Today during the inaugural Microsoft Data Insight Summit we announced the addition of several new features that make it even easier to analyze data and share insights with Power BI. These include capabilities that deliver enterprise readiness, deepen integration with Excel and enhance intelligent data exploration.

This week’s summit is aimed at helping business analysts and data professionals harness modern BI to convert data into meaningful insights. From connecting with peers, to going deeper with Excel and Power BI, attendees are exploring opportunities to identify and act on trends, and preparing for the next phase of BI that will propel their business further. And it comes as we celebrate a major milestone for Power BI – the service has exceeded more than 5 million subscribers.

The rapid growth of Power BI speaks in part to the explosion of data, which IDC and others estimate could reach 50 zettabytes or more by 2020. The theme permeating the keynotes, customer panel discussions, “ask the experts” sessions and others is centered on the ability to harness the cloud to evolve the way we interact with, experience and draw intelligence from this vast – and often untapped – potential.

The cloud serves as the only practical place to glean and disseminate insights from the diverse data surrounding us, a view reflected last year when we unveiled “the new Power BI” as a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering for business users. Today’s announcements reflect these goals and the unparalleled speed and agility of Power BI’s SaaS-based approach, building on the weekly service updates and monthly desktop updates fueled by community feedback.

Enterprise readiness

  • Role level security for cloud models and direct query is being introduced to provide granular control around who can access specific rows of data. Users can author and mange a single dashboard with customized views of the data unique to individuals. A preview will be available at the end of March.

  • To help organizations understand their overall Power BI usage, tenant-level usage reports are being enabled for assets like reports, dashboard, datasets and content packs. This reporting feature will be generally available by the end of March.

Deepened integration with Excel

  • Today we’re making generally available the ability to analyze Power BI data in Excel, enabling access to data that was loaded and modeled in Power BI.

  • Also generally available today is the ability to pin from Excel. Insights can be taken directly from the Excel desktop to Power BI dashboards, which will keep tiles on the dashboard up to date to help track your important data.

Intelligent data exploration

  • Improvements to Power BI’s natural language Q&A interface will be generally available in April to make it even simpler to use, with helpful visual cues, improved performance and an overall cleaner look.

  • Additionally, the unique query capabilities that help users find data and create visuals on the fly can now be used with direct query data sources. This combines the advantages of using Power BI’s direct query capabilities to access data stored on-premises and in the cloud by asking intuitive, natural questions via the Q&A interface – including Cortana, which will be able to answer questions from direct query sources used in Power BI. These features will be previewed in April.

We aren’t stopping. The notion of data proliferation and its intersection with the cloud is really the first tenet of modern BI. Moving from data to insights that inform intelligent action is the second, referring to the ability to engage and interact with data in new, intuitive and natural ways. This deepens intelligent data exploration by redefining how we experience data and have access to intelligence without requiring deep technical knowledge, such as through speech and other intuitive and convenient methods.

SandDance is an amazing example. SandDance showcases Microsoft Research data visualization innovations and novel natural user interaction techniques. Every data element is always represented on the screen with animated transitions between views to help people explore, understand and communicate insights from their data. SandDance is being extended to Power BI users as a custom visual for rich connectivity, modelling and interactive reporting to enrich the data exploration experience – it is available now in the Power BI gallery.

More than how we experience data, insight also refers to the progression beyond historical data analysis, offering the ability to maintain an up-to-the-moment view instead of one that’s largely retrospective. See what’s happening right now, or even what’s going to happen. And, ultimately, take action directly from the point of intelligence – the next frontier for modern BI we’ll be discussing more as we move forward.

You, our community of users, have been with us on this and every step of our journey. Over the past 12-months, your feedback and input has led to the addition of more than 265 features to Power BI, voiced in nearly 45,000 votes. Thank you.

And thanks to all who attended the Data Insights Summit in-person and online. If you missed any of the keynotes or sessions, watch them on demand here.