2020 has been an eventful year, in more ways than one. Microsoft has really ramped up their Power BI game, introducing a slew of new features that provide organizations with more capabilities (most customer requested) for Power BI deployments and implementations. We thought it would be interesting to share our choices for the Top 10 Power BI features of the year, in order of their introduction throughout the year.
- Capacity Health Center added to Premium Capacity Metrics App
The Power BI Premium Metrics app is used to manage the health and capacity of Power BI Premium subscriptions. With the addition of the Health Center, admins can now see indicators on three important metrics: Active memory (part of the capacity planning category), Refresh wait, and Query wait. The dashboard view makes it easier for admins to get quick access to information needed about their capacity, with visualizations of each metric. A handy troubleshooting guide explains the metrics along with steps to help remediate any problems.
Why we like it: The improved one-stop shop makes it easier for Power BI admins to find the information they need quickly.
- New Power BI tab for Microsoft Teams
Previously, sharing Power BI reports required several steps on the part of users. With so much of us spending most of our day in Teams, the addition of the Power BI tab for Microsoft Teams makes sharing and collaborating on reports much simpler, since these activities can now all happen right within the Teams workspace.
Why we like it: This has been a sought-after feature of our customers, especially with accelerated use of Teams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Powerful new Query Diagnostics feature
Query Diagnostics for Power Query in Power BI addresses the issue of not always being able to see behind the scenes when you’re creating a dataset. With it, you can better understand what’s happening with Power Query: the operations being performed, data sets you’re connecting to, time being spent on different actions, background events, etc.
Why we like it: Since its release, Query Diagnostics has been a feature that we use every day. It should be on the radar of anyone authoring reports.
- Power BI lineage view GA
It can be challenging to fully understand data flow from the data source to its destination when dealing with multiple data sources. Power BI lineage view provides a holistic view, with a graphical visualization that represents all of the data artifacts within the Power BI workspace and how they are linked.
Why we like it: This feature allows for easy navigation between artifacts within a workspace.
- Power BI Dataflows Direct Query Support
The preview of Direct Query support for Power BI dataflows was announced in May, opening up an easier way for admins to connect directly to dataflows without importing data into a dataset. Direct queries keep data in the cloud in a centralized dataset used by multiple report authors.
Why we like it: This feature is extremely useful to those who are heavy Power BI authors or data modelers.
- General Availability (GA) of shared and certified datasets in Power BI
Announced back in June of 2019, Microsoft has added even more improvements with the GA of shared and certified datasets in May 2020. Users can validate and certify datasets, allowing other data authors to reuse the dataset as a trusted, authoritative resource. Controlled access via an updated permissions model helps ensure that only the right users will discover and use shared and certified datasets.
Why we like it: The ability to share and certify datasets streamlines workloads and is key to data governance best practices.
- Azure Synapse Analytics
Azure Synapse Analytics brings together data integration, enterprise data warehousing, and predictive analytics through AI. The seamless combination of Azure Synapse Analytics with Power BI opens up new ways to work with structured and unstructured data to efficiently derive actionable insights.
Why we like it: Azure Synapse Analytics allows report authors to work directly with data engineers, saving time and increasing collaboration within a single development environment.
- Power BI data protection GA
Data security is an ongoing challenge, and an essential step in differentiating critical information. With Microsoft Information Protection sensitivity labels, users can tag datasets, reports, dashboards, and dataflows in Power BI. These labels continue to protect exported files according to the label’s file encryption settings.
Why we like it: Increasing user awareness of sensitive data is an important element in data security and data governance efforts.
- Diagram View for Power Query
Diagram View was one of many new Power Query and Dataflow features released in November. It improves the Power Query experience by visually representing multiple queries and how they are interrelated. This graphical approach delivers a broader view of all queries within a dataflow, plus the ability to interactively explore query-level and step-level information.
Why we like it: Access to a birds-eye view across the data in Power BI was a top requested feature from Microsoft customers, and we’re glad to see it.
- Schema View
Working with tables comprised of many columns can be time-consuming. Schema View for Power Query was another great feature introduced in November designed to address this issue. It adds an optimized column management experience that gives data authors the ability to go through table information in a more visual, interactive way, looking at the metadata.
Why we like it: Schema View gives you a better understanding of how things are structured, making it faster and easier to find and work with information.