BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Desktop Update April – Quick Measures Preview – Mobile Apps Summary – Video Gallery & Ask a Partner Anything – View Related Content Pane – Sneak Peak add new Columns from Example – Tracking Adoption via Power BI Audit Logs)

There has been a whole host of updates and interesting things in Business Intelligence in the past weeks, so please find below the updates.

Power BI – Desktop Update April

This month’s Power BI Desktop update for April has a whole host of great updates and new features this month, which I will highlight what I think is most relevant below.

Report View

The first update in the Report View section is the ability to rename the axis titles. I know that personally this is something that I have been looking for and now the capability is there.

Next is additional updates to the Matrix Preview, in which you can now sort the matrix by the grand total and row headers in ascending or descending order.

As well as now you can also resize the columns as you could do previously in the original matrix.

And finally, you can now word wrap column headers, row headers and values in the matrix preview. This can be configured separately in the formatting pane.

Analytics

Not only has the Power BI team made it better and easier to create the default measures. But with the Quick measures they have made it as simple as a drag and drop and then Power BI Desktop writes the DAX for you. I personally think that is a giant leap forward as it enables users who are not very strong in DAX to still be able to create powerful measures, which in turn will create greater insights into their data. This will also then let people learn how DAX works because they can see and modify the code, as well as give more advanced DAX users the capability to edit the DAX measure if so desired.

This entire preview feature I think is another game changer and it will enable people to quickly create the measures that they require, as well as to get people to build their DAX skills if so required. And I have no doubt that more quick measures will be added.

As you can see above, you can now try Q&A in Spanish. This must be the result of the Power BI Surveys that have been conducted in the past.

Data Connectivity

Once again this is another idea that a lot of people have been asking for and it has already been delivered. This is the ability to connect to a dataset that exists in the Power BI Service.

This is wonderful as what it means is that as long as you have got the required access, you are now able to access a dataset already uploaded into the Power BI Service. So what this also means is that you will not have to worry about creating measures, how the data is updated etc, because you are a consumer of the Power BI dataset.

This also means that now you can have multiple people working on a single dataset. Which is the start of having multiple developers developing reports and insights into your data.

The one caveat is that when you use the Power BI Service dataset you cannot edit or modify anything within this dataset, you will have to get the dataset owner to make the required changes and then for them to upload it the changes or updates into the Power BI Service. But still a giant leap forward.

The Amazon Redshift data connector has now moved out of Preview and is in the Beta phase, so it is easier to find and use.

There has also been updates to the SAP Hana and BW connectors, now giving you the ability to have more control with regards to the parameters selection. I am sure that people that use SAP will find this very welcome.

Query Editing

The ability to add a column by example has been out for almost 2 weeks now, but this is once again (yes I am repeating myself a bit!) a game changer because it now allows people who do not understand Power Query or the M language to quickly and easily build new columns within their dataset. And this also does it in the Query Editor, where I personally think it is the right place for this to be done, so that before it is brought into the Power BI Desktop Model, the data is already there and can achieve better results.

As you can now see above you now can split your column by delimiter or number of rows and if you wanted to split it into Rows.

The basic Group By in the Query Editor now allows you to group by a single column and output by a single column.

The Go to Column is a very handy feature because it allows you to quickly find your column, which is especially helpful when your table is very wide with a lot of columns.

You can find the blog post for the Power BI Desktop Update here: Power BI Desktop April Feature Summary

Power BI – Quick Measures Preview

There is already a blog post out by the Power BI team with regards on how to leverage and use the Quick Measures Preview.

It has some great content and is well worth the read.

You can find the blog details here: Quick Measures Preview

Power BI – Mobile Apps Summary

There have been some additional updates to the Mobile Apps for Power BI which are the Q&A Improvements and 3D touch for iOS.

Multiple SSRS Server support for up to 5 SSRS Servers. As well as improvements to the slicers.

You can find all the blog details here: Power BI Mobile apps feature summary – March 2017

Power BI – Video Gallery & Ask a Partner Anything


As you can see from above the Power BI team has now launched the Video Gallery where you can view tips and tricks on how to do things with Power BI. I think that this is great because it is often easier to see how to do things.

As well as another Ask a Partner anything on 06 April.

You can find all the details here: Announcing the new Power BI Video Gallery and Ask a Partner Anything live event

Power BI – View Related Content Pane

Once again the people in the Power BI team, specifically on the Power BI Service side are making it a lot easier to navigate and understand how your reports piece together.

This is very powerful as well as easy to use, because you get to see all the related content, but you also get the capability to be able to go into the settings or item specific areas, where before you would have had to go through a few clicks to get there.

You can find the blog details here: Announcing the View Related Content Pane: Faster Results with Fewer Clicks

Power BI – Sneak Peak add new Columns from Example

As you can see from above, this is a sneak peak of a new feature that is going to be released in the next version of Power BI Desktop.

I have to say that this is amazing, as it is starting to do the hard yards for you. Yes it might take a bit of practice to get it right, but once you have mastered it, it can save you a lot of time and effort

And the thing that I really like is that it will enable the users who are not so proficient at Power Query to be able to expand on their data, which in turn will lead to amazing insights.

You can read the blog post here: A sneak preview of the new Add Column From Examples data transformation

Power BI – Tracking Adoption via Power BI Audit Logs

This is a great blog post from JAVIER GUILLEN, where he shows you how to use the Power BI Audit logs to show how adoption of not only Power BI, but also the dashboards and reports are being used.

