Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2021. Power BI Vision and Roadmap

Driving a Data Culture

This is the 6th year of Power BI. Power BI has always been about driving data culture and has been rapidly evolving throughout its data journey.

Power BI is top of the Gartner Magic Quadrant and growing exponentially across users and business. Lets have a look at where we have come from and where we are going.

The Power BI Journey

Power BI started by wanting to empower Business Analysts. The next step was to empower IT departments

At the beginning of the journey the two targeted user groups wanted different things.

Business Analysis want quick BI with no red tape. IT wants governance, control and repeatability. By 2018 Microsoft was starting to think about both of these user groups and how Power Bi could work with each use case.

These use cases split into Enterprise and Self Service BI.

Microsoft moved to bring both Enterprise and Self Service together. Power BI was proving so popular it seems the best development was to bring enterprise reporting and semantic models into power BI

The following licensing was created to allow for this economic disruption

Built on Azure and deployed in over 50 data centers. Power BI used the cloud to bring about economic disruption

The cloud also offers a great economic model (Economies of Scale). Originally we had free and Pro for our business analysts. Premium became available in 2017 as an enterprise solution.

Enterprise And Self Service Converged

By 2018 with power BI, Microsoft aimed to

  • Empower every individual
  • Empower every team
  • Empower every organisation

Moving on to 2019 and 2020

Power BI increases its market share considerably and with every month of development comes huge changes to the product. Its now becoming a game changer for both self service and enterprise use.

AI Capabilities

Information workers need more, and power BI gave us more with inbuilt AI capabilities.

Key Driver Analysis

Key influences Visual

A great visual to look at the influences on your data. I have used this, for example to look at what drives negative tweets for a company. It also segments your data into understandable groupings

Smart Narratives

This visual provides textual analysis of your whole report or specific visuals. It will update the narrative dependant upon what the user selects.

This is a great visual for users who need to see descriptions along with the visuals to get a better understanding of the narrative.

Root cause Analysis

This is fantastic for users who want to create their own journey through the data. Select a metric and then allow the user to choose how they want to slice and dice the information. AI will find you categories with the lowest and highest values against the metric

Q&A

Q&A allows users to ask natural language questions, and Power BI will bring back the best visual that answers that question. developers can put together lists of possible questions for the user to choose from.

Powerpoint for Data

To make Power BI easy to use Microsoft decided to match experiences where ever possible to Powerpoint and Excel. This leads to massive adoption because people find it easy to use. they have already seen and used the ribbon in lots of other Microsoft products, take up is therefor a good option.

Moving to 2021

2021 brings to the table a new licence that gives smaller businesses the ability to buy in Premium licenses at a user level rather than pay for a Premium node.

This can work out much cheaper for smaller companies so you don’t have to miss out on Premium services.

AI Capabilities for Business Analysts

Again, our information workers require more from the service

Power BI has the most complete AI capabilities in any BI product. Along with the visuals mentioned above, the Business Application Summit introduced us to Sentiment Analysis and Key phrase extraction in more detail.

Sentiment Analysis

Azure has given us cognitive services for a while. For example, I used Azure to get tweets via Logic Apps and assign sentiment scores to each tweet.

With Premium, we can do this within Power BI. You will now be able to run data items in Power BI through sentiment analysis and assign scores. Are those reviews coming through from your customers positive, negative or neutral?

Key Phrase Extraction

Another fantastic cognitive service that I used to do pre moving the data into Power BI. Now you can get a list of key phrases from your data, and put them into a word cloud. All available within power BI

Automated Insights (Coming Soon)

Brand new Automated Insights are coming…

Automate insights will give you Anomalies, KPI Analysis and Trends out of the box.

Anomaly Detection will automatically find anomalies in time series data and also attempt to explain these anomalies. Along with this you can also see trends in your data and get explanations on these trends. Trends and anomality’s gives you a holistic overview of your data

And KPIS look at our Goals which is new in Premium. We will look at this new feature later.

Automated insights proactively prompt us for time critical information, but you can get insights without being prompted by clicking the Automated insights button.

It works without any set up or configuration (Apart from KPIs because this needs Goals to work with.

