Power BI Desktop update – feature of the month (Oct & Nov-19)

Here’s a summary of the updates Microsoft released for Power BI Desktop recently. Full details on these updates can be found on the Power BI blog; Oct-19, Nov-19.



The feature we’ve picked out as the highlight for Oct-19 is the various improvements to report Q&AWatch the below video to see this feature in action; The video will automatically start in the correct place.

These updates are taking Report Q&A to a a new level, even compared to the Dashboard Q&A we’ve seen and used for some time now.

First off; there’s a new standard Q&A visual which can be added to a report page (just like any other visual). Prior to this, we had to access Report Q&A either by clicking the report page background, or by clicking a Q&A action button – if the report developer had added one of these to the report page.

Next; Report Q&A now identifies the words typed by the user it has and hasn’t recognised (matching to those columns and measures in the PBI data set). Those it recognises are underlined in blue, those it doesn’t in red. PBI may still be able to display data for those words it hasn’t recognised by using it’s connections with Office and Bing; It uses these connections to find synonyms for the unrecognised word, and if a matching synonym is found in the PBI data set then PBI will display that data.

The other great feature is being able to define certain terms. In the video above, the word “cooler” is defined at those places with a temperature below a certain value. The same could be used to define hits, misses, breaches etc. compared to a target value. However, changing and maintain these would have to be considered.

The Automatic Page Refresh (APR) feature is also worth a shout out. This is really only a Premium feature as in a non Premium scenario (i.e. the report is published to a non-Premium work-space) the APR is limited to every 30 mins. Where the report is published to a Premium work-space, then the Page Refresh can be set to every second (if the PBI service and work-space settings are set accordingly). APR is also only a Direct Query feature.



The feature we’ve picked out as the highlight for Nov-19 is the Decomposition Tree visualWatch the below video to see this feature in action; The video will automatically start in the correct place.

Anyone who is or was familiar with Performance Point, a SharePoint BI feature from a few year ago, will certainly recognise this visual and know a little about its use cases. If not, then the visual is primarily used to perform route cause analysis on data.

When adding a Decomposition Tree visual to a report, the report developer selects one Measure as the ‘Metric’ and multiple Dimensions for the ‘Explain’ drill down. This is similar is some ways to a Matrix table, however there are two big differences between the Decomposition Tree visual and the Matrix visual.

The first is the obvious one – how the visual looks and how the data is presented.

The second is less obvious at first but more significant. When using a Matrix visual, the report user drills down the dimensions in the order set by the report developer (just like they would when using a pivot table in Excel). But when using a Decomposition Tree in the same way, the report user selects the order they want to drill down and explore the dimensions in.

The user will only be able to select the dimensions added to the visual by the report developer though. I seem to recall that in Performance Point the user could select any dimension from the data source, but this could and often did result in a very long list of dimensions to chose from.

One of the criticisms off the Performance Point Decomposition Tree was that an exploratory path (the selecting and drilling down on dimensions) could not be saved. In this PBI version a default path can certainly be saved by the report developer; However, we don’t believe a path selected by an end user can be saved, but we’ll be happily proved wrong on this and this is something we’ll test more.

The Modern Ribbon updates are certainly worth a shout out here as well. Until now most of the PBI column, measure, visual settings/options have been set using the Fields and Visualisations panels. These panels were starting to get very busy, and I know I’ve got lost in them a little from time to time. So it’s great to see some of these settings/options appearing on the ribbon instead, which should lead to a cleaner interface, a better user experience and more consistency with Office products (particularly Excel).

Please do post any questions or comments you have below, we’d love to hear from you

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