Create a basic Date table in your data model for Time Intelligence calculations

In this blog post, I am going to show you how you can quickly add a very basic Date table to your model. You might be wondering – why do you need a Date table? A Date table is very important to be able to use Time Intelligence DAX functions such as year to date, month to date, quarter to date, same period last year, parallel period, and many other similar calculations that are based on the time/period. There are approximately 35 built-in time intelligence DAX functions and we can leverage them by adding a Date table to our model.

The basic feature of the Date table is that you need continuous dates in your table. There is only unique date value, and on top of it you can add other columns, like Year, Month, Weekday, etc. based on your requirements of how you want to slice and dice the data. Some people may have a requirement to slice the data by Week Number (of the year) and others might not need this column as they would never use it.

From my experience, I have found that the following are key columns to include in your Date table. These are used quite frequently:

  • Date (this is the basic feature in the Date table, both the continuous date and unique values)
  • Year
  • Quarter
  • Month Name
  • Month Number
  • Month Year

So, what should the start and end date be in the Date table? Usually, you want to create a Date table from the start of the year (January 1st) , based on first date in your fact table. For example, if your first sale is on February 15, 2019 in your fact table then your Date table should start from January 1, 2019. The last date should be at least December 31 of the current year and if you have future date transactions in your model then the last date should be based on last date in your transaction table. Let’s assume that you have a transaction table which has future date transactions – let’s say some in 2021 and some in 2022. In this case, our last date for our Date table will be December 31, 2022. There is no problem with having dates in the future.

Let’s look at some examples of what the date range would be in the Date table at the time of writing this post (May 20th, 2020):

Earliest date in transaction tableLast date in transaction tableDate ranges for Date table
February 15, 2018January 5, 2019January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2020
June 20, 2019May 31, 2021January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2021
January 13, 2020December 31, 2023January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2023

Now, how do we create a Date table? We have two DAX functions available to create this table: CALENDAR and CALENDARAUTO. The main difference between these two function is that you pass the date range to the CALENDAR function whereas the CALENDARAUTO function looks at your data model and creates a date range based on the minimum and maximum date available in the model. The latter is exactly what we’re looking for.

Assume that I have a Sales table in my model and that the first sales date is on April 3rd, 2017. There is also a future sales date on November 30, 2022. We will use the CALENDARAUTO function to create a Date table and add other basic columns like Year, Month, Quarter etc.

Click the Calculated Table icon in the Modelling tab to add the DAX expression to create a Date table.

Create Calculated Table with DAX expression

Simply copy the below code to create the Date table in your model

Date =
//start date in my case I'm setting to 2010
//you can get date from your transaction table and start from that year, something like this
//in __startDate replace DATE (2010, 1, 1 ) 
//with -> DATE ( YEAR ( MIN ( YourTransactionTable[DateColumn] ) ), 1, 1 )
VAR __startDate = DATE ( 2010, 1, 1 ) 
VAR __endDate = DATE ( YEAR ( TODAY() ), 12, 31 ) 
VAR __dates = CALENDAR ( __startDate, __endDate )
    "Year",             YEAR ( [Date] ),
    "Month Number",     MONTH ( [Date] ),
    "Month Name",       FORMAT ( [Date], "MMMM" ), --use MMMM for full month name, January instead of Jan
    "Month",            FORMAT( [Date], "MMM, YYYY" ), --use MMMMM for full month name, January instead of Ja
    "Month Sort",       FORMAT( [Date], "YYYY-MM" ),
    "Quarter",          "Q" & FORMAT( [Date], "Q, YYYY" ),
    "Quarter Sort",     FORMAT ( [Date], "YYYY-Q" )

With the above DAX expression, we get a Date table with the following columns:

Date Table

Now let’s check the date range we have in our Date table against what we have in our Sales table. I created MIN and MAX measures on the Date columns from both tables and depicted the results in the visual below. We can clearly see that our Date table has a date range from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2022 and that the first date of sale is April 3, 2017 and the last date of sale is November 30th, 2022. The date range in our Date table clearly aligns with this.

Dates from Sales and Date Table

Another good feature of using the CALENDARAUTO function is that we don’t need to worry about changing the date range. As new data comes in when we refresh our Sales table, the date range for the Date table will automatically grow based on the dates in the Sales table.

