Sydney Power BI User Group

PBI_UserGroup_v2 (2)

We are excited to announce that our user group was one of the very few selected from across the world to be a launch partner for the newly formed Power BI User Groups! (PUGs) This partnership will allow our group to receive support from the Power BI team in the way of exclusive perks, contests, content, swag and more!
As well, because the Power BI group is data driven, we will be providing statistics about our meetings and content it can be aggregated with the other PUG
statistics. We will have Power BI dashboards and reports to evaluate trends and patterns that are most popular for the successful PUGs across the world. You will also play a key role in those statistics. The more we participate the more perks we earn as a group and as individuals!
As we are a launch partner, there will be a lot of flexibility and we play a key role in shaping the Power BI User Group Program, so feel free to share your feedback on our group page and with our leaders.
We would like to encourage you to show your support, tweet about it (don’t forget to use #powerbi for MS amplification) and visit this link now to claim your badge on the Power BI Community. We look forward to this exciting journey of being a Power BI User Group.

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, 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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Iman Eftekhari, Agile BI co-founder and principal consultant speaks about loT and Cortana Analytics at Microsoft in Denmark.

Internet of Things (loT) is now even more practicable with the power of the cloud analytics. Now with Cortana Analytics which have included components across a broad set of Azure Services, Power BI and APIs, you can connect your sensors and devices to the cloud to do more intelligent stuff and “Connect the Dots”. In this session you will get an overview of the capabilities in Cortana Analytics, and Iman will show you an outlook of the future. Find here the event link.

Microsoft Cophenhagen

Why Cortana Analytics is such an impressive tool?

(1) Analytics that enables action

Take action ahead of your competitors by going beyond looking in the rear-view mirror to predicting what’s next. Enhance your business applications with machine intelligence to evolve from simple descriptive analytics to prescriptive recommendations.


  • Predict: Predict what will happen with state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms
  • Prescribe: Augment and improve your decision making processes with proactive alerting and recommendations on actions to take
  • Automate: Simplify and automate decision making when dealing with complex problems that involve multiple variables that may change in real time

(2) Perceptual intelligence

Interact with customers and stakeholders in new ways and infer intent with vision, face, speech, text and sentiment analysis to customise responses and drive appropriate actions.

  • See: Recognise your users and customers with face detection, identification and verification. Recognise objects within images to tailor your responses to your customers
  • Hear: Add speech recognition and response to your applications and translate spoken words into intent to drive actions needed for the business
  • Read: Understand and analyse text, e.g. customer feedback on your site or forum, to determine overall sentiment and key phrases

(3) Fast and flexible

Why start from scratch when you don’t have to? Build with partner solutions for your industry or extend our basic building blocks to tailor the solution to your specific needs.

  • Get started quickly: Build on top of industry-specific partner solutions or customise machine learning models, APIs and templates from our Solutions Gallery
  • Use all your data: Connect to and get value from data of any volume, variety and velocity both on premises and in the cloud
  • Open and extensible: Empower your organisation to work with the languages and frameworks they already know and use like R, Python and Hadoop

(4) Secure and scalable

Your business needs will grow over time; so should your infrastructure. Continue to get value from your data in a secure, compliant and scalable way.

  • Secure: Keep your customers’ data safe on a trusted and secure cloud platform with encrypted communications, threat management, mitigation practices and regular penetration testing
  • Compliant: Ensure infrastructure compliance with your industry through our broad set of compliance standards such as ISO 27001, HIPAA, FedRAMP, SOC 1 and SOC 2
  • Scalable: Elastically scale to petabytes of data as your business needs grow over time, while keeping the flexibility and choice to manage multiple data repositories in the cloud

(5) Personal digital assistant

Integrate with Cortana, your truly personal digital assistant. Cortana works with the Cortana Analytics Suite to enable your business, and your customers’ businesses, to get things done in more helpful, proactive, and natural ways.

  • Helpful: By intelligently learning about your business needs over time, Cortana becomes increasingly helpful when it comes to connecting data into intelligent action.
  • Natural interaction: Interact with you data with natural language and speech, through Cortana.
  • Proactive: Always looking out for you and your customers, Cortana can analyse business and customer data to pro-actively suggest helpful actions, trends and insights.

