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What is Bidirectional Cross Filtering in Power BI?

Power BI lets you do a lot with your data from the start. Even the basics of Power BI can help modelers make complex business decisions. That said, once you know the ins and outs of Power BI, you can use certain tips and tricks to get even more from the experience. The more you learn about Power BI, the more you can make of the service.

Certain Power BI features let you maximize your usage and help you avoid the most common frustrations that modelers face. One of those features is called bidirectional cross filtering, and a lot of modelers find it helpful when it comes to “many to many” relationships. Take a look at the next several paragraphs for a definition of bidirectional cross filtering, how you can use it, and some of the benefits and challenges that you’ll notice with this feature.

What is Bidirectional Cross Filtering?

What is Bidirectional Cross Filtering in Power BI

First of all, let’s start with a definition. Bidirectional cross filtering is exactly what it sounds like: filtering that works in both directions. The feature allows users to apply filters to both sides of a table relationship, using both left-to-right and right-to-left options for their calculations. This way, modelers can see how those particular relationships work in multiple contexts. Modelers don’t always need to see relationships from both directions. In fact, some may never use this feature at all.  However, for those who do need to see data relationships from multiple angles, the bidirectional cross filtering option gives them the information that they need quickly.

How to Use Bidirectional Cross Filtering

A relatively recent update from Microsoft lets users employ bidirectional cross filtering easily. Prior to this update, users who wanted to use bidirectional cross filtering would have to learn a specific DAX formula and apply the option themselves.

The default setting for Power BI filters is left to right, but you can apply bidirectional cross filtering to specific tables. The process is simple and straightforward. Here’s how you do it:

  • Click on the “edit relationship” box.
  • Under “cross filter relationship,” click on “both.”
  • Click on “apply security filter in both directions.”

Now, when you look at the relationship between the tables you’ve selected, you’ll notice a small arrow pointing in both directions. You can click on the data from either table and get accurate numbers based on those relationships, no matter which direction you examine.

Benefits of Bidirectional Cross Filtering

A lot of creators enjoy the bidirectional cross filtering feature in Power BI. It certainly brings a lot of benefits to the table. For one thing, when you apply filters to both sides of a table relationship, you get calculations from both sides. This, of course, means more answers for you, so you don’t have to miss out on important information that could lead to meaningful business decisions. Left to right relationships alone don’t always meet a modeler’s needs. Sometimes you need to see how a relationship works in the opposite direction, too. With bidirectional cross filtering, you can cover more of your data needs and rest assured that you’re not missing out.

As a result of the additional information you’ll get from bidirectional cross filtering, you can create and send more detailed reports. This way, you’re not the only one that benefits from the added information. Your end users can also avoid missing out on important information, which can mean better insights all around. Ultimately, the more detailed data can lead to better overall decisions for certain departments or for your business as a whole.

Next, since the bidirectional cross filtering feature is already built into the Power BI system, you don’t have to do the complicated math yourself. You also don’t have to apply complex DAX formulas, which are useful but time-consuming in these situations. You can apply the appropriate filters directly and save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Ultimately, the benefits of bidirectional cross filtering are as diverse as the modelers who use them. In other words, you’ll likely find more and more benefits as you explore your options. Take some time upfront to play around with bidirectional cross filtering and use the examples that Microsoft provides in the application. The more you familiarize yourself with your options, the more confident you’ll be when you apply them to your reports.

Challenges of Bidirectional Cross Filtering

Now that you know some of the benefits of bidirectional cross filtering, what are some of the challenges? Ordinarily, this is the section where we’d mention a learning curve, but the good news is that there isn’t much of one here. Generally, Power BI users can figure out how to use bidirectional cross filtering within a few minutes.

The biggest challenge with bidirectional cross filtering comes from how it affects Power BI’s performance as a whole. The option does put a little more strain on the application than single direction filtering does. As a result, too much bidirectional cross filtering can slow down Power BI. Use the option as needed, but don’t default to it. This way, you shouldn’t experience any major issues. Power BI’s current filtering options are designed for balance. You have the options that you need, but the default settings let Power BI run efficiently.

How Else Can You Enhance Your Power BI Capabilities?

Those who utilize bidirectional cross filtering are users who want to get everything they can from Power BI. Now that you’ve seen some of your options for enhanced modeling, you’ll need enhanced reporting to go with it. 

At ChristianSteven Software, we can help with that. Our PBRS software lets you automate your Power BI reports. It takes Power BI’s current capabilities up to the next level. You want to get the most from your Power BI experience, and we’re here to make that happen. Find out how PBRS can make your business life simpler. Start your free trial or schedule a live demo today, and feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

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