Metrics upgrades, AR tool highlights Power BI platform update

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Enhancements to Metrics, a new tool called Data in Space, and enhanced built-in analytics capabilities highlight the latest update to the Power BI platform.

Microsoft unveiled the new features in a blog post at the end of July.

In addition to new Metrics features, new built-in analytics capabilities, and the introduction of Data in Space, the update includes over 20 new tools. Among them are features to improve Power BI’s reporting capabilities, extend its connectivity to other platforms, and improve its mobile app.

Many of the new tools are incremental updates to existing functionality. But given its scale, July’s Power BI update is important for users of the platform, noted Doug Henschen, analyst at Constellation Research.

“There are a lot of incremental changes and improvements in these monthly releases, but there were a few notable new features and cases where a collection of incremental upgrades really add up to something powerful,” he said. he declares.

Similarly, Donald Farmer, Founder and Director of TreeHive Strategy, said the Power BI July update contains new features and improvements that will benefit users of the platform.

“As always with Power BI these days, there are a lot of small but useful improvements in this release,” he said.

New Abilities

Microsoft unveiled Metrics – originally called Goals – for Power BI in May 2021 and made the feature generally available in June 2022.

Metrics is a performance tracking tool that allows Power BI customers to specify key business goals and milestones, collect them in one place, and use curated data in Power BI to measure progress against those goals. and business milestones.

New metrics features in the latest Power BI platform update include the following:

  • improved data visualizations in Metrics;
  • the ability to move and copy performance dashboards so they can be developed and refined before being shared in the workspace where they will ultimately be used to track performance;
  • a “follow” function allowing users to subscribe to certain dashboards and access the dashboards they follow in one place; and
  • the ability to share a direct link within a given dashboard.

According to Henschen, the additions will not only allow organizations to better monitor performance, but could also lead to widespread adoption of the tool, as they simplify the use of Metrics.

“Collecting updates around Metrics will help generate insights into business actions,” he said. “Metrics gives organizations a way to monitor key performance indicators that are important to the business. With this release, Microsoft…will improve usability and drive potentially viral adoption of metrics.”

A sample Metrics dashboard in Power BI shows the progress of an organization’s initiatives that relate to a specific employee.

Data in Space, meanwhile, is a new tool that uses the Power BI mobile app to contextualize data based on location.

According to Microsoft, the feature uses augmented reality technology in the Power BI app to create spatial anchors, then attach data in Power BI to those anchors to contextually integrate the data with the physical world.

Use cases can include facilities management, manufacturing, and retail, enabling employees in given locations to make decisions based on data specific to those given locations.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this as it alludes to the meeting of the BI metaverse with possibilities for field service, asset management, etc.,” Henschen said. “I hope it’s as sexy as being able to point your phone at a physical asset in a manufacturing, shipping, or retail location and see metrics and data visualizations pop up to tell you what’s going on. happens with performance.”

There are a lot of incremental changes and improvements in these monthly releases, but there were a few notable new features and cases where a collection of incremental upgrades really adds up to something powerful.

Doug HenschenAnalyst, Constellation Research

Farmer, however, pointed out that while Data in Space may be new to Power BI, there are industry-specific applications that serve a similar purpose.

“Data in space isn’t as groundbreaking as Microsoft would like it to be,” he said. “Integration with augmented reality is already a reality for many applications in the manufacturing, industrial and energy sectors. That said, now that it is surfacing in Power BI, there will be many community apps that might be of interest.”

And it’s in community apps where the new built-in analytics capabilities available in the Power BI platform update can also be most beneficial, Farmer continued.

The enhancement improves the accessibility of built-in reports for users who may have visual or physical impairments by providing APIs that allow users to adjust zoom levels and add title attributes by writing minimal amounts of coded.

This will not only benefit end users who may have visual or physical disabilities, but also enable third-party developers who build websites and apps to meet federal accessibility requirements as well as those specific to certain industries.

“Finally, it’s easier to make embedded analytics more accessible,” Farmer said. “It was an obstacle for [original equipment manufacturers] who have strict accessibility requirements in their market that they could not meet with Power BI. And it’s just the right thing to do.”

Additional Features

Beyond the new features of Metrics and the addition of Data in Space, the most recent update to the Power BI platform includes a series of new and updated connectors allowing Power BI to communicate with external sources .

Connect to Datamarts is now in preview and a new connector to Eduframe is generally available. Additionally, updated connectors to Databricks, Funnel, and BitSight Security Ratings are available.

New reporting features include error bars, which allow users to specify a range of potential values ​​for uncertain data in line charts, and improved coloring capabilities for maps to show variations in data based on geographic locations.

And users can now use their mobile app to access metrics to track milestones and goals.

“The list of [additions] is really, really useful,” Farmer said. “Connectivity to data marts is key, of course, and serious analysts have needed error bars for a long time — it’s good to finally see them. “

Despite adding more than 20 new and improved features, including some like error bars that Farmer noted Power BI lacked, the platform is still lacking in one important area, according to Henschen.

Power BI is considered one of the most comprehensive analytics tool suites with peers like Tableau and Qlik, but unlike many of its competitors, Power BI continues to not support clouds other than Microsoft Azure , Henschen said.

While Qlik has made a point of being cloud agnostic, Tableau can deploy on AWS, Google and Azure – among other clouds – and other vendors like MicroStrategy, SAS and ThoughtSpot also allow users to deploy their platforms. cloud-based forms of their choice, Power BI remains more tightly integrated with the Microsoft universe.

“The most obvious gap for Power BI versus independents remains multi-cloud support,” Henschen said. “Power BI can certainly leverage on-premises or any cloud data sources, but I haven’t heard anything yet about using Power BI services anywhere other than Azure.”

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