I have a confession. I’m a complete Tableau fanboy. I’ve been dragging and dropping non-stop ever since I was introduced to the platform a few years ago, and I spend a good part of every workday with my nose in a Tableau workbook. However, I’ve recently been spending more and more time with Power BI, and as much as I love Tableau, I have to admit that Microsoft has piqued my interest. I can’t wait to dive even deeper into the world of Microsoft, and luckily, I don’t have long to wait.
Microsoft’s Business Application Summit is just two months away, and they recently released their catalog of breakout sessions. There will be more sessions added to the catalog in the coming weeks, but here are the sessions from the initial announcement that I’m really looking forward to:
All analysts know that the most time-intensive part of any project is data prep, since your dashboards and reports are only as good as the data that goes into them. This session will cover Power BI Desktop’s integration with Power Query and M to “provide a best-in-market experience for importing, reshaping and combining data from a wide range of sources.” At least until the recent launch of Tableau Prep, Power BI has been an industry leader in data prep and they continue to refine these products to make them even better for users. I’ve only scratched the surface with Power BI’s data prep capabilities so far, so I’m excited to learn more from the experts on how to optimize this all-important part of the project lifecycle.
As someone who is far more used to Tableau’s Venn-diagram-filled data source page, I’m looking forward to this overview of Power BI’s Data Model. This session covers topics like creating relationships between tables, DAX filter context and Microsoft’s in-memory data engine, so it should tie very nicely with the Data Prep session above.
Just look at that title! How could you not be psyched for a session that shows you how to use 1 trillion rows of data?! That’s not big data – that’s massive data. I already have a ton of questions for the proctors: How do you set up something of this magnitude? Even after you set it up, how quickly do dashboards and reports perform? How do you optimize refresh scheduling for something this big? I’ve run into dashboards that have plenty of latency issues with less than 250k rows of data, so I’m really excited to learn more about how to leverage Azure to create Power BI Dashboards that can process massive amounts of data.
This session provides an overview of the administrative side of the Power BI Service. Data governance (ensuring that users have access to the appropriate licenses, dashboards, reports, and data) is critical to the success of any analytics self-service portal, and it’s up to Power BI Service admins to make sure that their companies are following best practices in this space. Admin tools, such as the Power BI admin portal and the Office 365 admin center, allow admins to create user groups and set up & automate tasks such as screening dashboards for low usage. The session description mentions “administrative APIs and PowerShell cmdlets” that can be used for automating admin tasks, and I’m really excited to learn more about these tools.
Every single time I distribute a new Tableau dashboard, at least one user asks: “How do I export this to Excel?” No matter how badly you want users to interact with the glorious visualizations in your dashboards rather than just dumping the underlying data into a crosstab, there are always going to be some users who just can’t stay away from that familiar green X icon. While Tableau has fought their hardest to steer people away from tabular analysis, Microsoft embraces Excel and lets you access their flagship data analysis tool directly within Power BI. As much as I want end users to adopt the newer visual approach to reporting, I want them to find the data accessible even more. I’m really excited to learn more about how Microsoft makes that possible.
And those are my top sessions for Microsoft’s Business Applications Summit 2018! Hopefully I’ll run into you at one of them! Be sure to check soon for more awesome content and let us know if you’d like to meet up with a Softcrylic team member in Seattle.