AI for Data Scientists

Extend with Azure ML

Create ML Models

Python and R Integration

Explore Predictions

Going beyond on the power BI Journey (What is coming)

Insight to Action through Power Platform

Power Apps has been available for some time to embed into a Power BI Report but there has been a lot of work done in this area to make it work better within the power BI suite.

I have used a Power Apps Visual to allow users to send data back to a database, which would then display within Power BI as it was a direct connection.

New features include Power Automate within Power BI. You can now add a button in Power BI that will trigger Power Automate. I cant wait to look at some use cases for this new service.

One question I have is regarding Logic Apps within Azure. Logic Apps is the same service as Power Automate and I want to know why the decision has been made to call the same product two different things. And if Logic Apps can stand in for Power Automate in this situation.

Performance management

Power BI Goals is in Public Preview and available for Premium users

Goals is a new Power BI artefact that you can set up on your metrics that matter the most to you. You can assign data from reports to update your goals and users can drill through into your reports for further analysis.

Another fantastic new service, its a shame its only offered to Premium users. Thankfully Premium per user allows buy in to these new services for smaller companies.

My one concern is if you are using Premium Pipelines to host Development, Test and Production workspaces.

We are still waiting for dataflows to be added to this feature, its doubtful whether goals will be included when introduced.

This would mean that you cant move your goals from dev through to production so hopefully I am wrong about this.

Real Time Analytics

Power BI Streaming Dataflows

Streaming dataflows should be coming later in 2021 as preview.

Streaming dataflows is a brand new concept in power BI, and for the first time will offer the ability to combine multiple data sources into a streaming dataflow.

This is again another Premium feature

Front line workers

Insights on the Move

There have been significant improvements to the mobile apps which are getting great reviews from both Apple and Google stores.

Empowering Every Team with Teams

Great Teams use data and we can embed Power reports in teams channels so we can add Power BI reports to meetings and provide links within chat.

Microsoft have put a lot of work into bringing the Power BI Service into Teams for much better collaboration. They want Power BI to be as fundamental to what you do as your calendar, meetings or chat.

It’s recommended to make sure that you make sure the Power BI App is always available in your tools panel

One issue I have with Power BI in teams is having to navigate away when you are using chat. If I am looking at a document in Teams and I see that someone is chatting to me, it can be annoying to have to leave the document to see what else is happening. Hopefully they sort this functionality out.

Power BI In the real world with HoloLens

HoloLens 2 vs HoloLens 1: what's new? | 4Experience's AR/VR Blog

Straight out of science fiction. The HoloLens 2 allows you to augment Power BI Analytics over your real life journeys. This gives you Analytics where ever you go.

I would need to think about how and when you would need this but they gave a great example of walking through an office and having virtual tv points up on the walls.

New Announcements for Power BI analytics

In part two there was lots of exciting announcements of new features coming to Power BI

Drill down and drill through on the tooltip

Power BI has given us a few ways to do drill down and drill through.

For drill through, You could right click on a visual or even create a button to click to drill through on the highlighted item.

Drill down was available as an icon at the top of a visual

But very soon it should be even easier to establish that these options are available. Power BI Will soon have both Drill through and Drill down available on the tooltip.

Paginated report within your Power BI reports. Vertical Headers. etc

Build a Paginated report table in report builder with vertical headers, grouping, nesting etc and then add this visual to your Power BI report

New Standard Table visual in Power BI

These new options will be added to the table visual. This is the current experience

But soon we will be able to add sparklines within the table, both column and line sparklines.

This is one of the biggest requested additions so its great to see that we will soon have sparklines on the standard table visual.

Buttons Bookmarks and Navigations

I have been using Power BI for a few years now and the one thing I have always disliked is the workaround feel of creating button navigation. Having to layer buttons or visuals over the top of other eachother and hiding and unhiding where appropriate. It was time consuming and overly complex.

Microsoft are working on new navigator features to set up new custom navigation. This is one of my favourite new features.

Have a few bookmarks on a page and want to switch to different bookmarks. Then use Bookmark navigation. Just drag it in and you will get configurable navigation on all your bookmarks.

How about Page Navigation. Same again. Simply drag page navigation onto your pages.

This is fantastic and you can even use custom navigation so users can only navigate to specific pages . It would be great if you could add images to these buttons too but lets see how things develop.

