The Magic of IF(VALUES())

Dan Marino Wraps His VALUEs in IFs and So Should You

“I’m Dan Marino, and IF() anyone knows the VALUE() of protection, it’s me.”

Boom!  An Ace Ventura quote finally graces the blog.  Yes folks, that fine work of American cinema did indeed feature Dan Marino reprising his real-world ad for Isotoner.


(UPDATE:  I had the val_if_true, val_if_false arguments reversed in my sample formulas, even though I had them correct in Excel.  I’m rusty Smile.  Fixed now.)

But more importantly, I wanted to revisit this little two-function combo:  IF(VALUES()).  I’ve covered it before a few times, but generally in the context of covering something else.

And since this is one of my favorite techniques, I think it deserves its own dedicated post.  A series of posts, actually.  Let’s dig in.

In Measures, You Can’t Just use IF()!

In regular Excel, the IF() function is a familiar tool to most of us:

      IF(logical_test, value_if_true, value_if_false)

In PowerPivot, you can use precisely that same version of IF() in calculated columns.  So, for example:

      IF(Table1[Column1]>6, 0, 1)

In a measure formula, however, you cannot do that.  If you do, you will receive the following error:

PowerPivot Error Value for Column Cannot be Determined in the Current Context

PowerPivot Error Value for Column Cannot be Determined in the Current Context

To better understand why that happens, let’s get ourselves an example…

“Whoa, did you say DimDown???”

Yeah that’s right, the Great Football Project is back after a long hiatus! I had a phone call yesterday with a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  You know Pittsburgh?  It’s a drinking town with a football problem.

Anyway, he requested a return to the football project, under the umbrella of “how do the Steelers win another Super Bowl?”  Given that I lived in Seattle for 13 years, and witnessed his Steelers literally “steel” a Super Bowl from Seattle via lopsided referee calls, I decided that we should look at what should have been the Seahawks’ championship season:  2005.


[Pct Successful Plays] is a measure that I’ve been developing with Hugh Millen.  I’m not going to reveal the “secret sauce” behind said measure, but you can see that in Week 21, when the Seahawks played Pittsburgh in the title game, only 31.2% of their plays were successful – well under their 38.1% total for the year, and their 6th-worst percentage of the year.

Applying Different Formulas in Different Circumstances

Now let’s say that I want to return a different value for this measure in Week 21, which is Super Bowl week.  You know…  I want to “correct” for bad referee calls.

I’ll create a new measure, [Corrected Pct Successful Plays].  In normal cases, I want that measure to just return the same value as would be returned by the original [Pct Successful Plays] measure.

But in week 21, I want to double it.  Just to set things straight.  (In real business, there are many legitimate examples of this technique, like applying a different formula in the West region versus the East region of a sales territory).

If I just use IF() by itself, I will get the error I showed in the previous section.

But if I nest VALUES() inside of the IF(), it will work!

      IF(VALUES(Schedule[WeekNbr])=21, [Pct Successful Plays]* 2,
       [Pct Successful Plays] )


Neat, huh?  Returns the same value as [Pct Successful Plays], except it doubles in Week 21.

A Return to the Golden Rules of DAX Measures:  No Naked Columns!

So why is VALUES() required?  Because you cannot have “naked” columns in your measures.  This is one of the “golden rules” for DAX measures that I first introduced over a year ago – see this video for an explanation.

If you’re not interested in watching that video right now, fine, just take my word for it:  in most places, you cannot just include column references in your measures, you have to wrap them in a valid function.  (And go watch the video later, as it’s a concise explanation of the fundamentals of DAX measures, and something I cover on every consulting/training engagement).

VALUES(Table[Column]), however, IS legal in a measure, and VALUES returns the list of values for the specified column in the current context.  So in the last row of the pivot above, it returns 21, and the formula becomes IF(21=21, 2 * [Pct Successful Plays], [Pct Successful Plays]).

Make sense?  OK, good, because I am lying to you.  There’s one more trick I have to show you, as the formula above actually STILL doesn’t work.

But…  IF(VALUES()) only works when there is only a single value!

OK, here’s the formula from above, repeated here:

      IF(VALUES(Schedule[WeekNbr])=21, [Pct Successful Plays] * 2,
       [Pct Successful Plays])

On each individual row of the pivot above, [WeekNbr] DOES have a single value (1, 2, 3, …  21).

There are actually many cases, however, where [WeekNbr] does NOT have a single value.

For instance, in the Grand Total cell of the pivot:


In the grand total cell, [WeekNbr] is NOT a single value.  It is actually ALL weeks.  In that case, the VALUES function returns a full column of values, and comparing a whole column to a single value doesn’t work out too well.

I like to visualize that problem in my head:

IF(VALUES(Column)) yields an error for pivot cells where there is more than one value of Column

      IF(VALUES(Column)) yields an error when there is more than one value of Column

And by the way, that’s not an error that you will just see displayed in the pivot’s grand total cell.  It will “tank” the evaluation of the entire pivot:

MDXScript(Sandbox) A table of multiple values was supplied where a single value was expected

Protecting against multi-value situations

Protecting against this is pretty simple.  You just use another IF() to “guard” your IF(VALUES()).

