Basic Statistics in Tableau: Correlation

This is a guest post provided by Juturu Pavan, Prudhvi Sai Ram, Saneesh Veetil and Chaitanya Sagar of Perceptive Analytics.

Statistics in Tableau

Data in the right hands can be extremely powerful and can be a key element in decision making. American statistician, W. Edwards Deming quoted that, “In God we trust. Everyone else, bring data”. We can employ statistical measures to analyze data and make informed decisions. Tableau enables us to calculate multiple types of statistical measures like residuals, correlation, regression, covariance, trend lines and many more.

Today let’s discuss how people misunderstand causation and correlation using Tableau.

Correlation and Causation

Correlation is a statistical measure that describes the magnitude and direction of a relationship between two or more variables.

Causation shows that one event is a result of the occurrence of another event, which demonstrates a causal relationship between the two events. This is also known as cause and effect.

Types of correlation:

  1. 1 → Positive correlation.
  2. -1 → Negative Correlation.
  3. 0 → No correlation.

Why are correlation and causation important?

The objective of analysing data is to identify the extent by which a variable relates to another variable.

Examples of Correlation and Causation

  1. Vending machines and obesity in schools: people gain weight due to junk food. One important source of junk food in schools is vending machines. So if we remove vending machines from schools obesity must reduce, right? But it isn’t true. Research shows that children who move from schools without vending machines to schools with vending machines don’t gain weight. Here we can find a correlation between children who were overweight and eating junk food from vending machines. In actuality, the “causal” point (which is the removal of vending machines from schools) has a negligible effect on obesity.
  2. Ice cream sales and temperature: If we observe ice cream sales and temperature in the summer, we can determine that they are causally related; i.e. there is a strong correlation between them. As temperature increases, ice cream consumption also increases. Understanding correlation and causation allows people to understand data better.

Now let’s explore correlation using Tableau. We are going to use the orders table from the superstore dataset which comes default with Tableau.

Before going further let’s understand how to calculate the correlation coefficient ‘r’.

We can easily understand the above formula by breaking it into pieces.

In Tableau, we can represent the above formula as 1/SIZE() -1 where SIZE is function in Tableau.

We can use WINDOWSUM function for doing this summation in Tableau.

xi is the sum of profit and x-bar is the mean of profit, which is window average of sum of profit, and sx is standard deviation of profit. That means that we need to subtract mean from sum of profit and divide that by standard deviation.

(SUM([Profit])-WINDOW_AVG(SUM([Profit]))) / WINDOW_STDEV(SUM([Profit])))

This is similar to the formula above but we only need to swap profit with sales.

(SUM([Sales])-WINDOW_AVG(SUM([Sales]))) / WINDOW_STDEV(SUM([Sales])))

Now we have to join all these formulae to get the value of the correlation coefficient of r. Be careful while using parenthesis or you may face errors. Here is our final formula to calculate r.

1/(SIZE()-1) * WINDOW_SUM(( (SUM([Profit])-WINDOW_AVG(SUM([Profit]))) / WINDOW_STDEV(SUM([Profit]))) * (SUM([Sales])-WINDOW_AVG(SUM([Sales]))) / WINDOW_STDEV(SUM([Sales])))

Let’s implement this in Tableau to see how it works. Load superstore data into Tableau before getting started.

After loading the superstore excel file into Tableau, examine the data in the orders sheet. You can see that it contains store order details complete with sales and profits. We will use this data to find correlation between profit and sales.

Let’s get our hands dirty by making a visualization. Go to sheet1 to get started. I made a plot between profit and sales per category.

Now in order to find the correlation between profit and sales, we need to use our formula to make a calculated field which serves our purpose.

Now drag and drop our calculated field onto the colors card and make sure to compute using customer name as we are using it for detailing.

Here we can see the strength of the relationship between profits and sales of data per category; the darker the color, th he stronger the correlation.

Next we’ll add trend lines to determine the direction of forecasted sales.

These trend lines help demonstrate which type of correlation (positive, negative or zero correlation) there is in our data. You can explore some more and gain additional insights if you add different variables like region.

From this analysis we can understand how two or more variables are correlated with each other. We begin to understand how each region’s sales and profits are related.

Let’s see how a correlation matrix helps us represent the relationship between multiple variables.

A correlation matrix is used to understand the dependence between multiple variables at same time. Correlation matrices are very helpful in obtaining insights between the same variables or commodities. They are very useful in market basket analysis.

Let’s see how it works in Tableau. Download the “mtcars” dataset from this link. After downloading it, connect it to Tableau and explore the dataset.

