Update: 2019. You can now do this natively in a Matrix, but this is still a good trick that can be used to solve various problems.
You may or may not be aware that it (previously was) not possible to put Measures on rows in a Matrix in Power BI. But I came up with a trick that makes it possible, so read on to find out how.
Measures Can Only be Placed on Columns
First the problem. The only way that you can use the Power BI Matrix visualisation (at this writing) is to place the measures on the columns as shown below. You can then take any column of data from your data model (typically from a Dimension/Lookup table) and place that on rows in the Matrix. So you end up with this.
This limitation does not exist in an Excel Pivot Table. As you can see below, it is possible to flip values between columns on rows from the Pivot Table Fields List.
Old tricks for New Purposes
When I was thinking through this problem, my first intuition was to use a Switch statement somehow. Switch statements can be used to create a Switch Measure (like the ones I used in this blog post here back in 2014) and I figured this could be part of the solution. And then I remembered another trick I learnt from Rob Collie using disconnected tables to feed a measure – I new I had a solution.
So in summary, I wrote a Switch measure that will morph into different measures when filtered, and then used a disconnected table to pass a filter to that measure.
Write a Switch Measure
The Switch measure is pretty easy to write as follows:
The way this measure works is that it takes an input in the form of an integer, and then depending on that number, it will return the value of the appropriate measure as the result.
Then Create a Helper Table
The next step is the secret sauce to this trick. I created a disconnected table with the sole purpose of passing the correct filter values (the integers) to the Switch measure.
I used the “Enter Data” feature in Power BI to create a list of the measures I want to put on rows in the Matrix.
Note that the ID column is also the sort order of the measures, and the ID column also matches with the Switch measure numbering scheme. Once the table is created, I added it to the data model as a disconnected table – no need to join it to any other tables in the data model.
I then set the sort order of the Measure column as follows:
Write a Harvester Measure
The next step is to write a harvester measure to extract the selected filtered value of the table. This measure is simply as follows:
The measure above will return the largest integer in the current filter context. If there is a filter (eg a slicer) on the Measure column and the user as selected “Total Margin” in the slicer, then there is only a single row visible in the filter context, and hence the MAX of the visible rows is 3. I would of course get the same result if I used MIN, AVERAGE, SUM or indeed even VALUES in my harvester measure.
Filter context is one of the hardest things for new users to understand properly. I explain filter context in detail (and everything else you need to know to be great at using Power Pivot and Power BI) in my book “Learn to Write DAX”.
You can see the harvester measure in action below. I have placed the column from the MeasureTable into a slicer and the harvester measure into a Matrix. When I click on the slicer, the harvester measure updates to show the ID of the selected filter.
Add the Measure Column to the Matrix
There is more than 1 way to filter a table of course. In the image above I am using a slicer, but I can also use the rows on the Matrix to provide filter context. When I place the Measure column from the MeasureTable onto rows in the Matrix, you can see below that the harvester measure is correctly returning the value of the ID column to the visualisation.
Pulling it All Together
In order to pull this all together, I replaced the harvester measure with the Switch measure I wrote earlier, and put the Categories column from the Products table onto columns in the Matrix.
But there are now 2 problems. The first problem is that the Total Invoices are shown in currency format. One limitation of this trick is that all the measures must have the same number formatting. If you would like to see an optional “Alternative Format” for the SWITCH measure, please vote for that idea here.
The second issue is that the total row is actually showing the total invoices and not the total of all the measures. This makes sense of course because the grand total row is not filtered. As a result, the MAX of ID is 4 and hence the SWITCH measure is returning the value of the measure that maps to ID 4 (Total Invoices).
To fix these 2 problems, I removed Total Invoices from my table and rewrote the SWITCH statement to correctly handle the grand total row.
And there you have it, Measures on Rows in a Power BI Matrix.