Power BI Dashboards: Dashboarding Made Simple

December 21st 2014

Microsoft's latest announcement that there are new features available for Power BI is exciting news. The part I'm going to focus on is the new Power BI Dashboards feature.

Why are Power BI Dashboards Exciting?

Power BI Dashboards, for the first time, make creating a dashboard incredibly simple - something anyone can do with minimal IT experience.

The first thing I did after I signed up for the dashboard preview was upload an Excel spreadsheet I had built earlier, complete with a data model and Power View sheets embedded inside it. Power BI loaded my data model and transferred my existing Power View sheets to the web seamlessly.

Choosing a spreadsheet to load data from. Note that data can also be loaded from SQL Server Analysis Services (tabular), Dynamics CRM, Salesforce or from a new Power BI Designer File (which opens up access to any other data source not directly supported including SQL Server and SSAS (OLAP))

Next, I added a new visualization to my report: a tree map. It was easy to do. (Too easy to require explaining step-by-step).

A tree map - showing where my monthly condo dues are being spent

But where Power BI Dashboards really start to shine is with the English language Q&A that is built-in, combined with the ability to "pin" a visualization to a dashboard. I can type in what I want to see and a visualization appears in real-time, adjusting to what I type as I type it.

Notice how Power BI "interprets" the sentence I write. The accuracy of its interpretation can theoretically be improved via synonyms.

Then, when it looks good to me, I can click the 'pin' icon and pin it to my dashboard. The beautiful thing about my dashboard (rather than a Power View report), is that it can contain only the data I want to see at a glance all in one place, unconstrained by the size of the canvas. I can grab a line chart from page 1, a bar chart from page 3 and put them side by side if those are the two metrics I care about the most. I can also add a new visualization if I'm feeling daring (it's not that hard). If ever I want to find out more about a particular metric, I can double click to dive back into the detail.

My final dashboard.

I personally love this because so often I see IT spending weeks or months creating a dashboard, only to find that most people who use the dashboard are looking at a single number or two numbers. And end-users often get frustrated because they have to open 6 different reports, all in different locations and scroll through each one to find the one number they care about in each. IT can keep reports logically separated - end-users can mix-and-match to their hearts content.

Dashboarding on the iPad.

Finally, dashboards also work on the iPad and iPhone. The app is incredibly touchable. You can flick & spin and explore your data in a very addictive way. A manager waiting at the airport for a flight will be able to open the iPad or iPhone app and start exploring their enterprise data in the same way you or I might open Facebook or Twitter or your favorite news feed when you are bored.

Email or SMS?

Further, if that manager at the airport gets an email or text from their boss questioning why sales look so unrealistically high yesterday, they can open up the app right there, find out what the big sale was and embed the chart that proves the sales numbers are accurate right back in the email or SMS response. (Along with a link so the recipient can also open the underlying chart).

This is revolutionary.


This isn't all sunshine and roses. Some caveats I'm aware of right off the bat:

Go back...

Visitor Comments

How is the localization aspects of the dashboards?  Localization out of the box (somehow?) or is there at least a mechanism to do so without duplicating much effort?

Posted by Chad on 21st Dec 2014

Excellent write-up Leonard.

Have not thought through all the implications of this but my gut tells me this is going to be super-impactful

Posted by greg kramer on 22nd Dec 2014

There’s no word on localization but I wouldn’t hold your breath. The website itself is likely to be translated but dynamically serving reports in the correct locale is a different kettle of fish.

Posted by Leonard Murphy on 22nd Dec 2014

Post Your Own Comment

Note that comments may not appear immediately on this site.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.