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Steve Shebuski, VP of Digital Strategy

Guiding businesses through their digital transformation journey

The Power BI landscape within Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations can be complex and difficult to navigate. While Power BI as a tool is well defined and extremely powerful, effective use of it within D365 can escape even the most talented team members.

As part of Dynamics 365 wave 2 release, Microsoft is making Power BI improvements that  enhance the capacity of administrators, analysts, and technical team members to more easily deploy and use these rich analytics features.

Four areas of interest in wave 2 

    1. Modifying existing embedded reports

    2. Replacing embedded reports

    3. Data feeds to Azure Data Lake

    4. Contextual menus

Modifying existing embedded reports

Embedded reports are those Power BI reports shipped by Microsoft or your partner. They live on Workspace forms inside the system and display relevant data to the workspace's target demographic. Their source data is landed in the entity store (a pre-aggregated star schema deployment that is modeled in X++ and contains only Dynamics data) and surfaced in Power BI.

Power BI in D365 FO Wave 2As with all out-of-the-box reporting, most teams need to customize some small components. These typically aren’t sweeping changes, but simply filters or new visualizations.

To support these customization requirements, Microsoft added a feature that allows administrators to modify existing embedded reports to better suit user needs.

While you cannot modify the data sources, you can get a good picture of where the data is coming from if you would like to build and deploy your own reports. You can also add, remove, or change visuals. Importantly, you can quickly and safely revert to the original report at any time.

Replacing embedded reports

While manipulating visuals is a useful feature, report customizations typically focus on the underlying data. This includes the data source, formatting, and data relationships.

Power BI leads often want to integrate data from external systems (like a warehouse management system) to present the end users with the best decision-making data. Analysts also want to deploy these dashboards and reports to ALL users (of appropriate security clearance) at one time, rather than putting this responsibility on the users.

In the wave 2 release, there is now a more intuitive, documented process to push dashboards to users. The new process allows for multiple sources of the data source of the Entity Store.

Embedding multi-data-source-highly-custom reports from Power BI is simple with the new features. Users can simply author reports in Power BI desktop and publish to PowerBI.com. You can use data sources such as your Azure SQL BYOD or Data Lake. From there, you can replace existing embedded reports with the published reports with a few clicks inside Dynamics itself. A simplified creation and deployment process makes this much more valuable than it was previously.

Users will note that this is explicitly meant to be viewed by all users with security access to the workspace, in contrast with historical embedding in D365. This is also in contrast to pinning, a process by which a single user takes a report they can view on PowerBI.com and pins it to a workspace they have access to, but is only viewable by that user.

Keep in mind that these embedded report replacements are limited to forms where there are already embedded Power BI reports. If you want to deploy a report to a custom workspace, you need to deploy a PBIX with entity-store data source up through the environments. From there, you can modify it to embed your other PowerBI.com hosted report to the environment.

Data feeds to Azure data lake

To power these new mashed-up data sets for replacement embedded reports, technical teams are using BYOD features to consume from Azure SQL. In the future they will be able to consume data from an Azure Data Lake Gen 2 via a similar process.

power bi 2

 

In PU25, the Entity Store (star schema measurements) was enabled for the Data Lake but coming soon are tools to export any table or entity to this Azure location. The latter functions allow propagation of Dynamics deltas for larger scale (master data, etc) data sets into the Azure Data Lake (today only populated by the Entity Store). This enables all data entities in Dynamics for extract, as opposed to only the pre-aggregated ones.

This fits better with existing analytics solutions (such as data warehouses) and enables the larger Dynamics data sets for important tools like machine learning or statistical analysis.

Unfortunately, teams will need to wait a while longer as these have been pushed out of Wave 2 and will not enter private preview again until March 2020.

In the meantime, teams should continue to use BYOD features or use tools like the Data Management Framework and Azure Data Factory to integrate data to their Data Lake or other enterprise analytics solutions.

Power BI Contextual Menus

To enhance the user experience with existing or embedded reports, new contextual menu commands will come online in Dynamics 365 wave 2.

These tools allow you to drive specific behavior, such as opening a relevant action-oriented form, directly from a visualization. This encourages open exploration of the data and quick decision making once the data has been evaluated.

Creating Power BI Reports is the Easy Part

The ability to quickly edit or replace existing embedded information, particularly with mashed-up (multi-source) data and visibility, to all end users mean it's now much easier to implement a Power BI report on top of Dynamics. Contextual menu item features allow developers to provide a more interesting and productive experience to end users.

As always, keep in mind that creating and deploying reports is the easy part. The hard part is getting the right data together so that you can connect Power BI. In the future, Data Feeds will play a larger role. 

Microsoft D365 wave 2 release

Wave 2 release includes new capabilities across business applications including Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Supply Chain, the Power Platform and more. You can learn more about:

Advanced Performance Monitoring for D365 Wave 2

Contextual Email in D365 Sales Wave 2 Release

D365 Wave 2 Features Improve Report Generation Times

New Deployment and Development Experience in D365 Wave 2

Outbound Sorting and Pallet Building

Microsoft D365 & Power Platform Wave 2 Release

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