Hichert rules - Before and After

See the amazing progress before and after applying the rules

Standardization in data visualization concepts is an absolute must. The usage of insights and analytics is expanding massively, while in the meantime the capabilities and easiness of visualization-creation by modern analytics tools increases with the same pace. The result is that availability of analyses of all kinds within enterprises grows enormously.


If enterprises allow the growth in analyses without having a strategy for visualization concepts, they quite quickly run into a situation where none of the analyses is aligned to eachother, they all use different formats and layouts, and KPI are every time visualized in another way.


The IBCS and HichertSucces rules are the by far best standards for visualization. I am an active member of the organization. IBCS standards for visualization help to:


  • To manage a wild-growth on different visualization types, defining a visualization standard becomes relevant.

  • Standards and consistency are of utmost use for both internal as external communications:

  • Understandability of your story- and dashboards increases

  • Decreased risk of misinterpretation of your boardsIncrease of recognition and familiarity to your boards


In this article I discuss some of the most impacting Hichert principles I use every time in my boards.

Credit Suisse Annual Report
Credit Suisse Annual Report

We constantly observe what we feel is a violation of the central requirement of uniform scale, on one hand, and un-manipulated axes or chart objects, on the other. But see for yourself: Click here to download (PDF, 2.2 MB) the sequence with 97 analytical steps.

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SAP Annual Report 2013
SAP Annual Report 2013

This analysis focuses on four typical charts out of this annual report introducing basic IBCS recommendations such as proper scaling and labeling. This should lead to better understanding of these business issues.

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Spiegel Online
Spiegel Online

Unequal scales, minimal information density, and no messages are also some of the weaknesses found in respected journals and online services. The following is an analysis of five charts from Spiegel Online (as of 29/4/2011, updated on an ongoing basis)

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Spiegel Online II
Spiegel Online II

Shown here are several unfortunate comparisons of rings and a closer examination of one example taken from Spiegel Online onthe debt of U.S. households. Click here to download (PDF, 1.1 MB) the before-and-after sequence in 45 analytical steps.

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SAP Annual Report 2010, Income State
SAP Annual Report 2010, Income State

This example is a demonstration of the classic exhibit in the SUCCESS layout using a practical example. This is an excerpt from page 166 of SAP’s Annual Report 2010. Click here to download (PDF, 0.4 MB) the before-and-after sequence in 18 analytical steps.

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Attention to Tables
Attention to Tables

IBCS examples usually concern the most diverse forms of charts. This typical table analysis from SAP BW demonstrates that even here the application of the Standards of HICHERT®SUCCESS offers substantial benefits: more transparent, simpler - and more room for more information. The table concept is discussed in greater detail here. Click here (PDF, 2 MB) for the before-and-after example improved in approx. 80 steps.

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Business communication

For our purposes, Business Communication means the materialization (e.g. paper, screen views) of quantitative information for analytical and reporting objectives. In this sense, we organize business communication into products (e.g. reports and presentations), consisting of one or more pages (e.g. PowerPoint slides) comprised of objects (e.g. charts and tables) with both specific elements (e.g. columns, axes, labels, etc.) and general elements (e.g. titles, comments).


Communication products

Assembling one or more pages into a report or presentation creates a (communication) product.


Reports are written documents with a predetermined, consistently applied formal structure such as


  • Statutory annual and quarterly reports

  • Management reports

  • Project reports

  • Decision memos

  • Records, minutes, proceedings

  • etc.


Interpretations and summaries by the authors are mandatory parts of any report. Reports report something; they are written to convey messages to defined addresses.


Presentations are formal verbal communications concerning situations such as


  • Status of projects

  • Interpretations of current financial figures

  • Speeches on the business outlook

  • Preparation stages in the decision-making process for major investments

  • Training

  • etc.


Interpretations and summaries by the authors are mandatory parts of any presentation.

Addressing only the material used in presentations (presentation material), the IBCS standards take into account the design of the slides projected during the presentation and the handouts distributed before or after the presentation. In this sense, presentations are a short form for presentation material.


