If you haven’t used Power View before, it is a tool built with the end-user in mind. It provides interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation experiences. Using data in PowerPivot workbooks or BI Semantic Models deployed to Analysis Services, reports can be created and presented with minimal training or technical prowess. Power View is a cutting-edge Excel extension that creates an entirely new data experience.

Making a case for Power View

If you’re a Pivot table/Pivot chart junkie there are a few features that Power View offers which aren’t possible to create in Excel. From turning your scatter plots into animations to being able to drill-down within the graphs themselves, I’m going to highlight a few of the capabilities Power View has available.

The first new feature I would like to point out is an animation that can be added to Scatter Plot graphs. It is known as the “Play Axis”, and allows you to view the X and Y axis’ relationship over time. With the right data and business case, this can be a creative and powerful tool to help visualize trends and correlations. Being able to see the data physically moving through a timeline is something many analysts aren’t used to having as an available option. I’ve personally used this feature to find out when outliers in consumption took place, which is something that the static scatterplot graph kept hidden.

Another feature I want to bring up is that unlike Excel charts, Power View visualizations are interactive and allow you to click through the data on the charts themselves. An example of this includes selecting one particularly interesting data point in a chart or graph you want to focus on. This is known as “highlighting”, and is a way to examine a subset of the data while still being able to see the entire data set. The selected data is “highlighted”, while the unselected data appears dimmed. Simply selecting a data point reveals its connection (or lack thereof) with the rest of the data. Seeing the relationship between what is connected and not connected is something filters won’t necessarily be able to display. Power View still allows the use of filters, but highlighting brings data connections to life whereas filtering puts them into isolation.

Power View adds new capabilities to take advantage of hierarchies present in the data. You can create a pie chart showing various categories that you can double-click on and the chart will drill-down into the sub-categories that exist within each one. It provides an entirely new “sub pie chart” specific for that category. This can be a great tool for presentations because now analysts don’t have to show multiple charts and views of the same data. With the drill-down capabilities, Power View allows you to only need one chart instead of three or four different pie charts slicing the data into scenarios you want to discuss.

A Word of Caution

Power View is NOT designed to replace Excel. It is an extension.

No matter how hard you try, Power View is not going to let you do what Excel has in the past. If you try replicating what you would normally do in Excel you will get frustrated very quickly. Power View is intended to enhance Excel through the addition of an end-user tool for ad-hoc reporting, not provide a full analytical solution for the BI professional. Since it has a very specific purpose, it is going to have its limitations. Simply dragging and resizing charts can be a time consuming and finicky endeavor. Knowing whether you’re filtering the view vs. filtering a chart is also not blatantly obvious. The difference between the dashboard you want to create and the one Power View will allow you to create can be quite dramatic. Even creating a vertical table, which is a minor functionality issue, has a major impact on how unfriendly this product can be.

To Conclude

Power View provides an entirely new experience, unlike what many analysts are used to and comfortable with. This experience is a very positive one for those who are consuming the data as the decision-makers and business owners. It makes data friendlier for those who don’t deal with it on a daily basis. Which is why the click-friendly interface is such an important feature. Even though it can be difficult for the tech-savvy BI professional to put together the way they want, the product needs simplicity to allow those interacting with it to not be intimidated. I’m excited for the next iteration of Power View and hope it brings even more functionality to allow BI professionals the ability to take it to the next level of analytics.


By: Andrew Eldridge | Associate, Analytics