In a refreshing change of pace, new Microsoft Business Intelligence General Manager, James Phillips, revealed upcoming Power BI user experience changes at World Partner Conference (WPC) last week. Phillips brings a brilliant, practical, fast-moving, "Silicon Valley" start-up perspective to the Redmond engineering teams. This change in top leadership is another sign of Microsoft’s continuing evolution.

Related: Business Intelligence Market Shifts

Phillips described Power BI as a "single pane of glass" to the heart of a business. In the Power BI demo, he showcased an HTML, fully responsive, "browser-based" dashboard of tiles containing various real-time metrics. By simply using natural language, Power BI Q&A search features, he states that a business user can create a visualization, drill down, explore various views and optionally "pin" a view to their personalized dashboard. The pinned, tile user interface appears to be similar to the Windows 8 tile experience.

Solution Packs for Power BI

Interestingly, one of the highlighted data sources for the shown dashboard was Salesforce, not Microsoft Dynamics. Recently, Microsoft and Salesforce announced a partnership—another sign of change within the Microsoft psyche. A key point made in Phillips' demo was the Power BI Marketplace opportunity to develop solution packs for Power BI. Partner solution packs are essentially plug-and-play, base template solutions containing popular data sources, data models and reports for solutions such as QuickBooks, Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter and other offerings. This is a trend we are seeing in the Business Intelligence industry and it is fantastic to see Microsoft adopting it with the Power BI platform.

Microsoft Power BI

As a detailed observer, I also noticed an array of different chart types that looked a bit like visualizations from JavaScript Infoviz Toolkit or D3.js that we have not yet seen in Microsoft Power BI including:

  • Thematic/choropleth maps
  • Radar charts
  • Gauges
  • Funnel
  • Sunburst

Power View Visualizations

I also noticed a subtle change in the way visualizations in Power View are developed. Phillips touched and dragged an element from a Power View chart to create a new visualization. In the past you could copy and paste an entire chart but you couldn't just grab an element! Did anyone else catch that super cool new feature? I also like the menu of data visualization options along the side of an existing chart that was displayed when touched to quickly swap chart types.

Having spent time with Phillips and the Microsoft Power BI engineering team just this past week, I can share that they are excited about the Power BI changes for business users, partners and developers. Without revealing non-disclosure agreement (NDA) information, I will share that they are indeed thinking mobile-first (unlike Microsoft BI of the past), setting high goals, and also are sensitive to existing customer needs. I suspect you that you are going to continue to see and hear a lot of promotion around Power BI in the upcoming year.

From Phillips talk track, it sounds like the presented changes to the Power BI user experience will be made available for public preview in a mere few months. In the meantime, if you want to watch a demonstration, the video is available on the WPC website.