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Now available in Power BI: automated machine learning

Earlier this year, we introduced Automated Machine Learning (AutoML) in Power BI as Public Preview. Now, we’re happy to announce that AutoML in Power BI is generally available in all public cloud regions where Power BI Premium and Embedded is available.

Using AutoML in Power BI, business analysts without a strong background in machine learning can build ML models to solve business problems that once required data scientists. Most of the data science behind the creation of the ML models is automated by Power BI, while giving visibility into the process used to create your ML model to provide you with full insight. Since AutoML targets analysts who may not have prior experience building ML models, we have made a significant investment in adding automatic guardrails such as class balancing, training-test data split, cross-validation, missing value imputation, and high cardinality feature detection to ensure that the model produced has good quality.

Macaw, a Dutch full-service digital company, deployed automated machine learning in Power BI to quickly ingest sales data and train, validate, and invoke machine learning models directly in Power BI.  Dave Ruijter, Principal Consultant Data and AI at Macaw, shared that “The automated functionality within Power BI helps us scale how we infuse our solutions with AI capabilities. Now Macaw Power BI analysts can include machine learning in their solutions without involving a data scientist.” One of their customers, Mitch van Deursen, the Co-owner and Chief Information Officer at Shoeby says, “We now get answers to key business questions within five days, where normally modelling would take months. “ Read about their story here.

With the Public Preview release, AutoML in Power BI enabled users to:

  • Train a machine learning model to perform Binary Prediction, General Classification, and Regression
  • View the model training report
  • Apply the ML model to their data, and view predictions and explanations

Since then, we have been improving and adding new capabilities to AutoML in Power BI.

Binary prediction support for non-Boolean outcomes

Earlier, AutoML expected the outcome field for a binary prediction model to be a Boolean value. We now also support non-Boolean values in the outcome field. In the wizard, you can directly choose the target outcome that you’re most interested in, saving you the preprocessing steps of converting it to Boolean.

Improved Feature Recommendation

We improved the statistical methods that suggest input fields that can be used for training the ML model. Auto ML now analyzes a sample of the selected entity, recommends fields, and shows the reasons for fields that are not recommended. If a certain field has too many distinct values or only one value, or low or high correlation with the output field, it would not be recommended.

Controlling training time

AutoML now allows you to control the time for training a model.

You can choose to decrease the training time to see quick results or increase the amount of time spent in training to get the best model. The former is useful when you are building a POC or for making sure that you have selected the right fields.

Improved training reports

Training reports have been improved to make them more readable. Additionally, reports are now generated two times faster.

Binary prediction reports now include a Cost-Benefit analysis tool. Given an estimated unit cost of targeting and a unit benefit from achieving a target outcome, it helps you identify the subset of the population that should be targeted to yield the highest profit.

Explainable AI

AutoML emphasizes the explainability of predictions to provide visibility into fields that are most important. It provides top predictors during training as well as explanations for each prediction that the ML model produces during scoring.

The Top Predictors section has been improved to show comprehensible feature breakdown so that you can easily validate that the model aligns with your business insights about the outcome field. In the house price prediction example below, the feature breakdown chart for “sqft_living”(on the right) shows that higher “sqft_living” values have higher house prices.

In addition to this, we have added support for text features in top predictors.

Explanations for predictions are now surfaced as a separate entity to make them easily accessible and readable. In order to make the model predictions interpretable, we show the contribution of every feature towards the prediction, and these contributions add up to the predicted value.

In the house price prediction example below, you can see that some features have a positive influence (in green), and other features have a negative influence (in red). Adding these contributions to a base value (average value of the house price in the training data in this case), gives you the predicted house price of $379,738, thus allowing you to easily explain these model predictions.

Using this explanations entity you can quickly build reports explaining model predictions. Automatically generated explanation reports will be available shortly.

Get started building you own ML Models

Here is a step-by-step tutorial that shows how to build your machine learning model using Auto ML. To learn more, refer to the documentation. If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us about your use cases, pain points, please reach out to automlpowerbi@microsoft.com. We’d love to hear about your experiences, feedback, and ideas on how you’d like to use Auto ML in Power BI.

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The Miami Heat are on a fast break to innovate

The Miami Heat next week open their regular-season schedule – a slate that stretches deep into April and includes 41 home games at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The outcomes of those 41 contests? Unknown. Who will lead the team in scoring on those 41 nights? Check back in April.