One important aspect after we create the Date table is to mark this as a “Date Table.” I don’t want to go into too much detail about this, but you can read all about it here. Once we have marked our Date table, we are going to set the sorting of our columns so that when we visualize our data, our values show up correctly. For example, if we don’t sort our Month Name column then everywhere we use Month Name it will be sorted alphabetically. This means that April will shows up as the first month instead of January. I also want to hide any unwanted columns – in this case I’m going to hide the Month Sort and Quarter Sort columns because they are only used for sorting purposes but are never going to be directly used in the visualization.

You can read more about sort by column here.

The following table lists all the columns that we are going to sort and what columns we are going to sort them by.

Column NameSort by Column Name
Month NameMonth Number
MonthMonth Sort
QuarterQuarter Sort

Something else I always do is change the aggregation method of any number columns to “Don’t Aggregate.” In our case, Year and Month Number are showing as aggregated columns and we know that we will never have a Sum of the Year column or the Month Number column.

Before and After Don’t Summarize

One last thing – make sure you create a relationship between the Date column from your other tables to the Date table. In this case, the Date column from the Sales table to the Date column from the Date table. Now you can use the new Date table for all your Time Intelligence measures!

As best practice, always add a Date table in your model

Relative date filtering and delayed month-end

Relative date filtering is a great way to filter your data while keeping the current date in context. I’m sure you may have used this feature many times before and find it very valuable – but it doesn’t always meet business requirements, especially when the relative date filtering is based on when the previous month-end process is completed. We usually see this in the Finance department when they close the books for the previous month in the subsequent month. This can take 3-5 business days – and in some cases, even more time.

Learn more about relative date filtering here.

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about how to work with relative date filtering based on when the month end-process is completed. For example, imagine a simple bar graph showing the last 12 months of sales data. In this bar graph, we are using relative date filtering, meaning that when we are in January 2020, the bar graph shows sales from January 2019 to December 2019. If we are in February 2020, sales are shown from February 2019 to January 2020 – so based on the current month, the last 12 months are always being shown. This can easily be achieved by using the in-built relative date filtering functionality. This is an awesome feature, but unfortunately it doesn’t work when we have to use relative date filtering based on when the month-end processing is completed.

Here is a problem statement posted on the Power BI Community forum:

I am a big fan of the Relative Date Slicer in Power BI.  Financially – we report monthly.  The majority of my reports use a Last 36 Months (Calendar) – and this works great.  As I write this – my slice is 3/1/2016 – 2/28/2019.  Just what I want. 

My problem is – that window will change with the calendar.   On the first of April – the dates the slicer uses will be 4/1/2016 – 3/31/2019.  We have a processing cycle that takes about three or four business days to complete.   So the calendar may say it is April – but that does not imply we are done with March.  We typically are not ready for this switch until the 6th or 7th.

I can write a DAX function that would know the last certified date.  I can also put a certified attribute on my Date dimension. 

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can delay the transition?

In the above post, the certified date is a trigger that tells us when the previous month-end processing has been completed; this will help us calculate relative date filtering for our visuals.

Now let’s talk about how I approached this solution. The first thing to understand is how critical the Calendar table is for our solution. As a best practice, one must always have a Calendar table in their data model.

There are some great resources out there that talk about how to add a Calendar table to your model. I’m not going to discuss it here, but it is a very important part of our solution.

Here is what our sample data looks like:

Sample Sales Data

There is also a Month End table which has a single Date column. This has a record for each month when the month-end processing is completed.

To calculate our relative date filtering, we are going to add a column to our Calendar table which we will call Month Offset. If the Month Offset value is 0, then that is the most recent month based on the most recent processing date. Negative values mean past months and positive values mean future months.

Month Offset =
VAR __monthEndDate = MAX( 'Month End'[Date] )  --get most recent processing date
VAR __date = IF( ISBLANK( __monthEndDate ), TODAY(), __monthEndDate ) --if there is no date then we use today's date
DATEDIFF ( __date, 'Calendar'[Date], MONTH ) --calculate the offset value

Assuming the most recent month-end processing date is December 2019, then our Month Offset data will look like this:

Month Offset Column Value

To showcase this functionality, I created a power query parameter to change the most recent month-end processing date. In the video below, you can see how the bar graph changes based on this date:

Learn more about power query parameters here.

I have been able to use this technique to meet various financial reporting needs – what are some other techniques that you enjoy using?