BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (IOS Power BI App for SSRS, Enterprise Gateway, Printing, AT Internet Content Pack) – SQL Server 2016 (eBook, Mobile Publisher)

The year is finally coming to a close and it has been a really busy but amazing year.

I am looking forward to what will be happening in the Microsoft BI space next year, with the release of SQL Server 2016, as well as I have no doubt that there are a great things planned for Power BI.

Power BI – IOS Power BI App for SSRS

Whilst this is not the most amazing picture that there has been with regards to Power BI, I do think that this is a rather significant thing to mention.

The reason being is that this is the first time that we are starting to see the integration of Power BI and SQL Server (On-Premise) becoming one mobile application. Which is what was in the roadmap that was presented by Microsoft a few months ago.

In my opinion I do see that as next year continues we will see more features integrated. Which I personally think will be really great. What this will mean is that for people on the go, or who want to have a quick view of the data or information, it will always be at their fingertips. They will no longer have to have to log into multiple locations or have multiple mobile applications. They can open one mobile app, and then see the information that they need to see immediately.

I really am looking forward to see how this evolves next year.

If you have an iPhone you can find the updated app here: Microsoft Power BI – iTunes

Power BI – Enterprise Gateway

I am really pleased to see that they have moved so quickly with regards to getting the Enterprise Gateway for Power BI to support both Multi-Dimensional and Tabular models of SSAS. As well as already providing the support for SQL Server direct connectivity. As well as to SAP HANA.

I my opinion I do think that Microsoft is moving in the right direction and starting to provide some functionality for some of their Enterprise customers. And this is one tool that I know will be used to make the administration and access to in premise data sources that much easier.

As well as something that I will be using in the future.

You can find out the details here: Power BI Gateway Enterprise now supports live connections to Analysis Services and SAP HANA

Power BI – Printing

Just a quick note that they now have made it really easy to print your Power BI reports directly from Power BI.

Power BI – AT Internet Content Pack

Here is another great content pack from Microsoft. This time it is related to AT Internet, which help you get insights with your data. And this is yet another valuable content pack that can help its customers and potentially yourself quickly gain the insights to the information you have, to get the best return.

You can find more information here: Explore your AT Internet data in Power BI

SQL Server 2016 – eBook

Microsoft released this eBook, which I personally thought was the perfect timing. With a lot of people being on holidays it did mean that we have the time to read the book.

I downloaded it onto my mobile device, and while I did not read every single page, I did read most of the book. And I thought it was a great read. Not too technical, but it did give a lot of information on the sections that they put into the book. I was particularly interested in the Row Level Security (which I found in my mind has a similar implementation to SSAS), the Stretch Database (which I can foresee being used for large old data sets that are still required to be online, but not accessed frequently) and then Reporting Services.

I did read the entire Reporting Services section, and I enjoyed reading about the printing and how they have finally removed the Active X control. As well as the option to Export to Power Point, which I think a lot of people have been doing manually in the past. As well as other sections which I have read in separate blog posts in the past (Pining SSRS reports to Power BI, New Chart Types)

You can find out the information here: Free eBook: Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2016: Mission-Critical Applications, Deeper Insights, Hyperscale Cloud, Preview Edition

And you can download it from here: Free eBook – Printable Copy

SQL Server 2016 – Mobile Report Publisher

It was great to see that Microsoft was able to meet their own deadline and have another release of SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.2 which included the new SSRS features.

And as we can see from the picture above they have incorporated the SQL Server Mobile Report Publisher, as well as the application to download and install. Along with this there is also a great blog post by Christopher Finlan which walks you through how to get this up and running.

You can find out all the details here: Mobile Report Publisher preview now available

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI Desktop (Monthly & Service Update) – Excel 2016 (Add-In for Machine Learning) – Power BI (Sankey Visual, Power BI Community, Office365Mon Content Pack)

As this year begins to really wind down it is good to see that the Microsoft machine also appears to be having a break.

I have no doubt that in 2016 it will be full steam ahead and back into the swing of things.

And before I could finish this blog post I checked if there was any news and low and behind there is a MASSIVE update for Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service.

I won’t lie there are so many good and improved features that put down what you are doing and read below. It will sure make your week!

So let’s get into it!

Power BI Desktop  – Monthly & Service Update

Wow there is a lot of information in the blog post from Microsoft.

I am not going to go into all the details, but I will go into what I find especially great improvements or additions.

The first section with regards to the Formatting Pane & Ribbon really does have some great features. What I like is that you can now change the text size, the number of decimal places and formatting of data labels per category or report or item.

