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Tableau Charts: Bullet Graph

Updated: May 17, 2021

Bullet chart in Tableau


Bullet chart is a variation of bar charts developed by Stephen Few as a replacement of dashboard gauges and meters. Generally, this chart is used to show progress towards a certain goal. A good example is illustrating actual sales and progress towards the target sales.

Example of a bullet chart

Example of a bullet chart

Best practices for creating a bullet chart in Tableau.

  • Show and label the axis clearly.

  • Use color, and borders conservatively to avoid clutter.

  • Provide additional details on the tooltip.

Step by step guide on how to create a bullet chart in Tableau

In this post we’ll explore how to create a Bullet graph in Tableau.

Tableau has different techniques to achieve the same credible results and therefore in this article, we'll discuss two techniques of creating a bullet graph.

Option (i)

This method is one of the simplest ways to create a bullet graph using the Show me tab, lets build a simple bullet graph using Superstores data set packaged with Tableau app. Our goal in this article is to demonstrate how we can measure Sales performance against a target.

In this hypothetical case, we'll assume that Sales in the year 2015 were projected to grow by 20% from the previous year (2014). Lets build our bullet graph in such a way that it will show us how actual performance compares with the projected Sales. But first,..

Lets calculate, the target Sales in 2015 (i.e 20% growth of sales recorded in the year 2014). Using the formula below.

tableau calculated field

Next, lets calculate the actual Sales in 2015. So that we can compare it against our target.

tableau calculated field

Now that we have set our fields, lets create a bullet graph that will help us track performance against the target for different Sub-category's.

  • Drag dimension field Sub-category to the Rows shelf.

  • Drag measure field Target in 2015 and Actual Sales (2015) to the Columns shelf.

  • On the Show Me tab, select Bullet graphs.

See the resulting graph.

simple bullet chart in tableau

Lets add some formatting and differentiate Sub Products on target from those progressing.

To do this, right click on the axis and select Edit reference line. Change as shown below.

editing tableau distribution band

Above calculation helps us show the 50 & 80 percent of target amount respectively. (Note this can be set as per user needs) Using the calculated field below to show Sub Category performance.

tableau calculated field

Resulting graph after adding above calculated field to the color tab.

final tableau bullet chart

Option (ii)

In the second procedure, we'll hack a few tips on use of reference lines to materialize our goal.

  • Drag dimension Sub-Category to the Rows shelf.

  • Drag Measure field Target in 2015 to the Columns shelf. (Note, resulting chart by default is Bar chart, if different for your case chose Bar under marks card).

  • Drag measure field Actual Sales (2015) to the Details tab under marks card.

  • Right click on the axis and select Add Reference Line.

First reference line

Fill as shown below

adding tableau reference line

Second reference line

Add another reference line as shown below

adding tableau distribution band

Adding the two reference lines above and dragging the condition formatting field above to the color tab we have the graph below.

tableau bullet chart final

Looking closely at the two resulting charts above, you'll agree with me that they are the same in every detail. This chart can pin point at a glance, the Sub Category's met and exceeded their target, while at the same time show the Sub-Category's below target, indicating whether their performance surpassed 50 or 80 percent of the target.

You can chose the suitable procedure for your assignments.

I hope this article was helpful to you, to receive more of the Tableau tips and tricks, kindly join our mailing list by subscribing below.

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Bernard K

Analytics Consultant | 3X Tableau Certified

Bernard is a data analytics consultant helping businesses reveal the true power of their data and bring clarity to their reporting dashboards. He loves building things and sharing knowledge on how to build dashboards that drive better outcomes.

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