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My Top 10 Most Wanted Features in Power BI

An incredibly rapid development of Power BI has made the Microsoft platform recognized by market analysts as a leader in Business Intelligence solutions. I really love the ease of working with Power BI. That’s why I would like to see Power BI getting better and better over time.

The purpose of this blog post is to share a subjective list of top 10 features I miss the most in Power BI. I’ve been maintaining this list since the very first version of Power BI delivered by Microsoft in 2015 (I treat Power BI for Office 365 as a different story).

My hope is that someone from the Power BI Product Team will read this post and perhaps we’ll have a good discussion on that. To make it clear, I love Power BI and I really enjoy what the Team has done for the last two years. Really awesome job. But I hear the voices of my Clients hitting many walls while working with Power BI. And sometimes I am not able to give them a good reason (pricing is not always the #1 criteria) to stick with Microsoft data platform instead of going into a different self-service BI technology.

You may ask, why not use Power BI Ideas community forum to provide feedback to Microsoft? Well, I actually did it! But the problem is that the forum itself has a serious issue – it does not allow people to sort items by the number of votes once they search for a topic. That’s why a single idea is often visible many times on the forum under different items. It’s annoying and I would love to see this fixed and the items merged into some meaningful groups. In my list I provide some links to several items just to point where you can add your votes if you like the ideas.

So here it is, My Top 10 Most Wanted Features in Power BI:

  1. Cross-filtering.
    What I mean by that? If I click on a single visualization, e.g. on a bar representing sales of a single product, I would like to see other visualizations used for selection before to remain selected, e.g. if I clicked on a bar representing sales for a single quarter before I should filter by the product and the quarter at the same time. My suggestion – put a new button “Cross-filter” into the Format menu to change the original behavior of the visualizations and to allow multi-selection. Another possible way could be – allow selection on many visualizations with holding Ctrl key. This is a must-have feature to drill-down data and see hidden relationships on a single screen. A drill-down or interactive matrix in Power BI are some workarounds, but do not solve this challenge.

    See the screenshot of how it works in Tableau (I selected product subcategory with the lowest margin and a customer with the lowest margin on that product subcategory to see the locations and timing of the transactions):

    image

    See these items on Power BI Ideas forum:
    https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/suggestions/10755336-multiple-cross-filter
    https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/suggestions/6709520-drill-down-should-drill-or-cross-filter-other-visu

  2. Multiples.
    There should be an easy way to display a matrix of simple visualizations for several hierarchies.

    See the example below (sorry, Tableau again):

    image

    From the visualization above I can see sales amount by product subcategory, product category and order date at the same time. And again, the drill-down in Power BI does not solve this challenge (it requires a lot of actions!). Neither does “Concatenate labels” option available in a vertical bar chart used with hierarchies.

    See this item on Power BI Ideas forum:
    https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/suggestions/9750957-vertical-and-horizontal-multiples-small-multiples

  3. Selection tool.
    A user should be able to select with rectangle, and in many cases also with different shapes (scatter and map should allow to pick a selection shape among rectangular, radial or lasso). I know this may be hard to implement in Power BI. My suggestion – add another button “Lock visualizations” to the Format menu that will cause drag-and-drop to select instead of moving the visualizations. Also, add “Lock” button to every single visual to provide the same behavior on the visualization level.

  4. Unlimited .pbix file size.
    What good is the limit of 50GB per user in Power BI Pro if I can’t put any .pbix file beyond 1GB?

    Zdjęcie użytkownika Pawel Potasinski.

    What logic stands behind this limit? I have no idea, but it sometimes forces even small Clients to move their the datasets into SQL Server (which means licences and lots of $$$!!!) much sooner than they considered or to look for another tool which does not have such a low storage limit for a single offline data model.