How many fans will attend each of those 41 games? How many Jimmy Butler jerseys will they buy each night? How many Mofongo Dogs will they gobble during every game? Miami Heat executive Edson Crevecoeur already has the answers.

Miami Heat executive Edson Crevecoeur sits in an empty AmericanAIrlines Arena, smiling.
Edson Crevecoeur.

Within hours of the NBA schedule’s release in August, Crevecoeur had forecast the attendance for each game at AmericanAirlines Arena plus the food and beverage sales, retail sales, ticket sales and staffing needs for every event, fueling business decisions well before the first tip-off.

In basketball, they call that connecting from distance.

In this case, Crevecoeur and team made the prognostications using Microsoft Power BI, a data-visualization tool, to display the purchasing patterns of tickets, concessions and arena retail from seasons past to offer a clear view of game nights to come.

“We use Power BI to provide the right information to the right audience at the right time,” says Crevecoeur, vice president of strategy and data analytics for the Heat. “We’re able to understand what’s happening a lot quicker than we were in the past and react accordingly.”

Those insights are part of the Heat’s drive to become the NBA’s digital leader. It begins with real-time data that’s generated by fans and their mobile devices while in the arena – or while buying tickets or merchandise away from games. The data gets collected and enriched by Microsoft Azure.

Heat employees make sense of that data with Power BI, becoming better acquainted with the tastes and behaviors of individual customers. On game days, the team can swiftly re-position staff to better accommodate arriving crowds – and to cater more personally to the appetites of fans in the building, whether they’re craving Ropa Vieja or D.Wade commemorative gear.

A Power BI dashboard showing Miami Heat business data.
A Power BI dashboard created by the Miami Heat.

“Our goal at the Miami Heat is not only to be one of the most innovative teams in sports, but to be innovation leaders across all industries,” says Matthew Jafarian, executive vice president of business strategy for the Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena.

Fans can see this digital evolution on their smart phones by downloading the Miami Heat mobile app, which becomes the digital focal point for fans attending Heat games or other live events at the venue, Jafarian says.

“Imagine walking up to AmericanAirlines Arena and your ticket is smart enough to know you’re attending an event that evening, so it pops up right on your home screen. You simply tap the app on the NFC-enabled pedestal and the ticket taker welcomes you into the venue,” Jafarian says.

“You check out real-time wait times at concessions, choose a great spot to eat and tap to pay with your phone. You can be in your seat and share a ticket with a friend that’s running late, all from the device in the palm of your hands,” he adds.

A Miami Heat fan's hand, holding a smart phone that displays a digital ticket, places the screen beneath a scanner.
A Heat fan scans his mobile ticket.

Two seasons ago, AmericanAirlines Arena adopted “mobile-only entry” and phased out paper tickets. That change is unleashing more opportunities for the Heat to better understand and communicate with their customers.

Based on how often a fan attends games, the opposing teams they tend to watch and the kinds of food or gear they buy at the arena, the marketing staff crafts and sends digital messages that are relevant to them, say, ticket packages or the arrival of new apparel.

“We want to know our customer,” says Lisette Toirac Perdomo, manager of data platform services for the Heat. “We want to anticipate what they want, so we can meet their interests.”

To gain that knowledge, the team creates 360-degree customer profiles, using the data generated whenever a fan interacts within the arena or visits online touchpoints, including the Heat app, Heat.com, AAArena.com or MiamiHeatstore.com, the team’s e-commerce presence.

Those digital interactions get captured by Adobe Analytics – a solution that measures and makes sense of web and app data – and is seamlessly integrated with Adobe Campaign, which connects the Heat to the customer throughout their journey via e-mail and push notification, Jafarian says. Adobe is a Microsoft partner.

“We capture some relevant information in Microsoft Dynamics 365,” a cloud-based tool that enables customer relationship management (CRM), Jafarian says. “We then put that fan profile into the hands of a Miami Heat sales or service person who can help provide a better experience.”

A Miami Heat fan entering AmericanAirlines Arena's seating area shows a smart phone screen showing a digital ticket.
With the Miami Heat mobile app, a fan’s phone shows the live score as he enters the arena.

All that extra attention is expanding the team’s fan base, he says.