The “guard” if is highlighted below, wrapped around the original formula in normal font.

        IF(VALUES(Schedule[WeekNbr])=21, [Pct Successful Plays] * 2,
         [Pct Successful Plays]), 
   [Pct Successful Plays])

In essence, you never let your IF(VALUES()) get evaluated unless there is only one value!  If there is more than one value (as there is in the grand total, or in a subtotal), the formula above just returns the original measure (that’s the “[Pct Successful Plays]” at the end).

Making it simple (seriously, just follow the pattern!)

A lot to digest?

It may seem bad, yes.  But you don’t actually have to grasp it fully.  You can just treat this as a “pattern” that you use.

For example, here is the formula turned into a pattern.  You just substitute your columns and values in the highlighted spots:

  =IF(COUNTROWS(VALUES( <Your Column Here> ))=1,
        IF(VALUES( <Your Column Here> ) =  <Test Value Here> ,
         <Result if True> ,
         <Result if False> ),
   <Result for subtotals and grandtotals> )

The stage is set for some serious fun!

OK, with all of that covered, that sets us up for a series of quick, simple, and powerful techniques that I can share in the next blog post.


20 Responses to The Magic of IF(VALUES())

  1. johncon says:

    ummm… It’s been a long day, a long slow commute home via sleet covered roads and it is REALLY nice to see this return to valuable examples and the Great Football project, but something isn’t sinking in here.

    For starters – IF(logical_test, value_if_true, value_if_false). Ok, I understand that.

    Next is your statement: “But in week 21, I want to double it.” Just to set things straight, ie if Week =21, then x 2.

    And how do you do this? Well it starts with the measure: IF(VALUES(Schedule[WeekNbr])=21, [Pct Successful Plays],
    [Pct Successful Plays] * 2)

    This is part I have problems with (especially with the graphic you showed immediately under it).
    IF week = 21 then you want to double it. And how is IF written out? Logical test, value IF TRUE, value IF FALSE.
    So.. if you write out… (removing syntax) IF weeknbr EQUALS 21, then Pct Successful Plays, IF NOT then Pct Successful Plays x 2.
    Wait.. what. I thought you WANTED to double Week 21. In this statement, at Week 21 should equal – Pct Successful. NOT Pct Successful x 2.

    Looking at the graph, EVERYTHING that WAS FALSE, ie not=21, remained the same, but everything that was equal to 21 was doubled, yet the IF Syntax had True/False backwarks. Man.. you have some ‘splaining to do.

  2. Erik Olsson Dibbern says:

    Hi Rob,

    I actually think this is the greatest formula ever!If it only would work with the grand totals as well that is! Is it possible to create a new measure that sums up the If(Values()measure? Like a SUMX or just a plain SUM?

    I have used this If(Values() measure to create interactive reports where the users can change a slicer setting to change the condition in the IF statement.

    But I need the grand total to be the sum of the different values.

    Please help!


  3. Erik Olsson Dibbern says:

    Hi again,

    I actually solved it a mintue after writing the crying-out-for-help-post. SUMX did the trick!


  4. lenzy says:

    can you use “IF” “AND” in powerpivot?

  5. Daniel says:

    Hi, im new to this site, and let me tell you its amazing.
    My question is, i have a field named “sales”, wich contain the sales of my clients and i need to separate the field by year, so i can create a “calculated field” called variation
    Year | Sales
    2010 $15
    2010 $10
    2011 $5
    2012 $25
    2012 $10
    2013 $5
    2013 $5
    2013 $50

    What a want to do:
    Year | Sales 2010 | Sales 2011 | Sales 2012 | Sales 2013
    2010 $15 $0 $0 $0
    2010 $10 $0 $0 $0
    2011 $0 $5 $0 $0
    2012 $0 $0 $25 $0
    etc, etc.

    Is this possible to do?
    or maybe you can suggest a different way of doing it.
    Thanks in advance


  6. Daniel says:

    Hi, i got another question, what happens if i want to make just what you did, but im comparing year and month, for example:

    &&VALUES(SALES[month])=VALUES(CURRENCY[month]), ->comparing month
    SALES[SALES]/CURRENCY[CURRENCY],”ERROR”) ->if found do the math, if not put 0

  7. Sofya says:

    Thank You for the entry!
    Did I understand right:
    total/subtotal row ruin if(value) function despite the fact that there is no total row in the power pivot (it doesn’t add auto sum or total of pivottable)

    Also,I follow You instructions but my excel (2013) did not show any error and work will with just if(value({})=21;{}*2;{}).Did they solve this problem in excel 2013?

  8. Rock says:

    Thanks for the solution, But when try to multipl with -1 value into measures, then expected result not getting…
    for example:
    IF(VALUES(Schedule[WeekNbr])=21, [Pct Successful Plays] * -1,
    [Pct Successful Plays]),
    [Pct Successful Plays])

    I am not getting result…
    can you help me on that..

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