The Struggle

Continuing with my dive into Power BI for Office 365. Overall it has been a very positive experience. and the source of some renewed energy in my career – and that is something. But there are some puzzles that I haven’t been able to get worked out yet.

First, there is the trio of Powerpivot, Power View, and Power Query. I’ve been able to get the gist of what each’s function is but it still doesn’t make total sense. Frankly, practically everything that needs to be done can bed done in Powerpivot, right? Power View and Power Query each serve as substitutes for subsets of Powerpivot functionality, but neither does so convincingly. The most egregious example of this is that, while Power Query is nice to work with and provides access to many public data sources, the fact that any Power BI document built with Power Query can’t be automatically updated from my office SQL Servers is an absolute deal breaker. I honestly can’t believe they would release a product with that deficiency.

Power View is in a similar state though not so extreme. There is no question that Power View produces lovely reports. Hell, I used Power View reports to sell my boss on making the Power BI commitment. They have their purposes. But at the end of the day, there’s too much missing. The lack of Top 10s and, especially, timelines make it far less useful. That and the fact of just having two different presentation systems adds another layer of complexity that seems pointless to the beginner.

Finally, there is SharePoint. I’ll grant you that SharePoint is an ambitious system. It does a lot, it’s very powerful, and it’s very confusing. If you ask me, and no one has, Power BI should have it’s own system for report sharing. I can see how incorporating Power BI into SharePoint makes sense to some, but it doesn’t for me. It’s a mess as far as I’m concerned.

Finally again, the lack of support for compound keys in linking tables makes life way more complicated than it needs to be. I hope they will fix that soon.

Anyway, I will persevere. Sorry to have gone on so long. I’ll have better news to report soon. I’m sure of it.

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4 Responses to The Struggle

  1. Gil says:

    I’m quick to agree with you about Power View — especially since published reports need Silverlight to be rendered in SharePoint, which isn’t great for our folks with iPads or running Linux. If/when it does adopt HTML5, I could see it as a way for end users (especially on mobile) to do a little data exploration and quick reporting. But as you said, it feels more like a subset of Excel’s charts and graphs than its own polished product.

    I wasn’t big on Power Query until I needed to pull from a few unusual data sources the other week. But then again, why doesn’t Excel support things like XML and JSON natively? If I ever have time to learn Power Query’s own scripting language, I’d probably be better off doing more data shaping (ETL) stuff there — instead of with DAX — but that’s far down on my list of priorities.

    But I’m with you. And I’m tired of concatenating sets of columns to create my own unique keys for joining datasets. Though I try to start a lot of projects in Power Pivot, I often find myself dropping back to plain ol’ SQL to get the job done.

  2. ccoutret says:

    Hi Gil, I think HTML5 is a work in progress. I haven’t been around long but the renderings seem to somewhat improved in the last week. But it will be gradual I guess. I have been working with the Win 8 app and I hope that it will soon be able to “pop out” charts and search filters like the web interface.
    Thanks for checking out the blog!
    Charles

  3. Hi Charles – I’d love to talk with you about how the company I work for, Pivotstream, addresses some of the stuff you’re finding frustrating.

    1. We can auto-refresh from SQL
    2. We host the entire Microsoft BI environment, eliminating Sharepoint complexity and providing some license advantages
    3. We eliminate data size limitations
    4. Data and subscription quantities can scale up/down on demand
    5. Models tend to perform better on our platform, which is tuned specifically for the Microsoft BI stack

    Our demo site is at https://explore.pivotstream.com and info about the company at http://www.pivotstream.com

    Thanks for bringing up these very relevant topics!

    Scott

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