Using think cell for the corporate audience

Sometimes, you have an extremely corporate audience, all blue suits and ties.

This audience has seen it all before, every tool, every business idea and every design fad. They do not want razzle dazzle, they want accountability and reproduce-ability.

They want transparent and honest presentation of your research,  assumptions, workings, plans and conclusions, to ensure stakeholders can critique and ultimately buy into your work.

For these types of audiences, I use think cell. It is the secret weapon behind the professional charts of a consultancy firm, and I am sharing it with you!  It is an excel and powerpoint plug in, and costs about $300 a year, although you can get a 28 day free trial when you sign up

Think cell can do waterfall charts in a flash, gorgeous work break down structures using GANTT charts, calculate and demonstrate cumulative annualised growth rate in a few clicks.

For anyone who has tried to do these things in Excel, you are going to enjoy seeing how easy this is.

Waterfall Charts

Waterfall charts are often used to show contributions to movements in profit, revenue or expenditure from one period to the next

The ABS National Expenditure data

For my data, I am using the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Accounts for 2016/2017 and 2015/2016 to illustrate movements in national expenditure

I selected this data because it is publicly available and appropriate for use of a waterfall chart.

My first step is to ensure I understand how the columns work, and what is a subtotal.

There is a tiny bit of cleaning required.

It is common for ABS data to compare the current period to the same period last year i.e Dec 2017 to Dec 2016, to account for seasonal variations between quarters.

So I only included December quarters. I then worked out the movement between each December quarter in each category.

Think cell viz tool

Think cell is a Office plug in therefore has its own menu in Excel (and Powerpoint) as shown in Figure 3 below. I selected the waterfall option.

Think cell have a guide to create each of their charts, including waterfall charts:

Firstly, you need to attempt to lay the data out as shown in the guide, and select it with your mouse (Table 1).  Note the empty row between header and data which is required. also note the “e” for the end column.

Table 1 Excel Data Table

Then you select the chart you want: waterfall (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Selecting the right chart

You then move into Powerpoint to paste the chart. This is a bug as you used to be able to paste directly into Excel.  Figure 4 shows how Table 1 is laid out, straight out of the box.

Figure 4 Waterfall Chart

The last step is customising it to make it easier to read for the audience.

Figure 5 shows the options when you right click, which are all there to easily add more or less detail and allow you to focus.

Figure 5 Right Click

Almost every aspect is configurable if you click on it. You just need to zoom in so you can differentiate the details.

Figure 6 shows about 5 minutes of finessing within Powerpoint.

Figure 6 The power of think cell

This is the kind of thing corporate executives love to see. The colours are consistent. Key variances are highlighted.

Except for that little yellow 18 which is an error in movement (see how accountable think cell is!).

I just love think cell.  Of my three blogs about data viz tools, this is the one tool I have used extensively before, but I just had to share it.

This tool is built on Microsoft Office and distills years of consulting experience into its left and right mouse buttons. The only downside: it doesnt work with Google docs and probably not Mac either.

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  1. Ahhh good old Thinkcell. Was one of my favorite tools especially helpful for converting sketches into viz.
    However, I find it limiting in that I can only see its application to mostly business Window$ M$ Office plugin. Although I know a few people who swear black and blue by it, obviously not heard of Tableau :).


    1. Thanks for your feedback Tam. Yes thats the main limitation, only works with MS Office. I think its a better tool than Tableau for certain things. There is a lot tableau cannot do EASILY. Sure, it can do it, but it takes a lot of work. Think cell knows what consultants need to do and makes it easy for them to do it with their left and right mouse clicks. So thats why there are die hard fans 🙂


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