At the recent Microsoft Business Application Summit in Atlanta, Arun Ulag, GM for Power BI Engineering at Microsoft, announced a spate of changes and enhancements that are coming soon to Power BI or are now available. Among the many announced changes, the promise of a new user interface was particularly notable. By updating Power BI’s UI to look and act much more like Microsoft Office, Microsoft is making the application more accessible to data novices. And that’s precisely what it should be doing.
There’s little argument that data is becoming key to digital progress. IDC predicts that worldwide revenue for big data and business analytics solutions will hit $260 billion in 2022—up almost 12 percent over 2017’s $166 billion figure.
Big data analytics can help organizations capture their data and use it to reduce costs, make smarter and faster decisions, and quickly respond to customer needs with new products and services.
But to get the most from their investments, organizations must teach employees how to use data properly. They must ensure everyone in the company is data literate, not just the data specialists. In Gartner’s annual Chief Data Officer Survey, about 35 percent of respondents said that “poor data literacy” within their companies is among the top barriers to achieving their goals.
The Power BI updates Microsoft announced at its Atlanta summit will help organizations get started cultivating employees’ data literacy. They include:
- A NEW USER INTERFACE that will make Power BI look and act much more like a Microsoft Office application. The additions—including an Office-like ribbon, the ability to group objects, visual level filtering on slicers, a personalized visualization pane, among others—will, without a doubt, make the application more accessible to Power BI newbies. Microsoft began rolling out these changes in the June 2019 update, and will continue to update the UI of both the desktop and cloud versions.
- SHARED AND CERTIFIED DATASETS public preview: Your organization’s ability to create a data culture relies heavily on the availability of standard, authoritative datasets that represent a single source of truth. With the addition of shared and certified datasets to Power BI, your power users can share their datasets to promote collaboration, and designated users can certify datasets for more formal governance. These new features enable all employees to make decisions and create insights based on trusted data.
- Among the new ENHANCED AI FEATURES that are already available or coming soon: Text and handwriting recognition services, AI-supported visuals, and enhancements to Power BI’s Q&A natural language query capabilities. For the latter, users will be able to train Q&A to understand company-specific language, including synonyms and expressions. Report authors will also be able to review the questions users have asked to adjust synonyms and make language models more responsive and accurate.
Data literacy is the new organizational readiness factor, according to Gartner. It’s now up to business leaders to identify the data skills gaps in their organization and formulate a plan of action.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.