How to calculate the previous month value in Power BI using DAX formulas?

How to create a calculation of the previous month value using DAX formulas in Power BI?

Discover how to calculate the Power BI previous month value in this tutorial using 2 different approach’s. Managers, Accountants, Financial advisors and Business Intelligence consultants use Power BI. And month comparisons extensively, like the previous month values and the last year values. To create these comparison measures, use the DAX time intelligence functions available in the DAX editor. Let’s use the PREVIOUS MONTH DAX function to address this.

Calculate previous values using Power BI PREVIOUSMONTH function

The DAX PREVIOUSMONTH function goal is to retrieve data from the immediate prior month based on a specified date column. For instance, if you have sales data and want to compare this month’s sales to last month’s, you could use PREVIOUSMONTH(‘Table'[Date]) within a measure.

When applied, the function filters the data to only include values from the month immediately preceding the latest date in the column. It’s vital to note that the function operates within the context of your Power BI data model. In other words, it works best when you have a proper date table related to your transactional data. I would add that I highly recommended to double check the configuration of your table marked as date.

Two options available in DAX formulas

Let’s consider the sales table with sales stored by month, by year and the customer number. Also, for any time intelligence function in DAX, i.e. in Power BI or a in Tabular model, a date column must be the reference. Let’s consider you have these two columns available in your data model:

  • The Sales Amount column stores the number of sales registered on that day.
  • The DateKey time column is a date used a the key for Power BI joins.

Check also the possibility to store the total sales of one month on one unique day. Like the 31st of January 2020 for the January month for instance. Indeed, the goal is to introduce a unique date key for the time DAX functions, to enable the previous month sales calculation. To create the measure, use the previous month DAX function, it’s official documentation and syntax are available on Microsoft website.

Sometime, when building a model, the folowwing error can be encountered:

“Failed to resolve name ‘REVIOUSMONTH’. It is not a valid table, variable, or function name.

To fix it, double check the formula bar and the highlighted errors, it usually syntax errors, or missing parenthesis, i.e. classical development errors. And the messages displayed by Power BI are explicit.

Calculate the previous month from a Power BI data source

In this first example, use Power BI Desktop and a Power BI file (pbix extension) to map directly the column from the data source. And in the Visual Studio development software for a Tabular Model using SSAS.

Sales Last Month = 
    SUM ( sales[sales] ),
    PREVIOUSMONTH ( 'time'[date_key]),
    REMOVEFILTERS ( sales )

Calculate the previous Month value in Power BI using a DAX formula
Power BI previous Month value using a DAX formula

And the result in the Power BI report gives something like this:

Power BI report showing the sales of last month using the PREVIOUSMONTH DAX formula.
Power BI report showing the sales of last month

Use two levels of formulas to calculate the previous month

This second approach is very similar to the first one, but it simply uses a measure already created. It’s done in two steps and uses two DAX calculations instead of one. For example, create the measures of the current month sales with this DAX formula.

Sales := SUM('sales'[SalesAmount])

Then create the last month sales measure using this second DAX formula below:

Sales Last Month = 
    PREVIOUSMONTH ( 'time'[date_key]),
    REMOVEFILTERS ( sales )


In this Power BI tutorial, the two examples shows how easy it is to calculate a Power BI previous month value using the DAX PREVIOUSMONTH time function. In this previous tutorial on DAX functions, check out how to create a YTD calculation using DAX and Power BI.

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