Other Announcements

  • Paginated reports inside Power BI.
  • Smart Narratives going into General Availability
  • Anomaly Detection going into General Availability
  • Automated Insights is shipping later this year
  • Data set hub to recommend promoted and certified datasets
  • Excel – Connect to data sets using Get Data in Excel
  • Coming soon, the ability to create Power BI Apps and turn it into a Teams App, bringing Teams and Power BI together
  • Quick Create from Sharepoint lists
  • Live connected to the datasets in order to connect to multiple datasets being updated.

Governance and Scalability

Microsoft Information Protection

MIP is becoming an even more important part of security in Power BI and across all Microsoft services. This is a complex area and requires much more research. Including what Information protection service is best for you. We will look at this in more detail in another post.

Its important to note that there are additional costs per month to this service.

Scalability

No matter what the data volume is, your queries should always run fast

Automatic Aggregations

Based on the existing aggregations feature. If a user happens to drill down to detailed reports the system will automatically reverts to direct query, rather than the imported data.

Previously, this had to be set up by the developer but moving forwards the aggregations will be created for you.

Coming later this year and brings together Power BI and Azure Synapse Analytics (If using the Azure Warehouse as the underlying database)

Large Models Feature

Another Premium feature. Used with incremental refresh a dataset can grow up to 80% of the premium capacities total memory.

Hybrid Tables

Used for fast real time analysis.

Partitions are created by year and your current year will be set against real time data. This is such an exciting announcement. I cant wait to get started with it. (Premium only)

Streaming Dataflows

Azure Stream Analytics is used for this. (See Power BI Streaming Dataflows)

(Premium only)

Conclusion

The Microsoft Business Applications summit was again, full of really exciting new innovations.

However, Its becoming really clear that those on pro licenses are now really missing out on features like Goals, streaming dataflows, machine learning, etc.

At the beginning of this journey, the big factor for moving to Premium was simply to give viewing access to many more people, along with the security that power BI provides. This is simply not the case any more.

Thankfully Premium per user licenses gives smaller companies a way to move to Premium at lower cost. the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered and it seems that Microsoft expect us to move to those licenses if we don’t want to get left behind.

it should also be noted that those that have Power BI Premium through their E5 licences can simply pay the difference and move up to the Premium per user licenses.

Another slight negative was the fact that there are issues with features already available that were not dealt with at the conference. The big one for us at the moment is the fact that Premium Pipelines simply don’t work with dataflows.

When the recommendation has been to use dataflows to separate this job out from the pbix file, it seems a real shame that they have not acted accordingly to get this into Pipelines (Maintain Development, Test and Production areas)

Another feature of Power BI that is lacking is source control. there are hopefully some new features coming to configure with DevOps. It is to be assumed that any changes to this will be Premium only.

With this in mind, its still exciting to see all the new updates, and the fact that they are tying Power BI in much more strongly with the other Power Platform offerings.

What was your favourite announcement from the Microsoft Business Applications Summit this year. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Quick Guide of Power BI Premium Features

It can be quite infuriating to be a Power BI Pro user and constantly be on the verge of doing something, before realising that its only available with Premium.

Thank goodness for Power BI Premium Per User for smaller companies. At just double the price per user licence, all these enterprise level goodies can be available. I wanted to do a whistle stop tour of each one, and some others I have found along the way

Automated Machine Learning

No code machine learning is great if you arent a data scientist and you want to try out some basic machine learning.

For this example I have gone to my dataflow in Power BI Service

I am going to use my date dataflow just as an example, but obviously this isn’t the datasource you would want to use

I wont go any further with this example as its not a great one but I just wanted you to get a feel of the first few screens. This is an incredibly powerful feature. once set up you can use this dataflow in Power BI.

You can also integrate Azure ML models that your data scientists have created in Azure with the Azure ML API

Cognitive Services

I have previously used Cognitive Services in Azure to add sentiment analysis and key phrases onto tweets as they come in via an Azure Logic App trigger.

This information is then loaded into Power BI Pre prepared.

I have struggled to access this functionality within Power BI previously but hopefully this will allow Power BI users proper access to this fantastic Azure Service

Within Power BI Query Editor (Dataflows in Service)

If you are in Pro you will see the following

With Premium however you can use the following functions

Just a couple of examples, you can take descriptive data and score it with ScoreSentiment. Then you can take these scores and add a new column for Sentiment (Positive, Negative, Neutral)

You can add a language field that will tell you if your test item is for example, English, German, French etc.

