Datazen = Beautiful Mobile Dashboards to Make Power Pivot Shine

Post by Rob Collie and Chris Finlan

Datazen:  A Beautiful, Mobile-Optimized Dashboard Delivery System That Makes Your Power Pivot Work Shine VERY Brightly

Datazen (The Latest Addition to Microsoft’s Suite of BI Tools) is a Mobile Monster
(Monster in a GOOD Way.  Yes, PowerPivotPro has its own DZ Custom Theme – You Can Too)

Datazen Q&A With Chris Finlan

***Intro from Rob:  Today I’m interviewing Chris Finlan of Microsoft about MS’s recent acquisition of Datazen, and what this means to us in the Power Pivot and Power BI community.

ROB:  Last month, Microsoft purchased a company named Datazen.  Most people had never heard of Datazen before, but you had pointed them out to me last summer I think.  You were already a big believer in them at that point, as were your customers.

CHRIS:  Yeah, I love Datazen.  I’m as passionate about it as you are about Power Pivot. I think it’s an extraordinary product, and have felt this way for quite some time Don’t believe me? Check out the date of my review in the Windows Store.  (Spoiler alert:  it was April of 2013 – that’s before I even applied for a job at Microsoft).

ROB:  You’re truly a trendsetter in tech and clothing.  I think one of the natural first reactions/questions from the community is, “wait, did MS just buy one of Power BI’s competitors, and if so, when do I use it versus, say, Power Pivot?”

CHRIS:  No, DZ was designed from the beginning to “only” be a visualization layer on top of the Microsoft Data Platform.  In your post on Visualizations Layers in Perspective: The Last Mile, you pointed out three key reasons at the end on why you’d buy a visualization tool.  Datazen checks all three boxes (and oh by the way, there’s no longer anything to buy – it’s simply a benefit you receive when you license SQL Server Enterprise with Software Assurance).

ROB:  Which means it’s free for many existing MS customers.  More on that later.  But I also want to talk about how DZ can be used to “light up” the great work being done by Power Pivot practitioners, because hey, that’s what we do around here.

Any Flat Table in Excel Can “Power” a Datazen Dashboard


EX:  Power Pivot Produces a Flat Pivot (or DAX Query Table),
and DZ Can Use That Excel File as a First-Class Data Source.
(The ONLY Server Required Here is a DZ Server – No SharePoint, No SQL, No SSAS)

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Introducing Power Update!

Post by Rob Collie

***Update:  check out Scott Senkeresty’s review of Power Update over on Tiny Lizard.

***Update #2:  a Free Version of Power Update is now available.  More info here.

***Update #3:  There is now a forum for Power Update questions, located here.

Power Update:  Refresh any Power Pivot / Power BI Workbook, from Any Data Souce, and Publish to Any Location (SharePoint or Otherwise)

A brand-new software utility designed from the ground up as
a “Companion” to  Power Pivot, Power Query, and the entire Power BI stack.

Definitely Click on the Image for Larger Version – Surprises Lurk Therein

Do Any of These Sound Familiar?

Common Problems with Power Pivot and Power BI Scheduled Refresh

Power Update Helps With ALL of These (And a Few More, Too)

“What IS It?”

OK, a few things:

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What is Power BI?

by Rob Collie

Power BI, Definition #1:  An “Umbrella” Term for all of the “Power *” Tools

Power BI, Definition #1:  An “Umbrella” Term for all of the “Power *” Tools
(Click for Full-Size Version)

An Overdue Treatment

I’ve posted before about Power Pivot vs. Power View and then later I added Power Query and other technologies to the explanation, but I’ve never just straight-on tackled the question of “What is Power BI?”  So let’s get that off the list…

…And clean up my prior visuals while we are at it.  (Can you believe that Power Query doesn’t have an icon/logo yet?  Well, boom – I just gave it one.  You’re welcome, Microsoft – although really it was just from one of the buttons already in PQ.)

Unofficial Definition = “Umbrella Term for the ‘Power *’ Tools”

#1, Power BI is an “umbrella” term that is used to describe all of the various “Power” data tools that Microsoft offers us.  This is NOT the definition that you will typically hear from Microsoft, but colloquially, when someone says “Power BI,” there’s a good chance this is what they mean.

Official Definition = “The Cloud Publish & Manage Service from MS”

But I think Microsoft would say, more officially, that Power BI is their paid cloud service for publishing, sharing, managing, and consuming the results of those tools pictured above.

For instance, Microsoft sales reps today are measured, in part, by their customers’ adoption of precisely that online subscription service.  They are NOT measured by how many of their customers are simply using the “free” desktop tools included in the Power BI “umbrella” term.

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Sign Up With Connection Cloud, Get My Book for Free

  Connection Cloud is Offering to Buy You a Copy of My Book, Click Image for More Info The cloud data connection service I talked about and demo’d in yesterday’s post is offering to buy a copy of the book for anyone who sign up with Connection Cloud by January 15th. A flattering gesture on their part, this is definitely a first for me Excel Pros – the world is waking up to our importance.

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Cloud Data Approaching Critical Mass: Connection Cloud, SalesForce, PowerPivot, & Webinar on YouTube


Cloud Data Like SalesForce Available to PowerPivot as if it Were in a Local Database:
My Long Wish for a “Data Highway” Gets Closer Every Day
(Click for the Webinar Featuring Yours Truly on YouTube)

Flashback 2001:  The “Data Highway” Concept

Back at Microsoft in 2001 when I was working on what eventually became Excel 2003, I pitched a vision that I called “Data Highway.”  (OK, not an original name considering the Information Superhighway thing coined by Internet inventor Al Gore, but invention is smart and theft is genius, or something like that.)

The idea behind Data Highway was simple:  all relevant data made available to the most popular tools (cough cough Excel), in a convenient and refreshable format.  No manual gruntwork required to “fetch” data in other words – saving your brain for actual thinking.

imageThere were three elements to the pitch:

  1. A common internet protocol for exchanging data. 
  2. “Teaching” Excel, Access, and other tools to consume any data source exposed via that protocol.
  3. A marketplace for data where providers like Dun and Bradstreet could sell data to be piped straight into Excel.

Well the protocol flopped and our VP killed the marketplace idea before it got off the ground.  Having good ideas isn’t enough – you can’t be too early, and you also need to execute better than we did.

Fast Forward to Today

Here we are at the end of 2012, and we have all three elements available in different (but robust and real) forms:

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