I also like the fact that you can now align your charts, reports or whichever report item that you insert. I personally know that previously this took a lot of time and effort to get this working. As well as the format painter option which means you can apply the same formatting across the entire report. Which will not only save time, but in my opinion make the reports look even more polished and professional.

In the next section with regards to the Enhancements to Visualizations they have done a lot of work. From ensuring that the visual cues are easier to see and understand. As well as improving how the data labels are displayed so that the actual charts show more meaningful information.

I see that they have snuck in another Visual, which could be used in quite a few ways to show valuable information. As well as adding the tooltips which I have already seen and used in the Power BI Service, and something very similar in the mobile app. This does make interacting with the reports and looking at the right information a lot easier and quicker.

Next is the ability to create visuals based on R scripts. I already know that the SQL Server stack is getting a lot of praise for including this in their next release. And it is really great to see it making it into Power BI also. I have no doubt that this will get a whole lot of interest with regards to R. And by the looks of things they have made it really easy to get the R scripts and information into Power BI.

In the Data Modeling area, they have once again added a lot of functionality. I like that they have added the relationship view, which means that it makes it easier to navigate when you have a large set of tables with relationships.

I am sure that there will be a lot of people will be very happy to see that SSAS Multi-dimensional is getting some love. And that now after you enable the preview feature you can now use your Hierarchies in your Power BI report. This will go a long way to get report authors to very quickly create some amazing reports.

They have also sneaked in another two connectors. Namely Stripe Connector which is for manage their online payments. And Smartsheet Connector which will allow users understand how Smartsheets is being used in the ways of workspaces, sheets, top collaborators etc…

The Enter data, was something that I possibly had thought of in the past that would be useful. For instance, you might have some reference data that you know is not going to change. And before today you would have to put it into a CSV or a table to get the data into your model. Now you can quickly do a copy and paste and your data is there. What a fantastic thing to have at your fingertips!

I see that they have made more improvements with Direct Query, which is great to see, considering that if your underlying source system will be SQL Server 2016 in the future with Column Store Indexes or In-Memory tables, this gives you the ability to have near or real time data in your reports.

Those are the details which I think are really important and valuable.

Below is the entire list of updates:

  • Report Authoring
    • Formatting Pane & Ribbon
      • Format data labels per category series
      • Change number of decimal places showed in visuals
      • Change text size in visuals
      • Ability to lay out visuals accurately: alignment, distribute, size, position (requires Power BI Desktop for authoring)
      • Set styles across multiple visuals through Format Painter (requires Power BI Desktop for authoring)
    • Enhancements to Visualizations
      • Visuals cue for sort state in Table visual
      • New Visual: Stacked Area chart
      • Smart tooltips for Area and Line charts on hover
      • Ability to create Reference line/region for a Cartesian visual
      • Improved data labels for pie and scatter chart
  • R Visuals integration in Power BI Desktop (Preview Feature)
  • Suggested table to table relationships when trying to create visuals involving two tables which are not related (Power BI Desktop only)
  • Optimized “Home” ribbon layout in Power BI Desktop
  • Data Modeling (Power BI Desktop only)
    • Relationships View
      • Zooming Slider
      • Fit Zoom to Screen
      • Reset Layout
      • Ability to Zoom in using Ctrl-Mouse selection rectangle
    • Data Connectivity (requires Power BI Desktop for authoring)
      • SSAS Multidimensional support – Hierarchies support (Preview Feature)
      • Stripe Connector
      • Smartsheet Connector
      • “Enter Data”: Paste or enter data to create a table
      • DirectQuery Improvements: Support for all data types of T-SQL and SAP HANA, resulting in Performance improvements.
      • ODBC Connector: Support for selecting User/System DSNs
      • CSV Connector: Ability to specify Column Delimiter in the Source dialog

You can find the Power BI Desktop Blog update here: More Power BI Feature Updates: Power BI Desktop December Update and new Power BI service features

Excel 2016 – Add-In for Machine Learning

It is great to see that they are putting some of the Machine Learning (ML) funcationality into Excel. Which as explained as per the blog post, means that you can then take this data and very easily do sentiment analysis on your data.

Which I know can provide some very insightful information.

They have also made it really easy and simple to use. And I can hopefully see myself using this in the near future.

You can get all the details here: General Availability of Free Excel Add-In for Azure ML

Power BI – Sankey Visual

Once again this is very good and insightful visual that has been created.

It appears that it is used primarily in the energy industry but I think that it could have quite a few other uses for all different types of data.

You can find out the details and how to get it from the following blog post: Visual Awesomeness Unlocked – Sankey diagram

Power BI – Community

This is a quick blog post to let people know that there are more and more Power BI community groups popping up all over the world.

I think that this will be a great way to find like-minded people. As well as to see what other amazing things people are doing in the Power BI space.

