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How to Perform Multiple Pivots in Tableau Desktop

A question I see fairly frequently on the Tableau Community Forums is how to perform multiple pivots in Tableau Desktop. Historically, my standard reply has been that this isn’t really possible and you’d be best leveraging a data prep tool such as Tableau Prep or Alteryx to perform this transformation prior to bringing your data into Desktop. However, things have changed now that Tableau has introduced the new data model/relationships in 2020.2 (Note: If you’re not yet familiar with the new data model, I’d suggest reading my blog on the topic, Tableau's New Data Model, before you proceed). This new functionality opens some doors that will allow us to perform multiple pivots.

Take, for example, the data set shared on this forums post from 2019: How to create multiple pivots in Tableau. For brevity, I’ve condensed the spreadsheet to two tabs, Population and GDP Growth. Each tab includes a column for Country, followed by 19 columns showing its measure—population or GDP growth—by year.

Our goal would be to pivot both sets of year columns separately, resulting in a column for the year and a column for each of the measures. Let’s try this in Tableau 2020.1. We start out by joining the two tables together.

We’d then pivot one set of our year columns—I’ll pivot the GDP Growth columns.

We now have a column for Year and a column for the GDP Growth measure. Next, we’d try to pivot the Population columns. The problem is, when we do this, the only pivot option we have is to add to the existing pivot. We cannot create an entirely new pivot. There are, of course, a variety of different options in this case. We could use a data prep tool to perform the multiple pivots—this can be done quite easily in Tableau Prep, for example. Other Desktop-only solutions might include adding the columns to the pivot and creating calculated fields and aggregations to adjust from there; or we could even union the two tables together, then pivot them. While these are all workable solutions—and in the case of using Tableau Prep to prepare the data upfront, potentially even preferable solutions—it would still be nice to be able to perform multiple pivots from right within Tableau Desktop.

Multiple Pivots in 2020.2
As noted earlier, 2020.2 provides some new functionality that will allow us to perform multiple pivots. The trick is that each “logical” table in the new data model is sort of its own separate entity, each with its own “physical” model made up of joins, unions, etc. This means that we can perform one pivot in each logical table. So, using 2020.2, we’ll first connect to one of our tables.

Next, we pivot the year columns.

And we’ll rename the fields to something more logical, Year and Country Population.

Now we’ll add our GDP Growth table. The “Edit Relationship” dialog box will appear. We need some relationship set, so accept the default link on Country, then close the dialog. Next, pivot the year columns for this table and rename the fields.

Now click on the noodle to edit your relationship. Add a new relationship between the Year fields (in addition to the existing relationship on Country).

And voila, we’ve performed two pivots in a single data source! We can now easily work with the resulting clean data set.

Single Table
OK, so that works great, but what if all of our data is in a single table? Unfortunately, this is not quite possible…yet. Let’s walk through it to see why.

We’ll first connect to the table, then perform a pivot of one set of the fields—say the Population columns—and rename the pivot fields. Then hide the other set of fields as we will not be using them.

Then add the table again, pivot the GDP Growth fields, and rename the pivot fields.

At this point, we’d just need to relate the two Year fields. The problem, however, is that our left table has just numbers—2010, 2011, etc.—in the Year column. But the right table has numbers followed by text—2010 GDP (Combined 1), etc. This is because the fields were all in the same table and, therefore, had to be unique. Thus, we've hit a dead end because we cannot use calculations within relationships. However, the 2020.3 beta, which was recently announced by Tableau, includes the ability to use calculations in relationships. So, let's use 2020.3 to address this problem.

Note: Though it's included in the beta, there is no guarantee that relationship calculations will be in the final release, but let's cross our fingers!!

When we click on the noodle and add a new relationship, we'll select Year on the left side, then click the new "Create Relationship Calculation" option on the right and enter the following calc:

REPLACE([Year (GDP)] , ' GDP (Combined1)', '')

This will trim off the suffix, " GDP (Combined1)", leaving us with a number that matches the table on the left. And, with this new relationship in place, we have now successfully performed two pivots on the same table, bringing the data together into a single set of records!


As always, I hope that you found this useful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!!

Ken Flerlage, August 3, 2020


  1. Very helpful tip, thanks for sharing. I think for relationships really to take off, 2020.3 is needed. Without join calcs it is not so helpful.

    1. I agree that relationship calculations and inequality will definitely help make it more viable.

  2. Before 2020.2 and even before Prep, I would
    (1) concatenate the two fields Population and GDP Growth -
    ( change the datatype to string - concat with '|' inbetween the two fields)
    (2) pivot (hiding the original two fields of course) and
    (3) split and change the data type back to numeric.
    Life is much easier now.


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