Microsoft Ignite 2017 Session Picks!

It’s that time again and if you are headed to Microsoft Ignite 2017 and are overwhelmed with the session choices, here’s some recommended sessions to check out.

Power BI – Microsoft Ignite 2017

If Power BI is your interest area, here’s some great sessions to check out.

Dive into effective report authoring using Microsoft Power BI Desktop

Miguel Llopis and Will Thompson

Session code: BRK2111

Microsoft Power BI Desktop is a tool that allows data analysts, data scientists, business analysts, and BI professionals to create interactive reports that can be published to Power BI. Join us during this session for a deep dive into the report authoring, data preparation, and data modeling in Power BI Desktop. Topics covered include third-party connectors, data exploration, and data visualization. This session includes lots of demos, including what’s new in Power BI Desktop and what’s coming.

Managing Space and Time with Visio and Power BI

David Parker, Scott Helmers

Session code: THR2177

You’re attending Ignite. You’ve registered for 15 sessions. The sessions are located in more than 300 meeting rooms. The meeting rooms are spread across nearly three million square feet in the Orange County Convention Center. What tools do you have that can help you to maximize your time and minimize unnecessary walking?

  • You have a list of sessions.
  • You have a floor plan.
  • You have a clock.
  • Best of all, you also have Visio Professional and Power BI!

Learn how you can use the data mining, operational intelligence, and data visualization capabilities of those products to navigate the cavernous convention center more effectively.

Mining Yammer data for gold using Microsoft Power BI

Melanie Hohertz, Dean Swann, Becky Benishek, Simon Denton, Loni French

Session Code:  BRK2148

It’s a noisy conversation around enterprise social right now. But when you cut through to the signal, Microsoft’s data says Yammer is growing faster than ever. If you want data-driven decisions and value in social collaboration, analytics have never been more critical. Join a group of Yammer experts as they explore the importance of taking the broad view of Yammer data. Attendees get an overview of Power BI and a review of the Office 365 Content Pack, focusing on Yammer. We take an in-depth look at the “art of the possible” with Yammer data in Power BI, with real-world examples. Come see the power of Yammer, expressed in data that mines the gold for hands-on community managers and executive stakeholders.

Learn how to apply advanced analytics for Microsoft Project & Portfolio Management (PPM)

Jackie Duong,  Rick Bojahra,  Michael Patrick

Session code: BRK3025

Empower decision making by unlocking business insights. Take your reporting capabilities to the next level through Power BI and other analytics tools, with easy-to-use live data monitoring to show your data in a simple and compelling way. Hear directly from the global leader in designing and manufacturing water parks, WhiteWater, who deployed Project Online alongside Microsoft Dynamics and Power BI to optimize their business.

SharePoint Search – Microsoft Ignite 2017

There’s a lot of renewed interest in search and these speakers are worth your time. I’d recommend the following sessions in this area.

Accelerate productivity with search and discovery in SharePoint and Office 365

Kathrine Hammervold, Naomi Moneypenny

Session Code: BRK2181

Effective search needs to know what information that is relevant to you, your colleagues, the work you do and your context right now. Find out how we have used insights across Microsoft Office to create such a personalized search experience. A new search UX has been developed focusing on simplicity and performance enabling the user to quickly interact with a more personal and semantic organization of data. Find out how search now also supports multi-national corporations and how hybrid search works with the Microsoft Graph. Also learn about the roadmap for enterprise search in SharePoint and Office 365 for experiences, extensibility and the convergence of FAST and Bing search innovations.

Build your personalized and social intranet with SharePoint, Yammer, Delve, OneDrive and Teams

Naomi Moneypenny, Brian Duke, Rick Garcia, Greg Nemeth

Session Code: BRK2185

Hear how other companies have recently built their intelligent intranets and learn how to use capabilities of SharePoint, OneDrive, Office Delve, Yammer, Microsoft Teams to create cohesive experiences for productivity and cohesive digital culture. Explore how to empower business users and site owners with the tools and guidance they need to create, target, personalize, and consume content as well as bring rich interactivity for different business scenarios. The intranet of the future awaits!