  5. Unlimited number of values in visualizations.
    This is really annoying one. See the following example:

    image

    I created a scatter with each bubble representing a single transaction (order). Bubbles are colored by segment. Now, notice the tooltip showing up in the top left corner (oh my, it’s so easy to miss this little warning icon!!!). It says the chart is showing only a sample of the dataset. Well, that’s not good, especially taking into account my dataset is not huge (several thousand rows and scatter or map are not the visualizations you can use…). But what’s event worse I don’t know what values are filtered out by the sampling algorithm (if any). And the worst thing is that any analytics lines generated in this chart is generated based on the displayed values, not the whole dataset, so they do not show the real trends, medians, averages and whatever you choose to visualize. A visualization – liar!? Nasty one.

    As usually, there are some workarounds: binning, grouping, clustering. But a typical user can become confused seeing the message shown above. And of course, the competition is able to display much more values (I tested scatter chart in Tableau for 1 milion values and it works just perfectly).

  6. Color consistency, more universal themes, documented best practices for graphics.
    Yes, we have Themes feature in Preview. But do we really have to use JSON to create a theme? And why the themes are so limited? No font color, no background color (the ones you would suspect are for background and foreground are in fact used in table and matrix visualizations only…). Why not use something more natural for HTML? Perhaps CSS and its classes? And if we have to use JSON there should be a graphical interface for theme creation (provided within Power BI, not built by the community!).

    Another important thing, the colors should remain consistent once they are declared. What I mean by that is that I should be able to match a color to each value of the column (e.g. product) and the colors should be reused anytime the same column is used in another chart. And if I pick a background color for a single page it should remain untouched if any chart is in a focus mode (the background seems to be white all the time you get there!).

    If you have ever tried to work with graphics in Power BI, you know it’s hard and the effects can be frustrating (e.g. a nice logo of your company can lose the quality and look terrible on the report). I would expect some documentation of the best practices for working with images in Power BI. Why do we have to perform a time consuming R&D in order to find that .svg files bring the best effect?

    Last but not least, a theme has to be respected by conditional formatting and color saturation option in the charts and I should be able to create a common color patterns for conditional formatting for my whole report.

  7. Code repository & intellisense for M.
    So you have created tons of M transformations and some serious number of DAX calculations? Bad news is that there is no single place you can get into to copy your work. And there should be. I really can’t wait to see a kind of M/DAX Editior in Power BI Desktop (just like DAX Editior provided as an add-in for SSDT by SQLBI.com guys).

    Also, have you ever tried to write some more advanced M? That’s pain, isn’t it? C’mon, Power BI Desktop is a modern tool! It just has to bring all well-known facilities for developers and analysts! Instead of forcing us to have M reference PDF documents open, please provide us an intellisense for M.

    See this item on Power BI Ideas forum:
    https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/suggestions/7202913-improve-the-advanced-query-editor

  8. Custom sorting.
    This should be an easy one. I have my bar chart of product categories showing sales by each category. But I color the bars by the margin.

    image

    Now, if I would like to sort the bars by margin (notice the yellow color pointing low margin on Tables), Power BI forces me to create another chart or to move margin onto one of the axis… Why just not allow all the measures and columns present in the visualization (even in the tooltip!) to be used for sorting?

    Also, I would love to see the ability to sort bars by the values, but inside each of the categories (separate sorting in Furniture, Office Supplies and Technology in my case shown above).

    And if I have a stacked bar chart, I should be able to sort by a single category, not just by the total.

    BTW, have you noticed that to change the sort direction (increasing / decreasing) you need to click on the little icon A/Z? Otherwise you can turn off sorting instead of getting the desired result. It’s often not that intuitive for business users!

    image

    See this item on Power BI Ideas forum:
    https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/suggestions/9083209-custom-order-for-legend-in-stacked-bar-chart

  9. Custom and searchable tooltips.
    I’d love to see more customizable tooltips in Power BI. There are number of workarounds (e.g. https://sqldusty.com/2016/06/29/5-more-power-bi-tips/), but a custom tooltip should not require DAX… Also, Tableau has just announced some nice feature that could be helpful in many scenarios – a tooltip selection (https://www.tableau.com/about/blog/2017/4/sharpen-your-analysis-tooltip-selection-tableau-103-68761).