You can find the blog details here: TRACKING ADOPTION VIA POWER BI AUDIT LOGS

SSAS / Power BI – DirectQuery WhitePaper

As you can see above there is a whitepaper for DirectQuery in SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services, it is noted that some of the concepts are shared with Power BI.

And I have already downloaded the whitepaper and will be getting stuck into it very shortly.

You can find the blog post details as well as the link here: DirectQuery in SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services whitepaper

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Upcoming Updates, Forecasting in Power BI, Q&A Updates, Row Level Security, Excel in Power BI, Cortana Integration, New Visuals, Power BI App on Apple Watch, Desktop Trend Lines, Desktop Drill Through, Desktop Conditional Formatting, Power Apps) – SQL 2016 – Part 2

Well with the Microsoft Data Insights Summit I was under no illusion that there was going to be a whole host of updates and great new features to Power BI. And it was great to see that I was not disappointed.

So here are the highlights that I thought would be great to mention for this week’s blog post.

Here is the link to the entire Blog Post from Microsoft, and below are my details from what has been released: Over 5 million subscribers are embracing Power BI for modern business intelligence

Power BI – Forecasting in Power BI

This looks like a really great feature because what it means in my interpretation is that we can now leverage Azure Machine Learning (ML) to help forecast or predict what will happen based on the data we have provided.

I do not know all the details, but I know that this will be very welcome and at least give an indication of where your data is going, either better or worse or the same.

I know that there are some other products that have this capability, but I do think that this can be optimized and over time become a lot more accurate.

Power BI – Q&A Updates

It was great to see that after the initial updates to Q&A, they now not only are providing the capability to improve the service in terms of making it easier to use. They are now giving the ability for Q&A to be run on Direct Query Data Sources.

I was not sure initially how this was going to happen in the past, but in my view I was sure that it would be a feature that would be created or designed.

I do think that having Q&A is not only a great option in terms of selling Power BI, but it also makes it really easy for users to just ask a question and get answers. Which they can then save and have as part of their dashboard. And this will be something I would even use when looking for a quick result. I can just ask the question.

Power BI – Row Level Security for Cloud and Direct Query Sources

This is really a great new feature, and as with my next highlight below what this shows is that Power BI is almost at the point of SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) Tabular is cloud ready or SaaS.

I know already that there are a lot of good reasons and processes to use Row Level security, so that we can re-use the one data source for multiple people and only show them the data that they need to see.

There is not a lot to talk about here in terms of how Row Level security works, because it has been around in SSAS Multidimensional for some time, but it is great to see it in the cloud or Power BI.

Power BI – Power BI Data in Excel

This leads on from the previous highlight that it appears now that Power BI is a SaaS, and that once it gets released you can use your Power BI Models in the cloud and interact with them using Excel.

This then means that you can use all the standard Excel functionality. As we all know Excel is the most widely used product from Microsoft. And people are very comfortable using Excel, as well as having great skills in what they do with the data in Excel.

Now this just gives them the capability to do this. As well as it means that you potentially do not have to create a Power BI Model and then an SSAS Tabular Model for Excel. It now can all come from one source.

Power BI – Cortana Integration

It is great to see that they are integrating more of Cortana into Power BI. And in my mind I would think that it is leveraging Cortana to convert the voice text, and then pass this to Q&A which in turn can then provide the required data. I could be totally off the mark, but I would imagine it is something along those lines.

I am sure over time that this will get smarter and more integrated.

Power BI – New Visuals

As you can see above Microsoft have released a whole host of new Power BI Visuals.

I do know that the SandDance visual got a lot of applause, and it does have some great applications that were designed with the required datasets.

I particularly like the Attribute Slicer, because it appears that this one gives you the ability to slice the data, but that it will not take up a lot of screen real estate, as well as giving the option to search for your attribute that you want to slice by.

I did think I read somewhere that now Power BI has more visuals for the users to use than any of the Microsoft’s competitors.

Here are more details of the SandDance visual: Visual Awesomeness Unlocked – SandDance

And you can to here to view all the visuals here: Welcome to Power BI custom visuals

Power BI – App on Apple Watch

Just a quick note to see that they will release an App for the Apple watch. This is great for people who like to have the updates coming onto their smart watches.

Power BI – Desktop Trend Lines

As it would happen they also show cased what is coming up in next release of Power BI Desktop.

And it is great to see that there is the ability to put in a trend line, which can often lead the user to understand the trend of the data that they are looking at.

Power BI – Desktop Drill Through

I personally know that this is something that I have been looking for, as well as very often people have said that Power BI is great but there is no drill through functionality.

Well now it is here and it is awesome. And I know that already when chatting to my fellow peers that they are happy and amazed that it has been done. Which means we can then leverage more of Power BI.

Power BI – Desktop Conditional Formatting

I know that often it helps people to better understand the data when there is some conditional formatting that has been applied.

It is great to see that we now have the ability to do this which will further enrich the Power BI experience.

Power BI – Power Apps

I have no doubt that as time goes on there will be a better or tighter integration with Power BI and Power Apps, as a means of getting data into Power BI which can then be used to further enrich the Power BI experience as well as the related data.

SQL 2016 – Part 2

In part to of the details of SQL Server 2016 they go into the SSAS improvements and new features.

I know quite a bit of this has been released before, but this is one central page where you can see all the improvements, to which there are many as well as additional features.

If you want to see all the improvements and updates you can read about it here: Enable business insights for everyone with SQL Server 2016: Part 2

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Publish in Web App, Enterprise Gateway GA, Desktop Update, Troux Content Pack, New Visuals) – SQL Server 2016 (CTP3.3, eBook, R)

So from last week to almost having nothing to talk about, to this week having a whole host of updates.

