Chris Webb's BI Blog

Nested Calculations In Power Query

Quite often, in Power Query, you want to ‘nest’ calculations and transformations – apply them not across the whole table, but repeat the same calculation or transformation across multiple groups of rows within that table. Let me give you an example…

Take the following input table:

Imagine you wanted to add a column showing the rank of each row by Sales. In Power Query you would just need to:

  1. Load the data
  2. Sort the table in descending order by Sales
  3. Add an index column starting at 1, which is the rank

You would end up with the following output:

…and here’s the M code, all of which is generated by the UI:

    Source = Excel.CurrentWorkbook(){[Name="Sales"]}[Content],
    #"Sorted Rows" = Table.Sort(Source,{{"Sales", Order.Descending}}),
    #"Added Index" = Table.AddIndexColumn(#"Sorted Rows", "Rank", 1, 1)
    #"Added Index"

Now imagine you wanted to rank Sales within each month. That’s to say you want to apply the same steps as shown in the previous query but for each month individually to get an output like this:

One way to tackle this, and problems like it, is to do the following. First, do a Group By on the column you want to repeat the calculation over, in this case Month, and use the All Rows aggregation operation. This will result in a table with one row for each month and a column containing nested tables, as shown below:

Each one of these tables contains the rows from the original table for the month.

You can then take your original transformation and turn it into a function, either in a separate query or as a step in your current query. Here’s an example of how the query above can be turned into a function that takes a table and returns a table with a rank column added:

(tabletorank as table) as table =>
      SortRows = Table.Sort(tabletorank,{{"Sales", Order.Descending}}),
      AddIndex = Table.AddIndexColumn(SortRows, "Rank", 1, 1)


Next, you need to pass each nested table to this function. You could do that in a calculated column, but the most elegant way I think is by using the Table.TransformColumns() function which takes a function and applies it to every value in a column (see here for another example of how to use it).

Finally, you get the final output by clicking on the Expand icon in the AllRows column and then choosing to expand all the columns in the nested table except the ones you originally grouped on:

Here’s the full M code:

    //Get data from Excel
    Source = Excel.CurrentWorkbook(){[Name="Sales"]}[Content],
    //Group by Month
    Grouped = Table.Group(Source, {"Month"}, {{"AllRows", each _, type table}}),
    //Declare a function that adds a Rank column to a table
    RankFunction = (tabletorank as table) as table =>
      SortRows = Table.Sort(tabletorank,{{"Sales", Order.Descending}}),
      AddIndex = Table.AddIndexColumn(SortRows, "Rank", 1, 1)
    //Apply that function to the AllRows column
    AddedRank = Table.TransformColumns(Grouped, {"AllRows", each RankFunction(_)}),
    //Expand the tables in the AllRows column again
    ExpandAgain = Table.ExpandTableColumn(AddedRank, "AllRows", 
       {"Product", "Sales", "Rank"}, {"Product", "Sales", "Rank"})

You can download the example workbook here.

This pattern could also be applied to other types of calculation that need to be nested, for example running totals or shares.