So I suggest that you either join or create a local group.

You can find more information about it here: Microsoft Power BI Community

Power BI – Office365Mon Content Pack

This is another great and insightful content pack.

To me when using the cloud services, you often do not have a clear visibility in terms of what has been happening with your actual service that you are receiving.

This content pack gives you all that information at your fingertips.

I also have to admit in my opinion that it is really great to see that Microsoft are making this information available. To me is shows that they know that they are not perfect and that at times things do go wrong. But hopefully not every often. And this gives you a way to see if or when something happened.

You can find details about the content pack here: Analyze your Office365Mon data in Power BI

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Developers – Opening up the Content Packs, Weekly Service Update,Visual Scroller) – SharePoint 2016 (White Paper) – Excel 2016 (Use Excel like a Boss)

It has been a crazy last few months from the Microsoft BI stream, and finally as the year winds down they appear to also be looking to take a much needed break.

So this week’s BI-NSIGHT is short and sweet.

Power BI – Developers details

It was great to see how Microsoft have embraced not only the end users for Power BI, but also started adding a whole host of additional features and information for the Power BI Developers.

One thing that caught my attention in their blog post was the following: Over time, we intend to fully open this Developer experience up so that anyone can build Content Packs and submit them to us for publishing to the gallery.

I think that just as they did with the Visuals, by opening or creating a framework, this will allow a lot of additional companies and users the ability to be able to submit content packs to be part of Power BI. And this can only then lead to having more sources, which in turn means a greater possibility for there to be a content pack in the future that you can simply click and have all your data there ready to use.

I look forward to see what they can bring to the table going forward.

You can find more details here: Power BI for Developers: A look back at our Developer & ISV ecosystem efforts this year

Power BI – Weekly Service Update

Power BI Update

I was a bit late in terms of getting my blog post out, but at least I can include the latest Power BI weekly service update details.

One of the things that I really enjoy with the weekly service updates, is that very often what the Power BI team is putting into the Service, does filter down into the Power BI Desktop.

So this week there are some great new additions.

The pinning of your entire report as a dashboard is fantastic. As I often found that the dashboard tiles, whilst it is very good often meant that you could not fit in all the information that you want to see. This does not mean that you should overcrowd the dashboard. But at least you can put in meaningful information.

As well as now having the ability to manually refresh the tiles is great. As I was actually having this problem last week.

For both using the Images as slicers and the Visual Interactions, this has been mentioned before and it does make it a lot easier to create your reports and filters so that they have more functionality.

You can read up all about the updates here: Power BI Weekly Service Update

Power BI – Visual Scroller

Once again the quality of new Visuals that are coming and being released in the Power BI Visuals amazes me.

And this visual is once again a really elegant design, but at the same time it is really powerful.

I can see a lot of organizations or companies using this going forward. It takes up a small amount of screen real estate but it can show so much meaningful information that scrolls through.

You can find it in the Power BI Visuals Gallery here: Power BI Visuals Gallery

SharePoint 2016 – Whitepaper

With both SQL Server 2016 and SharePoint 2016 around the corner it is great to see that they have released a white paper.

Specifically, it details the information around how using Excel within SharePoint will be handled and implemented in SharePoint 2016. Which also relates to the Power Pivot Add-in.

I have downloaded the paper and I have no doubt that there will be a wealth of other information that will be within the white paper. I always find the white papers a really interesting read and often find out some really great details.

You can use the following link to find the blog post: White Paper Published: Deploying SQL Server 2016 PowerPivot and Power View in SharePoint 2016

You can download the White Paper here: Deploying SQL Server 2016 PowerPivot and Power View in SharePoint 2016

Excel 2016 – Use Excel like a Boss

There is a great blog post by the Office team.

It show cases how easy it is to use the Business Analysis features directly out of Excel when you start up Excel.

From each of the sections, you can see the Cash Flow, Stock Analysis and Calendar Analysis.

This just is another great feature that can be used to analyse your business.

You can read about all the details here: Use Excel 2016 like a boss

BI-NSIGHT – SQL Server 2016 (CTP 3.1, SSAS Tabular) – Power BI (Cortana, Mobile App, Enterprise Gateway, Bing Content Pack, API Updates, Sentiment Analysis) – Data Insights Summit – Power Apps

Once again this week there has been a lot of activity in the BI space. Which is great and is definitely keeping me on my toes!

SQL Server 2016 – CTP 3.1 & SSAS Tabular

This week Microsoft released a small update to SQL Server 2016, and one of the features that I am looking forward to testing is upgrading an existing SSAS Tabular project to SQL Server 2016.

I am hoping that there will be some performance improvements, as well as making it easier to use the model now that it is based on JSON.