Not going to Ignite? Check out our Training classes!

Virtual Public classes and Private on site classes are available!

Check Out Our Classes!

Death to the “Perfect Report”

Crumpled paper Power BI

When designing your Power BI solution, are you designing your solution for maximum long term effectiveness? One of the biggest mind shifts that my Power BI students have to make when beginning their Power BI journey is to stop thinking in terms of reports when approaching their Business Intelligence (BI) needs. Rather, it’s more effective to approach those BI needs from a holistic data model perspective.

Why the “perfect report?”

In years past, designers were focused on writing the “perfect report” as the amount of time and effort needed to create a report was substantial. This led to reports that were used for multiple purposes. This multi-use design also created complexity in the presentation and increased maintenance costs. Each additional report also creates a long tail of maintenance effort to ensure that the report stays relevant over time.

With tools like Power BI, the focus is on rapid development of new reports and dashboards. The “perfect report” approach is no longer necessary as it is very easy to create new single focus reports and dashboards. The value of a single report is then diminished and the importance of the data model design increases.

Think data models, not reports

The rationale for this design approach is that, on average, 50% of your annual reporting needs are ad hoc in nature. Therefore, you can’t design a report for every possible contingency. Having a 200 reports that don’t meet your immediate need creates noise rather than benefit to the organization. They simply slow down the ad hoc reporting process as the data consumer wastes time evaluating the existing content first. Flexibility offered from a well-designed data model is the expedient path to fulfilling your ad hoc needs effectively for the long term.

Power BI design for the business conversation

The purpose of business intelligence is to support business conversations with relevant data to enable decision making. Therefore, your data model should be designed to support a specific business scenario. The scenario provides the necessary context for scoping the type of data required to meet the most likely questions. It also provides the necessary context to the data consumer to identify the data model as the correct one for use in a given business conversation.

Conversation-centric design

The path to outlining the necessary data is using an approach we at Tumble Road call “Conversation-Centric Design.”

The first step is to identify the conversation to be supported. Standing meetings are usually a good starting point for the identification process. Meetings provide a lot of information for the design process as the timing, audience and typical agenda are known. The agenda can be used to identify the key questions and needed answers. From the answers, we can extract the core data elements for the data model. Each answer becomes a visualization in the eventual dashboard or report.

For example, there’s a weekly Vice President status meeting every Wednesday. Project status of the overall portfolio is reviewed during the meeting. The key questions for the portfolio review are:

  • Which projects have implementation milestones due this month
  • Which projects have resource constraint issues
  • Which projects have escalated issues to the meeting

Each of these questions can be broken down into the data elements necessary to provide the needed answers. This forms the core data for the data model. The designer then adds the most likely secondary data, like custom fields and other key data to anticipate future needs.

Designing for the long term

There are three aspects to consider to support your long term Business Intelligence needs.

Reports are still needed but are not the focal point

First, you should still provide reports over the data, understanding that they provide an immediate starting point for the data consumer to use the data. The report represents the designer’s view of the data and is generally designed for a specific conversation need.

Ultimately, the data consumer is in control

Second, a well-designed data model supports the data consumer needs for ad hoc information. The data consumer can create ad hoc constructs of data using two methods within Power BI.

The data consumer can create personal dashboards, pinning visualizations from multiple reports to create a personalized view of the data to meet their specific needs. This pinning process supports a visualization being pinned to multiple personal dashboards so the data consumer can narrowly define their dashboards.

If you are not reading this post on, please go here to enjoy this post at its original source.

The data consumer can also create new reports in via the browser.  The primary difference between the report and the dashboard is intent. Dashboards provide a view of the data; reports provide a way to explore the data. Data consumers will create reports when the need to slice and dice the data is the primary need. The effectiveness of their report development is dependent on the underlying data model adequately supporting the business scenario.

Business scenario focus means smaller, easier to use data models

Lastly, there is value in the less is more approach. Data models shouldn’t be monolithic in design. A well-designed data model provides only the data frames and data elements necessary to support the business scenario.

