What Weekly Sparklines Could Add to Financial Statements

Date01 January 2018
Published date01 January 2018
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com).
DOI 10.1002/jcaf.22311
What Weekly Sparklines Could
Add to Financial Statements
Daniel Tinkelman and Xinling Fan
There has been
much discussion
of the role of
“big data” in account-
ing, and of the need
to develop tools to
visually pre sent the
large amounts of
information currently
available to com-
panies with highly developed
accounting systems. Shneider-
man’s (1996) widely cited “visual
information-seeking mantra”
suggests providing an overview
of the data first, then letting
users zoom and filter to focus on
important information, and then
providing details on demand.
In this article, we present
financial statements enhanced
by weekly “sparkline” graphs.
The financial statements pro-
vide an overview of financial
performance. The weekly
sparkline graphs allow users to
identify interesting or anoma-
lous data for further inquiry
or analysis. The graphs in our
exhibits are small. Users who
read the statements on com-
puter screens may use larger
monitors to increase visibility
and can zoom in on graphs of
interest. In a computerized dis-
play, clicking on a graph could
reveal the underlying data. If
the graphs are presented in
paper reports, users could ask
for more detailed data.
We believe such graphi-
cal displays could be useful
to management, to auditors,
and to investors. They could
help management understand
historical results and could aid
the budgeting process. Audi-
tors could use them to identify
patterns and anomalies. If a
company chose to present such
information to external users,
current and potential investors
and lenders could use them to
better understand the timing
and variability of a company’s
Exhibits 1, 2,
and 3 are income
statements, cash
flow statements, and
balance sheets for
three years for an
illustrative corpora-
tion that makes sales of physi-
cal products. The left side of
each exhibit follows traditional
financial statement practices,
so the captions and subtotals
should be familiar to account-
ing and finance professionals.
The cash flow statement has
been prepared using the direct
To the right of the annual
totals, the exhibits have weekly
data for each year. The exhibits
present numerical values for
the minimum and maximum
weekly data, and then present
sparkline graphs (prepared
using Microsoft Excel) with
52 weekly data points. A
horizontal axis is inserted to
improve users’ ability to judge
the slopes of the lines. Dark
black lines are used for assets,
“We demonstrate that adding graphs of weekly
activity to traditional balance sheets and income
and cash flow statements would provide signifi-
cantly enhanced information regarding financial
activity within the year to financial statement
users.” © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Refereed (Double-Blind
Peer Reviewed)

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