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Democratize enterprise analytics with Microsoft Power BI

Headshot of article author Arun Ulagaratchagan

It’s that time of year again—welcome back to Microsoft Build.

Microsoft Build represents the ultimate developer event. A hundred thousand developers from across the world gather for three days with their peers to learn, engage, and collaborate on the latest innovations and tools from Microsoft.

With over three million active developers on Microsoft Power BI creating incredible data experiences every day, we want to use this event to show you the truly exciting innovations we are bringing to Power BI.

These announcements include:

  • Datamart in Power BI
  • Metrics in Power BI and other enhancements
  • Data storytelling in PowerPoint
  • Integration with Outlook and Office Hub

Announcing datamarts in Power BI

Today, business analysts and business users rely heavily on centrally governed data sources built by professional developers in IT. However, if a user needs something changed, for example a new source of data, or data combined in a different way, it can be challenging for over-burdened IT teams to help in a timely manner. As a result, users either need to wait or move forward on their own by building a datamart with the tools at their disposal, such as an Access database, a SharePoint site, or a spreadsheet. These solutions lack important capabilities, perform poorly, don’t scale as data volumes and users grow, and can be hard to govern.

Today, we are announcing the preview of datamart in Power BI, a new Power BI Premium self-service capability that enables users to perform relational database analytics and uncover actionable insights from their data. This out-of-the-box feature empowers business analysts to build a data mart over any data warehouse or multiple data sources that can be centrally governed and managed. Datamarts in Power BI accelerate time to insight while alleviating demands on IT.

So how does it work?

  • An intuitive no code experience. A datamart creator can use the no code experience to extract, transform, and load data into a database that is fully managed by Power BI. There’s no need to worry about creating and managing dataflows or data refresh schedules—it’s all automatic. The user gets an intuitive SQL and visual querying interface for performing ad-hoc analysis on the data. Users can then connect to the datamart using external SQL-aware tools for further analysis.
  • Integrated Power BI development. The datamart automatically generates a self-tuning Power BI dataset that is ready to build reports directly in the Power BI service, without downloading Power BI Desktop. The database and dataset are always kept performant and in sync with zero user intervention.
  • Unified relational database with BI semantic model. From within the datamart UI, the user can build BI models and define BI measures using Data Analysis Expressions (DAX), the powerful semantic modeling technology built into Power BI. Users can also define relationships and security rules that are used in BI reports and dashboards. Security rules are kept in sync with the database, ensuring users only see what they’re entitled to, no matter how they access the data—via SQL or XMLA.
  • Integrated governance. The datamart is also fully integrated into Power BI and can be managed and governed in the service just like any other artifact.
    • Users can apply Microsoft Purview Information Protection sensitivity labels, track data lineage and impact, or retrieve all datamarts and metadata via automation (scanner APIs).
    • Datamarts can also be endorsed (certified or promoted) to help users discover and reuse trusted organizational data.
    • When development is done, users can easily manage their datamart deployment from development to test, to production, via the rich capabilities of deployment pipelines.
  • Easy to use. Finally, analysts and users can easily discover these datamarts where they work—in the Power BI Data Hub, in Excel, and in Teams.

This new feature brings the power of SQL databases into the hands of Power BI developers and analysts, helping you uncover more insights and drive digital transformation.

T-Mobile, one of the largest wireless carriers in the United States, adopted datamart in Power BI during private preview. Orbit is a collection of Apps that enables T-Mobile to manage initiatives as they move throughout the organization. With datamart in Power BI, T-Mobile can provide access to the data in Orbit in an easily digestible way, combine multiple data sources into a cohesive reporting repository, create adhoc reports on combined dataset and complete adhoc data manipulation, and export to Excel for basic data reporting. The impact of datamart is now T-Mobile can bring visibility and transparency across the entire organization for all ongoing initiatives.

“One of the really exciting things about datamart in Power BI is that it brings another level of data to users. Now they are not asking for a specific set of tables that they want to report on. They can get a more raw and granular set of data and think and be creative about how that matches the work that they are doing. This gives us the ability to iterate and evolve to see what works without having to hand it off to different development teams. It‘s going to take our reporting to another level”—Brian Hodel, Principal Analyst, T-Mobile.

