Microsoft Releases Eagerly Awaited KPI Feature for Power BI

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A New KPI Feature

Microsoft’s flagship business intelligence platform, Power BI, continues its strong pace of feature set expansion with the release in the July 2019 update of a key performance indicator (KPI) icon sets feature that they announced would be coming at the recent Microsoft Business Application Summit. Icon sets have been the #1 most requested feature on ideas.powerbi.com for a while now and we at Advisicon have been right there with the rest of you in voting for this capability, which we anticipate incorporating into a coming release of our Report Pack for Project Online.

So, what’s the big deal?

Briefly, icon sets provide a simple, rules-based capability for incorporating colorful graphical indicators into the table and matrix visualizations that comprise so many Power BI reports and which guide the reader’s eye to anomalies and other exceptions in what, in the absence of this capability, runs the risk of being a sea of text. We have long demonstrated and recommended the use of graphic indicators in Project Online views, including through the capabilities of the Project Online desktop client, Project Online’s web views, as well as in Microsoft Excel worksheets and SQL Server Reporting Services reports.

Icon sets are a conditional formatting feature in the table and matrix visualizations and are easily configured through either the conditional menu for the field to which you want to add an icon or the conditional formatting card in the formatting pane. Setting the formatting rules for icons is similar to setting the background and text color conditional formatting rules we’ve been using. Icon set formatting is set based on ranges of the data presented in the report with the ranges being based either on absolute values or percentages.

The selection of icons available for use in this first release includes more than 60 icons, including the expected red, yellow, green traffic signals, arrows, and flags, plus various shapes so that you can accommodate the needs of a diverse stakeholder group. There is also a capability to supplement the out-of-the-box icons – read on for details.

KPI Feature 1

Power BI Desktop provides a rich set of icon set formatting options that allow you to change the field used to generate the icons, whether the icons appear to the left or right (or instead of) the numbers in your table or matrix, and you can align your icons top, middle, and bottom. You can also create measures in your model that result in the selection of an icon in the onboard icon set by its name, definition of a scalable vector graphic (SVG), or that references an image or GIF online, an approach that scales the set of available icons infinitely.

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Microsoft has also taken this opportunity to incorporate icon set customization into the theming capabilities in Power BI Desktop. You can replace an onboard icon with another icon and add new ones through a theme file. Microsoft has indicated they intend to add a dropdown that will allow us to pick from present rules, similar to Excel’s icon sets feature, that will make the creation of icon set rules easier. Here’s a link to Microsoft’s video demonstration of this long-awaited capability that brings added power to our ability to present information that will equip our stakeholders to make better business decisions – which is, after all, the reason we’re doing the work of preparing compelling reports and dashboards.

For the Power BI novices and junkies alike:

We invite you to register for one of the public Power BI classes on our events calendar or reach-out by phone or email so we can help you structure a 1, 2, or 3-day custom Power BI class. We specialize in applying Advisicon’s 25+ years of project, program, and portfolio management expertise to developing Power BI reports and dashboards that equip you to more effectively communicate with your project sponsors, PMs, teams, and other stakeholders.

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