Microsoft Injects Power BI Insights Into Visio Diagrams

Power BI users can now link their business analytics to floorplans, business processes and other diagrams created in Visio.

business intelligence

Power BI users now have another way of making sense of their analytics data with the release of the Visio Custom Visual for the cloud-enabled business intelligence offering from Microsoft.

Currently available in preview, the new visual allows users to take diagrams created in Visio and use them as a foundation on which to overlay meaningful business insights. "Using Visio and Power BI together, you can illustrate and compare data both as diagrams and as traditional Power BI visuals in one place, driving operational and business intelligence to understand the overall picture," stated Tzvi Keisar, a program manager at Microsoft Power BI, in a blog post.

"With this new visual, you can connect to a Visio diagram hosted on SharePoint or OneDrive for Business," continued Keisar. "The underlying Power BI data is then automatically and intelligently linked to the diagram based on its shape properties, eliminating the need to do this manually."

When added to Power BI, and after a few clicks the company claims, the software transforms Visio diagrams into interactive visualizations, said Keisar. In an example of how Visio and Power BI can come together, he offered an embedded report that allows users to explore inventory levels by clicking around a floorplan representing the showroom of a fictitious clothing retailer.

The Visio Custom Visual is available now in the Office app store. For now, reports containing this type of visual are not supported on the Power BI mobile apps and Power BI embedded, nor can users set up email subscriptions for Visio-based reports or export them to PowerPoint.

Other recent additions to Power BI include new ways of sprucing up charts.

The August update for Power BI Desktop contains new style options for line charts, announced Microsoft Power BI program manager Amanda Cofsky. "You can now set the style for line charts to dotted and dashed in addition to the standard solid line style. This feature is great not only for styling your charts, but also for accessibility, as you now have even more options to format each line differently without having to rely on color," she blogged.

Visio aside, Microsoft also unveiled a spate of new custom Power BI visuals, including the Power KPI (key performance indicator) visual and MAQ Software's dot plot. A new funnel plot for R-based analytics makes it easier for users to spot statistical outliers, while the new Beyondsoft Calendar visual allows report authors to create a heatmap, of sorts, based on a calendar view.

Users crafting scatter charts in Power BI now have two new features that can help add a little more context to their reports. The new symmetry shading option colors the background of a chart to help viewers quickly identify if its data favors x- or y-axis measures while the ratio line helps users more easily determine which of those measures has a higher value, said Cofsky.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...