Power BI Presentation with Chris Webb

It’s always nice to have world class acts down here in sometimes sunny Melbourne, especially if you can have a chat with them after the gig. I missed out on that earlier in the year with Aerosmith but made up for it by going to see world renown B.I. specialist Chris Webb present on the future of Microsoft’s Power B.I.

He covered the following topics:

  • Power Pivot
  • Power Query
  • Power View
  • Power Map

I had taken a couple of clients along to the presentation and they were especially interested in Power View & Map  (not just the free pizza & beer MS put on)  as the nature of their business was geographically sensitive and the way postcodes could be looked up automatically into geographic co-ordinates to enable mapping of customers metrics impressed them. Power Map Video


There were a fair oohs and aahs from the room as the camera flew around the 3-d objects being generated on top of Bing maps. Good stuff but not the bread and butter of your average data worker.

Chris recommended this video as a good Power BI demo – it’s actually pretty watch-able as the presenter keeps things moving quickly across all the products & manages to squeeze some classic pop & rock references in there.

Power Query stood out for me as very interesting if not 100% usable yet as it can search for data sets to download/purchase from within the UI. This is great in a demo but without a dazzling array of available data sets, only great in a demo. I found it hard to think of a lot of businesses that would find useful data sets on the open market that don’t have access to them already.

Power View as it has done for a while now, looked like a very visually pleasing & usable dashboarding solution especially now the mobile version has arrived. I know several clients that would kill to have their favourite charts/KPIs available on the go. Not everything quite works yet, some functionality is still outstanding but when complete (HTML 5 version) it will be the kind of thing that offers the people that sign cheques a lot more than an automatically emailed spreadsheet.


As Chris is not a MS employee he doesn’t have to sell anything so he has some refreshingly honest view on the product.

As I’ve said here before, Microsoft is (very wisely) building on the familiarity and ubiquity of Office and in particular Excel, so while Power BI might lack some specific features, customers will want to use it because they already have Excel skills and don’t have to learn something completely new. Why pay a large amount of money for QlikView or Tableau licenses if you’re going to move to Office 365 anyway and everybody already knows Excel?…

There are a lot of “ifs” here though, and the current mess of Office SKUs and licensing could strangle it at birth… read more…

The necessity of having an Office 365 license for some of the cloud components was what Chris was referring to in that last comment. This will be a sticking point with larger enterprises that take years to get onto the latest version of software but less so with smaller companies that upgrade tactically and will see immediate benefits from the per user/per month licensing model of Office 365.

All in all a great non biased presentation of the new tools which wasn’t just tech demos but a dialogue about the usefulness & drawbacks of the product as well as it’s fairly impressive feature set.