And you can extract key phrases from descriptive text to add a cool word cloud to your power BI report.

No code data prep and scale

Visual Data Prep is another area that needs looking at in more detail but this is available in Premium dataflows

You now get a great diagram view of all the actions done on your queries.

This will make things much easier for users who can now interact with the diagram view.

Deployment pipelines

Assign your development App Workspace and Pipelines will then let you create Test and Production App Workspaces. Each workspace can be pointed to different data sources.

You can then very easily work in development. move your work to test and then to production when its ready to use.

As at April 2021 Dataflows haven’t yet been added but once this is in, I think this is really the only way to go with Power BI.

Having done some research on Dev Test and Prod in Power BI Pro this makes a huge difference as its practically unworkable in Pro

Integration with Azure Synapse

Azure Synapse is the new Azure Data Warehouse.

You can now create Power BI reports over big data in Azure Synapse.

And Azure Synapse gives you even bigger wins with performance

Pixel-perfect paginated reports

Report Builder is free. You can download it and even use a model previously created in Power BI.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=58158

Here you can build your Pixel Perfect reporting, invoices are a good example. Reports that require page numbers and headers and footers that are most likely to be printed out.

Without Premium you cant publish the rdl files to the Power BI Service.

With Premium, you can publish your pixel perfect report to service along with your other Power BI objects

XMLS read/write

These Endpoints allow other providers access to your Analysis Services Engine within the Power BI Service. This means that you will be able to use even more tools for governance, monitoring, debugging, modelling etc, rather than only being able to use Power BI Desktop.

Your admin does need to allow this within the Admin Portal

Trillions of rows

With Premium, you can query and analyse 1 trillion rows of data. which is part of the ‘query performance over big data’ feature. In fact any large data set can make use of this feature to make refreshes and response times quicker

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/aggregations-for-petabyte-scale-bi-available-in-the-power-bi-service/

This is worthy of a more deep dive feature in future but its certainly exciting.

Advanced Security

Here are some of the advanced security features that can be used for your most sensitive data

  • Compute isolation
  • Double Encryption at Rest
  • Double Encryption in transit
  • Private links
  • Zero egress
  • Immutable logs
  • TLS 1.2
  • Customer Managed Keys
  • VNet Network isolation
  • Immutable storage logs
  • FedRAMP high & DISA IL4
  • DISA IL5, DISA IL6 + IDC503
  • Vulnerability management
  • Automatic Certs rotation

End to End protection

Sensitivity labels and Microsoft Information Protection (MIP)

Sensitivity labels allows you to classify your data across all Microsoft products like power BI, Excel etc.

Its an extra cost and can be purchased standalone or through a Licensing suite like the Microsoft 365 Compliance Plan, Microsoft 365 Business etc.

For pricing you need to contact Microsoft at this time.

Other findings

If you are using dataflows in Pro, you cant create computed entities such as referencing tables. Merging tables.

This means that dataflows in Pro need to be quite simple. you only get the full functionality in Premium.

This is why most people in Pro prefer to do the data prep in Power BI desktop.

Its becoming more and more difficult for business users to remain with Power BI Pro, all these above features are an absolute must for enterprise level reporting.

It is really worth that switch to either Power BI Premium per user or a Premium node if you are a large enough company

Power BI Premium Per User now in preview (December 2020 updates)

One of the main benefits of Power BI Premium is the ability to share with hundreds of users who don’t all have to have their own Power BI Pro license at £7.50 a month.

At a certain level, Premium becomes less costly than giving everyone who needs them Pro licenses. its said, you need 500 or more users for Premium to make sense.

However, its not just about having the ability to have hundreds of people viewing your reports. There are many more reasons to have Premium. There are lots of enterprise style features not part of Pro. Enterprise of course comes with the ability to have larger and speedier models.

This is a real issue for smaller businesses who cant take advantage of Premium per capacity, P1 P2 or P3 nodes.

However, there now may be an option to have premium capabilities without having a Premium License.

Premium per user is targeted at small and medium businesses because, if you are not a large enterprise, the Premium price point of just under £4K every month can be eye watering.

