Dynamic Parameters: The Results Are In

By Tracy Rodgers 24 Mar, 2015

It’s been just over a month and it’s time to close the Dynamic Parameters survey. Not surprisingly, we got a ton of responses and want to thank you for all your feedback! It was extremely valuable and was an insightful experience. Check out some of the results below:

I talked with one of the Program Managers for this feature area, Amy Forstrom, about this exercise and I was pleased to hear that she felt the same way I do about this project.

“It was a great experience. We got a lot of very detailed scenarios that we can use to evaluate the options we are looking at. I had a lot of in-depth conversations with customers. Some point-blank asked us, why don’t you just do it in this particular way? Or have you thought about this? Others had very detailed cases that showed just why a parameter wasn’t or shouldn’t be the solution. Overall, it [the survey] provided the team with some hard data to work with and supported some of the internal debates/struggles that we’ve had over the epic Dynamic Parameters idea.”

After mining through all the results of the survey and feedback from the many phone calls and email conversations the Tableau Development Team had with several of you, they were able to pull out some key scenarios that seemed to be the drivers for the Dynamic Parameters idea. Here’s what we heard:

  • Cross Data Source Filtering: I want to use one filter to filter different data sources. The data sources may have different connections (for example, one might be SQL Server and the other may be Excel), OR they might point to the same underlying connection (for example, one to a fact table and the other to a summary table in the same database with a common dimension). I can’t use the data blend option because of performance issues or because of the necessary level of detail.

  • Highlighting and Comparison: I want to highlight a subset of my data in the context of all of my data. I can’t use the color shelf because there is already a field on the color shelf, or I don’t want to use the color legend to highlight because there are too many values. Regardless, I don’t want to have to filter out all the other marks in the viz.

    Parameters are useful for scenarios where comparison calculations are involved. For example, I may want to compare the selected state’s sales values with the value of another selected state’s value. I may also have a set of calculations that are dependent on a date value that has been selected. Using a filter prevents me from getting the value of the date selected and removes data from the view that needs to be included in the calculation.

  • Default Values for Filters and Parameters: I want to be able to set the default date for a filter or parameter based on the most recent date in my data or set a custom range of dates (for example, 6 months).

  • Using Parameter Values in More Places: One of the requests that bubbled up as part of this exercise is the need for parameter values to be usable in more places. Places like setting the boundaries for stepped color ranges, in axis titles, and for determining minimum and maximum values on an axis.

  • Cascading Parameters: Limiting the range of values in one parameter based on the selected state of another parameter.

Though there were a couple of other scenarios, these are the ones that were most pronounced, and have given our developers a lot to think about. And we have definitely noted that these scenarios are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A case in point is where people want date filters to update based on the latest value in the data, and they may be using that date value to filter across multiple data sources.

Is there a one stop shop (or feature) for Dynamic Parameters? No, probably not, though there did seem to be a recurring theme centered on filtering, highlighting and comparison needs.

But, the big question you’re all probably wondering is — when will a solution be implemented? Well, we don't have an answer on that one yet.

What we can tell you is that the Tableau Development Team is actively taking steps to build solutions for these use cases in a future release. Given the wide range of customer needs described, it is likely that the scenarios will be addressed over multiple releases.

It is also likely that as we start implementing different features to meet these needs, new use cases will be uncovered by customers who take advantage of the new functionality. This is why we want to keep this as an ongoing conversation with all of you. The Ideas section of the Community is critical to us for that reason.

So what now?

The Dynamic Parameters idea will be set to an “In Review” status and will point to ideas that detail the different scenarios so they can still be voted on.

In addition, the conversation with Amy and other developers will continue in the Community. Amy has posted a thread here.

Finally, as Amy noted, the Tableau Development team will continue to work hard to deliver a Tableau product that you all will love.


Submitted by Chuck H. on

Bad survey - looks like you inquired about CURRENT use of parameters, NOT what a DYNAMIC parameter should be. Your number one response is there, now - I create a parameter to get a value and can create filters for each datasource, using that parameter.
BUT, I need to have DYNAMIC parameters - when I say populate from a field, REPOPULATE when a new session starts or a new extract is created! THAT is a 'dynamic' parameter...
I've been training and consulting - purely Tableau, for 10 years. Since parameters came aboard, the SINGLE biggest issue has been the LACK of that automatic re-populating of the parameter. THAT is the one, and ONLY, "true" version of a "DYNAMIC" parameter. Tableau needs to STOP over thinking this issue!

Submitted by Matt Lutton (no verificado) on

Agreed Chuck. The #1 need is for my parameters to update from the data source.

