Quick Measures and built-in calendars in Power BI

The April 2017 update to Power BI introduced a ground breaking feature: Quick Measures. This article discusses the Quick Measures that deal with time intelligence.

Currently there are five sections in Quick Measures Read more

Power BI PowerPoint Integration Arrives (ish)

Power BI has been on a roll recently, releasing a bunch of features that have overall strengthened Microsoft’s self-service business intelligence offering. It’s spiritual predecessor PowerView had a nice integration with PowerPoint. Now Power BI PowerPoint integration has arrived.

In the September update, we received a big upgrade to Power BI’s mapping capabilities through the introduction of ArcGIS maps. There has also been continued development around R integration within Power BI to better support the needs of customers requiring advanced analytics. You can now even connect to your preferred R IDE when developing R-based custom visuals or run an R script over your dirty data to impute missing values.

Power BI PowerPoint integration

n the last couple of days, Power BI has quietly released a feature that I personally think will get everyone excited and appeal to the masses – the ability to publish Power BI reports to PowerPoint with the click of a button! So lets get started on how you can find and use this new feature.

Open up a report in Power BI Online and click “File”. You will then see the screen below. Click the “Export to PowerPoint (Preview)” button to generate a PowerPoint file. It will contain a slide for each Power BI report page as well as a title slide containing information on when the data was last refreshed and the file downloaded.

Power BI PowerPoint Publishing

Power BI PowerPoint Publishing

Unfortunately, as you can see in the screenshot below, the end result is not what I expected. I would have liked to have seen a fully interactive experience that included the ability to use cross-highlighting/cross-filtering. It appears, for now at least, that the feature has fallen short of my expectations.

Power BI PowerPoint Publishing

Power BI PowerPoint Publishing

That being said, there are a few caveats, the first and biggest one is that this feature is in preview. We know from past experiences that Microsoft has been happy to ship features to Power BI that aren’t fully ready in the hope that they can leverage feedback from the community sooner rather than later. A recent notification from the Power BI team confirmed that this will be the case.

Publish-PowerBI-Report-Page-to-Powerpoint

The second caveat is that in this demonstration we have used some Agile BI magic behind the scenes which probably has caused some headaches for Power BI’s cookie cutter Power BI PowerPoint feature. I tested this hypothesis by exporting a more simplistic Power BI report and I’ll be honest, I was impressed with the results.

The moral of the story, keep it simple for now.

Publishing-Power-BI-Reports-to-PowerPoint

This feature will eventually end up becoming a main selling point of Power BI over its competitors, but it still has a long way to go.

I’ve found with some things in Power BI you just have to be patient. In 2-4 months time, this feature will be generally released and I’m going to assume that this feature will end up being a lot closer to our current expectations. To put things in perspective, it has been less than a year and a half since the launch of Power BI and it has already become one of the leaders in the self-service BI market according to Gartner. In my opinion, one of the reasons that people see strength in Power BI is that they know it will continue to grow and develop faster than any other self-service product. I hope it continues as it’ll mean we’ll be seeing more new and improved features like this one coming to Power BI soon.

Self Service BI state of the market November 2015

Trying to get actual usage figures of any self service BI tool is pretty difficult – none of the big vendors will willingly release figures – and if they did they’d probably be suspect.

But in analytics sometimes there are useful proxies which, while not as accurate as hard numbers, can give a useful perspective. In this case, we will use our friend, google trends:

A quick note on methodology – i’m only looking for Qlikview, Tableau and Power BI. Unfortunately IBM Watson and its variants throw up too much noise because it’s part of a broader platform. Also I restricted the search to the US because Tableau is also french for “Table” so a worldwide search gets noise from that as well.

Self Service BI State of the Market

What you can see is that Tableau are the clear leaders in the self service field, with Qlik and Power BI trailing quite far behind. But from this data we can get a bit more insight. First of all in the last two years the market has gone from about 262 searches per month to around 468 (rolling 3m avg) implying a year on year market growth of around 40%.

Next up if we look at market share rather than sheer numbers, we see something interesting. Tableau has consistently held about 80% of the market. Naturally at the start of 2014, when Power BI was in its infancy, Qlik held the balance. However post the public release of Power BI that share has been declining rapidly – Qlik now holds about 11% of the market and Power BI about 7% and growing fast. This seems to be a result of Qlik having fairly static volumes and Power BI consuming a greater proportion of the growth.

What does the future hold?