To learn more, attend my Microsoft Build session “Democratize your data at scale with Power BI,” where Priya Sathy and I will give you an in-depth look at this powerful new feature. You may also read the recent “Announcing preview of datamart in Power BI“ blog.

Screenshot of datamart in Power BI workspace.

Announcing the general availability of metrics in Power BI

A year ago, we announced the preview of goals in Power BI Premium—a data-driven, collaborative, and adaptable way to measure key business metrics and goals built directly on top of Power BI. As we collaborated with customers to improve this feature, we are changing the name to metrics in Power BI to better align with how our customers are using it and benefiting from it. We are also excited to announce metrics in Power BI is now generally available.

But that’s certainly not all. We are also releasing an array of enhancements and integrations that will make this feature even more versatile—helping you track metrics better at both granular and cross-organizational altitudes.

Hierarchies for metrics

For example, we are giving you the ability to create cascading scorecards. You can now set up a hierarchy for a scorecard, map the scorecard datasets to the hierarchy and owner fields, and then Power BI will automatically generate metrics for each level of the hierarchy. The data is then automatically rolled-up to provide a single, top-level view of your metrics. In addition, we’ve created a heatmap view that allows you to compare metrics from multiple levels of the hierarchy all in one place.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are releasing features that will enable you to seamlessly integrate metrics into Power BI reports, link metrics across scorecards, and define custom roll-ups and metrics with Microsoft Viva Goals. To learn more about these features, check the full announcement blog, Power BI goals is now ‘metrics’ and is moving to general availability.

Screenshot of a scorecard built using the metrics feature in Power BI.

Announcing data storytelling in PowerPoint

Today, we are excited to announce the preview of one of the most sought-after capabilities in Power BI—native integration into PowerPoint. We are bringing together the world’s leading BI product with the world’s leading storytelling product, empowering everyone to tell amazing stories with data.

As the world becomes increasingly more data driven, most presentations we create and share include data in some form or another. However, adding your insights to presentations is not always a simple endeavor. Users often resort to taking screenshots of Power BI reports or copying and pasting data visuals into their presentations. This can be time-consuming, become out-of-date quickly, or simply look bad. A static picture does not provide the rich interactive capabilities of Power BI.

To help solve these issues, we’re adding the ability to embed live, interactive Power BI reports directly in your PowerPoint presentations. As attendees react to the insights you’re sharing, you can interact with the visuals and change the data using slicers, filters, and drill down mechanisms and dive deeper to make decisions without ever leaving PowerPoint.

This feature will be in preview at the end of this month. For more information, read Maya Shenhav’s blog, Tell a story with your data. Announcing the all-new Power BI integration for PowerPoint.

Screenshot of a live Power BI report in PowerPoint.

Announcing integration with Outlook and Office Hub

Data-storytelling shouldn’t be limited to just presentations. We are also fully integrating Power BI with Outlook and the Office hub to help users discover and consume data and insights in the context of their conversations. We are doing this in three main ways. First, we are integrating the Power BI personal app into the Office hub, enabling users to find, consume, and create Power BI content from Outlook and the Office hub. We are also making it easy to find and add Power BI content to Outlook emails as adaptive cards. Finally, Power BI content included in emails will open in Outlook, allowing users to access Power BI without switching apps. With this new integration, you will be able to discover and consume insights in context and in the flow of your everyday work. For more information, read Lukasz Pawlowski’s blog, The Power BI app is coming to Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office.

Both the PowerPoint and Outlook integrations are currently in preview. To learn more about these integrations, check out Lukasz Pawlowski and Maya Shenhav’s on-demand Microsoft Build session, “Transform how business intelligence is used with Power BI in PowerPoint and Outlook.”

Screenshot of the Power BI interface in Microsoft Outlook.

