Power BI Visuals Gallery is a Game Changer

Level: Beginners
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No software company can build every single feature that everyone wants to see all at once.  Ultimately there has to be some prioritisation, and along with the prioritisation comes compromises and ultimately disappointments for some (many?).  Back in July 2015, Microsoft started a chain of actions and announcements that will prove to be a game changer (in my opinion) for Power BI moving forward.

Why is this a game changer?

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft decided to build the data modelling capabilities (Power Pivot) and data acquisition capabilities (Power Query) first, before investing heavily in visualisation capabilities.  I think this was the right decision.  In fact it was also a brave decision but definitely not the sexy decision.  Why?  Well in the world of Sales and Marketing, it is common knowledge that you should “sell the sizzle, not the steak”.  Tableau on the other hand has always invested in the visualisation layer first, because Visualisations have a lot of “sizzle”, and that is what Senior Execs get excited about.  But the problem is you need a good juicy steak underneath the sizzle if you are ultimately going to enjoy the meal.  Microsoft created the best juicy steak first (Power Pivot and Power Query), and is only now building the sizzle (Power BI Visualisations)!  To date this approach has left Microsoft well behind in the visualisation stakes compared to the likes of Tableau.  However now by opening up the Visualisation platform to all comers, the gap will be closed very quickly, and a lot faster than if a big software company like Microsoft tried to close the gap on its own.

Let me demonstrate with a quick example.

Power BI Standard Slicer

I have been complaining (to myself mainly) about the standard slicer button in Power BI.  If you take a look at the standard behaviour below, you will see it is designed to work on tablet devices that don’t have multi touch capabilities.  But in my view they threw the baby out with the bath water with this design.  This standard Power BI Slicer does not work like an Excel slicer, but instead you have to ALWAYS multi select instead of a simple “click to change filter from 1 item to another item”.

default power bi slicer

The Chiclet Slicer

Then this week I found the Chiclet Slicer developed by by Amir Netz (ironically from Microsoft).

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powerbi/archive/2015/10/27/visual-awesomeness-unlocked-the-chiclet-slicer.aspx

This slicer does everything that I want and more.

chiclet slicer standard

There is reportedly capabilities to handle images as buttons, but I haven’t been able to get that working as yet.  I am sure that is just a teething problem and learning issue, but it will get there quickly.  The point is I am sure I would not be using this new slicer today if it wasn’t for Open Source approach to new visualisation announced by Microsoft.

Here’s how you can use any custom visualisation

Navigate to the Power BI Visuals Gallery

Select the visual you want to download.  This is the Chiclet Slicer in my case (shown below) but check out the others while you are there.  Microsoft intends to release new visualisations into the Gallery every month moving forward so check back often.

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After downloading, go to Power BI Desktop (or Power BI in the browser) and click the ellipsis symbol at the bottom of the visualisations pane.

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Once you are done, the new visualisation will appear in your Visualisations pane ready for you to use.  You may have to experiment with your new visualisation to work out how to use it.  And also note that they normally come completely unsupported  – the free ones anyway.

Where to from here?  I expect to see all of the following

  1. Lots of new free visualisations popping up each month.
  2. A rapid closing of the gap between Power BI and Tableau in the visualisation space in the coming months, ie not years.
  3. Companies building their own visualisation for their bespoke needs, either in house or outsourcing the work to contract developers.
  4. Specialist BI companies developing high quality visualisation extensions for commercial sale.

There has never been a more exciting time to be in BI, let alone BI working with Microsoft BI.

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Comments

  1. Matt,

    This is an excellent blog. The whole success of Power BI is based on the symbiosis of the partner community and our ‘tire-kicking’, current, and future clients. The ability to not only use the custom visualizations, but the ongoing development of the API is a game changer for Microsoft, the partner Network, the ISV’s, and the consumers and future client of Power BI.

    I have never been more excited about a holistic vision that MS presented since I saw a demo of ‘Data Management Systems’ back in the 80’s.

    I just finalized a demo for a MAJOR US 500 company. I showed them the new features, and their only response was: When can we have this?????? My subtle answer was: “When you have you data ready…..”

    Happy BI,

    Chris

  2. Hi Matt

    Couldn’t agree more. Slowly but surely Power BI is becoming ‘the’ go-to tool for self-service BI and beyond. The addition of the custom visualization gallery only enhances what is already a very powerful tool and companies such as Tableau, SAP and others will need to pull their socks up if they are remain competitive.

    Like you, I have long held that Power Pivot and Power Query really are the jewels in the crown of the Power BI family, but couple them with a compelling array of stunning visualizations and it is difficult to see Power BI not dominating its target market.

    Cheers

    Martin

      • Hi Matt,

        1. thank you very much for your quick answer. At Amazon Germany your book is priced EUR 29,09, that would be AUD 44,36.
        2. I´m very interested in the printed version of “M is for (Data) Monkey”,too. I also preordered it at Amazon (announced shipping date is January 2016); the price is EUR 25,95 (AUD 39,57).
        3. I really would be very glad if I could read these two books as soon as possible!

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