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The first (hopefully of many) Data Insights Summit took place in March of 2016 in Bellevue, Washington. It was 2 days of exploring all that Power BI and related technologies have to offer. There is a whole collection of videos from the conference, so head over to the Power BI You Tube channel to see some of the action.

I am offering my perspective on the conference highlights, especially in light of updates to Power BI.com and Power BI desktop. Due to the size of the conference and the variety of offerings, I was not able to attend too many of the sessions. So if you did attend, and think I missed something key, please email sstamper@elogic.com to share! And now, on to my highlights (in no particular order)!

  • There was a lot of interest and discussion around an on-premise deployment option for Power BI. Currently, deployment is focused around Power BI.com. However, I had numerous conversations with leaders on the Power BI team and there is definitely forward momentum.
  • There is excellent forward momentum on the government cloud. A lot of this is under NDA, but reach out to us if you want to learn more.
  • Microsoft is moving forward on thinking about industry specific solutions for Power BI.  eLogic already delivers Adoption, Pipeline, and other key Manufacturing Business Intelligence offerings. As a leader in solutions for Manufacturers, expect more from us soon.
  • Microsoft has taken a big step towards powerful, general availability security in Power BI. They are introducing Row Level Security (RLS). Through individual assignment and assignment to groups, we will be able to control who has access to which report and dashboard in Power BI. This was, when announced met with a HUGE round of applause! It is crucial for long term adoption in the large enterprise space, and Microsoft promised more security and context soon.
  • The Power BI team shared some pretty good install numbers - 5 million Power BI subscribers and over 200k companies. They described BI as formerly being a rear view mirror technology, but now transitioning to a tool to chart the future. They describe Azure as planet scale data storage. That statement takes a lot of chutzpah, but they sound to be getting closer.
  • The Admin center in Office 365 portal now includes Usage Metrics in the Admin Center. So monitoring usage and adoption is coming!
  • With Excel 2016, everyone’s favorite analytics tool is now tightly integrated with Power BI. Pivot tables are becoming an option with live connections to the data and charts and such created in Excel are now becoming first class citizens in Power BI dashboards. Excel-geeks rejoice!
  • Excel now has a plugin that connects to Azure Maching Learning (ML) to do sentiment analysis. The demo was pretty good. This will be more hype than practical application for the short term, but promises to be great soon (and will make users ooh and aah!).
  • Excel has new forecasting capabilities. This is really powerful and should make surfacing forecasts in Power BI much simpler.
  • Inside Power BI, the Q&A features are getting a nice set of updates. The suggestions drop down looks faster and is getting nicely expanded to include more results. And the interaction between Q&A and the main dashboard is finally becoming recursive. After finding good results, you can now send those back to the dashboard.
  • Inside Windows 10, the Power BI reports are becoming available inside Cortana and Cortana analytics! Now this was really cool! You will be able to go into your Window’s 10 Cortana search bar, and enter “Sales pipeline for last month” and the proper dashboard should be surfaced right in the pane. It is important to note that the first demo of this worked, and the second failed. So I think you should treat this as “nice to see” or now.
  • Mobile capabilities appear to be growing by leaps and bounds. Integration with Holo Lens, iOS/Android, Apple Watch, and other mobile technologies means Power BI is really starting to make a meaningful move off the desktop.
  • First consider DAX (reach out to me if you are not familiar with DAX – I can wax poetic on the capabilities of this data transformation language) and the Power BI query language called M (short for Mashup). Then think about the amazing use of the R statistical programming integration, AND the related capabilities in Excel!

Anyone who says that Power BI has not arrived as a best-in-class tool for generating real, meaningful business intelligence has not looked closely at Power BI recently! The ETL, data shaping and transformation, and analytics capabilities are all really powerful. And with the deep body of sales, marketing, and IoT data that manufacturers are sitting on… well, let’s just say we can do some fantastic, business-transforming work combining Power BI in Manufacturing.

At eLogic, we are hard at work implementing a range of BI solutions for manufacturers. From strategic Adoption reporting to new and innovative ways to measure and interact with Pipeline, we bring the best Power BI has to bear on complex manufacturing organizations.

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