The dataset has 35 variables where each row represents one model of car and each column represents an attribute of that car.

Variables present in dataset:

Mpg = Miles/gallon.

Cyl = Number of Cylinders.

Disp = Displacement (cubic inches)

Hp = Gross Horsepower

Drat = Rear axle ratio

Wt = Weight (lb/1000)

Qsec = ¼ mile time

Vs = V/Sec

Am = Transmission (0 = automatic, 1 = manual)

Gear = Number of forward gears

Carb =Number of Carburetors

Let’s use these variables to make our visualization. I made this amazing visualization showing correlation between models by referring to Bore Beran’s blog article, in which he explained how to make this visualization which helps us understand more about using Tableau to understand correlation.


We must keep in mind that if we want to measure the dependence between two variables, correlation is the best way to do it. A correlation value always lies between -1 and 1. The closer the value of the correlation coefficient is to 1, the stronger their relationship. We must remember that correlation is not causation and many people misunderstand this. There are many more relations and insights that can be unlocked from this dataset. Explore more by experimenting with this dataset using Tableau. Practice to be perfect.

Author Bio

This article was contributed by Perceptive Analytics. Juturu Pavan, Prudhvi Sai Ram, Saneesh Veetil and Chaitanya Sagar contributed to this article.

Perceptive Analytics provides Tableau Consulting, data analytics, business intelligence and reporting services to e-commerce, retail, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Our client roster includes Fortune 500 and NYSE listed companies in the USA and India.


Tableau Filtering Actions Made Easy

This is a guest post provided by Vishal Bagla, Chaitanya Sagar, and Saneesh Veetil of Perceptive Analytics.

Tableau is one of the most advanced visualization tools available on the market today. It is consistently ranked as a ‘Leader’ in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Tableau can process millions of rows of data and perform a multitude of complex calculations with ease. But sometimes analyzing large amounts of data can become tedious if not performed properly. Tableau provides many features that make our lives easier with respect to handling datasets big and small, which ultimately enables powerful visualizations.

Tableau’s filtering actions are useful because they create subsets of a larger dataset to enable data analysis at a more granular level. Filtering also aids user comprehension of data. Within Tableau data can be filtered at the data source level, sheet level or dashboard level. The application’s filtering capabilities enable data cleansing and can also increase processing efficiency. Furthermore, filtering aids with unnecessary data point removal and enables the creation of user defined date or value ranges. The best part is that all of these filtering capabilities can be accessed by dragging and dropping. Absolutely no coding or elaborate data science capabilities are required to use these features in Tableau.

In this article, we will touch upon the common filters available in Tableau and how they can be used to create different types of charts. After reading this article, you should be able to understand the following four filtering techniques in Tableau:

  1. Keep Only/Exclude Filters
  2. Dimension and Measure Filters
  3. Quick Filters
  4. Higher Level Filters

We will use the sample ‘Superstore’ dataset built in Tableau to understand these various functions.

1. Keep Only/Exclude Filters in Tableau

These filters are the easiest to use in Tableau. You can filter individual/multiple data points in a chart by simply selecting them and choosing the “Keep Only” or “Exclude” option. This type of filter is useful when you want to focus on a specific set of values or a specific region in a chart.

While using the default Superstore dataset within Tableau, if we want to analyze sales by geography, we’d arrive at the following chart.


However, if we want to keep or exclude data associated with Washington state, we can just select the “Washington” data point on the map. Tableau will then offer the user the option to “Keep Only” or “Exclude”. We can then simply choose the option that fits our need.


2. Dimension and Measure Filters

Dimension and measure filters are the most common filters used while working with Tableau. These filters enable analysis at the most granular level. Let’s examine the difference between a dimension filter and a measure filter.

Dimension filters are applied to data points which are categorical in nature (e.g. country names, customer names, patient names, products offered by a company, etc.). When using a dimension filter, we can individually select each of the values that we wish to include or exclude. Alternatively, we can identify a pattern for the values that we wish to filter.

Measure filters can be applied to data points which are quantitative in nature, (e.g. sales, units, etc.). For measure filters, we generally work with numerical functions such as sum, average, standard deviation, variance, minimum or maximum.

Let’s examine dimension filters using the default Tableau Superstore dataset. The chart below displays a list of customers and their respective sales.


Let’s examine how to exclude all customers whose names start with the letter ‘T’ and then subsequently keep only the top 5 customers by Sales from the remaining list.

One way would be to simply select all the customers whose names start with ‘T’ and then use the ‘Exclude’ option to filter out those customers. However, this is not a feasible approach when we have hundreds or thousands of customers. We will use a dimension filter to perform this task.