“Three years ago, we didn’t even know who was walking in the building because paper tickets are largely anonymous. Now we’re getting an understanding of who they are,” Jafarian says. “The fan experience is everything for us.”

About five years ago, the Heat saw the need to commit to a full-scale, back-office modernization – a big shift sparked by an abrupt change to the basketball roster.

About five years ago, the Heat saw the need to commit to a full-scale, back-office modernization – a big shift sparked by an abrupt change to the basketball roster.

As one of the winningest NBA teams of the past 25 years, the Heat had a dynastic run when, from 2010 to 2014, the team dominated the NBA thanks to three superstars – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, dubbed “the Big Three.” During that span, the Heat reached four NBA Finals and won two back-to-back league titles, in 2012 and 2013. Ticket sales were hotter than a Miami summer, and there was no urgency to build a sales infrastructure. Then, the Big Three era ended.

James left the in 2014, while Wade and Bosh were gone by 2016.

“We were fortunate to have some of the greatest players to ever play the game,” Jafarian says. “Then we no longer had the Big Three, yet we still had to sell tickets. We stood up a CRM for the first time. It was a natural progression for us to choose Dynamics 365, enabling our salespeople to better sell.

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Watch on-demand sessions from last week’s Microsoft Business Applications Summit

The 2019 Microsoft Business Applications Summit is over, but your learning and discovery is just getting started. Event content is now available on demand in the Dynamics 365 Community, giving you the opportunity to explore 200+ session recordings, download presentations, ask questions, and collaborate with the speakers and experts.

Get started by selecting one of four communities—Dynamics 365, PowerApps, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow—and then browse or search for content that interests you. As a supplement to the event content, be sure to browse the Dynamics 365 and Power Platform product roadmap.

Jumpstart what’s next for your business

Watch the visionary opening keynote for a first look at the new features and capabilities coming next for Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. James Phillips, Corporate Vice President, Business Applications Group, and business leaders from across industries give you a preview of what’s next in the 2019 release wave 2 for Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.

Build your skills at your own pace

Learn directly from the engineers behind Dynamics 365, Power BI, Excel, PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, mixed reality, and more. Download presentations to review in-depth and connect with experts in community forums.

Get fresh ideas to solve your toughest challenges

Dig into game-changing technology like AI and mixed reality to amplify the impact of the tools you use every day. Collaborate with the community and share hints and hacks.

Here’s a sample of just some of the sessions available on demand, and be sure to check out the Dynamics 365 Community for the full rundown:

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central roadmap and overview
    Learn how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central helps you connect your business, make smarter decisions, and start and grow easily.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service: What’s new and roadmap
    From recent releases in the Field Service solution to evolution in universal resource scheduling, learn firsthand about new scheduling scenarios, enhanced productivity for onsite workers, better data integration for inventory, and easier connections to Connected Field Service for Azure IoT Central.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations: What’s new in financial management
    Get the tips, tricks, and tools to plan what’s next for your organization, from streamlined periodic processes to improved usability features and more.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing: Connect marketing and sales
    Discover new capabilities and pricing offers that can help you cultivate more sales-ready leads than ever before.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales: Get the most out of the Microsoft ecosystem with new capabilities and integrations
    Pick up best practices to get the most out of Dynamics 365 for Sales, including new forecasting capabilities, integrations with Microsoft Teams and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and in-app solution discovery for configure price quote (CPQ) and data augmentation partners.

Get inspired, boost your skills, and power major digital transformation at your organization. It’s just a click away — watch  the on demand sessions now.

On demand sessions for Microsoft Business Applications Summit now available.On demand sessions for Microsoft Business Applications Summit now available.

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Get a sneak peek of June 10-11 Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2019

Get ready to flex your business applications skills – and pick up some new ones – at Microsoft Business Applications Summit. Coming to Atlanta, Georgia June 10 – 11, 2019, this is the place to dive deep with the tools you use every day, get a sneak peek at what’s new and next, and connect with our amazing community. Registration is open – secure your spot today!

We’re gearing up for an incredible event this year, with 150+ total-immersion sessions and workshops (plus 16 pre-days!) filled with demos, hints, and hacks that will help you unlock next for your business.

Session catalog preview

The first look at the session catalog is live! This is just the beginning. We’ll be rolling out the full lineup of sessions over the next couple months, but we couldn’t wait to share. Check it out to see what’s in store for this year’s event and start getting excited!