Ask us for more information about Cortana Analytics here.

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Finally, Power BI general availability on the 24th of July

Power BI general availability

Self Service Business Intelligence is the holy grail for many organisations. The ability to let users explore data by themselves and “cut the cord” with the IT department enables data driven decision making to improve business processes and identify new opportunities.  Microsoft’s vision is cloud based, mobile friendly and priced very competitively – Power BI general availability was announced for the 24th July

After half a year with the beta version, Microsoft announced last Friday the good news and also added a full list of new features and capabilities.

Some of the exciting news are:

Power BI Desktop:

Currently the Power BI Designer is the preview of the Power BI Desktop. Contacts us for a free demo.

This is Microsoft’s new interactive reporting tool that includes powerful new visual data exploration and formatting.

The Power BI Desktop will be enhanced to include:

  • New visualizations including matrix, area, waterfall, and donut charts.
  • New visualization formatting such as color setting, titles, labels, and legends.
  • New data source support with Zendesk, Intuit Quickbooks Online, AppFigures, GitHub, Twilio, and SweetIQ.
  • Direct connection to SQL Server Analysis Services tabular models for data exploration.

Power BI web authoring and data exploration enhancements

The Power BI service has been enhanced with increased web-based authoring capability making it easier to create and format visualizations for dashboards and reports though the browser.

Power BI as an open source project

Microsoft is opening its commercial grade visualization framework and visuals built on D3.js, enabling customers and partners to easily extend and build custom visuals which will be available to use in Power BI in your dashboards, reports and content packs.

Power BI connects to other services

Due to his corporations with other companies, Power BI can easily connect to other services. A subscriber to a supported service can quickly connect to their account from Power BI and see their data through live dashboards and interactive reports that have been pre-built for them. One of them is the corporation with Mailchimp or Salesforce.



Direct connection to Apache Spark

Power BI users can connect directly to SQL Server Analysis Services, Azure SQL Database, and Azure SQL Data Warehouse, querying live against these data sources. Power BI now extends this support to Apache Spark for Big Data scenarios. Big data can be directly accessed with connected dashboards and reports that query live to the data from the popular Apache Spark open source framework.

Direct connection to Apache Spark

And here is a full list of features that will be available in Power BI

  • Globally available and localized to 44 languages
  • New visuals – Tree Map, Combo Chart, Funnel, Gauges, Area Map, Waterfall, Donut, Area Chart, Matrix and others.
  • Team collaboration and enhanced Excel support
  • Significantly enhanced Power BI Desktop (renamed from Designer)
  • Native touch optimized mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows
  • Rich control over visual coloring, including conditional formatting in Reports
  • Visual formatting and customization  in Reports (Title, Background Color, Legend, Data Labels, and X/Y axis for Cartesian charts)
  • Support for Hyperlinks in Reports and report tables
  • Report publishing directly from Power BI Desktop to the service
  • New styling, look and feel
  • Simple and categorized Get Data Experience
  • A dozen ISVs delivered content packs for Power BI, providing rich, out-of-the-box reports and dashboards for a variety of popular business services (Acumatica, appFigures, Google Analytics, MailChimp, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, QuickBooks Online, SQL Server Database Auditing, SweetIQ, Twilio, UserVoice, Visual Studio Online)
  • Four direct query sources enabling users to build Power BI reports and dashboards without the need to move data (Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, SQL Server Analysis Services, Spark on Azure HDInsight)
  • Easy import of CSV files
  • Support for connecting and refreshing from on-Premises data sources
  • Enhanced data modeling in Power BI Desktop  (Calculated Columns, Data Categorization, Smart DAX Formula Editor, 12 new DAX functions)
  • Enhanced data transformation and mashup capabilities in Power BI Desktop with ten new transformation functions
  • Direct report exploration over Analysis Services tabular model from Power BI Desktop
  • Building and publishing Organizational content packs
  • Power BI Groups to enable collaboration on a jointly owned set of datasets, reports and dashboards
  • Browser rendered Excel reports in Power BI
  • Power BI REST API
  • Support for real time dashboards over massive data streams through Azure Stream Analytics
  • Open source Power BI visualization stack to enable Developers to starting building custom visuals
  • Developer samples and test bed for getting started quickly using the REST API
  • New community forum site at
  • Many, many more small but impactful enhancements sprinkled all across the product


Also the Power BI app for Android is now available

Power BI Android App

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MailChimp Power BI helps you visualising your email Data

MailChimp Power BI – working together beautifully!

