And now we also have smart narratives to work with. Many companies want to create report that includes text in regards to the report they are looking at to help the user understand the key takeaways. This usually involves someone manually adding in text to the reports.
Not great for interactive reports that update on a regular basis. this is where smart narratives come in. Smart narratives create the text in an interactive way for you.
If its good, it should eliminate the need to add in information manually for your users, which is a huge win.
Lets have a look at it in action on the Adventureworks Report
At the most basic level you can simply drag smart narratives into your report
Smart narratives describes your data to you. This is all really good information. what happens when I select a data point on the report like select 2011 in Sales amount and order quantity
The narrative updates to tell you about just 2011 so our smart narrative is even better, It updates with every click the user makes.
For my Top 10 Products table, I want a smart narrative that just gives me information on this visual and not every visual on the page so I right click on the visual and choose Summarize
And again, we are getting good information for that specific visual. You need to think whether the visual can tell this story on its own or if narrative would help. I tend to see smart narratives as something that sits on a page to tell a story across all the visuals.
Changing the Summary
This is great but there will be times when you do want specific information in your smart narrative. I am going to remove the smart narrative for the visual, and replace with one for the entire products report page.
Click on the smart narrative and then +Value to add a value
I want it to tell me how many items have been sold of top value products. the red line tells me that it doesn’t know what sold means and we need to define this item .
Click on Sold and then Define Sold
Here I go to Field Synonyms in the Q&A Setup to define a new synonym for order quantity because order quantity can be expressed as quantity sold. I have added quantity sold as this is what has been searched for.
Back in Teach Q&A I ask the question again
And this time it understands what I mean. I submit this to train the Q&A. and this time we find this specific query because its in Q&A. I can now format the question to get an answer for the smart narrative
After saving, the number simply appears in the smart narrative. I deleted it and moved the cursor to the beginning on the smart narrative. then I wrote.
The quantity sold of top value products is:
And then clicked review, found the item and + to insert item to place it exactly where I want it
from this I can see that I can use the Q&A tool to format questions that I can then add into the smart narrative, adding synonyms where necessary to create even more easy to understand questions.
The evening was incredibly well thought out with 30 minute sessions on each of the Power Platform areas.
Power Virtual Agents
Our attendance was mostly based on the Power BI sessions that night. We wanted to focus on what to get excited about with Power BI and when to get excited about it. However there were also some great overviews of how to use all the applications together which helped us to understand the Power platform as a whole.
Power BI Is split into key area to drive data culture in your organisation
And each of these areas contain some fantastic new updates.
Each area is going to be looked at in a lot more detail in blog posts to follow but in the first instance, lets take a look at all the exciting updates.
All this comes from providing amazing data experiences to customers.
AI Infused Experiences
The very first AI visual for Power BI was the Key Influencer. Next came the Decomposition Tree and then the Q&A visual. All these visuals have proved big hits with report consumers who get the ability to understand all the factors that drive a metric, and can ask more and more questions against data in their own way.
Lets have a look at some of the Updates, and even more exciting is the new visual coming for Smart Narratives
Key Influencers Update
Key influencers are fantastic and we have been using them the moment they were added into Power BI as preview.
We have used it across lots of projects, For example, Social Media influencers. What influences a negative tweet. Customer Churn is another great use case for the Key influencer
Key Influencers now supports continuous analysis for numeric targets
Binning Support, Formatting options and Mobile Support
More Visual Updates go into preview and will now be usable for Live Connect
Counts will go into preview
All the key Influences improvements should be moving to GA (General Availability)
Power BI Decomposition Trees Update
The Key influencer allows you to analyse a category within your data and discover influences and segments. The Decomposition tree allows a report consumer to analyse a business metric however they want.
You will be able to conditionally format your visual very soon. Using the above visual, you might have the most engaged businesses in Nottingham, but conditional formatting could show the most percentages of meeting cancellations. We can do conditional formatting on another metric
You will also be able drill through from the decomposition tree visual to more detailed data.
There is a reason why people love this visual and we cannot wait to start implementing these updates into our reports.
The Decomposition Tree will now be out of Preview and in General Availability
We can now include Q&A in the reports as well as just from the dashboards and there are some great new updates for this
Add Terms within Q&A allow for better synonym matching and Suggest questions will allow you to tailor some ready made questions for your user
New Q&A Visual Updates (TBA)
Direct Query will be coming for Q&A Visuals.
