Create or Delete Paths for Calculated Columns

Calculated Columns Refresher

When creating calculated columns in your Data Warehouse, you will be asked to define a path describing how the table you are creating a column on is related to the table you are pulling information from. To successfully create a path, you need to know two things:

  1. How the tables in your databases relate to each other
  2. The primary and foreign keys that define this relationship

If you know this information, you will be able to easily create a path following the instructions in this article. We have provided an overview of these concepts if you are feeling a little unsure, but you may want to ask a Technical Expert in your organization or reach out to our support team.

Refreshers on table relationships and key types

Table Relationships

We covered this concept in depth in our Understanding and evaluating table relationships article, but a quick summary never hurt anyone, right?

Tables can be related to one another in one of three ways:

Relationship Type Example
one-to-one The relationship between people and driver’s license numbers. A person can have one and only one driver’s license number, and a driver’s license number belongs to one and only person.
one-to-many The relationship between orders and items - an order can contain many items, but an item belongs to a single order. In this case, the orders table is the one side and the items table is the many side.
many-to-many The relationship between products and categories: a product can belong to many categories, and a category can contain many products.

Once a relationship between two tables is understood, it can be used to determine what path should be created to bring information from one table to another. This next step requires knowing the primary and foreign keys that facilitate a table relationship.

Primary and foreign keys

A Primary Key is an unchanging column or set of columns that produces unique values within a table. For example, when a customer makes an order on a website, a new row is added to the orders table in your shopping cart, with a new order_id. This order_id allows both the customer and business to track the progress of that specific order. Because order id is unique, it is typically the Primary Key of an orders table.

A Foreign Key is a column created inside a table that links to the Primary Key column of another table. Foreign Keys create references between tables, allowing analysts to easy look up and link records together. Let us say we wanted to know which orders belonged to each of our customers. The customer id column (Primary Key of the customers table) and the order_id column (Foreign Key in the customers table, referencing the Primary Key of the orders table) allows us to link and analyze this information. When creating a path, you will be asked to define both the Primary Key and Foreign Key.

Creating a Path

When creating a column in your data warehouse, you will need to define the path that brings information from one table into another. Sometimes paths pre-populate because a path already exists between tables, but if this does not happen, you will need to create one.

We use the relationship between customers and orders to show you how it is done. Broken down:

  • The relationship is one-to-many - a customer can have many orders, but an order can have only one customer. This tells us the direction of the relationship, or where the calculated column should be created. In this case, it means information from the orders table can be brought into the customers table.
  • The primary key we want to use is customers.customerid, or the customer ID column in the customers table.
  • The foreign key we want to use is orders.customerid, or the customer ID column in the orders table.

Now, we walk you through actually creating the path.

  1. Click Data > Data Warehouse.

  2. In the table list, click the table you want to create the column in. In our example, it is the customers table.

  3. The table schema will display. Click Create New Column.

  4. Give your column a name - for example, Customer's orders.

  5. Select the definition for the column. Check out the Calculated Column Guide for a handy cheat sheet.

  6. In the Select table and column dropdown, click the Create new path option.

    Creating paths for calculated columns modal

  7. Using the dropdowns, select the primary and foreign keys for each table.

    On the Many side, we select orders.customerid - remember, customers can have many orders.

    On the One side, we select customers.customerid - an order can only have one customer.

  8. Click Save to save the path and finish creating the column.

Limitations of Creating Paths

  • MBI cannot guess primary/foreign key relationships. We would not want to introduce incorrect data into your account, so creating paths must be done manually.
  • Currently, paths can only be specified between two different tables. Does the logic you are trying to recreate involve more than two tables? It then might make sense to (1) join the columns to an intermediary table first, then to the “final destination” table, or (2) consult with our team to find the best approach to your goals.
  • A column can only be the foreign key reference for ONE path at one time. For example, if order_items.order_id points to, then order_items.order_id cannot point to anything else.
  • Many-to-many paths can technically be created, but will very often produce bad data because neither side is a true one-to-many foreign key. The best way to approach these paths always depend on the specific desired analysis. Consult the RJ analyst team to uncovering the best solution.

If you are prevented from creating a calculated column due to one or more of the limitations above, contact support with a description of the column you are

Delete a Calculated Column Path

Created an incorrect path in your Data Warehouse? Or maybe you are doing a little spring cleaning and want to tidy up? If you need to delete a path from your account, you can send a ticket over to our support analysts. Be sure to include the name of the path!

Wrapping up

You should now feel comfortable creating paths for calculated columns in your Data Warehouse. If you are still unsure about a particular path, remember that you can always click Support in your MBI account to get assistance.

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