5 more reasons you can’t miss this conference

  1. Power better decisions with even better data. Learn how to get the most from your favorite tools: Dynamics 365, Power BI, Excel, Mixed Reality, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow. Build new skills, get tips and tricks, and check out the latest trends and product roadmaps.
  2. Plan your perfect learning path. Get hands-on with 16 pre-day workshops and 150+ demo-rich sessions led by industry experts.
  3. Ask your toughest questions, and get answers at the source. Go one-on-one with engineers and product experts.
  4. Collaborate with our vibrant community. This is the premier conference for power users, analysts, developers, solution architects, and more. Build your network, share ideas and strategies, and pick up best practices.
  5. See the future of business applications before anyone else. From keynotes with visionary leaders to a multi-stream viewing lounge, you’ll get an exclusive look at the latest technologies.

Better data, stronger solutions, bigger transformation – don’t miss it! Hope to see you there. Register today!

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Microsoft a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Analytics and BI Platforms for 12 consecutive years

We’re very grateful to our customers, our community members, and our partners for making Power BI what it is today.

Thank you.

The Power BI Team

Get the 2019 Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms report* to learn more.

 

*This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Microsoft. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

 

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Forbes: Microsoft’s Power Platform aims to ‘make other people cool’

A selection of PowerApps built by London Heathrow Airport, UK.Microsoft

Microsoft has always had to straddle an arguably difficult position in the software trade. The company has always needed to appear technically intricate, granular and powerful in the eyes of hard-core software developers. At the same time, the company has always had to present its software to market with a user-friendly ‘anyone can use it’ out-of-the-box style and approach.

There’s a little of that duality in the firm’s latest power play, which is a combination pack of technologies wrapped up under the Microsoft Power Platform brand.

This is all about presenting a selection of heavyweight backend technologies to hard-core developers and data scientists, but also to would-be so-called citizen developers who are typically businesspeople with an interest in getting applications and data to work the way they want them to work.

CEO Satya: be cool (to others)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has tried to explain to his developer team that it’s not always about being the most amazing software engineer that creates the next big thing. Instead, it’s about creating amazing software power and putting that power in the hands of people who need it.

“You join here [Microsoft, the company itself], not to be cool, but to make others cool,” said Nadella, in a comment that has been widely reported internally and officially referenced here on c|net.

What Nadella meant was: build something so amazing that it empowers other people. This, of course, is a platform play, not a product play i.e. he wants people to use Microsoft technologies to create something great, rather than use an existing Microsoft technology to be great per se. It’s a logical enough strategy i.e. software products come and go, but platforms are more foundational and expansive… and so (typically) form a better long term business bet.

Microsoft Power Platform

The component parts of the Microsoft Power Platform have all previously existed as more distinct entities. This is essentially a coming together of Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow as a more unified offering available on top of Microsoft Azure cloud services.

“Our Power Platform – spanning Power BI, PowerApps and Flow – enables anyone in an organization to start building an intelligent app or workflow where none exists. It is the only solution of its kind in the industry – bringing together no-code/low-code app development, robotic process automation and self-service analytics into a single, comprehensive platform. And it enables extensibility across Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 as well as the leading third-party SaaS business applications,” said Microsoft CEO Nadella, in a press statement.

So just looking at the component parts again and explaining their functions, we have Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow.

Microsoft Power BI is self-service Business Intelligence (BI) app that works to connect and analyze business data and present a graphical visualization of it on screen. It supports 43 languages and the data it ingests can come from an Excel spreadsheet or SharePoint list, an Oracle database or from an SAP or Salesforce application. Nearly 10 petabytes of data are uploaded to the service each month with more than 10 million report and dashboard queries executed against that data every hour.

Microsoft PowerApps forms the company’s citizen application development platform. Theoretically ‘anyone’ (says Microsoft) can use PowerApps to build web and mobile applications without writing code. There’s also a natural connection between Power BI and PowerApps so that users can put insights (from Power BI) in the hands of maintenance workers and others on the frontline in apps built using PowerApps.

Lastly here there is Flow. This is Microsoft’s user interface that allows users to work with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a technology designed to help automate simple tasks (and reduce operational errors) through automated workflows.

