Using Power BI to Provide Recommendations To Website Visitors

When we hear about business intelligence tools like Power BI, the first thing that comes to mind is reporting. Typically, we associate “business intelligence” with reports and analytics that help people make decisions, and generally speaking, these “people” are internal users at an organization (sales people for example), their managers and/or leaders who are responsible for the growth and direction of their respective teams, departments, business units or the entire organization. But why can’t this same intelligence be shared with their customers so they can make decisions for themselves too?

Power BI’s ability to expose reports and dashboards externally (on a website; in an email) can be extremely insightful for the audience that has access to it. Any organization, not for profit, agency or establishment that deals with/has data can make meaningful reports for its customers so they can make their own decisions.

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say we are a “Yelp” like organization that provides recommendations to our customers on what to do when they go to a certain city. When someone visits a new place, let’s say lower Manhattan, they would want to know places for dining (different kinds of food), shopping, nail salons, night clubs, post offices, and visitor centers, among many other places. To find these recommendations, they like to come to our website, find out what’s around them in their new city, and then decide what they want to do, and where they want to go. What’s the easiest way to expose this information to our website, especially if we have all this data in our CRM?

With Power BI, you can create graphical dashboards/reports with such information really quickly, and embed them on your website. In this example below, we see four components – (1) a map that shows physical location of all sorts of establishments in lower Manhattan, (2) a couple of lists that lets the user choose a primary (eating, shopping, nightlife) and secondary (Indian, Italian, fast food; chocolates, cigars, cars; club, bar) category, (3) a third list that shows the actual names of location, and (4) the last list that shows the address of selected location.

(Note: This is fully functional embedded Power BI report – play with it!)

 

At first glance, as a visitor coming to the website, I have a few first impressions:

1. Looking at the map, I know I have several options in the lower Manhattan area. The legend also really quickly tells me what kind of options are available.
2. The four lists tell me that I have the ability to really drill down/ narrow down my choices. I like that I have the options and sub-options (dining->type of food, for example).
3. Totals: I know that I have 764 options to choose from. (As I drill down, I also notice that these totals change to reflect the available options for a given primary or secondary category)

There are a few options I have here as I start interacting here.

1. I can either zoom in and out on the map, and start clicking specific locations. The lists on the left update with information on what exactly that location is. Just bringing my mouse on a location pops up for more information about it.


(Note: Interacting with this map on an iPad or iPhone does not bring up the popup)

2. Or, I can start drilling down on the lists to the right. I will start with the Primary category, then choose secondary, and then find a location I want to go to. Doing so will also tell me the exact location on the map, and also the address of it on the last list.


3. I don’t always have to start with the Primary category. I can start wherever I want, and still find the results I am looking for. For example, I can start with the Secondary category, and look for ice cream options available in the area. In our example, there is only one, and by looking at the results, I know exactly where it is.


Essentially, what we are doing here is providing the information that we house to our visitors, and enabling them to
(1) filter through a plethora of options
(2) self-serve,
(3) make their own decisions,
(4) post a photo on Instagram of the food they ate with the hashtag #bliss

We didn’t do any fancy design work, nor did we write any sort of script to create this report. All we really did was create this report using drag and drop features, and publish it to Powerbi.com from where we got the embed code that goes on our website.

 

Note: Speaking of fancy – you be the judge of the aesthetics of the report here. I like the way I have designed this report (:D) but the Power BI “designer” definitely gives a lot of options to work on the aesthetics of the report.

Conclusion

“Business intelligence” doesn’t always have to be about and for internal users. Using Power BI, we can churn out data in a meaningful manner that can be used by our customers for their specific needs. Also, these reports can be created effortlessly, without the need of a developer or a traditional report builder. The tool is extremely flexible and user friendly, and empowers business users by giving them the ability to server their customers with utmost ease and finesse!

Slight twist(!): Once the report/dashboard is ready, it can definitely be used by internal users too for their own purposes. Remember, dashboards in Power BI can be shown in Dynamics 365 with literally just a few clicks, so, internal users could just be in Dynamics 365 and access this information without having to switch to Power BI. The same report could be accessed in the mobile app in which users can annotate, and share their thoughts with others. And to take things things to a totally ridiculous level, you can even access certain type of information from these dashboards on your Apple Watch (GASP!!)! (And you thought your Apple Watch was good for just counting steps? :))

Data Source: Data.gov

Accessing Power BI Dashboard Information on Apple Watch

Since we live in a connected world now, we expect access to information all the time, wherever we may be. Luckily, our smartphones, being an extension of ourselves, make sure that we get information as and when we ask for it. Having said that, smart watches, the extension of our phones, and thus of us, have made accessing information even quicker and easier. (You knew that already, didn’t you?) With just a flick of our wrist, and perhaps a press of a button, we get a quick glance of what we are looking for.

