A Classic Case of Bad Pie Charts: Salesforce.com

So this really surprises and frustrates me. Surprises me because it’s Salesforce (aren’t they the world’s largest sales platform with Fortune 500 clients ?). Aren’t they supposed to strive so that all this data they capture is more insightful? Frustrates me because it shows such a blatant lack of knowledge in showing data the right way : which should be to provide insight. Which isn’t what their charts do.

We are doing a CRM (Salesforce) integration with analytics for one of our clients and this is one of the charts I see when I log on to the Salesforce Leads dashboard here’s what I see:

Before we do a critique on this dashboard let’s first go understand when to use pie charts :

1.  Only when we are showing something as parts of a whole. A sanity check: you should be able to express it as a percentage.

2. Preferably when there are less than 5 data points

3. Preferably when the data points are distinctively different from each other. (not 19%, 21%, 18% 22% and 20% please)

Ok now back to this graph and let’s see how it violates these rules:

1. It does not show any parts to a whole! Wow, it just shows total leads for every month for a year. This is a classic case of violating the first rule in itself.

2. Ok now it violates rule 2 and 3 outright. They are trying to show 12 data points, most of them are close to each other.

Recommended Display: A Bar chart would have sufficed in this case. With preferably data labels. Simple and effective in telling me what I want and comparing different months.

Or you could talk to the guys at Juice Analytics; they do awesome work in this area and would be happy to help out.

About Ryan Kelly

Ryan is the founder and CEO of Pear Analytics and has helped hundreds of customers with their Internet marketing since 2003. He has spoken on various topics of SEO, Analytics and other marketing at conferences in New York, Chicago and Vancouver. Clients he has consulted include Sears, KMart, CareerBuilder and PEER 1 Hosting. Ryan currently teaches two Internet marketing classes at Trinity University in San Antonio.

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