Premium extends Power BIs licensing model

Lets have a look at some features between Pro, Premium Per User and Premium

Model Size

  • Power BI Pro 1 gig per data set. Workspace Max 10 BG
  • Premium Per user 10gig (Per model)
  • Premium Per Capacity 10 gig (Per model. can be refreshed up to 12)

Refresh Rate

  • Power BI Pro 8 refreshes a day
  • Premium Per user 48 refreshes a day
  • Premium Per Capacity 48 refreshes a day (Gen 2 has significantly improved refreshes)

Paginated reporting

Paginated Reporting comes with Report Builder. the free tool for creating Paginated Reports. You can build paginated reports over a model created with power BI, or other data sources and publish to a Power BI workspace in the same way as a Power BI Report

Use a paginated report if you want to do printing or PDF generation. they are great for Sales invoices for example. Power BI reports are used for exploring the data.

  • Power BI Pro Can use Report Builder Free but cant publish to a Pro workspace
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

AI Capabilities

Apply ML Model in dataflows

Impact Analysis in Service

AI Insights in Power Query Editor and Dataflows

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Advanced Dataflows

For example, direct query and the ability to create compute and liked entities (actions that perform in storage computations)

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Usage based Aggregate Optimisation

Aggregations allow you to manage large tables. You can have tables at a higher level of granularity, aggregated within Power BI, for example at year level, which are imported into Power BI. When you want to drill down to lower level detail, you can then move to the detailed data in Direct Query mode. aggregations should generally only be used for really large models.

  • Power BI Pro Yes?
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Deployment Pipelines for Application Lifecycle Management

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

XMLA Endpoint Connectivity

XML For analysis protocol. XMLA is used to connect to the Analysis Services engine which allows Power BI to have all the features of Analysis Services.

A major draw for this feature is the ability to create your shared one view of the truth data model within Power BI. And allow that model to be used by other analytics services, not just Power BI

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Enhanced Automatic Page Refresh

Available as settings within the Power BI Admin Portal.

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user Yes
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Multi Geo Support

Helps multinational customers deploy to data centres around the world, rather than just the home data centre.

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user No
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Unlimited Distribution

This is the big one for Power BI Premium. the ability so share content with many users without individual Pro licenses. We will look more into this later

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user No
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Power BI Reports On Premises

Using the Power BI reports Server. This option gears up an enterprise for moving fully to the Power BI Premium service later.

Updates to the specific Power BI Desktop (for on premesis usage) are much slower that Power BI Desktop for Service. You get reduced functionality. For example, no dashboards.

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user No
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Bring your Own Key

Power BI encrypts data at rest and in process and uses Microsoft managed keys to do so. Premium allows you to use your own keys which sometimes makes it easier to meet compliance requirements. It gives you extra control.

  • Power BI Pro No
  • Premium Per user No
  • Premium Per Capacity Yes

Getting Premium Per user?

Upgrade to Power BI Pro and then upgrade to a Premium per user license

This will extend until general availability

Do we know what the Price point is yet? No. At the moment its free but without the knowledge of the actual pricing this is a hard one to take up before general release

Premium per user overwrites the Power BI Pro user license so there is no need for both

The Power BI Premium per user Workspace

You need to create your workspace. then go to settings and assign Premium per user capacity afterwards.

Only other developers with a premium per user license will be able to access the workspace.

This is a major point. If you are a team of 4 working in one workspace. Each user needs the Premium per user licence. So none of your developers with Pro licenses can work within this workspace.

None of your report users can access the report via the app without having Power BI Premium Per Users either.

Without that price its incredibly difficult right now to look into how this will affect the business as a whole. essentially it would mean switching everyone up to Power BI Premium Per user Licenses

Do we know if Premium Per user will be bundled into the Office 365 E5 Offering?

Currently if you have E5 licenses Power BI comes with the package. With Premium per user, will this become part of the E5 package?

It looks like E5 customers can purchase Premium per user as an add on to Pro but again, there is no specific information on this as yet so its difficult to tell how this will effect things.

So, as usual there are lots and pros and cons to this new license and we need a lot more information on pricing to be able to make any decisions.

But the ability to use features that are tempting you across to Premium, that’s really interesting. I thought that maybe there would be a case for going through your reporting portfolio to see if you have a mixture of cases for Pro and Premium per license but what with Dataflows, Pipelines etc, it would be difficult to establish a split between the workloads.

This is one to watch

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