Submitted by Joshua M. on

Having the dynamic parameters as Chuck describes would solve nearly every use case presented in the survey (not sure about "Other").

1. Need to filter multiple data sources - can already do it with a parameter. Having the values dynamically loaded per session / extract would be a welcome enhancement.

2. Need to use in a calculation? Having a parameter updated dynamically by a data source would be outstanding. The date example is a great one because I hate having date sliders that default to the value at which they were set when published. SO, let me hook the parameter up to a data source where I have all the dates that I want and I could even set a data source filter on that source using TODAY() - or any variation - so the earliest/latest/default date was what I wanted.

3. Using a parameter does not remove data from a view. That's an outstanding benefit of parameters and would be made more powerful with Chuck's suggested enhancement.

4. Faster? You bet! And it could still be much faster than quick filters that look for a list of distinct values in a tens-of-millions record data set. If I could dynamically hook it up to a data source that only contained a list of the distinct values think of how fast it could be. And then I could run the SELECT DISTINCT and populate the smaller data source on my own schedule. Just update the parameter on the next session.

There are likely numerous other use cases that could be addressed with dynamic parameters as Chuck describes them. Think of all the use cases that have been solved with other enhancements (e.g. table calculations, floating dashboard objects, LOD calculations). Many of those use cases were never anticipated by the engineers and developers, but having the flexibility allows for some incredible results.

Submitted by Andy K. on

I don't recall multi-select parameters even being in the list either.

Submitted by Peter G. on

Chuck could not be more right. The use case is irrelevant since parameters are a flexible tool that can applied to multiple situations (as highlighted in the quotes) dependent only on the creativity of the developer. There is nothing wrong with that functionality now. The single biggest hole is the lack of an auto update. I agree that is the single definition.

Multiple value parameters should also be addressed, but the issue there is not about them being dynamic.

Submitted by Jonathan Drummey (no verificado) on

FYI, Chuck H = Chuck Hooper, Joshua M = Joshua Milligan, Andy K = Andy Kriebel, and Peter G = Peter Gilks. With Matt Lutton as well and now your's truly, that's almost 1/3 of the 2014-15 crop of Tableau Zen Masters right there.

I understand that "Dynamic Parameters" is an unruly blob of a topic, however not addressing responses to (and Tableau's response to the responses) of the key requested features of dynamic updates & multi-select in this particular post is an unfortunate omission.

Submitted by Jonathan Drummey (no verificado) on

FYI, the reason why I mentioned the Tableau Zen Masters is that Tableau has selected us to represent the best/brightest/most helpful/most supportive/most connected Tableau users, and when we're asking for something we're very often (and certainly in this case) not just speaking for ourselves but also on behalf of all the users that we interact with.

Submitted by Sten Lomme (no verificado) on

I could not agree more. Repopulating from database should be no 1. Let's just add this to the very top of the list...and we're back on track.

Submitted by Jan R. on

I agree with Chuck 100%. I've been using Tableau for the past 9 years. A dynamic parameter is one for which the parameter values are automatically refreshed from a TDE or another data source. Plain and simple. There are situations where parameters need to be used in place of quick filters. Not having the parameters updated dynamically results in a maintenance issue. Very UN-Tableau like.

Submitted by Guy Cuthbert (no verificado) on

Jonathan (and Chuck & all the other Zen Masters)... 100% right, and this highlights the downside of democracy of meritocracy. Tableau's easiest route to understanding the use case was to ask the Zen Masters... so why not do that? Is it a real need to ask everyone, or the perceived need of appearing fair and democratic?

Most of what I have learned about Tableau over the 4+ years I've been using it has come from the outstanding work that the Zen Masters do - on the forums and in their own blogs. On the rare occasions I have made my own discoveries, I've usually then come across them in a Zen blog weeks or months later.

Submitted by Jonathan D. on

Hi Guy,

FYI, Tableau had already gotten feedback from the ZMs. Lots of feedback. I even think Chuck camped out on somebody's doorstep for awhile in protest. :)


Submitted by Guy Cuthbert (no verificado) on

@Jonathan - Ah, ok... apologies for shooting my mouth off then!.. and appreciation to Chuck and others for attempting to set the agenda.

Submitted by Matt Lutton (no verificado) on

For what its worth, Tableau certainly asked for input from the current group of Zen Masters on this topic, and we responded in kind.

Submitted by Jonathan D. on

@Guy - no worries!

