Much-Coveted by Classic Sneaker Collectors: The Power Update Limited Edition of the Air Jordan One On Tuesday of last week, a popular SharePoint blogger tweeted the following, and it picked up traction as the day went on: use Excel…
This Email and the Highlighted Text were Automatically Generated in Response to DAX “Detectors” Scanning Our Results During Scheduled Refresh I’ve Wanted this Feature Forever. We Now Have It. Classes Announced for Houston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and London First, we…
One of the many things I love about Power Pivot and Power Query is that these tools have put BI into the hands of users and there is no longer a reliance on highly technical IT skills such as MDX to enable BI reporting. This is game changing for all the reasons you have read about on this blog over the years. Over time, as I have used Power Pivot more and more, I have found increasing value in learning about and working with SQL Server as a tool to manage my data. I know the thought of using SQL Server can be a bit daunting to Excel users (as it was to me at first) but it is actually not that hard to setup and use. Anyone can download and install a free version of SQL Server Express on their PC, and there is a lot of learning material on YouTube to get you started. But there is one thing about SQL Server that I have found to be much more difficult than with other more consumer friendly databases like Microsoft Access – that is how to get the data loaded.
Getting Data into SQL Server
SQL Server uses a tool called SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to load data. This is a very powerful piece of software, however I have found it is quite difficult to learn how to use it (as a casual user). I have no doubt that SQL Server professionals have no problems, but there is a big difference between firing up SSIS once every 3 months to load a couple of tables and working with the tool each day. I have never had the time to master SSIS and I cringe each time I have an issue that requires me to edit my SSIS packages. In the past I have outsourced this work to a developer as it just wasn’t worth the inefficient use of my time to try to work it out myself.
Enter Power Query as an SSIS Alternative
Now before I get a million comments from professional SQL Server experts, I am not suggesting that everyone should swap out SSIS for Power Query. I understand the importance of an enterprise strength tool like SSIS and I know it is a great tool for that purpose. I am just talking about people like me that work in the Self Service BI/Excel space, use SQL Server as a tool, but have only limited opportunities to work with SSIS. This is my situation, and if this also sounds like you then Power Query is a great alternative.
The benefits of Power Query over SSIS include:
Post by Rob Collie and Chris Finlan
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)
Post by Rob Collie
Autorefreshes Your Power Pivot Workbook as Frequently as Desired, Auto-Publishes to Any Location, and Now Sends Email Notifications of Success/Failures – With Attachments!
Our Gift to the Community: New, Improved, and Free
The team has added several new features in the latest version of Power Update. One of them (email notifications that optionally attach the updated workbook or PDF-ified version of the workook), is pictured above.
But the biggest new “feature” is that there’s now a 100% free version. Go ahead and download it from the link below, and start using it today.
It will work forever – no trial expiration – and will never require payment.
It will be installed and working in less than five minutes. Have fun, and if you have any troubles, report those on the Power Update Forum.
“Why Free? What’s the Catch?”
Simply put, we want everyone to have it. Everyone. It’s a game changer. It will lead to more Power Pivot / Power BI adoption and overall goodness, which is very much something we want.
The only limitation in the free version is that it will only schedule one workbook. Every last feature is available – email, PDF attachments, publish to SharePoint and even SSAS Tabular.
So if you’ve only got one important workbook, you can use the free version forever. A lot of people will run that way, and we’re ok with that. If you someday end up with more than one workbook that needs refresh, you can opt to purchase the full version, which can schedule as many workbooks as you want.
“Wait, Can’t I Cheat That With Multiple Computers?”
Post by Rob Collie
A Kindred Spirit Revealed!
Me and Chris Last Week at the Microsoft Offices in D.C.
(Their Electronic Signs Are Awkwardly Truthful.)
For about a year I have been working closely with a Microsoft employee named Chris Finlan, the BI TSP for Microsoft’s Mid Atlantic Sales District. Loosely translated, that means that when it comes to Business Intelligence, he’s the “go to” resource for all of the Enterprise sales teams in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
On the face of it, that may sound like “well of COURSE you two work closely together – he sells MS BI, and you teach/help people to use it.” But there are a LOT of technologies in the MS BI stack, and we (at PowerPivotPro) are specialists in the New Wave – not just the newer technologies like Power Pivot and Power BI, but also in the way that the tools are positioned, evangelized, and sold.
Even though we’re 100% aligned with Microsoft’s direction, it takes time for habits to change – both for large companies AND the software sales teams who work with them. Neither is particularly incented to take risks – the consequences of a failed experiment are high. So, it’s natural that not everyone has rushed to embrace the New Wave as the total paradigm shift that it is.
The traditional Microsoft BI sales strategy can be loosely characterized as “top down” (pitch/sell the software to the people who write big checks) whereas I think Power Pivot is often better pitched bottom-up (prove its value to a single department or group of users, and the checks come later). Neither is an “incorrect” approach of course, and they are not mutually exclusive. In particular, I’ve long believed that “bottom-up” messaging can be an effective part of a “top-down” engagement.
But changes to the script require a LOT of confidence. The “game” just isn’t set up to reward experimentation. So ultimately, it often requires someone who’s wired a bit differently.
In my world at least, that person first “surfaced” in an email I received about a year ago. Chris just dropped me a note and said “hey I’ve been adapting some of the messaging on your website for use with customers, and it’s been working. Can we have a phone call at some point?”
And at that moment I scrambled for the phone. The rest, as they say, is history. Chris and I talk probably three times a week, cooperate on multiple customer engagements, ran classes in Philly (last year) and DC (last week), hatched Insight Center (more on this below), and generally just pester the hell out of each other all week long.
On to the Interview!
***Update #1: a Free Version of Power Update is now available. More info here.
***Update #2: There is now a forum for Power Update questions, located here.
Intro from Rob: I’m what you might call a “gift horse optimist” – strongly positive outlook, but when the hoped-for thing finally arrives, I find myself closely inspecting it, testing it, before I trust it enough to advocate it to others. I went through this same process with Power Pivot itself – I “saw” its gamechanging power in 2010, but it was a full eighteen months before I finally dropped all disclaimers and just started calling it far better – period – than anything we’ve had before.”
Similarly, I’ve long known that Power Update would be a MAJOR win for us in the Power Pivot and Power BI communities. But I am willing to advocate it now only because I’ve watched others – like Scott, and Tim below – use it successfully, in production environments, in recent months. (Also see my post last week “introducing” Power Update in case you missed it).
Take it away, Tim…
I first found out about Power Update two months ago via a LinkedIn post by Christian Floyd.
It took me a while to realize that he wasn’t talking about a theoretical future idea, but an actual product, something that exists today. Click the picture below to see the entirety of my foolishness. It wasn’t until I talked to him directly that I realized what Power Update really was and I was immediately interested.
He got me a beta version of Power Update and I began testing it at the company I work for: a manufacturing company in Cleveland, OH called The Robbins Company.
We started using Power Pivot at The Robbins Company back in 2013 and I wrote about our experience on this blog (click here).
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.
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?
Power Update Helps With ALL of These (And a Few More, Too)
“What IS It?”
OK, a few things: