How To Use Charts To Quickly Locate Errors

various charts on a page beside a laptop

by Warren Hayford

Charts have many different uses. They can be used to analyse a business. They can present performance to different audiences. But did you know they can find errors in your numbers?

Charts can show several series of numbers in a concentrated. This can make several type of error stand out like a sore thumb. There are three types that charts help find the wrong sign, missing numbers and order of magnitude errors.

A wrong sign is very hard to see in reports and tables. In this type of error a positive number is incorrectly entered as a negative number or a negative number is incorrectly input as a positive.

When you chart a series of numbers with a sign error the line spikes. Up if the incorrect sign is positive or down if it is negative. The dramatic difference in the value versus previous and following numbers makes the error stand out.

Missing numbers offer a different challenge. Sometimes these show up in your reports as zeros, sometimes they’re blanks.

If you have a large report or a large table of numbers you have to search through to find them, it is very easy to not see a missing number.

When you chart the numbers a gap is created where the number is missing. The gap draws you immediately to the period and number that is missing.

Order of magnitude is a common error. In these cases a number has too many zeros or not enough zeros or a misplaced decimal.

A difference of one or two zeros in a table of numbers is almost impossible to spot. Chart those same numbers and it is immediately obvious that you have an order of magnitude problem. When a number is 10 times or 100 times larger than the other numbers in a series the connecting lines between it the previous and subsequent number spike almost straight up.

Any other number series that are charted do not have any volatility. The bad number causes the scale on the chart to be set so that they appear as a straight line. They are often blended with the correct numbers in the series with the error.

Add charts to your review process for your business performance. Charts can quickly improve the quality of your numbers. A single chart will show all three types of errors wherever they occur in your numbers.

Start using this tool today to quickly find and remedy wrong signs, missing numbers and errors in order of magnitude.

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