A new year and a bucket load of new features, Power BI updates have, by no means slowed down over the holiday season. The last quarter has introduced “on-demand” loading capabilities for larger models and Hybrid Tables that allow you to mash up data from different import-mode partitions.
Greater collaboration opportunities with a new “sharing” feature that allows you to include changes you’ve applied, focus on better governance and administration with the public preview of email subscriptions access via Admin API and a brilliant new feature that now allows you to create connected PivotTables in Excel for the web.
As always, we love to bring our favorites to you and our customers, making sure our solutions incorporate the best that Power BI has to offer.
First raised by the Power BI Community back in 2014, the request to include Sparklines in tables has been heard and delivered, with the release of preview sparklines in December. Sparklines are especially useful to quickly visualise trends across several different entities and are commonly used in line with text or a series of values. Once you enable this preview feature you can simply add a sparkline to both your table and matrix visual by selecting a numeric field and clicking “Add a Sparkline”. There are several configuration options for your sparkline including defining your x & y-axis, colour, width, and switching from column to line. Some limitations do exist, at this stage Power BI only supports 5 sparklines per visual and will display 52 points per sparkline. Due to performance reasons, a matrix can only be a maximum of 20 columns if you decide to switch on the feature.
Email Subscriptions for Power BI reports and dashboards have been available and extensively used to ensure teams can stay up to date with the latest reports published. Unfortunately, administration limitations meant that it was nigh impossible to determine who had subscribed to which reports (other than trawling through audit logs) resulting in limited capabilities to natively enforce data governance or control. This quarter brings in the Public Preview of a new set of Admin APIs that returns lists of all the email subscriptions that have been created across the entire tenant, allowing a far more comprehensive and easier method to analyze activity and better implement data governance processes across the Power BI landscape.
Previously, when sharing a link to a report or dashboard you had the ability to enable / disable certain security features (think ability to edit, only view, or add content), but the artifact you shared would be in the state originally published. With this latest feature, you can now elect to share your changes which means any filters, slicers, cross-filtering, drilling up / down, bookmarks and spotlights that you’ve personally applied can be passed along, making it far more useful to articulate points of interest with team members.
This feature is an absolute gamechanger for those that have long had to make hard decisions on the tradeoff between query performance and data recency. Although Import models provide the best performance, when attempting to deal with new data that is coming in rapidly, importing data into datasets at such a high frequency becomes inefficient, impacting performance. DirectQuery works great to deliver fresh data, but you sacrifice performance when dealing with large volumes.
The ultimate solution? Create a hybrid.
Power BI released a double-banger in December with the Hybrid Table in conjunction with an enhancement to incremental refresh augmented with real-time data! “A hybrid table is essentially a (large) table that has one or multiple import-mode partitions as well as another partition in DirectQuery mode. If the DirectQuery partition is sufficiently small in comparison to the import-mode partitions, the query/response roundtrips between Power BI and the data source should still be reasonably fast while access to the bulk of the data is already super-fast in import mode. Import and DirectQuery data is presented to users as a single table with business definitions and calculations.”
Here's a picture from Power BI:
If you’ve already built a deployment process using dev / test / prod workspaces, never fear, according to the latest Power BI update, you will be able to now “lift and shift” the process and “place it in a pipeline”. Deployment pipeline users now can assign workspaces to all the pipeline stages. Automatic matching will be done after assigning 2 workspaces, matched on item type and name, whenever a match is found, it means that deploying the artifact from the source stage to the target stage will override and update its match.
“Connections between items are only established when you assign a workspace to a pipeline stage. Adding a new item to a workspace that's part of a pipeline, doesn't trigger the creation of connections between that item and identical items in adjacent stages. To trigger forming a connection between a newly added item in a workspace stage and its equivalent item in an adjacent stage, unassign and reassign the workspace that contains the newly added item.”
This feature, released in November 2021 must be one of my all-time favourites. To create a seamless UX for report consumers I’ve experienced the pain of creating multiple bookmarks with matching duplicate buttons to display different selected states on multiple pages, so that the navigation felt effortless and intuitive, despite the spaghetti configuration under the hood to make it happen.
This release brings two new built-in navigators that automatically builds navigators based on what you have created or bookmarked. Both options (found under “Insert > buttons”) are configurable and do require both pages and bookmarks to be created prior to using. Standard formatting available for buttons is also available for the navigators, with a couple of additional options including layout, and determining the ‘selected state’. A great release, with due focus not just on the final UI but also better understanding of the user experience for Power BI authors and designers.