power BI, this visual could also be used to filter the other information provided in the dashboard.

  2. For the second one, I used a line and clustered column chart in Power BI. Conditional formatting is applied to the bars, changing the color when a target is hit (I created a measure returning 1 or 0 when a target is hit, this measure is used for the conditional formatting). Of course, you could also turn this around to highlight the bars when a target is missed. 

Using A Line Chart In Power BI For Target Visualization

Next to the line and column chart and the matrix visual a line chart also can be an option to visualize a hit or missed target. Line charts are a great way to compare values with each other and they do not take up a lot of space. However, you should remember that the values are a little more challenging to compare than, for example, in a bar chart (try it yourself by comparing this visual with the one above).

In this example, I chose to show the target as a dashed line and the line chart with the results witha solid line. Additionally, I used conditional formatting on the data labels. Also, the values shown are the distance to the target.

While this visual shows, in essence, the same information as the visuals above, it is used to interpret the data differently, focusing much more on the numbers behind the question “Is the target hit or not.”

Voorbeeld: Combineren stap 1 en 2

Target visualization for a monthly flexible target

Using A Power BI Line And Clustered Column Chart, A Line Chart Or An Area Chart

With a flexible monthly target, you could also choose a line and clustered column chart. However, visuals can feel crowded very quickly when too much information is provided, for example, when you add (too many) data labels. In the example, I show a chart with and without data labels for the target amount, not the result. If data labels for the results also would be added, this would lead to quite a busy visual. Therefore it is essential to know which level of detail (and which questions they try to answer) is required to work for your audience.

Another option to visualize a flexible target is a line chart. A line takes less space in a visual, leaving more room for data labels without making it look cluttered. But also here, knowing which labels are interesting for your audience is essential. Do they know the target, or is it mentioned in the title somewhere else in the dashboard? Are they interested in the amount, or are they more interested in the distance to the goal?

Next to a line chart, an area chart also can be a great visual since the shade (showing the distance to the goal) can be a visual hint.

Data Labels No Data Labels
Area Chart Line Chart

Power BI AppStore visual examples for target visualization

There are many visuals in the AppStore to visualize a target; for the purpose of this article, I have selected two that I find useful. Remember that most AppStore visuals require (paid) licenses. The great advantage of these visuals is that they offer the opportunity to visualize data in ways that are impossible with the standard visuals in Power BI. 

  1. The first example is a dumbbell column chart from Nova Silva (also available as a bar chart visual). This is a great visual to understand the distance to a (flexible) target. You can change the color of the different data points and the icon. In this case, I chose green and red to indicate a missed or hit target. However, since some people can’t see the difference between red and green due to color blindness, I chose an arrow as an icon; up means the target is hit, and down implies the target is missed.
  2. The second visual is a lipstick chart by Nova Silva, it is also available as a bar chart. This type of chart simplifies the comparison of two values, such as the target and the actual result. With conditional formatting, you can alter the colors shown in the visual. 
Nova Silva Dumbbell Column Chart Power BI
Dumbbell Column Chart - Nova SIlva
Nova Silva - Lipstick Chart Power BI
Lipstick Chart - Nova SIlva
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