Microsoft’s Power BI software for business intelligence and analytics is used by thousands of organizations around the world to uncover hidden insights and make smarter, data-driven decisions. 2020 marked the 13th straight year that IT research and advisory firm Gartner has ranked Power BI as a “leader” in the field of analytics and BI platforms.
The commitment to innovation and technological advancement is a major reason why Power BI has been on top for so long: Microsoft continues to release new functionality for Power BI on a regular basis. In this article, we’ll discuss the Power BI features and updates that help the software’s users get the most from their Power BI performance.
Power BI Features and Updates
Microsoft adds features and updates to Power BI in what it calls “release waves”: roughly six-month periods when new functionality reaches general availability (often after it is first made available in a public preview). In May 2020, for example, Microsoft announced a new Power BI update that would gradually add features such as:
- “Smart narratives,” a natural language generation tool for automatically summarizing reports and visualizations
- Mobile report authoring to convert existing reports for mobile devices
- PowerPoint for Data, offering pre-built templates for report pages
Keeping informed about the latest Power BI features and updates is essential to get the most from your Power BI performance. Some of the recent Power BI updates have included valuable functionality like:
- Visual personalization so that users can adjust the appearance of a Power BI report on their own devices, even without having edit access to the document.
- Incremental refresh that improves the experience of working with very large datasets in Power BI. This feature makes refreshes faster, more reliable, and less memory-intensive by only refreshing data that has changed.
- Conditional formatting for totals and subtotals in matrices in order to highlight the most important parts of a matrix visualization (e.g. through different colors).
- Decomposition trees, an AI-enhanced visualization type that helps users find the root causes of high or low KPIs.
- The ability to directly connect to Power BI datasets in Excel, as well as new collaboration features in Microsoft Teams.
The list above is only scratching the surface of the most recent Power BI features and updates. You can stay up-to-date by following Microsoft’s feature lists for the various release waves, e.g. 2020 release wave 1 and 2020 release wave 2. Microsoft’s Power BI blog also offers monthly feature summaries that outline everything new with the software, e.g. the December 2020 Power BI feature summary.
What’s Next for Power BI?
With a continual stream of new functionality, what’s on the horizon for Power BI features and updates? Microsoft has defined four priorities for future software development in its Power BI roadmap:
- Self-service analytics that enables all members of the organization to collaborate and get their hands dirty with enterprise data.
- A unified BI platform that acts as the organization’s one-stop shop for both self-service and centralized analytics.
- Big data analytics that can keep up with the ever-growing volume and complexity of big data, including by using Azure Data Services in the cloud.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) for BI to help users explore data and find new patterns and connections, without writing a single line of code.
In service of these goals, Microsoft’s 2020 release wave 2 plan includes many exciting new features such as:
- Automation and Azure DevOps integration via a set of REST APIs, letting users connect to a Power BI deployment pipeline and automatically deploy content updates.
- Support for DirectQuery capabilities in Power BI dataflows, using the new enhanced compute engine for self-service analytics.
- A performance accelerator for Azure Synapse Analytics that automatically creates and manages materialized views when using larger Power BI Premium datasets in DirectQuery mode.
Want to know how to use these new features to get the most from your Power BI software? You can’t go wrong joining forces with a knowledgeable, experienced Power BI partner like Datavail. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Datavail’s Power BI services include:
- Custom dashboard design and development
- Report generation
- Ongoing maintenance and 24/7 support
- Assessments and recommendations
- Performance optimization
- Data integration and ETL-related tasks
- Deployment planning and corporate training
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