Just to quickly mention I attended the first local Power BI User Group meeting in Brisbane this evening ( QLD Power BI User Group ), and it had a really great turnout, along with some great content for the first user group. I have no doubt that it will grow from strength to strength.

So let’s get into the details there is a lot to cover here.

Power BI – Publish in Web App

This has been one of the most requested things that have been voted on. And it is great to see that they have listened again to what the people and users are asking for and have delivered it.

There are a few things to be aware of is that once you embed it into another application all your security is not valid.

Along with this currently due to it being in preview there might be an additional cost to have this capability. Which I can understand in a way because they are actually providing this outside of Power BI, and by making it available for anyone to interact, that means that there are things that are happening within the cloud that needs to be accounted for.

You can find out the details here: Announcing Power BI “publish to web” preview

Power BI – Enterprise Gateway General Availability

This is something that I have covered in the past, and it is great to see that they have incorporated all the features into one product.

This means it will make it easier to install, configure and get people using your on premise data. As you can see that this is something that I am already using and will be a great feature going forward.

Also the ability to handle failovers, as well as having the performance counter information will be great for viewing what is happening as well as the performance of the gateway.

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

Power BI – January Desktop Update

This was announced last week, and there are a whole host of updates in the Power BI Desktop. I will go through a few ones here that I think are really important.

As you can see above, you can now add borders as well as Cartesian charts’ plot area.

Along with this, I really liked that you can now refresh data in individual tables, because sometimes in the past you did not want to refresh everything including your largest table.

And finally I see that they are still making performance improvements and cross rending is great. It has always been a fast visualization, but to make even that little bit faster means that everything will be that much quicker and who does not like speed?

You can find details here: Power BI Updates This Week: New Report Authoring Capabilities

Power BI – Troux Content Pack

This is yet another content pack, and if you are an existing Troux customer then I am sure that using Power BI will give you some great insights into your technology investments. Which will help you understand your data and how best you can leverage on your information.

You can find the details here: Explore your Troux data in Power BI

Power BI – New Custom Visuals

As you can see above there have been 3 new great visuals that have been released. And to me they are concentrated around mostly financials, which is great to see.

You can go here to see all the visuals: Power BI Custom Visuals

SQL Server 2016 – CTP 3.3

It was a surprise to see that they have released CTP 3.3 and most of the updates are around SSRS and SSAS Tabular.

It is great to see that now as per the visual above you can add your own favorite reports to your SSRS view of the world. Which I think is something that is so simple, but at the same time so valuable.

Along with this is the details and updates for SSAS Tabular.

It is really good to see that you can now create calculated columns in Direct Query mode. As well as applying Row Level security in Direct Query mode also. As I know personally in the past I did not implement Direct Query mode, due to the limitations, which now they have resolved.

It is good to see that they are adding a lot of updates and features for Business Intelligence to SQL Server 2016.

You can find details around SQL Server 2016 CTP3.3 here: Access your favorite KPIs and reports with SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.3

And then if you want to find out the details around SSAS Tabular you can find that here: What’s new for SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services in CTP3.3

SQL Server 2016 – eBook

This is an update from the original eBook, and there is a lot of great content in here, especially if you are not fully aware of what is coming in SQL Server 2016.

There are two versions for desktop and mobile.

You can find information about the eBook here: Free eBook: Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2016: Mission-Critical Applications, Deeper Insights, Hyperscale Cloud, Preview 2

SQL Server 2016 – R


As you can see above R has come a long way, and is a great tool to use if you have the specific requirement.

The screenshot above was from a presentation by Jen Underwood. And there is some really valuable information in this slide deck.

If this is something of interest to you, you can view the slide deck here: Microsoft R Server and SQL Server R Services

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Q&A for SSAS Tabular, Weekly Service Update, Lithium Content Pack, Mobile App for Windows 10 Mobile) – Azure (SQL Server Virtual Machines) – Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud

Even though I think a lot of people took time off over the Christmas period it seems that the Power BI team at Microsoft was full steam ahead.

Which is a great thing to come back to work and have all these updates and new things to look into.

Power BI – Q&A for SSAS Tabular

The reason for me starting with this, is that currently I really enjoy the capabilities that you have when using Q&A within the Power BI service.

My only gripe was that when I am directly connecting to an On-Premise SSAS Tabular database I was not able to use Q&A. And often the On-Premise SSAS Tabular databases are where a significant amount of time and development has been spent getting it with all the required information.

And don’t get me wrong it is great to connect directly and create reports and have real-time queries running.

But in order to really showcase what it is capable of until now I felt that Q&A was the missing piece. And it is great to see that this is something that they have started working on. And I have no doubt that this will be a welcome feature and something that I will put to use as soon as it is available.

You can find out about it here: Add Q&A capability for datasets based on Analysis Services Tabular Models

Power BI – Weekly Service Update

This past week’s update was once again a big update with a whole host of additions.

Once again I am only going to highlight what I think is significant from the list below.

Dashboards

Collaboration

Reports

Connectivity 

Excel Reports

Other

With regards to the Dashboard and Reports section I do think that the ability to export the data is really something that people have been asking for, for a long time. And it does give the report consumer the ability to use and interact if required with the raw data.

How often do we hear the question, can we export this to Excel? Well now we can from Power BI!

Adding the image to Text box as a Widget is another great addition. I think more so, that this now means that there will be the ability going forward for more Widget type of applications to be added into the dashboards. Which can only lead to some really great ideas and implementations on the dashboards.

