Of all the impressive features boasted by Microsoft Power BI, the one with the most potential to transform BI as we know it is Power Q&A, which gives users the ability to query data models using natural language.

To really unlock the potential of Q&A, you’ll want to utilize one of Q&A’s single most effective tools: phrasing.

With a little work and experimentation, phrasing can turn your data model into a treasure trove of user-generated insights, all found with the ease of using a search engine.

What Phrasings Can Do:

The value is self-evident; without Q&A, even the most complex and elegantly designed PowerPivot model is limited to what goes into the Excel workbook that contains it.

Q&A removes those limitations, empowering stakeholders to dig into data in a way that isn’t otherwise possible. Stakeholders will be able to find the information they need quickly, and often they’ll uncover information they didn’t initially know they needed.

Custom phrasings take Q&A’s potential to provide these insights to the next level.

How Custom Phrasings Work:

Many phrasings are automatically generated based on the model. Assuming your model is well-constructed and your end-user(s) understand the data and its structure (and have a basic understanding of how Q&A interprets queries), you’ll find some pretty cool and useful insights as soon as Q&A is enabled. But to get the most from Q&A, you’ll need to add your own custom phrasings.

There are seven different kinds of phrasings, and the manner in which they operate is usually evident from the name.

The first two types may be generated by Q&A:

Attribute phrasings define relationships such as “Accounts have Account Managers,” and Q&A generally does a pretty good job of generating these for you.

Name phrasings allow you to assign a name to an entity, and depending on how your columns are named in the model, Q&A may generate these as well; consider using something like “Account Manager Name” to save yourself a bit of work.

The other varieties of phrasing are where things start to get really fun:

Adjective phrasings give you the ability to tell Q&A things like “Key Accounts are Accounts where Amount Billed < (Dollar Amount)” or “Closed Accounts are Accounts where Account Status=0”.

Preposition phrasings such as “Account Managers are in Specializations” give Q&A the context it needs to answer questions such as “How many Sales Representatives are in Public Sector Sales?”

Verb phrasings assign an action, such as “Help Desk Representatives close Tickets.”

Global Synonyms are similar in concept to the synonyms added in the model itself, but they apply to the entire model rather than to a specific column or measure. They allow Q&A to understand questions such as “AMs are Assistant Managers.”

All of these phrasings can be combined and taken to as granular a level as needed, giving you the control to deliver the right results.

While the experience of using Q&A may feel different than that of using a traditional report, ensuring it lives up to its potential requires the same grasp of the data and how it’s used. As long as you regularly check in on your model’s Q&A usage data to see what insights people are expecting to find, you can optimize phrasings for the best possible user experience.