Data flows, everywhere

Corporate vice president in Microsoft’s business applications group James Phillips explains that the team’s vision for Microsoft Power Platform started from the recognition that data is increasingly flowing from everything, and a belief that organizations that harness their data – to gain insights then used to drive intelligent business processes – will outperform those that don’t.

“We also recognize there aren’t enough programmers, data scientists and tech professionals to go around. So our goal was to build a platform not targeting these technology experts but for [ordinary] people – and the millions of other frontline workers who see opportunities every day to create something better than the status quo, but who’ve never been empowered to do anything about it,” wrote Philips, in a lengthy Microsoft cloud blog.

Philips and team say that the guiding vision for Microsoft Power Platform was a framework they called the ‘Triple-A Loop’ i.e. a closed-loop system allowing users to gain insights from data (Analyze) used to drive intelligent business processes via apps they build (Act) and processes they automate (Automate).

Why play platform games?

We might stand back and ask why Microsoft is so focused on its new and wider approach to platform games of this kind — and there are three fairly reasonable suggestions we can make here.

First, Microsoft has always done platforms i.e. Windows was and still is a platform and you run other things (apps, databases and other computing services) upon it.

Second, Microsoft has invested heavily in its own Azure cloud platform (which features as a key element of Microsoft Power Platform) and, over and above that, the firm has for a long time now been working to make large portions of its stack (such as Office as a platform, which we detailed here in 2015) big enough to be considered platforms in their own right.

Third, Microsoft (under CEO Nadella at least) appears to understand the power of platforms both inside the Microsoft universe and outside of it. Be that other platform Linux, be it Android or be it a major vendor’s data platform suite from the likes of SAP, Salesforce, Oracle and so on.

This is a world where data comes first — sometimes from databases, sometimes from AI computations, sometimes from the Internet of Things (IoT) and its devices and sometimes from actual users — even before the actual software applications that will feed on that data. That core fact very arguably makes any platform play strategically smarter for long term success… if perhaps not just a little cool too.

 

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Power BI’s top 5 releases from 2018

Happy New Year !

With over 150 features released, 2018 has been a prolific year for Power BI Desktop!

To cap off this successful year, our team put together a fun video, showcasing our pick for the 5 favorite releases of 2018:

  1. Report page tooltips [March]
  2. Web by example [May]
  3. Composite models [July] + aggregations [September]
  4. Expand + collapse [November]
  5. New filter experience [November]

We’ve also added an Honorable Mention for the Accessibility features released this year, which include the improved formula bar, adding filters from the context menu, and more!

We hope you enjoy the video and would love to hear about your favorite five!

This month we will have a Power BI Report Server update only, but starting February, Power BI Desktop will continue our monthly ship cadence. Looking forward to an even more impactful 2019!

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Eyes on Europe: Giving voters new insights through technology

By Ben Rudolph, Managing Director of Modern Journalism, Microsoft Corporate HQ

Today, in collaboration with Microsoft, industry leader POLITICO Europe launched the next wave of its 2019 European Parliamentary election coverage featuring 27 new interactive data visualizations created with Microsoft Power BI. The latest Elections hub content follows last month’s launch of an interactive homepage visualization and includes new country-level pages sharing important information and the latest news about each of the European member states participating in the election.

Ireland in the EU election

“Each member state has its own electoral system, its own voter turnout and its own unique political landscape. At POLITICO Europe, we’ve built a European Election hub that reflects this national dimension” said Johannes Boege, Chief Product Officer at POLITICO Europe. “With these country pages, we are again combining our leading journalism with state of the art data technology. Enabled by Microsoft Power BI, our product provides comparisons of 2014 results with the latest projections, linking national parties, their European parliamentary groups, voter turnout and key information on the voting process. At a glance, our readers can get a very detailed and up-to-date overview of the EU elections in their country and compare it with the situation in other member states.”

At Microsoft, we’re thrilled to collaborate with POLITICO Europe to deliver on our commitment to empower the news industry to discover and tell impactful stories in engaging ways.  Recognized as the most influential publication on European affairs for two of the three years since it launched, POLITICO Europe is on a mission to bring nonpartisan education and insight to the European electorate as they navigate the complicated election process, which spans thousands of candidates and hundreds of parties.