Printing and knowing the last time a Dashboard tile was refreshed is also very welcome. This gives the users to take the information to a meeting, or to showcase the dashboard. As well as quickly identifying if the data is current and up to date.

Under connectivity it is great to see that you can now connect to Files on SharePoint Team sites. I know in a lot of companies where they utilize SharePoint team sites for all their documentation and related files. And they are often working directly with those files. Now with this capability it means that as soon as the file gets update, within the timeframe the report will be updated also.

Under Excel it is great to see that you can now open and pin the Excel Charts to a dashboard. This is very welcome as often your chart tells a very interesting story and instead of having to try and re-create it, you can use all the hard work that has already been done.

You can read all about it here: Power BI Service Update

Power BI – Lithium Content Pack

Another week another great content pack. This week it is Lithium, which enables brands and customers using social media to get the answers that they need as well as share their experiences. Which in turn leads to more revenue.

You can find out the details about it here: Analyze your Lithium community data in Power BI

Power BI – Mobile App for Windows 10 Mobile

This is without doubt the one mobile app that has taken some time to be released. And whilst I do understand that Microsoft’s direction is Mobile and cloud first and that there are a LOT more users using iPhone and Android devices I thought that they would have gotten this out sooner.

But without doubt it is a welcome addition for people who are using Windows 10 Mobile phones. And it looks to have the same great features as what has currently been released on the other platforms.

I am looking forward to see how this improves over time.

You can find out about the details here: Announcing the Power BI app for Windows 10 Mobile

And you can download it from here: Download from the Windows Store

Azure – Preconfigured SQL Server Virtual Machines

It is great to see that in Azure you can now have some help setting up a preconfigured SQL Server Virtual Machine.

In my mind there is almost no one better to aid with this process. I think they are managing the entire Azure SQL Server, Azure Data warehouse platforms so they will have a vast amount of experience as how best to configure the virtual machine. And I have no doubt that by doing this, they too can make customers get better returns.

You can find out about all the details here: Introducing a simplified configuration experience for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines

Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud

This is a quick plug on a previous blog post that I did this week.

It is just my personal view in terms of how Power BI is leveraging the Azure Cloud platform and how it all fits together. And it is quite interesting how well they have put it all together and how quick it really is.

You can read the blog post here: Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud (Microsoft Azure)

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI Desktop (Date Hierarchy) – Power BI(Timeline Slicer Visual, Pin Excel Range to Dashboard, Power BI User Groups, Weekly Service Update, Visual Studio Application Insights Content Pack) – Microsoft BI Reporting Road Map – SQL Server 2016 SSIS Updates

With the Pass conference completed last week there has been a lot of information about SQL Server 2016 and the future does indeed look bright for BI within the Microsoft BI stack. And I personally think that in the future they will be leading in most of the BI areas.

I am not going to go into all the details as this has been covered in a whole host of other blogs that I follow. And I am sure that a lot of the people reading my blog have already found out all the new amazing news.

So here we go with all updates from the past week.

Power BI Desktop – Date Hierarchy

The above screenshot was taken from Jen Underwood, which is showing how in the future version of Power BI Desktop it will have the ability to be able to create the Date Hierarchy for you. I am sure it will be in a not too distance release.

Power BI – Timeline Slicer Visual

As promised as Pass last week here is another great Custom Visual available in Power BI.

I can see this being used a lot, as I have used it in Excel in the past and it does allow users the ability to slice their data by Month to Date, Year to Date, Quarter to Date etc…

You can find all the custom Visualizations here: Power BI Custom Visualizations

Power BI – Pin Excel Range to Dashboard

Another feature that will be coming to the Power BI Service is the ability to Pin an Excel Range into your Power BI dashboard.

I think that this will be really useful, because Excel does some things really well. And often it can show you a lot more information, which can easily be digested instead of trying to replicate it Power BI.

Power BI – User Groups

This is another great incentive, as I think as the momentum grows with Power BI this will be a great way to network with like-minded people.

As well as learn from other people who I have no doubt will have some amazing idea’s and experience to share.

Here are the details if you are interested to Sign up or see if there are people in your area: Power BI User Groups are here!

Power BI – Weekly Service Update

There were some interesting updates this week, which is that you now get a guide in what you want to do in Power BI.

As well as now individuals can also sign up for Power BI. I do think that this is a very clever move. As there are a lot of people who potentially might use it at work, and then want to use it for their personal projects. Along with this you can get the general public to start using this service. And often this can attract a larger crowd than the amount of people that will be exposed to the Power BI service. Which in turn could get Power BI into a company!

And finally is the duplication of an existing report. Which often can help when you want it to be very similar and do not want to have to re-create it all from scratch!

You can find out all the details here: Power BI Weekly Service Update

Power BI – Visual Studio Application Insights Content Pack

This week’s Content Pack is about Visual Studio applications and can give you insight into your applications that you have created and can show you potentially where you have issues.

You can find out how to use the content pack and more details here: Explore your Application Insights data with Power BI

Microsoft BI Reporting Road Map

As has been blogged quite extensively it is the first time since I have started my career in BI, that there has actually been a roadmap for BI from Microsoft.

I have to say it is great that we now have this visibility, because it means we can plan for what is coming. And incorporate some of the new changes into our existing and to be delivered projects. Which means we will be in a position to show the people in our business something that is new and fresh.

And the way that I see it, people like to see things change. Not everyone in the business, but at times even if the charts just change slightly or there is something additional it can mean that there is great adoption. It also shows that it is not something that been developed and never looked at again!

