The Evolution of Power BI
By Rodney Guzman, CEO/Co-Founder/Owner at InterKnowlogy
Over the past few years, we have earned more than 50% of our revenue from building custom data visualization solutions. Often, people ask, why would anyone spend money on this? There are multiple off-the-shelf data visualization products already on the market. Isn’t it redundant? The truth of the matter is that although sometimes these products deliver the solutions our customers need, there are many cases where our customers have specific needs that no off-the-shelf analytics and reporting platforms can provide. In these cases, we often build highly customized charts that everyone in their organization can easily use. These charts are tailored to their specific needs and ensure no one has to stare at them and try to decode the data.
One of the leading technologies we leverage to create these high-end, finely tuned data visualization solutions is Power BI data visualization technology. This article will take a look at breaking down the buzzwords “Power BI,” what it is, the technology’s evolution, and how we leverage this technology in our solutions.
What is Power BI data visualization?
Power BI is an umbrella term that refers to a collection of cloud-based services and apps that work in tandem to analyze, manage, and translate data sets into coherent, intelligible insights through visually immersive and easy-to-process charts and graphs. What makes Power BI data visualization unique is its ability to pull data from multiple data sets that can range from an Excel spreadsheet to a mix of cloud-based and on-premises data warehouses. As a bonus, Power BI uses a straightforward interface, making it easy for users to create their reports and Power BI charts.
Power BI data visualization enables users to visualize past, present, and future data. Ingrained in Power BI is machine learning capabilities that allow the technology to spot patterns in data sets and use those patterns to make informed predictions. These insights enable organizations to generate forecasts and prepare themselves to meet future demands.
The Evolution of Power BI data visualization
As incredible as Power BI may sound today when Microsoft first introduced the technology in 2014, it didn’t provide all of the capabilities we needed to provide our clients with a truly customized solution.
Between 2014 and 2015, we were involved in two significant projects. The first was CNN’s Magic Wall. This is a XAML-based solution with integrated DirectX controls for mapping. CNN had very specific needs for up-time, customized data visualizations, touch interactions, telestrations, and responsiveness. The Magic Wall needed to be resilient to network conditions as well as handling massive amounts of constantly flowing, “real-time” analytics.
The second focused on building an analytics platform designed for presidential campaigns. While working on the project, we were asked to determine if we could integrate Power BI data visualization to cut down development time and complexity. We then performed a thorough analysis and concluded that Power BI was a black box with no ability to peel away different layers. For example, we couldn’t leverage the data ingest portions of Power BI with our custom visualizations, forcing us to exclusively use Power BI’s visualization technology with no ability to customize it to our customer’s needs. This prevented us from using Power BI as part of this campaign-based solution, but a lot has changed since then.
At InterKnowlogy, we continuously evaluate the current state of technology and products whenever we start a new data visualization project and are about to embark on a large-scale project spanning mobile and broadcast. With a new project, a re-evaluation of Power BI was warranted. Years have passed since Microsoft introduced Power BI data visualization, and numerous updates have been done.
We can now leverage Power BI for all data ingest and can create custom data visualizations to render the information. We have complete control of the user experience with Power BI handling all of the data intakes. Additionally, we can take charts directly from Power BI and integrate them into our custom solutions. For a recent project we were working on, content authors always needed new charts for one-off data stories to deliver critical points. With Power BI, the client did not require developers to add charts for them – they could use the Power BI tools to create the charts independently. Over time, Power BI data visualization has become much more powerful, robust, and customizable to our customers’ specific needs.
How We Use Power BI Data Visualization
As an example of how InterKnowlogy builds custom visualizations on Power BI, we re-recreated a custom XAML chart control in D3 and used Power BI to drive data to it. This new control, called a “Power BI Bubble Chart,” has been deployed to the Office store and is downloadable from here.
Our thought process for custom data visualization solutions has been affected by the evolution of Power BI in these critical ways:
- Power BI can be used for managing data ingest without using its off-the-shelf visualization tools. Let the smart people at Microsoft build these tools for you to let Power BI do all the heavy lifting.
- The user experience does not need to be relegated to how Power BI would like to set up reports and dashboards. You can create your web app and use elements of Power BI.
- As exemplified by the Power BI bubble chart below, you are not limited to the charts provided to you by Power BI. You can always create your own and use it either in the Power BI reporting experience or in your custom app.
We would be happy to chat in more detail about how you can create your own data visualization solution. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org