To help achieve this goal, the new country pages enable POLITICO Europe readers to interact with reports to see the country-level seats by party as well as voter data from 2014, comparing it to the current predictions for 2019. The reports showcase the breakdown of party seats and affiliated groups, information on the voting system and process and past voter turnout stacked against population. Behind the scenes calculations make it easy for readers to interact with the report to understand the impact their vote could have in the upcoming election. Because the visualizations are built it Power BI, updates can be made in real-time as new data becomes available or news stories emerge.

This new content builds on the success of the homepage visualization that shows the projected composition of the next EU Parliament.

PowerBI seat to country transition

Microsoft is thrilled to continue collaborating with POLITICO Europe to launch new content formats that bring discussion about the future of the EU to new and existing readers.

Find out more about how Power BI is being used to build the solutions on the Power BI blog.

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Power BI Desktop adds dataflows, enterprise reporting and more

As organizations embrace a data culture to drive business decisions, they need an enterprise business intelligence platform that can meet their sophisticated needs – from self-service BI to full enterprise governance, from paginated reports to full interactive data exploration, and from small data sets to petabytes of data.

In July, we laid out the roadmap for Power BI to help organizations unify modern and traditional BI on one enterprise platform, and empower business analysts by expanding self-service data prep for big data.  Since then, we’ve shipped a number of capabilities that deliver on this roadmap: Premium multi-geo allows customers to address data residency requirements, aggregations enable data analysis over petabyte sized datasets with trillions of rows of data, and the new Power BI Home landing page and dashboard commenting make it easier to get to your most important content and collaborate across the enterprise.

Today, we’re announcing the availability of several new capabilities that we laid out in our July roadmap.

Dataflows expand self-service data prep in Power BI

Power BI already includes robust self-service data preparation capabilities in Power BI Desktop through the familiar Power Query based experiences that are used by millions of users worldwide. We are excited to announce the public preview of dataflows in Power BI, taking self-service data preparation to the next level.

  • Dataflows enable business analysts to create data preparation logic that can be reused across multiple Power BI reports and dashboards.
  • Dataflows can be linked together to create sophisticated data transformation pipelines that enable business analysts to build on each other’s work. A new recalculation engine automatically tracks dependencies and recomputes data as new data is ingested.
  • Dataflows can be configured to store the data in the customer’s Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 instance, fueling collaboration across roles. Business analysts can seamlessly operate on data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, taking advantage of its scale, performance, and security. Meanwhile, data engineers and data scientists can extend insights with advanced analytics and AI from complementary Azure Data Services like Azure Machine Learning, Azure Databricks, and Azure SQL Data Warehouse.
  • Dataflows support the Microsoft Common Data Model, giving organizations the ability to leverage a standardized and extensible collection of data schemas (entities, attributes and relationships)

dfblog_08

Columbia Sportswear uses Power BI to empower a broad group of employees to self-discover, share and monitor insights across a diverse range of data sources in the cloud and on-premises. Dataflows unlocks new possibilities for their analysts leveraging large datasets.

“Dataflows are one of the more exciting additions to Power BI,” said Chris Weis, Senior Analytics Product Manager at Columbia Sportswear. “It amplifies Power BI’s ability to handle large datasets. Our analysts can now scale large data transformations beyond the resources of their PC, and accelerate PowerQuery performance in a big way.”

For more background on dataflows, check out Adi Regev’s blog.

SQL Server Reporting Services technology now in Power BI

A modern, compliant and unified enterprise BI platform for business analytics is easier than ever with our latest enterprise operational reporting capabilities.

Our popular SQL Server Reporting Services technology is now part of Power BI and available in public preview, providing a unified, secure, enterprise-wide reporting platform accessible to any user across devices. Pixel-perfect paginated reports can now be included alongside Power BI’s existing interactive reports.

“The availability of paginated reports in the Power BI service removes the last technical barrier to running all types of reports in the cloud,” said John White, Power BI MVP and Chief Technology Officer of Tygraph. “The choice of on premises or in the cloud no longer needs to be a feature decision. Customers with a significant investment in reporting services can now move to Power BI knowing that their reports can move right along with them.”

For more background on Paginated reports in Power BI, check out Chris Finlan’s blog.

