Using “IF” in expressions vs using “Set Analysis”

In this article I will try to clarify all the differences and similarities that occur when in an expression we can use either statements like IF or its “equivalent” SET ANALYSIS, and downplayed this supposed equivalence because in some cases you get (almost) the same result and not in others for which it is necessary to understand the operation of each mechanism to know which should be applied in each scenario.

 In principle I will say that:
– When making a SET ANALYSIS the data set on which to operate is restricted, and this is the exact programmatic behavior equivalent of a user selection. When the expression to the right of the set ({<…>} xxxxx) is executed it is applied ONLY to the resulting set of the model.
– In addition and complementary to the above, an expression that has no Set Analysis works on ALL available data (based on current selections and dimensions).Be in a way or another when QV runs an expression it builds a “internal local table” (to solve the expression) as a result of make a “Natural Join” (SQL Full Outer Join) between all the fields used in this expression and this, as in any join, may produce that some rows from any of the joined tables result duplicate (or multiply), sometimes producing unwanted effects. 

Suppose we have a model with two tables: the first with the annual sales per customers and the other claims of each customer and the amount claimed. From here we can obtain various indicators such as: Number of customers with claims, amount of annual turnover vs amount claimed (risk of loss), Total amount of claims, number of claims, number of averages and percentages, etc..Here the structure of the tables:

load * inline [
CustID, Anual_Sales, VIP
1 , 100, Y
2 , 200, Y
3 , 300, Y
4 , 400, N

Load * inline [
CustID, ClaimID, Claimed_Amount
1, 1, 5
1, 2, 8
4, 3, 15
4, 4, 1

So we get:






Now see different indicators and the correct ways to get them and other erroneous ways we should avoid:

1 – Amount claimed for VIP clients:

           a-Using Set Analysis (CORRECT):


                 Here QV first filter the model (just for the dynamic table context) only those rows from the Customers table where VIP = “Y”, obtaininginternally something like:
                Customers Table——->     quinta

               And because the model’s relationships:

               Claims Table——->            sexta  

               Finally QV sum Claimed_Amount getting 13.

          b- Using “IF” (CORRECT):


                Here QV joins both tables (doing a Natural Join) which yields something like:


            It can be seen that the result 13 obtained is correct and only shows rows where the expression is different from zero, which could change by check “Supress zero values” in the tab “Presentation”, obtaining:


             This is because what we are adding is in the “far right” of the join, ie in the Claims table (the right side of our joined table) remain the same number of rows than before the join.

In this first case (1) using IF or Set Analysis is, at least in principle and only effect of the outcome, identical, but later we will see some subtle differences.

 2 – Annual Turnover committed of the customers: it seeks to show “how much could be lost if not solve the claims”
              a-Using Set Analysis (CORRECT):
              The data model is filtered and searched for rows that have any value (‘*’) in ClaimID.

Image12              By doing this QV filters the model through the relationship obtaining a Customers resultset as follows:

 Image11           And showing the result properly:


         b-Using “IF” (WRONG):

            Here QV first makes a Natural Join between Customers and Claims, and this happens because the expression is using fields of the two tables (this “force” the join between tables):


            Then over the “result set” obtained QV runs the expression row by row looking for those that meet the criteria (that have at least one claim) and grouping according to the corresponding dimension, yielding the following WRONG result:


           This is because the values ​​100 and 400 are two times each on the resulting joined table.           There is a situation in which a similar calculation this would work and it is if (eg) we are counting unique identifiers. For example, to count the number of customers who have claims could use the valid expression:

          Count(DISTINCT if(not isnull(ClaimID),Cust_ID))

           Where even Cust_ID is “multiplied” many times as there are claims the DISTINCT modifier performs the magic required, although QV’s discouraged to count distinct for performance reasons.        c- Using IF and AGGR (CORRECT):

          There is the possibility not to use Set Analysis and still get a correct result by using AGGR.
          AGGR instruction builds a “temporary table” in memory grouping by a model’s field and obtaining a SINGLE result for each grouped field value (like a SQL agregation function Select () from … GROUP By … but on-the-fly).
          The result, explained below, would be:


          Here we combine the two tables fields (which led us to an error in 2b) but internally there is a step that allows a correct result unlike the alternative explained in 2b.
          In the first place for each different CustID QV counts the number of values ​​that are in ClaimID, obtaining a temporary and intermediate table like this:


           Then QV only gets 1 and just 1 line for each customer who has at least one claim. It’s really this table which QV use to join with Customers (Anual_Sales field) in the expression:

                          sum(if(aggr(count(ClaimID),CustID)>=1 , Anual_Sales))

           So that does not “multiply” the rows of the parent table (Customers) when join it with detail (Claims). Customers joins with the temporary table made by AGGR function and it has a 1 to 1 ratio, so finally unique amounts are added, getting the right result.

         d- From script using group by and Flags (CORRECT):

              As we saw the problem to avoid is that “multiplied” the rows in the table where is the field you want to sum when doing joins with other tables in the model. In a very similar way to AGGR we can “mark” customers rows who have claims at runtime script and then just add the annual billings of these customers without joins with any other table. This is done by creating a new field in the parent table (Customers) that functions as a flag. So in our script add:

left join(Customers)
if(isnull(count(ClaimID)),’N’,’Y’) as Commited

               and then we just have to add the billing of customers committed (field Committed=Y):


When there is the possibility of using either IF or Set Analysis QV advisable to use Set Analysis because performance reasons, but is usually even more performant resolution via script, especially if there is important data volume and / or a complex model. By other side use Aggr in this type of model can be very expensive in memory and cpu, especially if you have no control over other filters that the user might be doing.

A final consideration about using Set Analysis: in some circumstances and closely linked to the board design and the use cases presented by the user, it can result a bit confusing. For example suppose we have a board with a dynamic table and a selector like this:

Image18         Image19

If the user had selected VIP = “N” the Pivot Table will ignore that selection as the Set Analysis (such as it is written) ignores the user selection, producing it a result that could be confusing to an unsuspecting user. This does not happen when using IF, but besides having a poor performance is not always achieved the right and desired result.


Acerca de pparnisari
Casi 44 vueltas al sol. Licenciado en sistemas. Curioso, investigador, excelente para resolver problemas prácticos. Casado, 2 hijos, cada vez con mas preguntas y respuestas mas en duda. Almost 44 laps to the sun. System engineer. Curious, researcher, great for solving practical problems. Married, 2 children, each time with more questions and more answers in doubt.

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