Highlights from the 2019 Microsoft Business Applications Summit
Last month I attended the Microsoft Business Summit in Atlanta where attendees received a sneak peek into the 2019 roadmap for Power BI. Microsoft has been making tremendous gains with Power BI, introducing new features and functionality that consistently position the tool as a top competitor in the data and analytics market. Here are some of the key observations from Microsoft’s Roadmap presentation and what we can soon expect from Power BI.
Paginated, or pixel perfect, reporting is now available as part of the Power BI Premium service. These reports can be printed or shared, and email subscriptions can be setup for users to access a PDF attachment of the report at daily, weekly, or even hourly intervals.
The dataflow engine was on full display during the Summit, and Microsoft is clearly banking on its integration being key to future state Power BI development. The dataflow engine is being positioned as a self-service data prep solution in which complex data logic can be built by report creators. From what we saw, dataflows were being touted as the means for data prep instead of going a multidimensional or tabular route for back end deployment. Because dataflows are a relatively new offering, we’d caution against moving over all your ETL logic until it has been firmly tested in the market. The dataflow engine is available to use as a self-service data prep or ETL tool for disparate data sources. ETL logic, scheduled refreshes and data lineage can all be effectively maintained and built within dataflows.
For many tabular or analysis service clients, dataflows integration to Power BI could mean a shift to an entirely new way of building their applications. Instead of building all the underlying data logic within Analysis services, dataflows could serve as the means to accomplish data prep and ETL for Power BI applications.
This was a unique product roll-out in that it directly tries to address the “single source of truth” paradigm that’s commonly encountered in BI deployments. A shared and certified dataset is a single dataset that has been vetted and approved by an organization and can be used by multiple reports across workspaces. Owners can see into the downstream use of these shared datasets and where they’re being used.
With the proliferation of applications and reports, data governance has grown in importance across organizations. Shared and certified datasets may very well help drive the future state definition of “single source of the truth” within BI reporting.
One of the more unique front-end visualizations being rolled out is the Q&A visual. Similar to ThoughtSpot, the visualization allows users to ask questions about their data, whereupon a visual representation of the “answers” is returned. One particularly unique attribute about this visual is that admins can view all the user generated questions being asked.
There were several changes on the UI that will enhance user experience. Integration of PowerPoints and Word Documents within reports, corporate branding, and “fast change” functionality to change visual types on the front end were just a few to call out. Scrollable sections was another unique front end change that would allow users to group certain sections of visuals as scrollable while certain sections would remain static in place. Revamped theme galleries, the ability to change font, colors, and bolding within visualizations, and collaborative comments across users on applications are also great additions to the product.
Confidentiality around data is a chief concern of business users and Microsoft sought to address this by assigning “sensitivity” levels around data sets. Admins can assign a sensitivity level to applications depending on the confidentiality of the data. When a user attempts to export data, the restriction policy will hold in Excel and only users with permissions will be able to access this data.
To learn more, you can watch the Power BI roadmap and vision event on demand.
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