I do feel that they are focusing a lot on SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular. And for good reason, this product is playing catch up. It is also being used in Power BI, which we all really love and are using more often. And I can see that we are also starting to get the best of both worlds. And by that I mean we are getting a lot of the functionality from SQL Server Analysis Services Multidimensional, as well as from TSQL. Which means that we can leverage the best of both.

You can find out all the information about the BI Reporting Roadmap here: Microsoft Business Intelligence – our reporting roadmap

SQL Server 2016 – Integration Services Update

The link below are all the updates from Wolfgang Strasser (w|t) with regards to all the great updates that are coming to SSIS 2016.

I am looking forward to see how the Package Control Flow Templates, as the way I see, this will mean that you can leverage creating the template once, and then reuse it again and again. So for example if you create a Package Control Flow Template for a Slowly Changing Dimension Type 2. You can then use this in your framework for all your other developers.

You can read his blog post here: SQL Server 2016 Integration Services (SSIS) –Summary of SQL Pass Summit 2015 session

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI – (Pin to Dashboard, Extending Power BI Pro Trial, Mobile App Update, All About Dashboards, comScore Content Pack) – Cortana Analytics (Azure Data Catalog) – SQL Server 2016 (SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) Tabular Parallel Partition Processing) – Office 2016 (Official Release Date 22 Sep 2015) – Project Prajna

Once again there was a lot of updates from Microsoft, as well as some other really interesting information within the BI Space. So let’s get going!

Power BI – Weekly Service Update (Pin to Dashboard, Extending Power BI Pro Trial)

I have to say that they are rolling out service updates almost every week now. Which is great to see and shows the commitment from Microsoft to roll out changes and requirements from users.

In this week’s update it is good to see that there are now some additional options when creating new items to Pin to the dashboard. I do know in the past that I have often found it a little difficult to get the right dashboard item on the correct dashboard.

Also it is good to see that in some cases Microsoft will extend the trial by a further 60 days. As I have experienced in the past, you either do not have the dedicated time to try out a service when you sign up. Or you have not tested out all the features to make an informed decision. And I am pretty sure that after 120 days it will become clear that Power BI is fantastic and a great investment.

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

Power BI – Mobile App Update

It is great to see yet another update with the Mobile App for Power BI. They have made some great additions and improvements. I am looking forward to trying out the collaboration. As I often see that this is a feature that when used can really lead to some great conversations or a great way to promote some great work.

It is also great having the Single Sign On. As even though it does not take a lot of effort. We all enjoy not having to put in our username and password one additional time.

You can read about the additional details, updates and fixes here: What’s new on the Power BI Mobile apps?

Power BI – All About the Dashboards

The Power BI Dashboards provide a great platform for showing valuable information which can very quickly show you information that is important. As well as the dashboards can give you some insights into the underlying data.

And I do think that if you design a great dashboard, you are almost inviting the user to have a look around and interact with your data.

The blog post listed below, explains, shows and gives some great advice on how to build the ideal dashboard depending on what you are trying to display.

You can find out more details here: All About Dashboards

Power BI – Content Pack comScore

This week’s Power BI Content pack is comScore. It is another great content pack for customers and users who use comScore.

I do think that due to it being available on many different platforms there is the potential to provide some great insights into their data.

You can read all about it here: Visualize your comScore Digital Analytix data with Power BI

Cortana Analytics – Azure Data Catalog Overview

Even though Azure Data Catalog is currently available in preview, I do think that this is something that will be integrated into Cortana Analytics.

This is really a great and informative blog post by SQLChick (Melissa Coates) in terms of seeing and understanding how Azure Data Catalog works. This is something that I am interested in, as well as going to look into and see how we can leverage this within my work organization.

I have to say that it looks really good, simple to use, but at the same time making it really powerful at the same time. I also think that once this has been implemented it can really enable an organization to leverage off all their data investments, and allow the users to consume this data. Which in turn can lead to the business gaining more insights, which in turn will lead to better results!

You can find out more information here: Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

SQL Server 2016 – Tabular Model Parallel Partition Processing

Looking ahead to SQL 2016 they are putting in a lot of effort into the different BI components.

This is yet another great update and something that I am sure a lot of people have been asking for and hoping for it to be completed. As well know when we can do things in parallel it means that everything runs that much faster. And who does not like things going faster?

The great thing is that in SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular, there is nothing extra that you have to do in order to run it in parallel. As long as you have created your partitions you are good to go.

You can read all about it here: Parallel partition processing available for Tabular Models in SQL Server 2016 Preview

Office 2016 – Official Release Date 22 September 2015

I have to say that I cannot wait for Office 2016, in particular Excel 2016.

They have done some amazing updates and new additions specifically in Excel. I do know that as soon as I can get my hands on it, I will get it installed and working. And then try and get as many people as I can to also upgrade.

It is great to see that it is being released so soon, and I am sure that a lot of people have provided a lot of feedback and details for Microsoft.

So I am eagerly waiting for 22 September 2015.

You can find out more details here: Microsoft’s Office 2016: The new rules for the rollout, starting September 22

Project Prajna – Big Data Analytics Framework

The final thing to chat about today is Project Prajna.

It is good to see that the Microsoft Research’s Cloud Computing and Storage (CCS) group is working on getting the best out of the big data analytics as well as leveraging the big data storage all within one system.

This in my mind will make it easier and faster to gain really good insights into your big data investments.

It is interesting that they are building a platform where people can accesses it and develop using any .NET programming language. Which I am sure that there are a lot of developers who have experience in .NET, which means that they can leverage their existing experience directly into Project Prajna.

