The Microsoft Power BI platform continues to grow rapidly with many new enhancements coming in April 2019. Here we’ll do a quick review on what’s coming to help you get up to speed on changes and features that might help your organization. If you’re new to the concept, BI stands for Business Intelligence, a technology driven, often interactive, process of providing information to corporate management and end users to guide business decisions. Components of BI include reporting, analytics, data mining, and performance indicators.
Improved Relationship View
When authoring complex reports that contain numerous tables and fields going into the hundreds, the difficulty in maintaining and visualizing all the relationships on a single diagram quickly becomes extremely difficult. The improved relationship view will let authors break down subsets of table relations into separate diagram layers relevant to a subject area and quickly switch between them. Another new feature of this review is to select multiple fields objects and set properties to all the selected fields at once instead of having to select and edit each one individually. The next major new feature is a new “Display Folder” property that lets report authors organize fields into folders which greatly helps in finding and selecting fields, avoiding large flat field lists.
New Filter Experience
Improvements to the filter experience for end users were made available for preview in November 2018 and is now available for general release. These charges are primarily aimed at giving end users a better understanding of how filters are affecting the visual and providing authors improved control over the look and feel of filters. New features include:
- Hiding of filter cards included in the report from end users.
- Hiding of individual filters in the report or the entire filter pane from end users.
- Applying filters that are locked from change by end users.
- Formatting of the filter pane to make it appear like part of the report design.
- Setting the default experience as expanded or collapsed.
- Searching of filter values.
- Sorting and reordering of filter cards.
- Additional formatting capabilities.
- Visual of applied filters and slicers (see image below).
Power BI Home and Global Search
Improvements to the Power BI Home and Global Search released for preview in October 2018 are now in general availability. These include:
- Showing of workspaces on the Power BI Home in Favorites & Frequents and in new workspaces based on how frequently a user accesses the content.
- Support for more visual types in the pinned tiles area.
- Improved organizational branding that allows for customization of the background image, color, and default content in the pinned tiles area.
- Customization of documentation links displayed under the “Learn how to use Power BI” section.
- Migration of featured dashboards to make Power BI Home the default landing page for users.
Power BI Workspace Improvements
New Power BI workspaces are available with a new viewer role for users who need to have a read-only view of workspace content, quick access from “Get Data” to file locations for fast importing of reports, usage metrics, and support for SharePoint Web.
Email Subscription Enhancements
Email subscriptions is being enhanced to allow scheduled distribution of emails at specifies times of day outside of the dataset refresh scheduler, support for paginating reports with attachments in the support formats, and the customization of parameters and filters of paginated reports for the specific audience.
New Premium Metrics
Power BI Premium now includes new capacity metrics for admins to view the usage and state of Premium nodes which includes the display of query metrics, duration, wait times, top datasets, and query histograms. Futures releases will add metrics for total active dataset, active memory, load and wait times, and failures.
End users can now add comments directly to reports on specific visuals with @ mentions. Mentioned recipients get notifications and can access the report with the same filters and slicers used when the comment was made and give feedback.
SAP Variable Support
Power BI connectivity to SAP Business Warehouse (BW) and SAP HANA will be enhanced to support variables and parameters defined in SAP objects when connecting using DirectQuery. Users accessing the report can now make selections that set the values passed to SAP.
Additional Power BI Geo-Regions
Organizations that use Power BI with Azure data services can now benefit from more locally accessible data from geo regions for when using Power BI Premium Multi-Geo. Power BI customers will automatically be placed in new regions based on tenant location. New geos for Power BI now exist for Korea, France, South Africa, and the UAE.
Power BI Dataflows
Dataflows help your organization combine access of data from different sources for modeling. These are used to consume and transform big data through methods such as data source connections, ETL, and refresh schedules. This data becomes common data model folder entities in Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 which is ready for use by Power BI. Over 40 kinds of connectors exist for popular sources such as SQL Server, Oracle, Excel, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Dynamics 365, and Salesforce.
Dataflow entities stored in Azure common data model (CDM) folders can be transformed, enriched, and aggregated into new computer entity CRM folders which are updated in optimal order using analysis of Power Query M expressions.
For organizations using Power BI Premium, dataflows can access premium level storage up to 100TB per P1 node as well as dedicated storage and advanced metrics for managing utilization. Power BI Premium also allows incremental refresh of dataflows for optimal ongoing data refreshing and linking of entities between dataflows without duplication.
Azure Machine Learning Integration
Power BI can now access and invoke Azure Machine Learning functions. These functions will be automatically displayed in Power Query Online and Power BI Desktop for users with access to those functions. Organizations using Power BI Premium will also be able to invoke Azure Cognitive Services for detection of key phrases, languages, and sentiment analysis. Additional Cognitive Services will be made available to Power BI future releases.
Key Influencers Insight
A new visual named Key Influencers is available that gives insight in what increases or decreases the chance of a business event or changes a KPI. This view utilizes machine learning to generate, rank, and describe these influencers. Users of this view can drill down to see the distribution of data within each and data updates in real time.
Three enhancements have been made to Q&A. The first provides automatic suggested questions to Q&A users to help first time users understand the range of questions they can ask. The second enhances how Q&A helps users with spelling errors and ambiguity in questions by assisting with a “Did you mean” prompt to help correct, clarify, and confirm questions. The third enhancement allows Q&A to accept natural language questions in the context of part questions to keep responses in a narrower scope.
Power BI now supports the use of Python 3.X scripts and visuals inside Power BI Desktop. Support includes five of the most commonly used Python packages with additional support to be added in future releases.
Business to Business Support
Organization can now take advantage of Azure Active Directory B2B integration in collaboration with Power BI to allow users to distribute and share Power BI apps, reports, and dashboards to business users outside of their organization. For mobile uses, the Power BI Mobile app will allow external users access to apps through “shared artifact” email links.
BI Desktop Visual Policy and Usage
Two new enhancements will allow greater admin control over visuals. The first makes the custom visuals setting in the admin portal applicable to Power BI Desktop using group policy. The second lets admins limit usage of visuals to only those certified in the marketplace.
Custom Visual Favorites
Report creators can now pin custom visuals to the visualization pane which can then be saved side-by-side with any “pre-packed” visual and avoid having to repeatedly download custom visuals for each report.
Follow the link to learn more about all upcoming Power Platform releases.
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