The Apple Watch has many functions, and you are perhaps familiar with almost all of them, or at least the ones that you care for. However, did you know that you can display information from your Power BI dashboards on your Apple Watch? No need to pull out your phone out of your pocket, open the Power BI app, and finally open the relevant dashboard to look for information. (That’s way too much effort! :))

How to Make It Happen

If you have the Power BI app on your iPhone, the Apple Watch will automatically get installed on your watch. However, that doesn’t mean that all of your dashboards are automatically available on your watch also. If you open the Power BI app on your watch, this is the message you’ll get:

Photo

 

Which means that you need to sync the dashboards you want on your watch from your phone. This is how you sync a dashboard:

In your iPhone Power BI app, open the dashboard you want to sync, and press the three dots/.

When you do that, you get a pop up menu. The last option on that menu is “Sync with watch”. Just select that option, and your dashboard will be on your watch!

Once synced, this is what it looks like on the Apple Watch.

 

Numbers Only

Keep in mind that (as of now) the Apple Watch Power BI app is only going to show you numbers and KPIs – basically, anything that’s not a visualization. If you sync a dashboard that contains only visualizations, you will get this message:

 

Accessibility

Digression: If you know anything about me, you know that I am always looking at ways people with disabilities would access an app or feature.

For many people with disabilities, accessing information on their phones can be tedious and cumbersome. The Apple Watch can be a very good way for them to look at numbers very quickly with minimal effort. Blind people or anyone with hand tremors or motor skills issues can use Siri to open the app and then use the crown to scroll through the tiles. They can also enable VoiceOver (Settings->General->Accessibility->VoiceOver) on their watch so Apple Watch could read information from the tiles to them when they tap on the watch screen. This video shows how VoiceOver can be turned on, and then used, along with Siri, to open Power BI, and go through each tile with minimal effort.

Awkward note: I start showing things at around the 1 minute mark in the video below, so if you are weirded out by my incredibly beautiful yet hairy arm, it’s okay to look away for the first minute. 🙂

Conclusion

Obviously the Power BI app for the Apple Watch is not meant to get detailed insights, but if you are always looking for the latest “numbers”, whether before entering a meeting, while eating lunch at the cafeteria, during commute to and from work, or while stressing about work at home or social situations because you haven’t embraced inner peace yet,  this app can work wonders and save you some time & effort, without interrupting the current task you are focussed on.

 

Visualize Daily Data In A Calendar In Power BI & Dynamics 365

If you are a long time user of CRM (for Dynamics 365), you’ve probably noticed that there are lots of new ways now of displaying and comprehending information. With Power BI’s out of the box integration with CRM, it is so easy to bring in additional visualizations to get more perspectives and insights. Gone are the days of dashboards that consisted only of static pie and bar charts. Not that anything’s wrong with looking at traditional pie and bar charts! In fact, in many cases, simple visualizations are much more effective than flashy “cool” controls, but there are times when information presented in a different format may trigger newer ways of processing information, and in turn, help us with better decision making.

Beyondsoft Calendar Visualization

One of the controls that was recently introduced in the custom visual store is Beyondsoft’s Calendar visualization. This is one of the simplest yet extremely useful controls that can visually provide important information on how busy (or not) your days are. From your dataset, it looks at one date field (date a sale was made, for example), one measure field (revenue, for example), and a bunch of tooltip fields. What’s unique about this visualization is that it takes into account the highest and lowest values for a given month, and shades the background color from light to dark. The higher the value for a given day is, the darker the calendar day is.

Click to enlarge.

 

You see what I mean? In one quick glance, you can tell that the 2nd, 9th, 11th, and 19th, were super busy. In fact, 19th was the busiest. Also, the first half of the month was the busier than the second half.

Here’s another view:

Click to enlarge.

 

The gray in this month’s view indicates no numbers. Another way of seeing that the beginning of the month, we had no business (GASP!), but then it picked up on the 21st, and got really busy by the end of the month.

How Do You Create It?

First, you add the Beyondsoft Calendar visualization from here.

Once you have it, drop the visualization on the canvas, and add your date and measure fields.

Next, set the colors for the “spectrum” under the Format tab.

 

Feel free to change other formatting values, but essentially, your calendar visualization is ready!

Who Is It For?

  • Well, it’s for everyone. Here are some examples I can think of.
  • Businesses that track daily sales. A bike shop, coffee shop, restaurant, etc.
  • Businesses that process orders per day. Print shops, for example.
  • Not for profits that work with clients and are required to work on cases on a daily basis.
  • A disability resource center that provides accommodations and prepares Braille, captions or other services to its disabled clients.
  • Organizations that work with volunteers, and need to track daily volunteers hours.
    • Speaking of volunteers, seeing how busy certain days of the month get, this calendar can provide insights into when an organization should get volunteers to take care of busy/seasonal periods.

