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Surprising ways PowerBI can enhance your reports

Many businesses find it daunting to figure out how to capture, visualize, interpret and drive decisions from a deluge of data and sources. Excel has been a mainstay with the use of pivot tables and charts to try to gain a better understanding of how a business function is doing. While Excel is powerful, it can also be complex and can require a specialized skill set in order to really create useful business data interpretations.

There are some other tools and options - Microsoft's PowerBI, an easy to use but powerful tool for businesses both small and large. Microsoft's Power BI does not require years of expertise to learn how to develop a usable report and handle ever changing business details.

So what exactly is PowerBI?

PowerBI is a cloud-based business analytics service that allows you and your company/team a single view of your most important business data. PowerBI easily connects to various types of data sources including Excel, Dynamics CRM, Access, SQL Server, and the Azure cloud, just to name a few. 

As soon as the required data sources are connected to Power BI you will be able to create/view impressive interactive dashboards enabling you and your team to make informed business decisions with a very user friendly toolset. With a few clicks you will be on your way to understanding your business in a way that you probably didn't know was even possible.

The Microsoft Power BI team has been very busy since the initial July 2015 release. Last month, 44 new updates were released in September with an additional 22 in October. All of the new or updated features were developed and added to the PowerBI service/application based on feedback from the PowerBI community.

Since its original release, the potential of PowerBI has become clear, and its possibilities has created an excited audience just wanting more. Although there are over 60 updates, for all audiences, whether it be for developers, data architects, business analysts or end users, there are four particular enhancements that we wanted to highlight given how they improve the end user's experience when viewing and interpreting the data "story" told by a Power BI dashboard.

  1. Option to share dashboards without invitation email
    Prior to this release the only way to share PowerBI dashboards was by sending an invitation vial email to users or groups of users. The users were required to click on the invite link in the email in order to gain access to the dashboard. This was very limiting when it came to sharing with a large group of users, when sending an email to each user may not be the most ideal solution.

    The updated functionality allows the owner to easily share the dashboard to many users by displaying a URL link in an internal corporate portal. As soon as the user navigates to the URL it will be added to their PowerBI workspace. Anyone who visits the portal and clicks on the link will be able to access the dashboard. For more details about how to share a PowerBI Dashboard via URL Link click here.

  2. Suggested and Featured questions via PowerBI Q&A
    The Power BI Q&A feature allows users to ask natural questions about the data displayed in a dashboard and the data is displayed in a way that answers the question. For example- A retail dashboard user can enter a question like "List products and their categories" and the Power BI Q&A functionality will display a list of all of the products and their respective categories that are included in the back end data.  This is an incredibly useful tool for users to easily learn about the data that is included in the dashboard.  In the feature enhancement released earlier this month Dashboard owners/developers can now include Suggested and Featured questions that can be either auto generated by Power BI based on the data or questions (Suggested) or can be created by the developer, who knows the data and the user audience the best (Featured). These enhancements make the natural language Q&A help the user to gain valuable insights easily and quickly. For more details about how to use PowerBI Q&A to create Suggested Questions click here and to create Featured Questions click here.

  3. Drill up/Drill down into column charts data
    The previous functionality of a column chart in Power BI would only display a single type of data per chart window. If more than one level of details needed to be displayed another column chart would need to be added to the dashboard, which would take up valuable real estate needed for displaying other important visuals. For example-a dashboard was designed to display the Sales of products by Country, by City; prior to the recent enhancements the dashboard would have had to include 3 separate chart windows to display each level of data details. With the new Drill-up/Drill-down feature the column chart can be designed to allow users to drill down into the data that is displayed in one chart window as well as drill up to see the higher levels all within one chart window which allows the user to quickly gain insights into the related data. To learn more about how to create Drill-Up/Drill-Down column charts with Power BI click here.

  4. Custom Visualizations
    As much as we enjoy out of the box functionality, sometimes the need to create a custom visual to tell a unique data story can be a requirement. In the latest releases the PowerBI team has created a Custom Visualization Gallery. So in addition to all of the newly released data visualization options, dashboard developers can also find custom visuals that have been created by the PowerBI community, as well as submit their own custom visual designs to share.  To browse and download custom visualizations from the PowerBI Visuals Gallery click here. Check back often for new visuals.

Bonus Tip:
If you are a Dynamics CRM user and you connect PowerBI to your CRM tenant, you IMMEDIATELY get a full sales dashboard. 

crm dashboard.png

Now that you have the details of just four of the latest enhancements from the Microsoft PowerBI team you can hopefully see how PowerBI can help you create fantastic Dashboards for your team or clients. If you would like to learn how to get started using PowerBI or would like a PowerBI solution created for your team then the Amaxra team is here to help!

Contact me at Rosalyn.arntzen@amaxra.com or call 425 749 7471 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.

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