For example, one of the challenges of Project reporting is the sheer magnitude of available data. Overwhelming the data consumer with too many data frames (aka data tables) to search through for the requisite data elements, slows down the ad hoc reporting process and creates user frustration. In our Marquee™ designs, for example, we separate project reporting from timesheet reporting as separate business scenarios. This in turn reduces data consumer confusion.

A business scenario focused data model also reduces the risk of the data consumer inadvertently creating cross-join situations. When a cross-join arises, typically the data consumer has combined two data elements together in a visualization that don’t have a direct data relationship. The result is the data consumer seeing every potential combination of the two data elements. This may then lead to you receiving a support call as to why the tool is doing what it is doing.

Finally, keeping individual data models business scenario focused also enables you to better maintain the data model as the business scenario changes over time.

The wrap up

My hope is that you now understand why a data model approach is better than a report centric approach is superior when designing Power BI. Data model centric design approaches yield better long term support of ad hoc reporting. Focusing the data model on the business conversation also yields many benefits from a data consumer experience, from ability to correctly select the right model to improved speed of creating new reports.

How are you approaching your Power BI design today? What questions do you have? Please post your feedback in the comments below. I look forward to hearing about your design approaches.

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Creating Maintainable Power BI Report Models – Part 2

Power BI Kitchen

In this installment, the user facing aspects of your Power BI report models will be discussed. Much of this is considered fit and finish work. It is important that you take the time to address these issues as enables users to build their own reports and dashboards from your data sets. This finish work will result in less time spent on support and making ad hoc updates.

Hiding data sets and fields in the Power BI Report View

When you are creating a complex report model, you may use transitional data sets or configuration type data sets to create your final data set. These transitional or configuration data is not intended to be used by the end user in creating a dashboard or report. Before releasing a report model, you should determine which of these data sets and fields to hide from the Report view. Doing so will reduce user confusion about this information, allowing them to focus on the data most important to them.

To hide a data set or field in the report view, do the following.

  • In Power BI Desktop, click on the Datasheet icon (1)

Power BI

  • In the Field well, right click on a data set name or on a field
  • Select Hide in Report View (2)


  • The data set or field will appear grayed out (3)



Default formatting

Default formatting has a cumulative positive productivity effect for your users. Setting the default format for numbers and dates frees them from having to spend non-productive time “trying to get the data to look right.” It’s tedious work that can easily be eliminated with a few actions on your part. Your users will be happier and able to be faster at generating views.


In many data sources, dates are stored as datetime values. Project Online stores every date in this format and this makes sense from a transactional perspective. However, in the BI world, most users aren’t looking for time information. The time data creates visual noise instead.

Also, if you are creating content for international users, it is important to use the right formats such that Power BI uses the end user’s regional setting. This way your American and Australian counter parts both know that 3/11/2016 and 11/3/2016 are respectively, the same date. Date and Datetime formats that automatically adjust to the end user’s regional settings are marked with an asterisk *.

To set the default format for a date, do the following.

  • Power BI Desktop, click on the Datasheet icon (1)


  • In the grid, click the heading of the column to format. Only one column can be selected at a time (2)


  • Click the Modeling tab in the ribbon (3)


  • Change Data Type to Date. (4) Note, the format of the selected date column has changed.


  • Click Format dropdown, Date Time, select the first value, which has an asterisk (5)


Now, your date values will appear as follows.



The same process applies to numbers as well. Many systems store numbers in a general decimal number format, leaving users staring at numbers with a variable number of decimals or cost data that isn’t apparent it’s related to money. Variable decimal places creates usability problems as it’s hard to scan the data. Not denoting costs with a currency symbol leaves the number open to misinterpretation.

Decimal Numbers

To format the decimal positions in a number, do the following.

  • In Power BI Desktop, click on the Datasheet icon (1)


  • In the grid, click the heading of the column to format. Only one column can be selected at a time (2)


  • Click the Modeling tab in the ribbon (3)


  • Change Format to Decimal Number (4)


  • Set the number of decimals to show (5)



To format a number with a currency symbol, do the following.