New AI Visual – Smart Narratives
Available Later this year
We got a sneak peak of the New Smart Narratives visual and it looks so good.
Report authors will be able to add dynamic interactive narratives to reports and visuals. These narratives update when you slice and dice the data.
It automatically does trend analysis
The visual calculates the growth automatically with no user imput required
You can also add dynamic values as part of the narrative and even use Q&A to create the value
This is one development we are really looking forward to.
Power BI End User Personalisation
Another development that is going to change things for report consumers in a really good way is personalisation
You may love a stacked area chart but Julie in HR May hate them. Consumers can now click on a visual, go to personalise and change the visual to suit their needs better. This visual is saved specifically for that user (As a modified view with a personal bookmark) and its easy to go back to the original visual.
This is currently in Preview so if you want to take advantage of it, make sure you go to Options and Settings > Options > Preview Features
PowerPoint for Data – Onboarding and Lessons Learned
Microsoft acknowledge that PowerPoint has really good on boarding features. Lots of people happily use Powerpoint. They should have the same experience with power BI
All the following updates come from lessons learned with PowerPoint:
Lassoo Select of visuals and Datapoints. this is great. finally you can lasso (Drag a rectangle around) a number of visuals together in desktop. You can even do this with data points
Drop Shadows. How to make a great report look even Nicer. Add Shadows to them. Another feature I cant wait to use
Power BI Templates Experience
Report authors will get lots of help to create report pages with pre-made templates like PowerPoint layouts. Obviously Templates can already be created for Power BI but this will make everything much more intuitive and easy to use.
I’m a big fan of Story boarding in PowerPoint. I wonder if we will see this come into play in power BI?
Modern Enterprise BI
Power BI is no more a business led self service tool. Its can now be used right across your large scale business enterprise. We can now use Power BI as an enterprise scale analytics solution bringing together all our insights to drive actions and improve performance.
There are lots of key points to consider within this Microsoft strategy area. For example:
Admin and Governance
Lineage and impact Analysis
The modern enterprise BI has the most impact when customers are using Power BI Premium capacity nodes. lets have a look at some of these areas in a little more detail, and specifically understand what Power BI License you need to have to make use of these new capabilities.
Power BI Lineage and Impact Analysis
Lineage and Impact Analysis went into Public Preview in October 2019. We are very much looking forward to looking at this in more detail very soon.
the real excitement is, the ability to incorporate more services within Azure into the Lineage which will make it much more essential when looking at how your data is structured
Within the Power BI service, Change the view to Lineage View
You get little logos to show if your dataflows or data sets are promoted or certified.
Impact analysis is available from your data set. clicking Impact Analysis will allow you to assess the impact of a data set change. How will your changes impact downstream reports and dashboards?
You can also see your visitors and views and even notify people about upcoming changes.
It appears to be available for Pro as well as Premium but as yet, we aren’t aware of any differences between the two.
This will be explored in much more detail in a post coming soon.
Enterprise Semantic Models
Another big game changer for Power BI Users
Again, we are moving away from creating your data set within a power BI pbix file which is only available for the user. Just like Analysis Services Tabular Model, we can now create the model with Power BI, available for everyone to use, From business users, analysts, to Power Users.
The enterprise semantic model comes with some great updates:
Shared and certified Datasets
When you certified a dataset in Power BI, You are stating that this data set is a single version of the truth. when we connect to a certified dataset the model may contain a large amount of data, and your specific reporting requirements may require you to only select a few tables from the central model.
Power BI Premium Only
XMLA Endpoint allows 3rd parties to connect just like you can with Analysis Services models. This is yet another game changer as it allows organisations to create the one version of the truth using power BI.
Previously, this could have been done using Analysis Service, either in the cloud or on premise. Your own centralised Tabular model. this data model could be connected into from various data visualisation tools, and data management tools, e.g SQL Service Management Studio, DAX Studio, ALM tookit etc.
Now with XMLA endpoints open platform connectivity, the datasets you create in Power BI will be useable from a variety of other data visualisation tools, if your users don’t want to use Power BI.
This is excellent for IT Led self service. Your centralised Power BI Team can create the dataflows and models and business users can take those models and run with them. obviously Power BI is fantastic but you don’t lose out on users who absolutely want to stick with the visualisation tool that they know.
