Windows Cortana for Power BI

Power BI Everywhere

One of the most attractive features of Power BI is just how ubiquitous the service can be. It can be tightly controlled and narrowly distributed such as only via the browser and mobile app to select users (e.g. pilot projects, early stages of large deployment) or it can also be embedded in corporate apps and portals, 3rd party cloud-based business apps via Power BI embedded, analyzed in Excel, published publicly via Publish to Web, and Power BI content can also soon be built into Reporting Services (2016) portals, SharePoint sites, and PowerPoint decks. The upshot is having a centrally managed, cloud hosted, consolidated hub of information serving business users with context-specific insights eliminating the need to juggle between apps and devices to be productive.

 Windows Cortana for Power BI

Windows 10 Cortana integration with Power BI is a great example of this omnipresent ‘insights now’ capability. If you haven’t already explored this feature, and you have Windows 10 and can obtain the necessary rights/permissions to enable Cortana on a dataset(s) of interest, you might give it a try with a few of your users. Essentially, once a dataset is enabled for Cortana and your Power BI work account is added to Windows 10, you can directly query Power BI hosted datasets via the Cortana search bar with Natural Language semantics. (See: Official Steps to Enable Cortana for Power BI)

 Examples: Wide World Importers and Weight Loss Datasets

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As you can see from the slideshow, Cortana associates my search with DAX metrics that are contained within the Wide World Importers dataset or the WeightLossTrend dataset – both Power BI datasets (not local). Click the Power BI icon, and the results (the evaluation of the DAX metric) are returned from Power BI to Windows.

From what I can determine, you can’t currently pass a full or more complex Natural Language query via Cortana. For example, I can’t have Cortana break down sales profit by state and filter by a specific fiscal quarter like you can with Q&A in the Power BI Service per the following image:


It appears that Cortana only returns a single metric or a list of dimension members, not multiple metrics or a combination of metrics and dimensions. Maybe this will be improved in the future to align the experience with the Power BI service. (It would also be very cool to pin Cortana search results to a ‘Windows PBI dashboard’ or just the Start menu such that the Windows tiles are always updated with the PBI Service.)

Note: Had I supplied report page metadata Cortana may have been able to retrieve a report page’s visuals:


Wrapping Up

With a vast base of corporate Windows 10 users Cortana for Power BI provides a very convenient supplement to the several other Power BI consumption options. In many scenarios, a business user simply wants to see 1 or 2 metrics (e.g. yesterday’s order count) quickly and would prefer to type the metric (or synonym) directly from Windows rather than log into Power BI or launch the mobile app though of course these options may be necessary for further analysis. To get started very quickly, before the user even knows anything about Power BI dashboards, workspaces or content packs or even how to sign in, you could simply provide a list of metric names for them to use with Cortana. If your dataset contains relevant metrics, particularly user or role specific metrics, this alone could help build interest and momentum.

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