FYI, as much as us TZMs think we know what Tableau *should* do (and when), it's pretty clear that whenever possible Tableau likes to take time to consider all the angles and get things right. And I do know that the devs are also keeping in mind situations where they built something that wasn't quite fully-baked and ended up with technical debt. One good example is table calcs, they are fantastic and also create a variety of complexities. Rather than try to patch over table calcs Tableau is providing us with LOD calcs in v9 which even in their first-generation state solve so many table calc problems and a large number of other aggregation problems.

Submitted by Nick M (no verificado) on

Agree with Chuck 100%, that is my need for dynamic parameters.

Submitted by Bill L. on

I wholeheartedly agree with Chuck and the rest of the Zen Masters that have chimed in. Would solve most issues simply.

Submitted by Nicolas P (no verificado) on

Agree with guys that stress the point of dynamically loading data for Parameters and also their option to support multiselection. That would provide a great flexibility for making viz even more interactive.

Submitted by Preeti Jain (no verificado) on

Whether in tableau 9, can we change a parameter value dynamically on selection of any quick filter value???

Submitted by Jonathan Drummey (no verificado) on

@Preeti - That is not currently a feature of Tableau. Neither Quick Filters nor Parameters can have their selections changed based on other selections. With Only Relevant Values set for a Quick Filter, the list of selectable values can change, that's the closest we can get.

Submitted by Petko Dimitrov (no verificado) on

I completely agree with Chuck and the rest. It is hard to believe that something so useful can be omitted from such advanced software...

Submitted by Mitch Martin (no verificado) on

Chuck hit the nail on the head from my perspective.

Submitted by Matt F. on

I'm in agreement with everyone here as well. Would LOVE the inclusion of dynamic parameters. I would also love the ability to have a multi-select option. However, if and when these parameter features are updated, it would be nice in the case of dynamic parameters to have the OPTION to dynamically update the parameter. There are instances when I'm populating the parameter from a field, but narrow the field to select values that I want to appear in the parameter. Would hate if those values were refreshed each time new data was published. However, worst case scenario, I could simply manually type those values in from the start instead of pulling them from a field, if that feature would be difficult to add.

Submitted by Bryan W. (no verificado) on

Spot on Chuck!!

Submitted by Jambesh (no verificado) on

Agree with Chuck 100%, that is my need for dynamic parameters.
Pick the Parameter Value from the field and then Update the paramters value when the field value change .. . This is a badly needed feature . Surprise it is not included in the above list.

Submitted by Arcticsponge (no verificado) on

Is it just me or does it honestly feel as though Tableau have avoided the definition for 'dynamic'? Most of us seem to agree that a dynamic parameter is one that self/auto refreshes as new data dimensions (date/product) become available in the source yet over the past 10 years, it appears that Tableau have avoided dealing with this in favour of other possibly lessor-required enhancements, and the results of this latest survey even suggest that they are thinking or looking to squirrel the definition of dynamic to mean something different.

I suppose a question to Tableau could be: Why has this subject been avoided for so long with parameter-enhancement continuously ignored; is the product built in such a way that you are unable to identify how to progress this or indeed, is that which the user-base perceive as dynamic not actually possible without a complete rebuild of the product from the ground up?


Submitted by Bryan (no verificado) on

Exactly Steve! I have also stumbled across a 3rd party https://powertoolsfortableau.com/ that offers dynamic parameters as well as a bunch of other stuff that Tableau currently can't do like cascading style sheets. This may be why they haven't done anything towards dynamic parameters as well as the other tools that this company offers. Hard to say but for this kind of functionality one would think that it would be included instead of having to pay for it. Would be nice if someone from Tableau would comment on this topic :)

Submitted by Alan Jackson (no verificado) on

This is a big problem, without the use of dynamic parameters large data sets have to be constructed using full union joins... and this slows down Tableau to a crawl!

Submitted by Luke (no verificado) on

Agreed! All of the use cases I have had boiled down to this being the solution. Parameters work fine, but having data that comes in regularly and changes often is a large part of our business and is not supported by parameters in their current form. I can't tell you how many times I've needed auto-populating parameters!

Submitted by Michael Lam (no verificado) on

Agreed with Chuck 100%. Either the parameter list be updated from the data source, or have the value of a parameter always copied from a filter, dynamically.

It solves 90+% of the use cases and if Tableau had the feature, this conversation would not even exist.

Submitted by John567 (no verificado) on

NO, all we want is the ability to update a parameter from the database after the dashboard is deployed. How har is it to understand that

Submitted by Dan P. on

Is there any update to the prioritization of this feature for a future release?

Submitted by Jonathan Drummey (no verificado) on

Hi Dan,

The Tableau Conference is next week, I'm pretty certain we'll be seeing a demo involving dynamic parameters.