Based on trends to date I would make the following headline predictions for self service BI in 2016:

  • The Self Service market is set for continued high growth, with Tableau taking the lions share
  • Power BI will experience strong growth and will consume more market share
  • Qlikview may well be looking at a decline in not just market share but also volume

If you would like to know more, why not attend one of our Self Service BI workshops where we compare the tools. Check here for upcoming events: http://www.agilebi.com.au/events-list/

 

What are the differences between Power BI and Datazen?

datazen versus power bi

Ever since Microsoft announced that they acquired Datazen lots of people were not sure how Datazen fits into Microsoft BI and what the differences are between Datazen and Power BI as at first sight they seem to be similar tools.what the differences are between Datazen and Power

We from Agile BI researched and tested both tools. Here are our experiences:

Power BI:

Things that are good about Power BI:

+ Power BI offers a free option and a paid option with advantages such as being able to consume live data sources with full interactivity, access on-premises data using the Data Connectivity Gateways or collaborate with your team using Office 365 groups in Power BI.

+ The Power BI designer has a wide range of data sources to add such as Mailchimp or salesforce and they are about to release many more connectors in the coming months. The latest Data Connectors from July 2015 are appFigures, Quickbooks Online, Zendesk, Github, Twilio and SweetIQ.

+ Publish reports to PowerBI.com, directly from Power BI Desktop.

+ Power BI improved their report authoring with new visualisations such as Area Chart, Waterfall, Donut & Matrix. New visual formatting and customization options (labels, titles, background, legend, colours, etc.), insert Textbox and Picture in your report; Support for hyperlinks in reports and report tables; Undo/Redo actions.

+ PowerBI has a Question and Answer feature that can be very valuable for users who are not interested in diving into data sets, but who are looking for specific analytics, quickly.

+ The mashup data capability with the Power Query inside Excel or the Power BI Designer is a very important tool to search for data online or in your corporate data. Data can be imported to an Excel table. It is also possible to merge data replace values and other data modifications in a step-by-step process and rename columns. Also possible is the import of data to Power Pivot to work even more intense with your data.

+ Power BI Desktop provides you the safety that fields are correctly geocoded by setting the data category on the data fields. In Power BI Desktop, select the desired table, go to the Advanced ribbon and then set the Data Category to Address, City, Continent, Country/Region, Country, Postal Code, State or Province.  These data categories help Bing to correctly encode the date.

+ It is easy to share Dashboards and KPIs with each other. A tool that can be a big advantage regarding sharing things with each other no matter where you are.

+ Power BI offers an app for iOS, Windows and Android. This makes it possible to check your data everywhere, even on the plane to Sydney.

+ Power BI is available in 42 languages, which makes it working with companies overseas much easier and understandable.

+ Power BI developers are not sleeping and release almost daily new helpful features and corporations. Find the latest news here.

+ Power Bi offers a Microsoft support site. You can get help either from the community, blogs, documents or partner companies as we are. There is even a feedback opportunity.

 

Things that could be better about Power BI

– Power BI has limited visualisation for forecasting and statistical analysis.

– There seem to be some limitations in regards to being able to change credentials on a saved report.

– After our test Power BI was very slow when connecting to tabular SSAS cubes with over 50k rows.  When putting a filter against that dataset, it takes a long time to display.

– Also there is no ability to edit/alias the field names of SSAS tabular cubes like it is possible in Power Pivot.

– There are no horizontal slicers.

– Power BI could be more user friendly.

– We wish that Microsoft Power BI was more easily accessible. As it is now, it requires either Excel 2010 (free download), or an enterprise version of Excel 2013 (for either Professional Plus or 365)- unless you are willing to purchase a standalone version of Excel 2013. Even if there is added cost, Power BI should be made available to non-commercial users within a standard downloadable Office suite or within Office 365.

– An enhanced drag-drop like in Tableau would be an advantage.

 

Microsoft Datazen:

Things that are good about Datazen:

+ Power BI requires more technical skills to handle it, while Datazen is a tool that focused mainly on visualisations only which can make connecting to your data and creating a dashboard very easy, especially for people that want to have less technical effort.

+ Datazen publisher is for free. It is possible to download it from the Windows store and use local Excel files to create dashboards right away. But for sharing those dashboards or get data from your databases or other sources, access to a Datazen server is required.

+ Datazen is a mobile BI solution for customers who need a solution that is implemented on-premises and optimized for SQL Server. Data is routed through an on premise Datazen Server.