Statistics - in contrast to reports - are data compilations without messages by the authors. Statistics do not make use of charts and tables to support a given message, rather they aid in finding a message, demanding active search and analysis by the users. In general, comprehensive statistics have a detailed list of contents but lack a summary.

In practice, no clear border exists between reports and statistics.


Interactive analytic systems (also called management information systems, executive information systems, decision support systems, and reporting systems) are compilations of interactive statistics covering a certain business topic (e.g. analysis of sales). Similar to statistics, these software solutions do not make use of charts and tables to support a given message, rather they aid in finding a message, demanding active search and analysis by the users.


Interactive analytic systems are being built using information technology like analytic databases and business intelligence software.


Although they focus on reports and presentations, the IBCS can be used for the design of interactive analytic systems, too.


Communication pages

Single pages in a written report, one slide of a presentation or one screen view of an interactive analytic system are called (communication) pages. The page size and grid determines the layout.


The size of a page depends on the application and the media used to display the report or presentation material. The IBCS standards recommend a corporate-wide standardization of page sizes for the different products. A thorough and consistent grid concept in all management reports and presentation material makes it easier to obtain an overview. A grid concept allocates the objects and general elements in the visualization space. The IBCS standards recommend the development and use of corporate template grids for the most common page types and sizes.


Dashboards are pages of an interactive analytic system designed to achieve a high rate of visual perception: the time necessary for the reader to oversee und understand the situation illustrated by the charts and tables of a dashboard a valid quality criteria. Similar to a car dashboard, it should support the reader (driver) in understanding the situation within very short time.


Communication objects

The charts, tables, texts and pictures posted on a page are called (communication) objects. Communication objects represent an analytic view of a situation and can stand alone with or without a corresponding message.


Communication elements

Objects are comprised of (communication) elements such as object specific visualization elements (e.g. bars, columns, and lines), legends, labels, axes, etc. In addition, general elements exist such as titles, footnotes, and messages, which are not used for the construction of objects but necessary for the design and understanding of complete pages.


International Business Communication Standards (IBCS)

The International Business Communication Standards (IBCS) are practical proposals for the design of business communication. In most cases, this means the proper conceptual, perceptual and semantic design of charts and tables.


The IBCS Standards are published for public use under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA).


IBCS Notation

IBCS Notation is the designation of the semantic rule set suggested by IBCS. IBCS Notation covers the unification of terminology (e.g. words, abbreviations, and number formats), descriptions (e.g. messages, titles, legends, and labels), dimensions (e.g. measures, scenarios, and time periods), analyses (e.g. scenario analyses and time series analyses), and indicators (e.g. highlighting indicators and scaling indicators).


IBCS Association

The review and further development of the IBCS Standards is an ongoing process controlled by the IBCS Association. The IBCS Association, a non-profit organization that publishes the Standards for free, engages in extensive consultation and discussion prior to issuing new versions. This includes worldwide solicitation for public comment.



The IBCS Standards are based on the HICHERT®SUCCESS rules, an action-oriented approach for the conceptual and visual design of successful Business Communication covering the following rule sets:





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Graphomate charts


The development of graphomate charts is driven by the Success! formula of Juergen Faisst and Prof. Dr. Hichert.applying to the IBCS standards. In this sense they are unique respecting:


  • colorcoding

  • labelling

  • working with variances

  • possibility to highlight variances between series of elements with deviation axes

  • simplification


On the website of Graphomate there is a very good explanation how they are built up.


SAP is one of the very few suppliers which allow to work with IBCS Graphomate charts. Below video is an example of the Graphomate extension for SAP Lumira. Also for SAP design Studio these extensions are available.


Especially talking to the top 100 enterprises here in BeLux, I have noticed a great interest for these charts. It allows these enterprises to standardize on messaging and insights; something realy valuable in these times of Christmas-tree-like visualizations.


Below is an SAP Design Studio example