You can read more details about it here: Microsoft forges ahead with ‘Prajna’ big-data analytics framework for cloud services

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Collaboration, Mobile, Webtrends, Natural Language, Resizing Reports, Increased Limits, Dynamics AX Support) – SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.3 – APS Update 4 – Office 2016 (Updates, Publishing Directly to Power BI)

There is a whole stack of updates with regards to Power BI this week, as well as some other updates within the BI space.

I have to quickly point out that I was very fortunate to finally meet Jen Underwood. t (Twitter) It is really great to have the opportunity to have meet up with people that you have followed for so long, read up on all the great things that they have done. And the to finally meet them in person. I do not think that there are many industries where you can actually do this.

Ok enough about me and being star struck, let’s get back to all the BI goodness from the past week.

Power BI – Collaboration

I have to say that I think that this is a really great feature. Because you have already created the workspace within your Power BI Environment, ideally you want to know what other people are thinking and saying. And ideally you want to also be able to view the report to which they are referring to. This is a great way to keep everything in once place.

You can find more details about the Power BI Collaboration here: Collaborate with your Power BI group

Power BI – Mobile Updates

The Power BI team sure have been busy. In this past week they have also updated their Mobile app for Power BI. It is great to see that Microsoft is investing a lot of time and effort into the Mobile area. This really helps when you are showing people how awesome Power BI is, and you can just take your mobile device out of your pocket and quickly show them a Power BI report.

They have made a lot of changes and updates. The thing that I really like is that you can view the Excel files that are directly connected in your Power BI, as well as having the custom colors that you more than likely spent a little too much time just getting right. But at the end it makes for a great looking report.

You can read about it here: What’s new on the Power BI Mobile apps?

Power BI – Content Pack Webtrends

Here is another great Content Pack from the Power BI team and their partners. It is really great to see so many content packs available and I am sure that this is only the start. I am sure that at some point in time, there will eventually be a case where there will be a content pack which will make your life and the people who require some type of reports really happy.

The Webtrends content pack is a great way to see the visitors journey across all the different platforms that Web Trends monitors

You can read about it here: Visualize your Webtrends data in Power BI

Power BI – BI Weekly Service Updates

In the Power BI, BI weekly updates they have put in some great new service features.

The first one is that now they have put some more great work into the Q&A Natural Language engine. As per the blog post below, it now means that it makes it easier to see what other people have been asking in terms of questions. As well as to see what other people have pinned to their dashboard based on what Q&A questions were previously asked.

Next as per the screenshot above is the ability to change the view of your report. This is really great as everyone does not have the same screen size or resolution. So now you can change the view of your report, and then ensure if you know that it is going to be consumed by the mobile audience that it all fits in and looks good! We all like good looking reports.

And finally is that they have increased the limits for the data sets (200) and reports (200). Which is really great. Currently the only downside is that you will have to do quite a bit of scrolling if you have either that many datasets or reports. But I have no doubt that Microsoft will make this easier in due course.

You can read about it here: Power BI Weekly Service Update

Power BI – Dynamics AX Support

In my new role we are using Dynamics AX, and it sure would be great to have direct connectivity into Microsoft Dynamics AX.

It would mean that we could then create reports directly out of the Microsoft Dynamics AX cubes, which means that the users who need this vital information would be able to get the information that they require, when they want it. As well as across the different platforms.

I cannot wait for this to come out.

You can read about it here: Dynamics AX

SQL Server 2016 – CTP 2.3

Unfortunately, no nice picture for SQL Server 2016

But what I do want to highlight is that we are finally getting to see that BI is getting some love and attention in SQL Server 2016. I had no doubt that it was being worked on, but it is always nice to see something. It often gets me thinking of how best this can be used.

I would say that almost all of it relates to SSAS (SQL Server Analysis Services) Tabular and DAX. Which is great to see that SSAS is finally getting some attention. It is really a great product that is used on a daily basis On Premise. And to see that some of the features and work that has gone into Power BI, is making its way back to On Prem.

You can read about all the updates and details of SQL Server CTP 2.3 here: What’s New in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular models in SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.3

APS – Update 4

With regards to the Analytics Platform System, it is amazing to see how far the product has come. And it does appear that they are also starting to work at light speed, as they are doing with Power BI and SQL Server.

There are some great new updates which I will highlight here, with regards to PolyBase/Hadoop enhancements, T-SQL compatibility improvements to reduce migration friction from SQL SMP, Performance and OEM Hardware on AU4

You can read about it more in detail here: Analytics Platform System Update 4 Generally Available

Office 2016 – Updates

There has been a whole host of new updates and additions to Office 2016. And especially to Excel.

It is really great to see so many new features that are being incorporated and developed. To me personally it shows why Excel is used by so many people across the world, and with this continued investment they will continue to use Excel.

There are so many updates I cannot cover them all here but the three things that I want to highlight quickly is the ability to use your existing data to forecast what could potentially happen in the future. I think that this gives some great insight and is really easy to use.

Next is all the new chart types, which I know people have been asking for, for a long time. As well as being able to use them to show the data in a relevant manner. As we all know it is a lot easier to show things as a picture.

And finally is the ability to publish your Excel Workbook directly to Power BI. I think that it is really great and a smart move, because it allows the users to be able to take all their hard work, and then give them the ability to then leverage Power BI, enabling them to not only create amazing visualizations, but to also have a platform to share, collaborate as well as enable viewing on a mobile device.

You can read all about it here; What’s new for business analytics in Excel 2016

The future for me

I was reading through the email from The Databse Weekly and I saw an article from Paul Randal with regards to Paul being your mentor. This really got me thinking and where is my future within Business Intelligence (BI).