This is all about delivering a single one version of the truth semantic data model
Power BI Extensibility
Available later this year
This will enable external tool extensibility to unlock additional semantic modelling capabilities.
will all be able to get access to the Power BI Tabular model (data set) in the same way as they would an Analysis Services Tabular model.
This is due out later this year and as yet, its unsure if this is just for Premium or if it will be available to pro users too.
Translations (Available with Power BI Extensibility)
Translations allows you to create multi cultural datasets. These meta data translations are an offering of the analysis services semantic model, and previously locked away in the Analysis Services engine.
The extensibility model for Power BI will soon allow us to finally use Power BI translations within power BI Desktop
Clicking Tabular Editor allows you to connect to your Power BI dataset and use Analysis Services Features. Translations being one of the major draws to Analysis Services Tabular.
This should be available later this year, and will be looked at in much more detail within future posts
Deploy to Workspace Incremental Metadata only deployment
This is a Premium Only service. Imagine that you have implemented your translations and want to publish your new data set.
There are no data changes so you don’t want publish to involve the data. When you publish you will get impact analysis
However, you actually want to do an Incremental meta data only deployment. So instead of simply publish, go to the Settings within the Workspace in Power BI Service.
Go to your Premium tab
And copy the Workspace connection link. this Workspace connection can be used just like an Analysis Services Workspace. You can use this workspace name with the ALM toolkit (Under Extensibility) to look at comparisons and pick and choose what you want to update.
The Power BI Tabular model has been processed in the same way as you would an Analysis model. Thanks to these new External tools we can do so much more with the power BI Datasets.
Composite Report Models
We have looked at the enterprise Semantic Model from the BI Developer. Now its time to look at what we can do for the data analysis.
Previously, there has been lots of talk about composite modelling
“Allows a report to have multiple data connections, including DirectQuery connections or import”
Composite models allow the developer to created an aggregated data set which allows you to reduce table sizes by having imported data at granular level (So you get the full suite of DAX to work with) and then you can drill down to granular data in direct query mode.
Composite report models are basically composite reports as opposed to composite models. I got a little confused between the two as they are both called composites but they are quite different.
As a data analyst you get data from a Certified data set. this is essentially a Live Query because you are connecting to a Power BI tabular model
The analyst will now be able to combine data from multiple data sets and create relationships between them. Composite modelling can be mashed up with local data by the analyst. This will bring so much more power to the analyst.
It will be really interesting to see how this works over the next few months. Again its uncertain if this will be available for Pro users but we will be looking at this in much more detail soon.
Full Application Lifecycle Management
Public Preview May 2020
Power BI currently consists of the App Workspace (for collaboration) and Apps for consumers. this gives you your development, test and production environments.
Deployment Pipelines is the next level of lifecycle management. If you use DevOps you have seen and probably used Pipelines for other business requirements. For Premium capacity Workspaces, Pipelines can now be created to deploy to Develop, test and production Environments
This is a fantastic new development for modern enterprise BI. Each Workspace can be compared within Service and allows you to be more agile and responsive to users needs. We are really excited about this one.
Drive a Data Culture with pervasive BI throughout your Organisation
Automatic Performance optimisation with Azure Synapse Analytics
Relates to the Data Stack. Microsoft are working on deep integration with Azure Synape Analytics.
We will be looking at this in more detail later but there are big changes coming:
Materialised views to improve performance within the Synapse layer.
Useage based Optimisation against Synapse.
Common Data Service
This sits with the Action key point for driving data culture. this is another area that the Microsoft team were very excited about. As yet we are being cautious and want to do some more research around this topic.
You will now be able to direct query the Common Data Service. the CDS ties in with Power Apps and seems to be used very much within that domain. Its worth noting again at this point that Power BI Does not exist alone. It is part of the Power platform.
Internal data is stored in CDS. External data is brought in via connectors. there are 350+ connectors that can be used for External data. However data within the CDS is Smart, Secure, and Scalable.
We will be looking at CDS in much more detail in relation to Power BI
This is just a first high level look at some of the offerings from the Business Applications summit. There are so many great sessions to look at for more in depth details. It looks like an incredibly exciting time to be involved with Microsoft business Apps.