Submitted by Dan P. on

Thanks Jonathan. Will that be native to Tableau or leveraging the Alteryx solution?

Submitted by Chad W. on

This is the situation we're most needing to solve for as well

Submitted by Ira S. on

Throwing another vote out here in support of parameters populating from database values - that's a dynamic parameter. I just spent 45 minutes reading (skimming) what has become a vastly convoluted topic, surprised at all the directions this has gone in. But I'm back to the original reason I came seeking here: it is too limiting to set up a fixed parameter list at the time of parameter creation. The parameter list and default value should be re-loadable from the data source. Period.

Submitted by Ira S. on

Throwing another vote out here in support of parameters populating from database values - that's a dynamic parameter. I just spent 45 minutes reading (skimming) what has become a vastly convoluted topic, surprised at all the directions this has gone in. But I'm back to the original reason I came seeking here: it is too limiting to set up a fixed parameter list at the time of parameter creation. The parameter list and default value should be re-loadable from the data source. Period.

Submitted by Ira S. on

blah on the double-post. the form-verification tricked me. apologies but i can't delete

Submitted by Chuck Hooper (no verificado) on

Thanks for the support! To me, it is, stlil, astounding that they don't see the current situation as a BUG!
All the best,

Submitted by Brandon C (no verificado) on

I saw the v9.3 beta was announced recently and did not see similar functionality in the list of features. Any updates on when we could expect the "dynamic parameter?"

Submitted by Greg M. on

Any idea when you guys will add dynamic parameters? Time to catch up to SSRS in functionality, no?

Submitted by Pavel (no verificado) on

So sad there are so many promises from Tableau but nothing is done for years.

I fully agree with Chuck. Just dynamically repopulate list of available values, thats it.

In my case I've multilingual reporting and NOT a single "Choose ANYTHING" option is possible without populating droplist with a All language options. I have to create multiple parameters instead of one. It is frustrating.

Submitted by Victor S. (no verificado) on

Agree with Chuck. Another use case for dynamically populated list of values is when a list is based on user permissions. Not all users can have the same options. Tableau, just hook up the list to a connection and populate from the result set. It appears that Tableau does not understand that the ask should have a very simple implementation - they already have all the components - a parameter, a list, a connection.

Tableau - get your act together and get it done!

Submitted by Bryan W. (no verificado) on

I can't believe it has been almost a year and still nothing!! Are you listening to your community Tableau??

Submitted by Bryan W. (no verificado) on

Exactly!! I hate having to use multiple reporting tools (SSRS) just because Tableau doesn't understand or appreciate the value of dynamic parameters.

Submitted by Jonathan D. on

@Bryan W. - Tableau has been listening...they demoed two features at TC15 in October that explicitly address some of the requests for dynamic parameters:

- cross data source filtering (the #1 item from the survey above)
- data highlighter (the #6 item)

Per what was announced at TC15 we can expect to see these new features sometime this year. Personally, I think that federated query support will also address some "dynamic parameter" needs because it will give us more flexibility in how data sources are set up. For example there are situations where I'm using a parameter to deal with sparse data and/or hierarchies, I could use a federated query to pad out data and then use a filter instead.

Those don't address the "refreshable list of values to use in calculations that is independent of other sources" requirement, though. We're still waiting to hear from Tableau on that.


Submitted by MikeAH87 (no verificado) on

Chuck I agree completely, I feel like they're completely missing the mark on this...

Submitted by DirkG (no verificado) on

Already said before, but just to keep this alive. I agree 100% with Chuck.

Just a thought: Perhaps Tableau can introduce the dynamic parameter as a new object next to the already static parameter, instead of updating the existing static parameter. You can then change settings whether the dynamic parameter pulls all potential values from the data source or from a calculated field. This way you can better manage the impact on performance, which is probably the largest downside of the dynamic parameter.

Submitted by Jim Peiffer (no verificado) on

Where do I vote that you put this into your next release?

If I have to creatively develop some SQL to accomplish this goal using standard filters, then the advantage of this tool not needing a developer or IT resource to deliver is gone.

Submitted by Rawan A. on

Hi, I need Dynamic Parameters to be able to use with the Row Level Security Calculations. I need it to look at the logged in person and filter the parameter in the dashboard to that person only, and all views will filter to that as well..


Submitted by Nick M. on

Agree with Chuck. This same request for dynamic parameter (as Chuck describes) has been out there for years and has been a very high request by many. Can someone from Tableau post a response as to why they feel this isn't needed even though you have tremendous feedback that it is? What gives?

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