I really love what I do. I get great satisfaction and enjoyment when I can tell people a story about their data. Or show them insights into their data for the first time.

I find it easy to grasp new concepts and get it all working. I work entirely within the Microsoft BI toolset.

With the new Office 365 and Power BI offerings there is a whole new world to get my head around. It really excites me.

I have also started working for a BI consulting company and it equally exciting times here. They are looking to expand and really get into the Microsoft BI space. That’s where I come into the picture.

I feel that I am at the right place at the right time. In terms of using my existing knowledge within the Microsoft space, as well as enabling the consultancy to grow from strength to strength going forward.

This is where I feel that the being mentored by Paul Randal could get me onto the next level, which is where I want to go and where I will eventually get to. Being mentored by someone as knowledgeable and experienced means I can get there a little quicker!

So where do I see myself in the future?

I see myself learning and going to that next level. Enabling businesses to gain insights to their data faster and quicker than ever. As well as driving the BI consultancy to become the go to consultancy for Microsoft BI.

Sharepoint 2013 – refreshing excel workbook with direct connection to sql server analysis services (SSAS) cube

I have not blogged in a while, due to moving countries and starting a new job. So i do hope that this blog will help someone or let them know how easy it is to use SharePoint 2013 to refresh data in an Excel spreadsheet.

What I needed to do, was to use an existing Excel spreadsheet which connected directly to an SSAS cube. We then wanted SharePoint to manage the refreshing of the data. In the past I thought that this was only applicable to Power Pivot Excel workbooks, but after today I realized that you can do this directly to your SSAS cube.

 

Getting the location of where you will store your Data Connections in SharePoint

The first thing that you need to do, is to ensure that you have the location of where you want to store your Connection File in your Excel workbook.

You will also need to have the Data Connections created in your SharePoint site.

 

Example:

·         In our Example we are going to be connecting our Existing Excel Workbook, to a SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) cube, using a data connection that is stored within SharePoint.

·         Once we have created our connection, we are then going to use the PowerPivot Refresh within SharePoint to refresh our Excel Workbook from the cube.

 

Assumptions:

·         This is based on SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Edition and SSAS 2012

·         We are going to assume that you have already got your SharePoint site set up.

·         We are also going to assume that you have already created your Excel Workbook, which connects to a cube.

·         We are also going to assume that you have either created a Documents Library, or are going to use an existing Documents Library.

·         And then you have uploaded your Excel Workbook to your documents library.

 

 

NOTE: You will be required to have Owner rights to do the following below within your SharePoint site.

 

1.       Log into your SharePoint site and click on Site Settings

2.       Then click on Data Connections

a.       clip_image001

3.       Once this opens you will need to copy everything before the /Forms/AllItems.aspx

4.       As with our example we copied the following:

http://SharePointBIWebSite/sites/wcsa/Data%20Connections

5.       Now either save the above link or copy the link which will be used in the next steps.

 

Changing our Excel File to use the stored connection within SharePoint

1.       Open your Excel File from your SharePoint location

a.       NOTE: The easiest way is to navigate to where you have uploaded your Excel file and then say Open in Windows Explorer

2.       Then open it in Excel

3.       Then click on Data, and click on Connections

a.       clip_image002

b.      Then click on Properties

4.       Once the Connection Properties Window opens click on Definition

5.       Next what you need to do is where it says Connection Name, change this to something more meaningful and possibly shorter than the default.

a.       We changed ours to the following name:

b.      clip_image003

6.       Now at the bottom where it says Export Connection File click on the button

a.       clip_image004

7.       This will then open the File Save Window

a.       Now at the top where it asks you the location of where you want to save the file click on the Drop down in the Address Bar and put in the URL which we either saved or Copied in Step 4  above and paste it:

                                                               i.      clip_image005

                                                             ii.      Now where it says File Name you can either leave this with the default, but what I recommend is changing it to then match your Connection Name, as we did with our example:

1.       clip_image006

                                                            iii.      Then click Save

b.      This will then open the Web File Properties Window, where it asks for some more information.

                                                               i.      Once again we checked to ensure that our Title Matched our Connection File Name

                                                             ii.      clip_image007

c.       Then click Ok.

8.       Now when you go back to your Connection Properties Window you will now see that your connection File has changed to the location of our ODC which is saved to your SharePoint data connections site.

9.       The next thing that you need to do is to make sure you put a tick in the box, “Always use connection File

a.       NOTE: This is so that whenever and where ever the Excel spreadsheet is used it will always use this connection file

b.      NOTE 2: This is so that when it is uploaded or run from SharePoint it will then use the associated ODC file.

c.       clip_image008

10.   The next thing that you need to do, is to configure the Excel Services Connection.

a.       NOTE: This is required as part of SharePoint so that it can use an Excel Services connection to make the authentication to the SSAS Cube to actually refresh the data.

b.      NOTE 2: You will have to ensure that the person responsible for your SharePoint installation has configured the Secure Store Service (SSS), as well as that the domain account that is linked to the SSS has access to the SSAS cubes.

c.       Click on the Authentication settings.

                                                               i.      Now in the Excel Service Authentication Settings screen configure it with the following below

1.       clip_image009

2.       NOTE: The name of our SSS ID is ExcelDataConnection

                                                             ii.      Then click Ok.

11.   Now when you click OK it is going to go and refresh all your sheets within your current Excel Workbook.

12.   You can now save and close your Excel Workbook.

 

Configuring your Data Refresh in SharePoint for your Excel Workbook

In the steps below we will now configure our Excel Workbook to have a scheduled refresh, so that when people open it up it will have the latest data based on the refresh.