Other announcements

Automatic aggregations is now generally available

Last year at Microsoft Build, we announced a new feature called automatic aggregations—which uses a machine learning model to analyze the query patterns from Power BI to the big data store and automatically design and build the aggregations in Power BI that deliver optimal performance. This feature is now available to all Power BI Premium customers, allowing you to take advantage of Power BI’s performance acceleration without needing to invest in costly and time-consuming data engineering resources.

Improved Power BI administration and operations

Easily manage Power BI with enhanced administration experiences and additional operational capabilities. Administrators can manage permissions with ease, reduce maintenance overhead by identifying unused assets, and delegate administrative tasks to others.

You can learn more about these capabilities and other enhancements to administration, security, and governance by watching the “Enhancements to administration, security, and governance in Power BI” on-demand session with Derek Jeager and Anton Fritz.

Power BI inheritance of Microsoft Purview Information Protection (MPIP) labels from SQL

For those using SQL Server 2019, we are happy to announce that SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio) now allows you to create Microsoft Purview Information Protection (MPIP) sensitivity labels for your data. If you export your SQL server data with sensitivity labels to Power BI, Power BI will inherit these labels, helping ensure your data remains classified and secured across its journey. By the end of the month, the remainder of the Azure SQL family will have this feature as well.

For those using MPIP labels, you can now enjoy end-to-end protection for your data as data flows from Azure to Power BI and then to Office 365.

Attend Derek and Anton’s session (above) and read the SQL data classification now offers Microsoft Purview Information Protection labels in SSMS blog to learn more.

Automated content scan for detecting sensitive information

We recently announced that we’re extending Microsoft Purview Data Loss Prevention policies for Power BI to support detection of uploading sensitive information such as social security and credit card numbers, leveraging Microsoft’s built-in sensitive information types and/or custom information types defined by your organization in the Microsoft Purview compliance portal.

To learn more, please read the detect upload of sensitive information to Power BI using Microsoft 365 data loss prevention policies blog. Note, some of the product names in this blog have since changed (read this Microsoft Purview announcement blog for more information).

Service principal profiles in Power BI embedded

Power BI embedded now allows app owners the ability to manage a much larger number of customers on one service principal with the introduction of service principal profiles. Instead of creating and managing a separate service principal for every customer, you can now have hundreds of thousands of customers with different profiles on the same service principal. With service principal profiles, app owners can build a scalable application that enables better customer data isolation and establishes tighter security boundaries between customers.

Create exportable formatted data tables in the Power BI service

With the formatted table feature, you can now export your data from a Power BI dataset easily, while preserving data and style formats. This enables you to quickly create a paginated report on the web, apply styling, and then export it using the rich export functionality. To learn more about this preview feature, read Cookie McCray’s blog, Exportable formatted data tables.

Coming soon: an automated migration experience from Azure Analysis Services to Power BI premium

To help meet the semantic modeling needs of our customers, we have taken great strides to bring the powerful Azure Analysis Services (AAS) enterprise model capabilities to Power BI Premium. The full set of Power BI Premium workloads, features, and capabilities now represents a modern, cloud-born BI platform that goes far beyond comparable functionality available in AAS or SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).

For customers who have Power BI reports with a live connection to AAS, it now likely makes sense to consolidate tools and migrate datasets to Power BI Premium. For those who want to migrate, we will be publishing an automated migration tool in the second half of 2022 that will simplify and accelerate your migration experience. However, we understand that the choice of whether to migrate depends on the requirements of each customer, and we currently have no plans to deprecate AAS.

To learn if migrating is right for your organization, please read the Azure Analysis Services to Power BI Premium Migration guide. You can also watch the Microsoft Build on-demand session, “The Future of Enterprise Semantic Models – Power BI Premium” with Christian Wade and Ogbemi Ekwejunor-Etchie.

Screenshot of the Azure Analysis Service to Power BI Premium migration tool.

Join us at Microsoft Build

Developers are the driving force behind the flourishing of data cultures across the world. It remains our mission to empower every developer with the tools and platforms you need to build the next generation of intelligent experiences and applications. Microsoft Build is an event dedicated to sharing and exploring these tools and platforms together.

We look forward to seeing you all at Microsoft Build and continuing to help you transform the world around you and shape what comes next.