January 1, 2022

# Adding Context to KPIs in Tableau

By Spencer Baucke

The most common request I have received from clients using Tableau is to define criteria for a metric most commonly displayed as a KPI. These metrics all by themselves can be impactful, but adding context in the form of a sparkline or change arrows can help provide context to make that visual more effective.

## Sparklines

Sparklines are effective in providing context to a metric as it pertains to time. Providing this information to your end users will help them better understand the metric. Here is how to make a couple different ones in Tableau.

## Min and Max Indicator

Often when analyzing a data set you will want to know when the min or max of a time series is. This helps gets a feel for if there are any time cycles in your data as well as simply helping you know when the peaks and valleys are with your metric. A sparkline is a great way to do this, and the formula is below.Â

IF WINDOW_MAX(SUM([KPI])) = SUM([KPI])
OR WINDOW_MIN(SUM([KPI])) = SUM([KPI])
THEN SUM([KPI])
END

First, take time frame and drag to columns. Choose the desired time unit (year/month/day).Â

Drag your measure field to rows then add your min/max measure field and create a dual axis (always synchronize axis). Set your min/max measure to dot and color appropriately (most of the time different than line color).Â

## Most Recent Indicator

Most Recent: Even if the most recent metric value isnâ€™t a requirement, showing the most recent monthâ€™s metric with a sparkline is great from a visual perspective. Often a simple line as your sparkline can seem visually isolated, but if you add a most recent value, this can be beneficial from a visual perspective. It can also help you identify the current time period more easily.Â

IF ATTR([Date]) = WINDOW_MAX((MAX([Date])))
THEN SUM([KPI]))
END

An important note with sparklines is that it is okay to not have the axis set to 0. Click edit axis, then unselect the Include Zero button.

## Bar Charts

Although most applications of the sparkline utilize line charts, donâ€™t be afraid to try the bar chart as well. The one distinct advantage of having a bar chart as your sparkline is being able to color your bars by a certain set of criteria. Having a dot on your line chart colored differently indicating a sales miss or hit can be less impactful than having a bar chart colored in the same way.Â

## Change Arrows

Having a metric alone is great, but letting end users know the Year over Year (YoY) or Month over Month (MoM) change is even more impactful. When displaying a metric change amount is helpful to have a visual indicator of the change. In this case, we use a colored arrow to signify which way the metric changed.Â

First, create your change metric. If you are calculating YoY Sales change, then create your field Sales YoY = Sales CY â€“ Sales PY. Now create a field that uses unicode text object to signify if your YoY change is positive or negative.

## Arrow Up
IF [Metric]>0 THEN "â–²" ELSE NULL END

## Arrow Down
IF [Metric]>0 THEN NULL ELSE "â–¼" END

Make sure to create one field for an increase in the metric and one field for a decrease in the metric. The reason being, is when you cry and color each of the unicode shapes, you wonâ€™t be able to drag the field to the color field in the marks card without coloring the whole content of the sheet. This way, if the up or down arrow doesnâ€™t apply to your YoY change then there is no shape present. Drag both fields to the Text field in the Marks card and align accordingly.

The end result is a BAN that looks like the image below.Â

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