Microsoft has significantly increased the focus and effectiveness of Power BI in the last year. The growth of this product, measured by number of companies using the application, has increased from about 45,000 to 200,000 companies worldwide in one year(!) There are subscribing companies in 200 countries and 40 languages, adding up to 5 million users. It is now arguably the world’s most widely deployed reporting and visualization toolset.
Power BI is a desktop application that is free and used with Excel and other data sources to generate powerful reports and visualizations. This desktop application is the primary authoring tool that supports connection to data, building of models, reports and dashboards. Power BI is also a service that is cloudbased. This service is free for limited functionality, or by subscription for full functionality. The (subscription) cloud version is used to publish and share these powerful reports and visualizations with other users – or consumers – of this information.
Power BI is integrated with the New Dynamics AX. With the initial release, specific workspaces had built-in links that allowed the user to access the Power BI cloud service and pull reports and visualizations into AX. With Update 1, released in May 2016, the user can add Power BI visualizations to any workspace – even custom workspaces. 3 Power BI is truly the engine for analysis and sharing of business insights in Dynamics AX.
The purpose of this document is to share examples of the visualizations that can be generated with the Power BI application, publish those to Power Bi.com (the cloud service), and make available to other subscribers and users. This document will also review the Power BI app that can be downloaded and installed on smart phones and tablets, with examples of the visualizations through this app.
The Power BI Desktop Application:
From the Powerbi.microsoft site, a user can download the desktop application. This powerful authoring tool allows connecting to a data source, analyzing and visualizing the results, and generating powerful dashboards. When the author has completed the generation of one or multiple dashboards, the results can be published to the cloud based PowerBI.com and shared with other users in the same organization. The screen shot below shows the Power BI Desktop application, with analysis results from a sample Excel database. Note that there are multiple tabs at the bottom that allow the user to navigate through multiple dashboards, reports and metrics.
The menu button at top right allows the user to Publish the results to PowerBI.com.
The Power BI Cloud Service:
The user credentials to access PowerBI.com are the O365 Microsoft account and password used to access LCS and AX7.
After login, the user will click on the yellow Power BI tile.
When the menu on the left (hamburger icon) is expanded, the user will see information about datasets and dashboards. In the Sikich account, there are currently 3 dashboard examples at this time (and will likely have several more in the future); Financial Performance, GatesAir Dashboard and Inventory. The user can browse these to see examples of reports and visualizations. Assuming that a dashboard was generated on the company’s AX7 database, a user can view and refresh this information at anytime, from anywhere, through internet access.
In addition, the user can share dashboards and reports via email from PowerBI.com. The user also has the option to specify whether recipients can share those dashboards and reports to subsequent users, or not. Shared dashboards and reports can then be accessed from PCs, tablets, and smartphones.Now that the results have been published to PowerBI.com, the user can take advantage of the Azure Machine Learning capabilities to generate insights on the data. The graph shown at the bottom right of the screen below is an example of a ML generated insight: highlighting the fact that the Quantities Ordered by customers in France is very consistent from month to month.
Power BI and Dynamics AX:
Now that dashboards and visualizations have been created with the Power BI desktop authoring application, and published to the PowerBI.com cloud, they can be imported into AX7 workspaces. From an appropriate AX7 workspace, click the blue Power BI ‘Get Started’ button and AX will link to your cloud resources mentioned above, and allow you to select and import.As a result, the workspace now includes intuitive visualizations and reports that support effective user decisions. Note that these are personalizations and specific to the AX user.
The Power BI App:
There is a Power BI app that can be downloaded to smart phones and tablets, to view these reports and visualizations at anytime – even when access to the web is not available.
The app shows as the familiar Power BI icon on the device, and allows the user access to the dashboards saved and shared from the company cloud account. The screens below show examples of the Power BI app on Android and iPhone.
The Microsoft Power BI strategy leverages the cloud to provide a low-cost application for analyzing AX data, generating reports, visualizations and live dashboards that are accessible to users anytime and anywhere. The PowerBI.com cloud application also includes Natural Language Query and Machine Learning to empower users and provide unique insights. Power BI is a powerful tool for Dynamics AX users and represents the ‘next generation’ of analysis and reporting.