+ Datazen offers Native Apps for All Platforms and gives you offline access to your dashboard for all apps.

+ With Datazen it is easier to see straight away what the dashboard is going to look like. You can make the decision which charts, graphs or KPIs you want to see.

+ Custom shape files are handled easily and have a variety of built in maps.

+ If you own a SQL Server Enterprise license and software assurance Datazen Server is free of charge. Datazen publisher and viewer apps are also for free.

+ Datazen allows you to put your branding on top of your dashboards.

+ It is easy and very quick to create really nice Dashboards, but there are some limitations. See below cons of Datazen.

+ Team Collaboration with Datazen is possible as each Datazen KPI and dashboard includes a dedicated activity stream. Comments are ordered chronologically and contain context information, such as the value of the KPI at the moment when the comment was made.

+ If you want to refresh your data on a schedule there is an option for this.

 

Things that could be better about Datazen:

– Compared to the Power BI help tools on the internet via community or forum, Datazen offers almost no help online. It is hard to find information when you need help. Although here are some links where you possibly can find help. Datazen Support BlogMicrosoft Blog, Datazen website or Power Pivot Pro website.

– A small range of charts are offered by Datazen. Stacked bar is missing and line charts are limited. The colours of the charts and descriptions are hard to control, sometimes the ability toconfigure is simply missing.

– A scroll bar is missing at the data view, making it hard to use if there is lots of fields.

– Datazen is not a data discovery tool like Qlik or Tableau, it is focused on visualisation so you need to have your data organized in order to get the full effect or rely on what’s already in the data sources.

– The cross platform behavior isn’t always great as it didn’t work consistently between Windows, iOS and Android when we tested it.

– A Datazen Server is required to get data from other sources than local Excel files because almost every data source, except for local excel files has to be routed through Datazen Server. Here is some technical effort needed, when you have to produce a custom query for every data set that you want to expose to the users.

– The Datazen Publisher app is available for Windows 7 since the 9th of July 2015, but runs on Windows 7 very unstable and is not recommended. We recommend to run the Publisher app on Windows 8.

 

Our hints for users: Datazen is the easy to handle tool for less technical users that want to create easily nice dashboards and share them, especially for mobile users. But if you want to build your own data models or use your technical skills to sort data and fill it into the program, Power BI is the right choice. What Datazen definitely is missing is the big online community that Power BI has. This can either be because Microsoft focuses more on Power BI or not enough people are using Datazen yet to build such as community.

Check out how one of our customers, a leading vehicle manufacturer implemented Datazen successfully.

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The Question of the day: Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Qlik View or IBM Watson – Which one is the easiest program to make presentations for my marketing and sales team?

We from Agile BI hold lots of events and workshops during the year. We love to teach and inspire our attendees. But we also love the fact that we get at every workshop something back – feedback, contacts or inspiring questions. After every workshop our team comes together again and reflects the workshop. At this point we choose the most inspiring question from one of our attendees that we answer here again with some additional material. Either our attendees from our last workshop can read it again or our community gets new information.

 

The question of the day was at our Self-Service Data Analytics sessions where we informed attendees about the capabilities of Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Qlik View and IBM Watson. We had four speakers who are very experienced with these four products and gave a good overview and insights.

One of our attendees described the following company situation and asked the following question after the presentations at our Q&A session:

question-of-the-day

“My organisation wants to get hands on data very quickly. Especially my sales and marketing team who have already had some training with programs and came back to get help from the IT guys in saying they have no time to learn too technical things – they want something easy to use. If I want to have a program that is pretty straight forward, where our employees can drag and drop and create some presentations very quickly which would be the easiest program for that?”

The answers of our presenters was that for Power BI and IBM Watson there are no technical skills needed. In terms of modelling Power BI is recommended as it is easy to use. It is possible to customize dashboards. If you want to see a certain info in the program it is possible to resize and change it very easily and you can ask questions in the program to give you the answer you are looking for.

Regarding learning curve, all the tools were very agreed to be quick to get started with, but they all ramped up in complexity once users want to do more advanced visualisations or data modelling. Power BI and Watson were the easiest to get started with, and for more advanced Data Modelling Power BI (though PowerPivot) was considered to be the easiest for inexperienced users. For advanced visualisations Tableau delivered the best results, but that came at a cost of time invested to make those visualisations.

If you have additonal questions contact us or come to our second Self-Service BI session on the 22nd Of October.