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

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2 thoughts on “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)

  1. Hi Gilbert,
    I’ve been following your blog about a few month now and thanks for all you insights on PowerBI. I’m currently considering to make PowerBi a part of my business, being an independent MS Access developer in The Netherlands and dealing also a lot with BI-information.
    So far I’m impressed with the work that Microsoft has done in 2015 to make PowerBI a usefull tool. But, having said that, I also have some experiences with the company in Redmond introducing new software/tools and after awhile dropping further development of them ( MS Access and recently the RAD-tool Visual Studio LightSwitch ).
    The greatest concern with PowerBi is at this moment not being able to share a dashboard with someone outside your company, for example a client who doesn’t have the same email-domain as mine.
    And I understand that by fixing this issue the sales of new Office 365 will drop a little.
    As you probably know this issue has been voted the most ( over 4600 times) as being one that must be resolved by the PowerBI-team.
    The last comment of the team is dated 14 October 2015 and has the status “Started”. With all the new stuff that has been released the last two month they should also had enough time to fix this issue.
    So……with more then 4600 potential PowerBI-users…..why is it so silent on this matter???
    As you seem to have at least some contacts with the PowerBI-team or at least probably know the way to reach them better than I, can you please comment on this issue.
    Will there , in your opinion, be a satisfying solution tot his matter?

    I’m looking forward to your respons and keep up the good blog-work!!

    Regards

    Ruud Jeursen
    The Netherlands

    • Hi there Ruud,

      Many thanks for the comment and I will see what I can find out for you.

      I have also voted for the same request in Power BI, but as you correctly mentioned they have not actually started working on it. I would assume that it is possibly that they want to sell more Office 365 licenses, and this might be one of the ways of getting more revenue.

      As soon as I have any updates I will let you know.

      Regards
      Gilbert

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