The Best Part

You use this visualization in a Power BI dashboard which can be displayed in CRM for Dynamics 365! You don’t have to go to Power BI to look at this information. Here’s my Power BI dashboard displayed in Dynamics 365.

Click to enlarge.

Quick Additional Note

This visualization shows only one month’s (the first month in your dataset) data. In order to go through other months, create a slicer and use it with this calendar.

Click to enlarge.

 

Does this visualization excite you? How do you plan to use it? Let me know in the comments below!

Have other questions about Dynamics 365? Drop me a line!

Quick Tip: Using Annotations in Power BI To Add Notes

In the Power BI mobile app, Annotations are what let you write hand written notes on a Power BI graph, and share with others. Why would you want to do that?

  1. To ask a question about a certain territory or product.
  2. To give kudos to someone within your team.
  3. To come up with a plan of action based on certain trends you are noticing via a Power BI report/ graph.
  4. To let others know that their attention is needed.
  5. Sometimes, you just want to ask someone a simple question, and waiting for a weekly meeting to happen so you could ask that question may not be a viable option.

Annotating is simple. All you do is click the “Pencil” icon on the top right, and start writing.

This short video below shows how quick and easy it is to not only write note, but also share annotations with others.

 

This is especially helpful if you are using the free version of Power BI because just recently Microsoft made sharing available only to Pro users.

Note: The sharing via Annotations uses the mobile OS’s native sharing mechanism. Essentially, it is taking a screenshot and letting you share it via email, text messaging, and other apps.

Image Gallery:

 

 

Embed Power BI Dashboards in CRM For Dynamics 365 With Just One Click

So, you have some really amazing and insightful dashboards in Power BI (like the one below) based on your data you have in CRM for Dynamics 365, and you use them regularly to see what’s going on with your business, institution, facility or wherever that you work.

image shows a dashboard with three charts in power bi.

 

Ideally, you would want to have these dashboards in CRM so that you have access to all these valuable insights in just one place. But how would you go about doing it?

Enabling and embedding Power BI dashboards in CRM is literally just a click away.

Go to System Settings (under Settings->Administration) and open the Reporting tab. Under that tab, set “Allow Power BI visualization embedding” to Yes.

image shows System Settings window  in CRM for Dynamics 365. The image shows that clicking the "Reporting" tab and setting the option "Allow Power BI visualization embedding"  to Yes enables power bi dashboards in crm.

 

Uhhhh that’s pretty much it.

Now, if you go to your Dashboards and click the chevron next to “New” , you will see a new option for “Power BI Dashboard”.

in the dashboards area, a new option "Power BI dashboard " is displayed when the chevron next to the "New" button is clicked.

Note: Make sure to click the chevron to get this option. Clicking the New button  defaults to creating the traditional CRM dashboard.

When you select that option, you will see a dropdown that will show you all of your dashboards in Power BI. Choose the one you want displayed in CRM. Click Save.

Note: Make sure to check the “Enable for Mobile” checkbox if you want to access this dashboard in your Dynamics 365 mobile app.

a new dialog shows all the dashboards in power bi in a dropdown. The user chooses which one they want embedded in this dashboard.

 

That Power BI dashboard is embedded in CRM now!

Power BI dashboard shown embedded in a CRM dashboard.

Questions? Let me know!

Hate Crime Statistics Right After US 2016 Election Results

After the huge spike in hate crime right after the 2016 election results in the US, I decided to keep track of what kind of hate crime was being committed  across the US, and where. The dashboard below, based on articles from various news sources, and stories by individuals on Facebook & Twitter, should be able to provide you with some statistics around what’s been going on around the country.

I was looking for a data source that would update periodically but I couldn’t find one, so I compiled all the data manually. I read articles and stories, and put them all in one csv. For that reason, this is not a complete list, and I am way behind. As of 11/22/2016, I only have 30 data points, although according to Southern Poverty Law Center, the count is over 700.

Disclaimer: This dashboard comes with all sorts of disclaimers. I trust the articles from various news sources but the personal accounts from Facebook have been taken at face value. If I find out that any of those personal accounts are false, I will remove it.

This dashboard, by no means, shows all reported/unreported hate crime. I have been manually compiling all this data (as and when I find them/someone shares with me) so I am super slow. I am hoping that I will be able to spend some time on it regularly and keep it updated.

This dashboard is interactive. Click on the dots on the map or charts to drill down on information. Hover over charts to see more.

Tip: Click the diagonal arrow at the bottom right corner to enlarge the dashboard.

Source csv file can be found here.