Microsoft has announced its plans for the first release wave of 2020.

This article outlines key changes coming to Microsoft’s suite of business analytics tools, Power BI. The new features coming in the April release can broadly be split into four key areas: self-service analytics; a unified BI platform; big data analytics; and pervasive artificial intelligence.

1.    Self-service analytics

To create an inclusive data culture, everyone within your organisation needs to be empowered to work with data. Microsoft appreciates this and is therefore investing in building simple, intuitive user experiences that are deeply integrated with Office 365.

Personalised views

An exciting feature coming is the ability for end-users to personalise their view of the visualisations within a report. This empowers users that don’t have access to edit reports to tweak the visuals presented to them.

Slicers

Developers who use Power BI will enjoy another sought-after functionality within Power BI’s slicers. Slicers will support hierarchies, making it easier for users to drill through and filter their reports on hierarchies within their data, all from one menu. Designers can reduce the clutter of multiple slicers within their reports and offer their users a far more intuitive experience.

Other apps

Microsoft has also looked to further extend Power BI’s usability with other applications. It will now be possible to directly copy and paste visualisations from a Power BI report into other applications such as Microsoft Teams. The visual will retain all settings and formatting from the report as well as providing a link to the report of origin. This makes it even easier to bring others into your data conversations.

2.    Unified BI platform

With Power BI, organisations can create global, governed, scalable, secure and unified BI platforms. The benefits of using one modern, compliant platform largely outweigh multiple siloed systems that are detrimental to an open data culture and hold back data maturity.

Enriched but controlled reports

Organisations should strive to provide centralised and certified datasets for their users to utilise when developing reports. The ability to create composite models will allow authors to connect to Azure Analysis Services data models or Power BI certified data sets (moving into general availability in April) and either extend them with their own custom measures or combine them with other imported data. This empowers users to enrich their reports with additional data whilst leveraging controlled data sets.

Data lineage

Power BI reports can span multiple data sources, artefacts and dependencies. Getting a clear view of the data lineage in projects is key to:

  1. The smooth running of work processes
  2. Better managing existing dependencies
  3. Understanding the potential impact of planned changes in a project
  4. Determining the data lineage for important business KPIs.

Microsoft is introducing a new experience for visualising data lineage between different Power BI artefacts within a workspace and cross-workspace dependencies, as well as deriving impact analysis for shared datasets.

In addition, APIs to extract lineage information will be supported. This new functionality will make it easier for users to monitor and track their data sources and ensure that they remain in optimum condition for reporting.

Sensitive data

Entering general availability is the ability for administrators to set permissions for the exporting of files from Power BI, as well as having clear oversight of the sensitive data sitting within Power BI and those actively accessing that data.

3.    Big data analytics

As your data continues to grow in size and complexity its important to ensure you invest in a solution that is easy to use, fast and secure. Microsoft’s investment in petabyte-scale analytics makes Power BI and Azure an unmatched combination.

Azure Synapse

Azure Synapse connections will automatically create and manage materialised views on larger Power BI models based on their usage volume and their query pattern.

DirectQuery

From April Power BI dataflows will also support DirectQuery capabilities. This feature will allow designers to utilise dataflows without having to worry about importing massive amounts of data into reports.

4.    Pervasive artificial intelligence

The built-in AI capabilities of Power BI are invaluable in exploring data, identifying patterns and predicting future outcomes. Microsoft continues to invest in AI in and has further extended the capability of the existing suite of AI-driven visualisations.

The key influencer and decomposition tree visualisations will now work in DirectQuery mode and with the new composite models. This allows them to be leveraged more extensively, especially within reports consuming high volume data sets and utilising direct query.

Is your organisation already using Power BI and wants to improve its use of the system? Incremental’s training sessions are the perfect way for your users to upskills and stay up-to-speed on all the latest product updates. Find out more about Incremental’s upcoming training days. Discover our other Power BI services here.