 

1.       Now go to SharePoint where you have got your Excel spreadsheet uploaded.

2.       Click on the Open Menu Ellipses, then the Ellipses again, and finally Manage PowerPivot Data Refresh

a.       clip_image010

3.       This will then open the Manage Data Refresh web page.

a.       You can then configure it with the following:

b.      Under Data Refresh, you must Enable it.

                                                               i.      clip_image011

c.       You can then select  your Schedule Details based on your requirements

                                                               i.      NOTE: If you want to test this now, you must select the Also refresh as soon as possible tick box

                                                             ii.      clip_image013

d.      For the Earliest Start time select when you want the data to be refreshed.

                                                               i.      clip_image014

e.      For the E-mail notifications, this is for people you want to notify if the refresh fails.

                                                               i.      clip_image015

f.        Under Credentials, this is where you MUST specify the same SSS that you configured in your Excel Authentication settings

                                                               i.      As with our example we put in the following:

                                                             ii.      clip_image016

g.       Then finally for the Data Source, it should be configured with your Existing Data source you configured earlier

                                                               i.      clip_image017

h.      Then click Ok.

4.       Now if you selected step 3c above, you can wait a few minutes and see if it worked by going back into Manage PowerPivot Data Refresh and you should see the following:

a.       clip_image018

5.       Now you have completed the data refresh when connecting to an SSAS Cube via SharePoint

SSAS – KPI’s – Example of creating a KPI

Based on the previous BLOG post <font color="#ff000, we are going to explain how to create a KPI

 

Example

·         Using our Internet Sales cube, we want to create a KPI in order to see if the guys are meeting their new target which is a 10% increase from their current sales.

·         So we will create a new KPI with the following:

o    The KPI Goal will be 10% greater than the current sales

o    The KPI Status will be if the KPI value is 100% greater than the KPI Value.

o    The KPI Trend will be based on the Previous Value selected from your Date Dimension using the Calendar Hierarchy

 

You can get a copy of this here: http://msftdbprodsamples.codeplex.com/releases/view/55330

·         I used the AdventureWorksDW2012 Data File and AdventureWorks Multidimensional Models SQL Server 2012

 

NOTE: We are using SQL Server 2014, and SSDT for Visual Studio 2013

 

 

1.       Go into the Adventure Works cube.

2.       Click on the KPIs and then select New KPI

a.        clip_image002

3.       Next we will give the KPI the following name and associate it to our Internet Sales Measure group

a.        clip_image004

4.       Now we will configure our Value Expression, which as per our example will be the Internet Sales amount

a.        clip_image006

5.       Next we will configure our Goal Expression which will be 10% greater than our Value Expression

a.        clip_image008

b.       NOTE: Due to using SSDT, the syntax is the following for the above:

Format([Measures].[Internet Sales Amount]*1.1,”$#,##0;($#,##0)”)

c.        NOTE: Because we are using a currency we formatted our Goal Expression so that when it displays it will display correctly.

6.       Next is the Status details.

a.        First what we did was to change the Status Indicator to a Shape as shown below:

b.       clip_image010

c.        NOTE: The reason that we did this, is so that when it is displayed in Excel you can see it easily based on the Shape Colour.

d.       Then for the Status expression we configured it with the following:

e.       clip_image012

f.         Here is the text below if this is not clear enough:

Case

    When KpiValue( “Internet Sales Growth” ) / KpiGoal( “Internet Sales Growth” ) >  1

    Then 1

    When KpiValue( “Internet Sales Growth” ) / KpiGoal( “Internet Sales Growth” ) <= 1

         And

         KpiValue( “Internet Sales Growth” ) / KpiGoal( “Internet Sales Growth” ) >= .85

    Then 0

    Else -1

End

g.        What we have done in the above Status expression is that if the growth is greater than 100% when comparing the Value to the Goal, then make the expression 1, which will make it green.

h.       What we have done in the above Status expression is that if the growth is less than 100%  but greater than 85% when comparing the Value to the Goal, then make the expression 0, which will make it yellow.

i.         Else it will be less than 85% in which case make it -1, which will make it red.

7.       Then for the Trend section we did the following:

a.        We changed the Trend indicator to the Status arrow.

b.       clip_image014

c.        NOTE: We did this so that when it is displayed in Excel it will display correctly.

d.       Then for the Trend Expression we configured it with the following:

e.       clip_image016

f.         Here is the text below if not clear enough

Case

    When (KPIValue(“Internet Sales Growth”),[Date].[Calendar].CurrentMember) >

         (KPIValue(“Internet Sales Growth”),[Date].[Calendar].CurrentMember.PrevMember)

    Then 1

    When (KPIValue(“Internet Sales Growth”),[Date].[Calendar].CurrentMember) <

         (KPIValue(“Internet Sales Growth”),[Date].[Calendar].CurrentMember.PrevMember)

    Then -1

End

g.        NOTE: What we are doing above is we are taking the KPI Value and comparing it to the previous member in our Date.Calendar Hierarchy.

                                                                i.      The reason with using the Date.Calendar Hierarchy is that we can use any member or part of the hierarchy, it will then compare that to the previous value.

1.       EG: If you use quarter it will compare quarters. Or if you compare Month it will then compare months.

h.       If it is better than the Previous then make the trend 1 or Green Arrow.

i.         If it is worse or lower than the previous, then make the trend -1 or Red Arrow.

8.       Now if you process your cube and view the results in Excel it will look like the following for July 2005, where we are using the Date.

a.        clip_image018