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Power BI: New features strengthen market dominance

May 20, 2021
Power BI consultant reviewing dashboard screen

Microsoft has recently hosted their Business Applications Summit. Prior to the event the Power BI community had been getting excited about new features expected to be announced.

Our Director John Gamble attended to find out more about the latest announcements in Power BI, here is what he learnt.

The Overriding Power BI Theme

The key themes of Power BI were announced as the following:

  • Empower every individual with amazing data experiences
  • Empower every team to act on insights
  • Empower every organization with a secure, performant, and scalable solution
  • Automated Hybrid Partitioning

    Yes, starting with what sounds like a dull one, but bear with me as this is more interesting than the name perhaps suggests.

    To date, Power BI operates in two modes, ‘Import’ and ‘Direct Query’. You either Import data into your data model and query everything in memory.

    Direct Query is different and whilst you still query your data model, the data stays in the source systems. Crudely, Import typically gives better performance, but Direct Query means your model does not need to refresh and you query data in source systems/marts/warehouses/cubes directly.

    Previously these were exclusive, but Hybrid Partitioning means that your data model can have a mixture of these. So why is this a big deal? The reason is that it means you can benefit from better performance (Import), but new data is always available (Direct Query).

    If you consider any transactional system, such as financial reporting, you might load your data models only once a day, but transactions carry on throughout the day. If you can do a mixture of ‘Import’ and ‘Direct Query’ then your data model is always up to date. No more day behind latency.

    Microsoft have recently also released an Export to Data Lake functionality for Dynamics F&O whereby Dynamics backend tables can be streamed into a Data Lake. It is fundamentally a CSV export but can be queried in a similar to a SQL view via Azure Synapse.

    In theory with this Hybrid architecture your ETL mechanisms still run, and you benefit from your overnight processing, but you can also do a Direct Query on the model tables and your data is always up to date – magic!

    Direct Query Aggregations

    A bit of a throwback to old SSAS MD days, ability to have predefined aggregations on Direct Query. This will give performance improvements on very large DQ data sets.

    Sparklines in tables

    Ok, these are a bit of an older type of visual, but love these!
    Good to see them in Power BI.

    Excel online live query refresh

    Sharing a connected Excel sheet on SharePoint or Power BI service and retaining the live connection to the underlying Power BI data set. Gives more reporting functionality.

    Automated Insights

    I loved this, more AI in the tooling now highlighting anomalies and other points of interest automatically in the data.

    Navigation enhancements

    This provides further enhancements to capabilities to create rich data experiences for end users.

    Data in Space!

    Looks amazing – Hololens for mobile – augmented reality. We will be thinking hard about how to have some fun with this.

    Power BI Goals

    This was the big announcement introducing a solid set of data driven score carding functionality into Power BI.

    This is a useful feature with loads of obvious use cases. Unfortunately, this is a Premium feature, but we hope to see it in Pro soon. We will be taking a further look at this in weeks to come.

    There was more too. I have not mentioned: Paginated report visual, backup and restore of data sets, Smart Narratives now generally available.

    Here is the complete list:

    Empower every individual with amazing data experiences

  • Smart Narratives
  • Anomaly Detection
  • Automated Insights
  • Quick Create from SharePoint List
  • Lineage view and Impact analysis support for Direct Query for Power BI datasets
  • Make datasets discoverable and request access
  • Data in space
  • Modern visual tooltips
  • Create optimized reports for mobile devices
  • Analyse your personal Microsoft Teams usage
  • Empower every team to act on insights

  • Achieve more and stay on track with goals in Power BI
  • Refresh connections to Power BI data within Excel for the web
  • Deploy Power BI Apps into Teams App
  • Power Automate visual
  • Empower every organisation with a secure, performant, and scalable solution

  • New Insights and Governance functionality for Power BI admins
  • Data loss prevention enhancements
  • Paginated report visual for Power BI reports
  • Automatic Aggregations
  • Premium Gen 2
  • Deployment Pipelines automation
  • Power BI embedded analytics playground
  • Embed Power BI in Jupyter Notebook
  • For more information about how these new announcements can help you make the most of your data, email us at or call +441534 633 733.