Hi All –
The Power BI Desktop September Feature Summary was released on 9/30 and like many of you I’ve been reviewing the updates and preview features. The announcement blog post provides details on all the features and the following video captures some of the highlights:
Feature Update Documents
I’ve updated the four documents that identify features/updates by month for Power BI Desktop since September of 2015 and uploaded them to a public GitHub repository:
Power BI Desktop Monthly Update Docs
Given the number of updates and length of these documents I’ve added links on the first page and page numbers in the footer to make it easier to navigate:
In Word, Ctrl+Click to use the links and go to View – Navigation to return to the header sections at the top of the document.
As mentioned previously these documents are only intended to provide a bare essential reference guide on the updates such as where to find them in Power BI Desktop, what problem they’re intended to solve, and what the feature looks like in PBIX. Please advise if you have trouble accessing or downloading the files.
I find that documenting each feature with my own examples is an effective way to learn and that having a consolidated reference can be all you need to quickly refresh your memory when you’ve been away from a particular part of Power BI (e.g. query editor) for several weeks so I’ll continue to update them each month.
PBI Desktop September Update Review
The update video above and the demonstrations at MS Ignite highlight the Visual and Analytical preview features (ArcGIS Maps, Mobile layout, Forecasting) and these are indeed important and exciting to see as a rich mobile experience, visuals and analytics all drive interest and adoption with BI decision makers.
This said, three other features I’m most pleased to see are the following:
- Query Dependencies View
Just as diagram view for SSAS Tabular and Power Pivot (relationships window in PBI Desktop) has been very important for modeling and self-service adoption of these tools, a design canvas for Query Editor and Power Query will likely help boost user adoption of these tools. This is especially true when a pilot/prototype becomes more complex and you need to review the project with others (e.g. working sessions) but not necessarily fully document it yet.Query Editor received several other enhancements this month that effectively make it easier to leverage the power of the M functional language without knowing or writing M. The process of composing small scale ETL processes that integrate parameters, queries, lists, scalar values and functions (or some combination thereof) is much simpler.
When and/or how Power Query technology will be available to SSAS, SSRS, and SSIS as had been previously suggested remains a mystery.
*A related question remains around the ability to migrate a PBIX file (with queries) to an SSAS Tabular project. The portability or path from Personal (Excel) to Team (SharePoint) to Corporate (SSAS) that Power Pivot always had doesn’t quite exist yet for Power BI Desktop.
- DirectQuery Support for Snowflake
I don’t have any immediate projects involving Snowflake as a data source but the continued investment in DirectQuery support for all major data sources (Amazon Redshift, Oracle, SAP HANA, etc) is very encouraging. This clearly seems to be one of the top trends in modern BI (e.g. enhanced clustered columnstore index in SQL Server 2016) – leave the data and query processing for the source system but expose a thin semantic model layer to client tools.
*I’ll be interested to see the DirectQuery sources supported list expand for SSAS Tabular (currently SQL Server (and APS and SQL DW), Oracle, and Teradata). In his presentation at MS Ignite, Marco Russo suggested the new SSAS Tabular (1200 compatibility) DirectQuery architecture should make support for more Direct Query data sources feasible.
- ‘Smart Typing’ in Dropdown Menus
It’s not sexy demo material like ArcGIS maps but for users and developers with PBIX files this is a very much appreciated feature. In just one example below, we need to look at the Brenda Morgan customer row in Query editor and only needed a few key strokes to get there. Without this feature, in many scenarios the user has to scroll around or type the full value exactly, wasting time and energy and potentially becoming frustrated.