What is a Hierarchy?

Hierarchy refers to different levels within a system. In an organization, hierarchy means the different levels at which people within the organization operate (juniors, mid-level and senior level).

In this article we are not discussing about hierarchy of an organization or creation of an organization chart. We will discuss two charts which were introduced in Microsoft Excel 2016. These two charts are known as hierarchical charts as they represent different levels of segmentation within the data set. These charts are known as.

  • Tree Map Chart
  • Sunburst Chart

Tree Map Chart

A tree map chart is a hierarchical chart. It is used for visualization of data with multiple levels of segmentation.

A tree map chart gives a pictorial representation of how data is spread across different segments and subsegments. The top categories in the data set are represented by larger rectangles having different colors. The sub-categories within the data are shown in smaller rectangles. Their size represents the contribution to the larger rectangle.

Let us look at a simple example.

Here is a table showing revenues of different categories of electronic products in different countries.

Lets first organize the data for our Tree Map chart.

The table above has countries in one column, the products in the other and revenues in the 3rd column.

To insert the Tree Map chart, Click on the data table, Then Click on the insert tab. In the chart section, Click on Insert Hierarch Chart. Then Select Tree Map Chart.

You get the Tree Map chart.

In this chart, the larger rectangles represent the countries, and the smaller ones represent the products. Size of the smaller rectangles represent their contribution to the larger rectangle.

Let us format the chart.

  • Remove the chart title.
  • Remove the legends.
  • Remove chart border.
  • Format data labels.
  • Format the labels - Click on the chart and then right click it. Select Format Data Series from the available options. You get the following options.

Select the option Banner. The added labels are in Grey Color. Change the color of the banners based on the color of the rectangles.

You get the formatted chart (shown below).

If you want to change the design or color scheme of the chart, just click on the chart and go to the Chart Design tab and select from a list of available chart designs. Also, you can change the colors by selecting the change Colors drop down.

Sunburst Chart

A Sunburst chart is an inbuilt chart in Microsoft Excel 2016 and later versions. Like the Tree Map chart, a Sunburst chart is also used to display Hierarchical data, but in a circular format. It is another great way to show relational data in a compact form.

In this chart, each level of hierarchy is represented as a ring. The chart can be used to visualize the contribution made by each subsegment in a data set.

Let us understand how to create a Sunburst chart with the help of a simple example.

Here is the data which we used in our previous example. The first column represents the countries, the second the product and the third column the revenue contribution by each product.

To insert a Sunburst Chart, click on the data table. Then go to insert, and within the chart section click on Insert Hierarchy Chart. From the drop down select Sunburst Chart.

Once you make the selection, you get a Sunburst chart (as shown below). The inner circle represents the countries and the outer circle the revenue contribution by each product.

Format the chart as per the requirement. Insert a Chart title in the white space at the middle of the inner Circle.

You have your hierarchical chart.

Both the Sunburst and Tree Map chart are useful when the data set has multiple levels of segmentation. It gives you a pictorial representation of how the data is spread across different segments.


  • These Charts cannot be used if the data set cannot be divided into segments and sub segments meaning that the data is not hierarchical.
  • They also cannot be used if we want to see the time pattern for multiple variables in a data set.

Keep Learning and Have Fun.

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