Each Month Power BI Releases an update and we like to go
through the updates and come up with our favorites of the month (And those
updates that aren’t as successful)
The Filter pane has been updated and filters have been removed from the Fields pane. This is great because it was slightly confusing to drag and amend filters in ‘Fields’ but then see them in the Filter pane. Now you drag the field straight to the filter pane
You can also rename Filter headers which makes them much more useable.
If you go to Options and Settings > Options > Report Settings,
you can also tick Allow Users to Change Filter Types.
This means the user can choose between advanced and basic Filter Pane. This is great if you want more filter usability for the user
There are still issues for me when it comes down to the new
Filter Pane and Slicers. This could be confusing to a user. If Edit
interactions was added to Filters, then many slicers could be removed from
reports ensuring more screen time for visuals.
Conditional Formatting for Visual Titles
I click on Doncaster and the visual Changes but the Title Remains the same. I want it to dynamically include the selected region.
There is a button by Title Text with three dots showing that
there is a hidden menu.
Here you can select a measure that you have created
containing the title you want, rather than use the standard title
Sentiment Score Title = “Percentage Sentiment Group for” & SELECTEDVALUE(Tweet[Location])
Previously, you can create your own headers for visuals, but they were simply hard coded. Here is my visual for Sentiment Group. I also have a Region Filter on the page.
All my Reports are filtered on Months so now each visual can
contain this information.
Conditional formatting for web URL actions for buttons shapes and images
Finally, we can now change and image depending on a dynamic
measure. This is one of my favorite new features. For example, this is
fantastic for showing conditional image for feedback, Positive, Negative, Up
This work the same as visual titles above
Even better, we should be getting an update soon where you
can add the DAX straight into the Title Text rather than needing a separate
My conditional visual for this new feature would be….
Drill through across reports
For me, Drill through is one of the most important concepts
behind Power BI and its not yet fully functioning. For example, all the market
place visuals don’t have this ability. It’s really frustrating to find the
perfect visual and then realise you can’t drill through to further information.
This new functionality gives me some hope that we might see future fixes to this. We can now set up a navigation experience across reports.
Start with the target page (the page you want to land on from other reports) and set Cross Report Toggle to on.
You also need to then turn cross report on for the reports that you drill through from. You can do this as above or in Service / Reports
If for example I’m drilling through by Region. I right click
on the Region Data Point in a visual and I can see the drill through Report [Page
Name and Report]
This is going to be incredibly helpful when I want to divide
larger reports into smaller ones (With less data in each)
The Key Influences visual was one of my favorite updates a couple of months ago and I have used it to support Twitter sentiment grouping. (Negative, Positive, Neutral)
Previously I could only analyse by category but now we can analyse a continuous numerical field. To do this set Analysis Type to Continuous.
We can now analyse data items like sales amount.
This new visual has already proved really popular with users and its good to know its improving all the time.
Partial Synonym matching for Q&A
Another really great feature. When a user is asking
questions in Q&A, even if they can’t remember the exact phrasing, Q&A
will give them suggestions.
Lots of new data connectors. Power BU Dataflows, Oracle
Essbase, PDF Connector, Intersystems IRIS, Indexima (Big data), Luminis InformationGrid,
Solver BI360 and Paxata.
Its doubtful that I will be needing these connectors
currently but it’s great to see new connectors being added every month. Its
worth noting that the on premises data sources will need the new release of the
April On Premises Data Gateway which should be coming soon.
Web by Example Connector
– Allows you to scrape data from HTML Pages and is now even smarter. This is
currently in preview and I can’t wait to see how it works.
Data Profiling enhancements
In Power Query Editor New Profiling enhancements are
available to check your data
In View > we have Column Distribution, Column Profiles column quality. Try ticking these options for discover lots of information about the quality of your data.
This is such a good feature when you are starting to add and
understand your data. A quick look at my Sentiment group shows I have nothing
outside of Positive Negative and Neutral. I can quickly see any issues that may
Fuzzy Merge Feature
Another smart preparation feature which helps with merging
records. I haven’t needed to use this yet but its good to know that this also
speeds up merging of records.
M Intellisense supported in Formula bar
If for example you go to Add Column, Custom Column. You can
type in your custom code and Intellisense will provide lists of functions etc.
to help you. We didn’t have this before in Power Query mode, so this will
really enrich the experience.
This has been such a good month for Power BI. I am excited
about being able to create custom headers and visuals and I can’t wait to try
the updated Key Influences Visual.