Power BI Desktop November Update

We continue to innovate at a rapid pace with weekly updates for the Power BI service and monthly updates for Power BI Desktop. The November update for Power BI Desktop, shipping next week, includes several features the Power BI community has asked for:

  • Follow-up questions for Q&A explorer. You can now ask follow-up questions inside the Q&A explorer pop-up, which means the question will take into account the previous questions you asked as context. For example, you can ask “List customers in London” and then ask the follow up question “What did they buy” and the result for that second question will only be for London customers.

  • New modeling view makes it easier to work with large models. You can now have multiple diagram layouts, customize and save them, leverage display folders, and several additional enhancements that improve performance and experience – available in preview.

  • Expand and collapse matrix row headers.  Row headers on the matrix visual now work like Excel PivotTables, with the ability to expand and collapse individual row headers.

  • Copy and paste between PBIX files. You can copy and paste visuals between PBIX files, greatly improving usability and speeding up the process of creating new reports.

Learn more about the public preview of dataflows and SQL Server Reporting Services technology in Power BI during the PASS Summit at the day 1 keynote. For a deeper dive, please join our session Power BI: the Future for Modern and Enterprise BI on November 8th.  Attendees will see the new capabilities in action and hear more about what’s coming.

We have other fantastic content at PASS that you also won’t want to miss, including sessions covering our latest announcements with Introducing Advanced Data Preparation using Power BI Dataflows and Modern Enterprise Reporting with Power BI Report Server and the Power BI Service.

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‘Near-futurist’ Rohit Bhargava scours data for hidden clues about how the world works

Mark Mobleywritten by

Mark Mobley

A ’near-futurist‘ scours data for hidden clues about how the world works

How does self-described “Trend Curator” Rohit Bhargava navigate the future? By shredding magazines and planting sticky notes. Throughout each travel-packed year of international speaking and teaching, he collects untold piles of periodicals, then skims, tears and screens their editorial and advertising content for clues to what’s now, what’s new and — most of all — what’s going to be influential in the years to come.

“The trends,” Bhargava said, “really explain how the world works.”

Using what he calls his “haystack method,” Bhargava sorts and sifts and shifts the material he and his team have found. Gradually, connections are made, combinations arise, synchronicities emerge and trends appear. He compiles what he gleans in an annual series of books called “Non Obvious: How To Predict Trends And Win The Future,” which have been published in more than a dozen languages. These have schooled more than a million businesspeople and interested civilians about the cultural currents, jet streams and eddies that shape our lives.

Rohit reading a magazine in front of post-it notes.

“You’ve got to look somewhere other than where everyone else is looking,” said Bhargava at his airy home, where visitors are welcomed by photo collages of his two young sons, in a leafy suburb of Washington, D.C. “I tend to pick up a lot of stuff about things I otherwise would never have picked up because the media here are so U.S.-centric.”

His omnivorous media diet includes everything from legacy magazines like The Atlantic and Variety to city magazines (Washingtonian), alumni magazines (Emory magazine), specialty publications (USA Philatelic, Adweek), foreign in-flight magazines and periodicals definitely not published with him in mind (Teen Vogue, Modern Farmer).

The irony of a “near-futurist” relying so heavily on paper in the digital age is not lost on him.

The irony of a ‘near-futurist’ relying so heavily on paper in the digital age is not lost on him.

“I think that people are more surprised about that than I am,” Bhargava said. “What you see is the paper. What you don’t see is my Feedly account, where I read hundreds of stories each week.” He also relies on conversations at conferences and interviews by his associates. But Bhargava sees a certain tactical advantage in scanning a vast amount of information in physical form.

Bhargava siting at a desk working.

“There’s a reason every James Bond villain looks down on that diorama of the world they’re trying to conquer,” he says. “Hopefully I’m not doing that for evil.”

He smiled and added, “Maybe there is some evil, because I want people to think for themselves and a lot of people don’t want that.”

Bhargava was born in India and came to the United States at 6 months old. After studies at Emory University he moved to Australia in 1998 and began his career at a company called Dimension Data, where he worked for three years before joining the Sydney office of advertising agency Leo Burnett. He returned to the U.S. in 2003 and started working the following year in Washington at Ogilvy. He stayed at that advertising agency until 2012, when he left to start his own consultancy.

Conference and convention planners appreciate the experiences Bhargava himself provides — he speaks at upward of 50 events a year, in addition to consulting with individual companies and teaching smaller groups. “My goal is to give them something they can do, not just inspire them,” he said. He wants to help his audiences find interesting ideas in unexpected places.