    See this item on Power BI Ideas forum:
    https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/suggestions/7580157-tooltip-customization-on-reports

  10. Customizable quick measures.
    Quick measures is a new very cool feature of Power BI. I love the idea of creating measures without learning DAX. And I’m also excited about the idea of Quick Measures Gallery. What I’d like to see in Power BI Desktop is an ability to add custom quick measures, just like I’m able to add a new code snippet in SQL Server Management Studio. I could create my own quick measures once and then reuse them as needed in my reports.

Well, that’s it. That’s my list. Some of the features are fortunately marked as STARTED by the Power BI Product Team. And with monthly updates of Power BI Desktop app I believe it won’t be long to see the new features in the product. If you are interested in Power BI and have some other ideas than the ones listed above, please share them with me. We can start some discussion and who knows, perhaps we shall be heard ;-) Have a great reporting with Power BI and an awesome weekend everyone!

9 thoughts on “My Top 10 Most Wanted Features in Power BI

  1. It seems you should just be using Tableau? Why are you waiting for the features to be released when they are already available in other tools?

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for commenting.

      There are couple of reasons:

      1) Tableau’s pricing – most of my Clients hit this wall and they simply cannot go into the corporate BI with Tableau.
      2) Rapid development of Power BI – it follows Tableau more and more and integrates with other parts of Microsoft data stack (and that’s the technology me and my company fellows use the most in our projects).

      BR,
      Pawel

  2. I agree with Mike^. Are you sticking with PowerBI out of brand loyalty or something? You used Tableau to show every cool feature that you wanted- why not just use Tableau? I love it

    1. Hi Lydia,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m not quite sure why ;-) Yes, I used to work at Microsoft once (that’s probably a valid reason) and yes, I’m a big fan of Microsoft data platform (can’t deny that). About Tableau, it has its own areas where it falls short against Power BI (e.g. self-service ETL, R integration), but overall it’s a great product (number one in data visualization) and I use it sometimes (even for my own purposes). But most of my Clients nowadays choose Power BI (mainly because of its pricing, Power BI Report Server available with SQL Server licenses they already own, integration with Microsoft’s stack they use & so forth).

      BR,
      Pawel

  3. Hi, interesting post. I’m intrigued by your comment –
    But I hear the voices of my Clients hitting many walls while working with Power BI. And sometimes I am not able to give them a good reason (pricing is not always the #1 criteria) to stick with Microsoft data platform instead of going into a different self-service BI technology.

    Do you mind elaborating on why you wouldn’t just work with the solution that gives the client the best results and delivers the most value? There are plenty of alternatives that play well with the MS data stack.

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, there are plenty of alternatives for Power BI. And yes, pricing is not always the #1 criteria. However, most companies I’m working with are constantly looking for standardization of BI tools across the whole organization. And they are often willing to sacrifice many things to make it possible to deliver one tool for every business user. And then we are again in pricing discussion…

      Historically, I’ve built my skills around SQL Server and Microsoft data platform. So, it was quite natural for me to expand my skills onto Power BI once it was released back in 2015. But I’m constantly checking other technologies (e.g. Tableau and Qlik) to make sure I can always point my Clients to reasonable alternatives.

      In my country – I see companies using Power BI more and more. No idea, if it’s a matter of just pricing, or perhaps Microsoft’s marketing is doing a great job, or maybe Clients rely on what Gartner and other market analytics companies write about Power BI (quite enthusiastic stories).

      Anyway, what I focus on for most of my time is to keep my Clients away from replacing “Excel hell” with another hell – “the self-service BI hell” (doesn’t really help much if you deploy even the best BI tool having no data quality and governance in place).

      BR,
      Pawel

    1. Krzysztof, I know this slide deck, and it’s not actual anymore (Microsoft has done their homework). Besides, I think going on the feature-by-feature basis does not make any sense, since we should compare the tools rather by areas / effectiveness.

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