There were some additional updates that were released as part of the SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.1 which will be in the links below:

You can find out about the Analysis Services Updates here: What’s new for SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services in CTP3.1

And you can find out about what is new in SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.1 here: SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 3.1 is available

Power BI – Cortana Insights

Once again the Microsoft amazing machine has released a whole host of changes since last week.

The first one that I am going to talk about here is the integration with Cortana. I think that this is a good move, as it seems that the world is moving towards using speech to do things, instead of having to type things out.

This is also another great wow factor for showing how powerful Power BI will be. And this means another way to quickly and easily find out insights from your data.

I also have no doubt that this will link up with the Cortana Analytics suite and will make things even easier in the future.

You can read all about it here: Announcing Power BI integration with Cortana and new ways to quickly find insights in your data

Power BI – Mobile App Update

Once again there is another batch of updates to the Power BI App, which is great to see. I know personally from my side that this will be used a great deal going forward.

What I like about this update is that they are focusing on both the iPhone and Android platforms. The one thing that still amazes me that they do not have an app for their Windows Phone which I would think would be good to have.

Along with this having the charts showing a more detail I think is the way to go. The resolution of the phone screens are often higher than what you can get on many monitors. So it can easily and clearly visualize your data and insights.

The other feature that I also like is the welcome page, as often people who are starting to use the app or are wanting to find information often need a starting point from which they can navigate from. I think this is especially the case when there is the potential to have a lot of dashboards. And this would make the experience seamless.

You can find out about the Mobile Updates here: Power BI mobile apps update – November 2015

Power BI – Gateway for Enterprise Deployments

I am very excited to see that as promised or eluded to there now is a Gateway for Enterprise deployments. I can already see in my organization that potentially having to have multiple gateways installed, and then to still configure who has access to what could very quickly spiral out of control.

This is where the Enterprise gateway over time will come into it’s own. I also like the feature that you can see the usage. Which will be very useful, because in my mind if this shows the usage stats as to what cubes or SQL Servers are being used will mean we can see if it is actually being used or not at all. As well as simplifying the deployment of how we manage the connection between the cloud and on premise.

I know that right now it is in Preview as well as only allowing a direct connection to SQL Server, but I have no doubt that over time this will become the required gateway and the Analysis Services Gateway will be replaced by the Enterprise Gateway.

You can find out the details here: Announcing preview of Power BI gateway for enterprise deployments

Power BI – Bing Content Pack

The Bing Content pack is a genius creation from the Power BI Team.

And the reason that I say this, is due to the fact that you can use any search term and it can quickly show you what searches have been happening relating to your search term. As well as showing some related news information.

I have already put it to use within my organization, and it just means another data source which in turn you can then use to quantify your data and what you are working on!

What I also enjoyed about this content pack is it is something you can put into use with immediate effect. It is quick and easy to get it up and running.

You can find out about the Bing Content Pack here: Search Analytics from Bing on your Power BI Dashboards

Power BI – API Updates

There are some great updates for the Power BI API, and whilst I am no developer it does mean that for the development team that I work closely with we can easily and quickly take our Power BI Reports and dashboards and integrate them into our existing applications.

This will mean that we can leverage all the hard work that we have done and have it in an application. Which then means that there is no need for the users to leave their application. As well as having the functionality that Power BI brings to the table.

The new API that was released today was the “Report integration API”

You can find out all about the Power BI APIs here: Power BI for Developers: Reports API and a simple App Registration experience

Power BI – Sentiment Analysis

I came across this blog post by Patrick Leblanc and I thought this was a really amazing blog post.

It really delights me to see how there are really quick and easy ways to integrate other solutions into Power BI, which then enriches your data. And I do think that having sentiment analysis is a great tool to see how people perceive your company or your product.

You can find out how Patrick got this done by viewing his blog: Sentiment Analysis with Power BI

Data Insights Summit

I really wish that I would be able to attend the Data Insights summit.

We are planning on using Power BI as our starting point for our BI journey and I do think that these two days in March would be invaluable not only to find out directly from the Microsoft team what is currently happening, but also what is coming and what is planned for the future.

As well as having the ability to network with fellow people who are also implementing Power BI solutions.

You can find out about it here: Data Insights Summit

Power Apps

Finally, but not lastly I do think that Power Apps is going to drive and change the way we get data from different sources as well as from different content area’s into a digital format.

I can already see how we can leverage this, to make things easier and simple for the users in my organization.

The other thing that I really like is that you can create the app once, but can leverage it on all the different platforms (Web, Mobile, Tablet). And to me this means that the adoption and the use of the app will be that much better used and will ensure it succeeds.

You can read about it here: Introducing Microsoft PowerApps