Power BI updates over the last quarter have covered a lot of different territory, from underlying changes to how data security is handled to better integration with popular collaborative tools. We have picked out some of the more interesting and relevant in order to keep you informed about the direction this core product is taking. As these updates are rolled out to Power BI our clients may start to see them used in the solutions that we deliver. It is always interesting to know what new tools have been made available to solve data and analytics problems in new and creative ways.
September saw the release of the Power BI Connector to Azure Databricks for Power BI Desktop, and now the same capability has been released to the Power BI Service, which means you can share your Power BI reports based on Azure Databricks once published to the Power BI Service.
The connector is a native configuration option in Power BI Desktop and supports DirectQuery allowing you consume data at cloud scale. The latest update means that SSO is also supported in Power BI Service, being in DirectQuery mode the data remains in Azure Databricks, and data lake-level security controls can be enforced.
The connector also supports Azure Active Directory security, allowing report publishers to simply log in using their existing credentials, and connect to Azure Databricks data directly.
Data Lakes are an increasingly popular solution to storing and processing large volumes of unstructured data. In many cases, however, your organisation may be operating several different Data Lakes and consolidation may not be possible. Previously, this would be a problem, since Power BI could only connect to a single, Power Bi managed, Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 account.
Now it is possible to connect multiple Azure Data Lake accounts as well as manage permissions between them to ensure that everyone has the access they need while retaining good user access controls. Furthermore, there is now support for assigning ownership over Data Lake dataflows and the ability for all users in a workspace to connect, not just the owner.
We have previously written about how Excel can be a weak point in an organisation's data quality in security, commonly when data is brought over for experimental and exploratory purposes. With this new update, sensitivity information which applies to Power BI data is automatically transferred over when this data is brought over to Excel, for example, for the purposes of analysis using PivotTable. Any changes to the original dataset are automatically applied to Excel during a data refresh.
Another quality-of-life security change as part of this update impacts the creation of new reports. Now, any new assets that are created on top of a dataset marked as sensitive, will inherit the same sensitivity label. This prevents potential issues where certain elements might accidentally fall through the gaps of security when extensive reports are being created.
Power Automate is a powerful tool which can integrate different apps and tools into streamlined workflows. This toolbox includes a Power BI connector, which has been made ever more useful with the ability to export paginated reports on demand. As part of building a usual Power Automate workflow, there is now the potential to update and export reports in a variety of different formats to be utilised in whatever way is optimal through the use of process flows and conditions. This augments Power Automate advanced automation with Power BI's publishing and visualisation capabilities to open up a whole range of new possibilities.
Over the last few months of lockdown and working remotely, Microsoft Teams has become an indispensable tool supporting collaborative work for many teams. Because of this, we appreciate that the Power BI integration with Microsoft Teams continues to receive useful updates. In this round, a new Power BI app has been made available for preview. With it, there is now a direct vector from the Teams interface to all of your Power BI resources, with intuitive search and discovery tools built in.
You can now search for Power BI resources directly through the Teams search bar. Furthermore, with this new app, reports are easier than ever to share within a Teams conversation through the new interface accessible from the dedicated Power BI menu button. A rich preview card is also automatically generated based on what you're sharing. We look forward to the future ways in which Power BI will become even more integrated and accessible through the most popular collaboration tools.
If you'd like to learn about any of the items mentioned in this post in more detail, or simply need to learn the basics from scratch, sign up to our remote Power BI training classes which will arm you with the skills you need to wrangle and visualise your data.