Understanding IBCS

Many people are excited to see my IBCS-styled Power BI data visualizations. They look cool! However, not everyone understands why some columns are solid black, while others are hatched or outlined.

➡ One of the key recommendations from IBCS is to UNIFY the visual elements used to represent different scenarios — such as actuals, forecasts, and plans. This is why you see columns that are solid black (representing actuals), hatched (forecasts), and outlined (plans).

➡ Another guideline from IBCS is to use colors purposefully and efficiently. Specifically, red is used to indicate bad changes, and green signifies good changes. That’s why you’ll notice these red and green rectangle marks. [Note: These colors are not pure RGB red and green, for the sake of accessibility.]

These features make IBCS-styled charts easily recognizable.

🎯 However, the scope of IBCS extends really far beyond simply unifying the visual elements in charts.

🚫 IBCS is NOT (!) founded on the assumption that we, as creators of reports, are less intelligent than composers who can create and write sheet music, nor that the users of our reports are less capable than musicians who can convert sheet music into live music.

In other words, neither group is deserving of oversimplified data visualizations. We can create comprehensive reports (akin to sheet music), and users can then understand report message and make informed business decisions.

➡ IBCS is about SUCCESS-fully using data visualization to convey meaningful messages via reports.

SUCCESS means:
SAY (convey a message)
UNIFY (apply semantic notation) – here are the solid, hatched, outlined, red and green rectangles you see and say “cool!”
CONDENSE (increase information density)
CHECK (evaluate visual integrity)
EXPRESS (choose proper visualization)
SIMPLIFY (avoid clutter)
STRUCTURE (organize content)

A common mistake in many “my first dashboard” posts is making weak statements like, “Insights of my report: we sold 10 apples in 2022,” which only pretend to convey a useful message backed up with what pretend to be an evidence – a card that says “Apples: 10”.

IBCS helps to deliver useful and comprehensive messages, backed up with all the necessary data, calculations and explanations.

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