When you move the Customer Name field from the data pane to the filters pane, a dialogue box like the one shown below will appear.


As shown in the above dialogue box, you can select all the names starting with “T” and exclude them individually. The dialogue box should look like the one shown below.


The more efficient alternative is to go to the Wildcard tab in the dialogue box and select the “Exclude” check box. You can then choose the relevant option “Does not start with”.


To filter the top 5 customers by sales, right click on “Customer Name” in the Filters area, select “Edit Filter” and then go to the “Top” tab in the filter dialogue box. Next, choose the “By Field” option. Make your selections align to the following screenshot.


After performing the necessary steps, the output will yield the top 5 customers by sales.

top 5 customers by sales

Let’s move on to measure filtering within the same Tableau Superstore dataset. We’re going to filter the months where 2016 sales were above $50,000. Without a measure filter applied, our sales data for 2016 would look like the following:


To filter out the months where sales were more than $50,000, move the sales measure from the data pane to the filter pane. Observe the following:


Here, we can choose any one of the filter options depending upon our requirement. Let’s choose sum and click on “Next”. As shown below, we are provided with four different options.


We can then choose one of the following filter options:

  • Enter a range of values;
  • Enter the minimum value that you want to display using the “At least” tab;
  • Enter the maximum value that you want to display using the “At most” tab;
  • From the Special tab, select “all values”, “null values” or “non-null” values;

Per our example, we want to filter for sales that total more than $50,000. Thus, we will choose the “At least” tab and enter a minimum value of 50,000.


In the output, we are left with the six months (i.e. March, May, September, October, November, December) that have a sum of sales that is greater than $50,000.


Similarly, we can choose other options such as minimum, maximum, standard deviation, variance, etc. for measure filters. Dimension and measure filters make it very easy to analyze our data. However, if the dataset is very large, measure filters can lead to slow performance since Tableau needs to analyze the entire dataset before it filters out the relevant values.

3. Quick Filters

Quick filters are radio buttons or check boxes that enable the selection of different categories or values that reside in a data field. These filters are very intuitive and infuse your visualizations with additional interactivity. Let’s review how to apply quick filters in our Tableau sheet.

In our scenario, we have sales data for different product segments and different regions from 2014 to 2019. Our data looks like the following:


We want to filter the data by segments and see data for only two segments (Consumer and Corporate). One way to do this would be to use a dimension filter, but what if we want to compare segments and change the segment every now and then? In this scenario, a quick filter would be a useful addition to the visualization. To add a quick filter, right click on the “Segment” dimension in Marks pane and choose “Show Filter”.


Once we click on “Show Filter”, a box will appear on the right side of the Tableau screen. The box contains all constituent values of the Segment dimension. At this point, we could choose to filter on any segment value available in the quick filter box. If we were to select both Consumer and Corporate values, Tableau will display two charts instead of three.


Similarly, we can add other quick filters for region, country, ship status or any other dimension.


4. Higher Level Filters

Dimension, measure and quick filters are very easy to use and make the process of analyzing data hassle free. However, when multiple filters are used on a large data source, processing becomes slow and inefficient. Application performance degrades with each additional filter.

The right way to begin working with a large data source is to initially filter when making a connection to the data. Once the data is filtered at this stage, any further analysis will be performed on the remaining data subset; in this manner, data processing is more efficient. These filters are called Macro filters or Higher-Level filters. Let’s apply a macro level filter on our main data source.

We can choose the “Add” option under the Filters tab in top right corner of the Data Source window.


Once we click on “Add”, Tableau opens a window which presents an option to add various filters.


Upon clicking “Add” in the Edit Data Source Filters dialogue box, we’re presented with the entire list of variables in the dataset. We can then add filters to the one we select. Let’s say we want to add a filter to the Region field and include only the Central and East region in our data.


Observe that, our dataset is filtered at the data source level. Only those data points where the region is either Central or East will be available for our analyses. Let’s turn our attention back to the sales forecast visualization that we used to understand quick filters.



In the above window, we observe options for only “Central” and “East” in the Region Filter pane. This means that our filter applied at the data source level was successful.

Hopefully after reading this article you are more aware of both the importance and variety of filters available in Tableau. However, using unnecessary filters in unorthodox ways can lead to performance degradation and impact overall productivity. Therefore, always assess if you’re adding unnecessary options to your charts and dashboards that have the potential to negatively impact performance.

Author Bio:

This article was contributed by Perceptive Analytics. Vishal Bagla, Chaitanya Sagar, and Saneesh Veetil contributed to this article.