While he may appreciate tradition and rigorous methodology, he is anything but a stickler for doing things the way they’ve always been done.

“Our habits are really hard to unlearn,” he told an audience at a recent construction software convention in San Antonio. “The things that we know, the best practices, are really hard to abandon.

If we are going to be innovators, we are going to have to leave some things behind.

“If we are going to be innovators, we are going to have to leave some things behind.”

That’s why one of his five rules for Non-Obvious thinking is to “be fickle” — in other words, keep it moving. The others are “be observant,” “be curious,” “be thoughtful” and “be elegant.” That final command is the guide for the pithy names he likes to assign to the trends he observes.

For example, ”brand stand” is his term for how corporations can make themselves more attractive by backing up their work with socially conscious messaging and actions. (“The job of marketing is not to sell a car, it’s to get people to come into the dealership,” Bhargava explained.) “Predictive protection” is what he calls device makers working to anticipate and defend user vulnerabilities. And “approachable luxury” is the idea that experiences and objects that evoke authenticity and sincerity are now sometimes considered as valuable as high-end products from legacy makers.

In addition to isolating 15 trends for each edition of the Non Obvious books, he also looks back at previous years to reassess the accuracy of his own predictions. Take two from 2013: ”precious print” and “branded inspiration.” While consumers’ fondness for books and print media in general hasn’t waned (Bhargava still gives that trend an A five years later), brands are less willing to stage dramatic one-off events to stand out (today he gives that one a C).

While reevaluating trends, Bhargava realized he could also present them in new ways. He is increasingly using data visualization as a storytelling tool. The Microsoft Power BI platform allowed him to create The Non-Obvious Trend Experience, a periodic table of elements-style dashboard that shows how trends connect across years, industries and areas of interest.

The playful, informative Power BI dashboard is yet another product of an ever-expanding Non-Obvious universe. He’s planning what he calls “the most Non-Obvious thing to do,” a short-form podcast about the past hosted by a futurist. And he and his wife, Chhavi, are co-owners of the publishing imprint Ideapress, which has published 22 books and has another 12 coming soon. His own contribution to the series will be a volume on running a small business.

“I think any of us can be more innovative, more creative,” he told his San Antonio audience. “We just have to give ourselves permission to do it.” He demonstrated that the following morning by leading a workshop of about two dozen executives and staffers. They gathered around tables piled high with magazines.

He opened with a drawing exercise and soon the group was on to Bhargava’s haystack method, scouring the magazines before them for new ideas and things they hadn’t seen before. “I know it’s uncomfortable for some of you, but these magazines are for ripping,” he said. “I want to hear you ripping things out of these magazines. It might be an ad, it might be a story. Feel free to collaborate with your table.”

Curation is the ultimate method for transforming noise into meaning.

Rohit buried in post-it notes.

Two tables pulled the same story about new leashes for walking with children. Another person landed on a makeup line from Crayola. Yet another found an under-the-desk bicycle apparatus that generates power through pedaling. “That’s like next-level LEED certification,” Bhargava joked. “You can power your own building.”

In under an hour, the participants caught a glimpse of what is for Bhargava a year-round process producing mounds of material that gain more meaning with age and comparison.

“Sometimes we have to give ourselves a little bit of time,” he said. He thinks of his haystack method as akin to collecting frequent flyer miles. The ideas are there, mounting over time, ready be cashed in when they’re needed.

Frank Di Lorenzo Jr., a participant from Sacramento, California, called the session “excellent.”

“It got me to think a little more creatively,” Di Lorenzo said. “It’s like taking a step. If I always start on my right foot, this was my left. For an hour, he accomplished a lot.”

“I never saw anybody present this kind of topic before,” added Mary Cunningham of Jupiter, Florida. “It helps you think beyond the obvious. Don’t take things at face value. It allows you to open your mind to other ideas. The way he presents the material, it’s very easy to comprehend and allows the ideas to sink in easily.”

“Curation,” as Bhargava writes in “Non Obvious” and shared in his seminar, “is the ultimate method for transforming noise into meaning.”

Even if the noise is as much the shredding of magazines and riffling of sticky notes as it is the rising, roaring tide of cultural chatter.

Originally published on 8/14/2018 / Photos by Brian Smale / © Microsoft