Power BI – reporting

Microsoft Power BI Logo

Power BI is Microsoft’s leading reporting product, having led the market since its launch in 2017.  As Power BI Consultants we follow its progress carefully and look to make use of any improvements as soon as they arrive. Power BI continues continually to be developed, but what has changed most is that it is now a part of Fabric, and that means it is now packaged up with all the tooling to get your data fully in shape before it is used for reporting and analytics.

Previously you would have used a number of different products to get your data in to shape for accurate reporting. Now it’s all here in the unified SAAS platform of Microsoft Fabric. With Microsoft describing Fabric as “Our most important data product since SQL Server” (which was launched way back in 1989) you can see they are placing a lot of store in it.

Power BI – now a part of Microsoft Fabric

Microsoft Fabric Experiences
The Microsoft Fabric Experiences

In addition to being included into the Fabric project, Power BI also has a large number of new features.

New Power BI Features

CoPilot: AI to help your report-building process

The other really significant change to Power BI in 2024 is the introduction of Microsoft’s “CoPilot” AI – based technology. This carries out quite complex data and report development tasks, from a simple text instruction.  

You could type: “create a bar chart of monthly sales since January 2020”, Power BI will create a report in a couple of seconds. This is a significant improvement to the productivity of power bi consultants, report designers and data analysts.

The Co-Pilot panel in Power BI 2024
The Co-Pilot panel in Power BI 2024

The Q&A Control

Another AI-related feature in the new Power BI is the Q&A control, which:

  1. Suggests likely text-based questions that you might want to ask based on its interpretation of the data in the report.
  2. Allows you to suggest the kind of questions that you would like to include in this list.
  3. As you type, the report intelligently gives options of what you might want to ask next. These are based on your current input and the data in the report.
  4. It will create you a visual element or graph which best answers your question.
  5. Allow you to add that element to your dashboard.
Q&A control in Power BI
Q&A control in Power BI

The aim to make the benefits of great data analysis available to regular people in your organization, and not restrict it only to programmers. The “Democratization of Data” as Microsoft is calling it.

Data Security in Power BI

Data-technicians among our readers might be wringing their hands with horror, at the idea that users lacking a deep understanding of the data could be creating Ad-hoc reports without a knowledge of the data and security principles behind it.   It would be possible for example to create reports which could mislead an end user.

Microsoft have included a number of tools and principles. This means that even while broadening access to your data and BI, technicians are able to control data quality.  For example a Semantic Model (previously known as a “Data Set”), is created by data professionals, and then made available for users to interrogate.  The advantage of a Semantic Model is that your business rules and controls are built into it, so your users create their reports on data of proven quality.

Power BI remains one of the primary tools for outputting all the data that has been combined and managed in Fabric. It is how data is consumed and understood by business-people.  To that extent Power BI is now the surface-layer of Microsoft Fabric, and the part that the end users will experience. See more on Data Security in Power BI (and MS Fabric).

Report Distribution

In terms of how you can distribute your Power BI report content, there are a number of options:

  • Individual PBI files which can be sent and shared. These remain editable.
  • The Power BI Desktop is a local app where a lot of the report building takes place.
  • The Power BI service. An online service where the integration of reports is configured. Here you define who should have access to a report via a workspace, and the level of access they will have.
  • A Power BI Dashboard. The top-level summary of a report. Visuals from multiple report pages and datasets are combined on a single overview.
  • Power BI Apps. Reports, Semantic Models and dashboards can be packaged for end users in a read only format but with interactive features included such as slicers, filters, and drill-downs.
  • The Power BI mobile apps. Native apps for IOS, Android and Windows, where you can access and enhance your reports on the go.
  • Alerts in dashboards which will let you know whenever a “level of interest” has been reached in any report.
  • “Embed on a web page”, or in SharePoint, for reports which you want to distribute more widely.
  • Power BI Paginated report builder. (Used to be SSRS: SQL Server Reporting Services). Use when large amounts of tabular data needs to be printed or included on a PDF or other format for distribution.
  • Our Power BI consultants can help you select the right methods of report distribution, and all other aspects of the data management, design and build process.

Bringing it all together with Comset

Your Comset Power BI consultant will be able to help you choose the most appropriate distribution method for your reports and your audience. And of course we’ll help you to prepare your data so that all your reporting is based on secure, accurate and reliable “decision grade” information.

Power BI overview Video