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The South African Cast of Jersey Boys

I know that’s a truly awful title for a blog post, but it was a way for me to combine musicals and Power BI, and I wasn’t going to pass it up!

Embarrassingly, I didn’t know that “Bye Bye Baby” was a Frankie Valli song until I saw Jersey Boys.

Anyway, last week, I presented a talk at the Joburg SQL User Group about some of the new(er) storytelling and data visualisation features in Power BI, and after the talk, a number of the audience members requested that I share it on my blog. So….

Unfortunately, I don’t really think my presentations work well without the context of speaking. I like to have very few words on my slides, and rather have the audience focus on what I’m saying. So, I’ll try to summarize the talk below.
The talk included a demo for each of the points below, but I think that it would be a bit overwhelming for a single blog post. So I’ll focus on the “why”, rather than the “how”.

Make your data into a Story

Pretty charts and graphs are great, but providing value is so much easier when the data tells a story, and telling a story is all about effective communication. Power BI has given us a number of new features which make this task a whole lot simpler.


Bookmarks

One of the most effective ways to communicate through data is to have a number of story points or “selections” pre-saved, with a way for the used to navigate between the stats. The power of bookmarks can be leveraged in a number of ways.

Controlled Navigation Path

This would be really useful if, for example, a meeting needs to cycle through the same set of filters each week, and see how the data has changed. Board packs, management reports, etc. Rather than printing off pages of data, for each of the various selections that need to be viewed, create a Power BI report with some bookmarks, and cycle through them.

Create Story Points

Analysts can do research and identify interesting data points, and save them for others to look at. This prevents the situation where you find an outlier, but when you try to return to the state to show someone else, or share your insights, you cannot recreate the results.

Reset Filters

This is pretty self explanatory. With all the various options for filtering, and cross-filtering, it is easy to lost track of exactly what you are looking at. Creating a way for a user to return to a known state is a huge advantage.


Additional Navigation Features

Bookmarks are powerful by themselves, but when combined with the next 3 features, can transform your reports into a interactive data wonderland.

Spotlight

You know that moment when you want to focus everyone’s attention on a specific object on a slide or demo screen, and you frantically paw at the screen, or use your laser pointer or another presentation tool to draw circles around the object you’re describing? THERE’S A BETTER WAY!

Using the Spotlight feature, you can highlight a single object on your report canvas, and have the rest of the objects “greyed out”.

Selection Pane

The selection pane gives you control of the visibility of objects on your report canvas. There are myriad uses for the selection pane, but I have found it particularly useful for adding a Text Box with an explanation, or a call to action, which I only want to display when a user is looking at a bookmark. The uses of the selection pane are only limited by your imagination.

Buttons

The newest of these features, and the one that really completes the experience for me, is the ability to add Buttons to your report, and link them to external URLs, or more pertinently, Bookmarks within your report. Additionally, you can do the same thing with Images, which allows you to create Navigation Icons within your report, and provide your user with an app-like experience for their analytics.


Drillthrough and Tooltips

The last features I want to highlight in this post are Drillthrough and Tooltips. These two features perform similar functions, but for different scenarios.

Often, we find data points on our report which we would like to expand, or enhance. For example, on a Sales Report which shows a list of Sales People and their performance vs. Budget, you may want to know why a certain person performed far better, or worse, than the rest. Both Tooltips and Drillthrough allow us to view a predefined report related to a specific data point, and to accomplish this kind of task.

So what’s the difference?

I can already hear you asking, “If both features allow us to view a predefined report relating to a certain data point, how are they different, and why would we choose one over the other?”

The difference between the two is that drillthrough NAVIGATES to a new report page, which is then filtered by the data points which were “drilled into”. It is an action which has to be specifically selected by the user. Once the user is on the drillthrough page, they can interact with it as with all other report pages. The page can contain all of its own filters, navigation etc.

Tooltips, on the other hand, keep the user on the same report page, but enhance the data point by showing a small report related to the data point which the user hovers over. This replaces the default tooltip which only shows values, and is not very flexible. The tooltip report can show any objects, but cannot be interacted with. Essentially, tooltips allow you to see a bit more information about relevant data points, without changing your current viewing location.

Demo

I’ve used some of the features in this report. Feel free to play with it and see how combining the features can provide a much better Power BI experience.

Find the features

  • Bookmarks┬áThere are multiple bookmarks in the report, I will use them to implement some of the other features
  • Buttons The reset button and picture of the cricket bat in the top right hand corner of the main page are the obvious examples. As you navigate through the report you will see others.
  • Spotlight If you select the Cricket Bat on the front page, it will take you to the batting analysis report. Click the spotlight button to see spotlight in action.
  • Tooltips Hover over either of the column charts on the Overview Page to see tooltips in action.
  • Drillthrough Right click on one of the column charts and select Drillthrough-Full Player Analysis
  • Selection Pane From the Full Player Analysis report, use the bat and ball images on the left hand side to see the Selection Pane in action. Objects will be hidden or shown based on the bookmarks, which in turn use the selection pane.

* I know the colours aren’t great in this report. I will update it at some point!

The data in this report was sourced from Kaggle

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