We from Agile BI always knew that Power BI is amazing. But now even more amazing things are possible with the corporation of MailChimp and Power BI.

MailChimp: More than 8 million people and businesses around the world use the popular tool to send their marketing emails, automated messages, and targeted campaigns. So do we soon for our fortnightly newsletter.


Power BI: Helps you to share, find and visualise.

These two programs in connection help you to visualise your data as you have never seen it before.


This is the dashboard you will see when you have provided credentials and given MailChimp access to Power BI.

Businesses can analyse their data now like data scientists. There are no coding skills necessary. Each tile in this colourful puzzle as you can see in the pic above lets you dig deeper into data heaven and visualises it in a manner that is easily understood.


  • Four pages of reports will be provided from Power BI.
  • Cross filter between particular entries like product name and visualise it by other selections.
  • For customisation use the “pinning” option for certain entries and load them to the dashboard. Resize them and edit them as often as you want.
  • On top of the dashboard is also a question box located to ask questions about your data. Try “Show total emails by campaign title” or “Show total clicks by location on a map”. Those results can also be pinned to your dashboard.


You want to visualise in which area the email subscribers are most engaging? There is a map for it!

The corporation of Power Bi and MailChimp helps you to keep focused on your most important email data metrics and gives you an easy understandable and visualised insight in your data.

Agile BI will switch soon because of this new incorporation from our existing platform to MailChimp to enjoy these advantages.

We from Agile BI support you to gain information about Power BI with the following options:

  • Come to one of our introductory or intermediate Power BI workshops in Sydney. The next one happens soon. Agile BI Power BI workshops
  • Or we come to you and show you in a Power BI demo session what is possible

Contact us for more information:

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How do you make sure your BI Strategy works?

The beauty of “strategies” for some is that a strategy – unlike a tactic – often doesn’t come with any clear success / fail KPI’s. It allows a lot of wriggle room for ambiguous assessments of whether it worked or not. However any self-respecting BI strategy should not allow this. After all, it is in the name of improving the use of data and measurable outcomes within an organisation. A good BI strategy should have measures to determine its success.

What metrics matter for a BI Strategy?

Commonly raised metrics are based around uptake and usage (BI software vendors are particularly fond of these) – based on the hope that the apparent usage of BI is inherently a good thing for a company that will somehow lead to – I don’t know – increased synergy?

Dilbert Utilising Synergy

Dilbert Utilising Synergy

Sometimes they are measured around data coverage by the EDW or project completion.  However, if I was to put my CEO hat on, I would want to know the answer to the question “how are all these BI users improving my bottom line?”. After all, if the BI tool is being heavily used, but only to manage the footy tipping competition, then I’m not seeing a great deal of ROI.

The metrics that matter are the Corporate metrics.

A good BI Strategy should be implemented with a core goal of supporting the Corporate strategy, which will have some quantifiable metrics to align to (if not, a good BI strategy isn’t going to help you much as your organisation has bigger problems). In a simple case, imagine a key part of the strategy is to expand into a new region. The BI strategy needs to support that by providing data that supports that goal, BI tools to enable the team in the new region to expand – and should be measured against its ability to support the success of the corporate strategy.

This is why at Agile BI, our first step in defining a BI Strategy for an Organisation is to understand the Corporate Strategy, and its associated metrics, so we can align your BI strategy to it and create a business case to justify why you need to embark on a BI strategy in the first place. The metrics are the foundation that prove that there is deliverable value to the business, and why the Corporate Strategy sits at the top of our Strategy Framework:

Agile BI Strategy Framework

Agile BI Strategy Framework

Do you need help with getting your BI Initiative off the ground? Contact us now:

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