PASS BA Conference Day 2 Wrap - Excelerator BI

PASS BA Conference Day 2 Wrap

Seriously, this has been the best 3 days of my life. Well except for my wedding day of course (sorry honey). There were many great sessions at the PASS BA Conference – about half of them I attended I would classify as “invaluable”. And there were many other sessions I couldn’t attend due to timing clashes, but then again I have purchased the video pack so I will get to see those in the next few weeks. But probably the best thing of all from this conference was the networking and face to face contact with 600 Excel super dudes that think just like me :-). That was seriously awesome. And then finally there was this T-Shirt – I would have come all this way just to get that!


Day 2 Conference Highlights

Excel 2016

My day started with a Microsoft Excel Breakfast with the Excel Development team. Dany Hoter shared some of the great new features that are coming to Excel. The things I liked most (in addition to the T-Shirt) are:

  • The new visualisations (particularly the Tree Map) look great.
  • Power Query will be fully integrated into the data ribbon, and importantly the UNDO button will work for Power Query, so you will be able to recover that accidental deletion.
  • You will be able to use VBA to create calculated fields in Power Pivot – sweet!
  • They have fixed the “undocumented feature” where by the Pivot Table will “drop” your calculated field out of the Pivot Table if you rename it.
  • There is a new forecasting wizard an functions called “Forecast Sheet”. Dany warned to be careful when you say that phrase 🙂
  • And there is improved drilling in Pivot Charts


The Keynote by Miko Yuk was very interesting. We could all benefit from drawing more pictures when we communicate – let me work on that! This was also the first time I heard that 80% of all BI projects fail. It is no wonder Power Pivot is such a compelling tool to lower risk and speed up delivery of actually BI solutions that people actually want to use.

Chris Webb – Power Query

It was really great to go to Chris Webb’s session on Power Query. I am a fan of Chris’s blog and content that he shares in various locations including SQLBits. Chris really opened my eyes to techniques on how to use Power Query in a more robust way by adding fail safe error checking into the code. I will definitely be applying these concepts in my work moving forward.

Kasper – Power BI Designer

Kasper’s session on Power BI Designer was great. I can’t wait for this product to continue to develop into the main stream. And the new intellisense features for writing DAX including commenting, formula formatting, auto completion of missing brackets and being able to use the TAB key are all long over due. Kasper, please just make sure these features make it into the Excel version of Power Pivot too.

The Networking

And of course there was the socalising at the bar afterwards – where the real value is created. You can see me here rubbing shoulders (and hoping something will rub off) with some REAL Excel Gurus (Chandoo, Rob Collie, Scott Senkeresty and Ken Puls).

Some of the awesome Excel Gurus at BACON, plus me

And then there was Power Planner

Finally I had a private meeting with the team from Power ON. They are the guys that developed Power Update, and now have another tool called Power Planner. I already love Power Update, so I was super excited to get a demo of the Power Planner software as I had only heard a small amount about it but I had never seen it in action. You really have to see this software to believe it. You can take your last year’s sales in your Power Pivot workbook, copy the numbers with a couple of clicks and call it “Budget”, and then manually or semi-automagically change the budget numbers directly in the pivot table, and write them back to a SQL database at the leaf level. You can do remarkable things like:

  • add 3% to a group of products
  • goal seek the sales numbers across selected products to hit a specified profit target
  • apportion an incremental $ value target across a group of products based on their relative importance
  • Did i mention you can change the numbers directly in the pivot table and write them back to a SQL database?!

Just think about what you do every year when you build your budgets (or track your forecast) – this tool will do it for you in a snap. If this tool can’t save you 3 week’s effort each year, I’ll go he for chasey. Send me an email if you would like to know more and I will give you a demo. I am pleased to be officially working with Power ON as a partner for Australia and I will be building some local content on the topic shortly. In the mean time, you can get more information from the Power Planner Website.

Well just 22 hours of travel ahead of me now – leave San Jose at 12 noon Thursday and arrive home 7am Saturday. That’s something to look forward to 🙁

4 thoughts on “PASS BA Conference Day 2 Wrap”

  1. Hi Nick,

    I think the tools all serve different purposes. DemandWorks and the AX solution is specialized for demand planning and pricing AX and Demand Works are highly specialized, and the AX tool has only one data source.

    Our focus with Power Planner is to enable planning forecasting and budgeting on any Power Pivot cube. Data sources can be ERP/HR/Sales Force/CRM/Inventory/Sales History, so you can do a top-down, bottom-up end to end budget for all functions in the organization. Customers are using Power Planner for Revenue Planning, discretionary spending, employee budgeting, balance sheet and cash flow. A well rounded tool that can support any budgeting scenario.



  2. Hi Per,

    Thank you for the link, we weren’t given that document by our AX implementation partner so it’s very handy to have. It’s a bit frustrating to get selective education of AX’s out of the box functionality when they have their own modules to sell.

    We are currently implementing DemandWorks Smoothie forecasting solution alongside AX which I like so far, although we haven’t gone live with it yet. Have compared PowerPlanner forecasting to Smoothie forecasting yet?

    One of the challenges I see with using the AX tool is (from what I can tell) the inability to dictate what algorithm is going to be used for different products (or product locations / product categories etc). As a forecaster and Power Pivot enthusiast I’m looking forward to having a close look PowerPlanner to see how it handles forecasting. Just need to implement these other 2 software projects first 🙂

    Thanks for the info.


  3. Hi Nick,

    You are right, AX has similar functionality. You can read all about that here: Excel can also natively enable write-back with CubeMember functions to SSAS multi Dimensional. There are a ton of tools also using the SSAS multidimensional write-back feature. The AX tool is excellent for what it is designed to do.Keep in mind all these tools are using SSAS multidimensional so you need to hone up on your MDX skills.

    Power-Planner is the only tool doing write-back on SSAS Tabular and Power Pivot models. Power Planner also enable write-back on ANY Power-Pivot Model, has a rules engine, built in functionality for allocation and goal seeking, and is available for both Excel and Web. Let met know if you have more detailed questions in comparison to the AX tool.


  4. Interesting stuff Matt. Looks like Power Planner has some similar functionality to Microsoft AX Add-in when used for forecasting. Look forward to hearing more about it. Cheers, Nick

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