Chart Building: Running Total

Tim Lafferty

More posts by Chloe
Tableau Chart

How To Build A Running Total Chart In Tableau

Building a running total chart is incredibly straight-forward in Tableau. Running total charts are a great way to display trends and paces between different dimensions. Here is a quick overview on how to properly build a running total chart using Tableau’s built-in Superstore Sample dataset.

1. We need a date/time/period of some sort on the column shelf

For this example, I’m going to use the continuous ‘mm/yyyy’ datepart of Order Date. Conceptually, nothing changes if you decide to use Days, Weeks or even Years (with enough data).

2. We need a measurement (a Running Total of what?)

I’m arbitrarily choosing the sum of sales for the entire year of 2017. I encourage trying other measures, especially ones that can hold a negative value (such as profit). It’s good to know how certain dynamics will effect your charts.

3. Add a quick table calculation

From the drop-down on the measure pill, choose Quick Table Calculation -> Running Total. By default, this quick table calculation will compute the total across the entire window (which is what we’re looking for). As always, though, be very mindful of the default settings for any ‘Quick’ calculation or function (regardless of software).

4. Add level of detail for comparison

Running totals are generally more useful when comparing multiple values. Choose a dimension for comparison. For this example, I’m using the Region field. I recommend trying others – Sub-category, State, Customer Segment, Manufacturer, etc.

End Result

This covers the basics of building running total charts using Tableau. Of course, there are many more advanced options as you progress and find more use-cases. One of the more practical use-cases is adding a secondary table calculation for percent of total.

Have any questions, comments or corrections? Feel free to leave a comment!