Microsoft Previews Power BI Dashboards

An update will enable personalized dashboards and deliver insights from popular third-party SaaS applications.

Microsoft BI dashboards

Power BI, Microsoft's cloud-based, self-service business intelligence toolset, is gaining new features that are aimed at helping users get an at-a-glance view of more of their data—and from more sources. Officially launched on Feb. 10 after its 2013 debut, Power BI is Microsoft's stab at closing the big data skills gap by enabling the exploration and analysis of business information with Excel, one of the corporate world's most prevalent software tools.

The Power BI Team announced in a Dec. 18 blog post the release of a new Power BI preview for U.S. customers. The most eye-grabbing new feature is Power BI dashboards, which consolidates multiple visualizations into one screen.

Power BI's new "dashboard combines on-premises and cloud-born data in a single pane of glass, providing a consolidated view across the organization, regardless of where the data lives," stated the company. "Users can easily explore all their data using intuitive, natural language capabilities and receive answers in the form of charts and graphs."

While rummaging through their data, users can also "pin" specific reports. "Visuals from these reports can also be pinned to their dashboards for continuous monitoring," explained the Power BI team.

"As part of this experience, new visualizations have been added, including combo charts, filled maps, gauges, tree maps and funnel charts," they continued. Indeed, an accompanying screenshot displays a "travel analysis" dashboard with over a dozen visualizations neatly arrayed across a single screen, all within a quick glance.

The update to Power BI also includes built-in support for popular third-party software-as-a-service (SaaS) business offerings. Supplementing the existing connectors for Dynamics CRM Online, the new release enables customers to incorporate data from "Salesforce, Zendesk, Marketo, SendGrid and GitHub, with many more to come in the months ahead," said the company.

Existing subscribers to the above services can log in directly to Power BI. "In addition to establishing a data connection, Power BI provides pre-built dashboards and reports for each of these applications," said Microsoft.

The new Power BI Designer allows users that haven't yet upgraded to Excel 2013, which features integrated analytics capabilities and report authoring tools, to create and share Power BI reports. The Power BI connector for SQL Server Analysis Services allows organizations to create a hybrid business intelligence environment that combines the power of Microsoft's cloud with the security and manageability of their on-premise SQL Server Analysis Services servers. "When users view and explore dashboards and reports, Power BI will query the on-premise model using the user's credentials," stated Microsoft.

Finally, new mobile experiences are in the works, revealed the company.

"We are working on a wave of native mobile apps for Power BI. Apps are planned for the iPad and iPhone, and of course, Windows tablets. First up is the iPad app, which is available now at the Apple App Store. "All Power BI mobile apps enable users to share insights and collaborate with colleagues so that they can take immediate action, from anywhere, any time," said Microsoft.

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 network of...