  • In Power BI Desktop, click on the Datasheet icon (1)


  • In the grid, click the heading of the column to format. Only one column can be selected at a time (2)


  • Click the Modeling tab in the ribbon (3)


  • Change Format to Fixed Decimal Number (4)


  • Set the number of decimals to show (5)



The last set of good practices for report models is to categorize specific types of data such that the default behavior in Power BI is more user friendly. This applies currently to location based data and urls. By default, Power BI would treat this information as character data. If a user drags a city or country value to a dashboard, likely they will be interested in a map view rather than the name of the city or country. Categorization allows you to tell Power BI that the City or Country field is location data and that a map instead of a grid should be rendered by default. For URLs,, categorization tells Power BI whether to render the link as clickable or to render the image to which it points.

In all cases, click the column heading of the field to categorize and select the Data Category on the Modeling tab to set, similar to the actions above.

Location Data

You can categorize text data as location related or numeric data if it contains latitude or longitude values. The list of location categories is shown below.


Web URLs

If you want to make the URL clickable, change the Data Category to Web URL.


Image URLs

To render the image accessed by the URL, change the Data Category to Image URL



Following these simple techniques will result in easier to use and easier to maintain report models.

If you want to learn more, check out our Power BI sessions at  Use code take100off to get $100 off of any paid Power BI class.



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Creating Maintainable Power BI Report Models – Part 1

Power BI Kitchen

Professional chefs use a French kitchen organization approach called “Mise En Place”, which means literally, “putting in place.” It ensures that the placement of ingredients and utensils are optimally placed for efficient cooking. Power BI report models can require the same type of approach to ensure that your report models are maintainable over time. This applies whether you are doing reporting against Microsoft Project Online, Microsoft Project Server or Office 365.

We’ll focus on three techniques for the report developer’s back end configuration this week. We’ll cover the front end configuration next week as it relates to improving the end user experience.

Fast is not always good

Power BI allows you to accomplish a lot quickly when it comes to transforming data. However, if you aren’t smart about how you approach your back end configuration, you could be creating a maintenance nightmare for yourself.

Do you know what is what in a report model that you haven’t touched in months? These three techniques will enable you to easily understand and work with your transformation code over time.

What was I thinking when I did this?

This is a common problem for any developer who has ever done work in a rush. The reason for doing what you did in the fifteen transformation steps was blatantly clear the day you created the model. However, the sands of time have worn away the memories and now you are doing code archaeology to understand your previous work.

Power BI allows you to make your transformation steps self-documenting.

To make your transformation steps descriptive, do the following.

  • Open the query editor
  • Select a data set in the left pane. The list of transformation steps are shown in the Applied Steps pane on the right.
  • Right-click (#1) on transformation step
  • Rename the step with something descriptive

Power BI Renaming a Transformation

Instead of accepting the default “Grouped Rows” step name, you can rename the step to read “Grouping by Year, Week, Resource to provide weekly work totals.” Doing so creates a coherent story of what is happening and why.

Power BI Self Documenting Transformations

What is this data set again?

Power BI provides a default data set name, based typically on the source of the data retrieved. This may not be desirable as the data set may be an amalgamation of data from several sources and have a different intent than that indicated by the first data retrieved. Secondly, this name also appears to the end user and may have no meaning.

To make your data set name descriptive

  • Open the query editor
  • Select a data set in the left pane
  • On the right side, in the Properties Name box above the Applied Steps, rename the data set to be more meaningful to the user
    • If you are using our Conversation-centric design approach, you should already have some candidate names available
  • To update, simply type over the value in the Name field and click off of the field to save
  • When you save the model, the change will be saved

Below, we renamed AssignmentTimephasedDataSet to Resource Work Summary by Week.

Power BI Naming Data Sets

Where did I put that thing?

Another challenge that you may encounter is trying to find a query data set when you have several in a report model. Power BI allows you to create groups and assign your data sets and functions to a specific group.

If I am working on model that is in production, I can create a Version 2 group, copy the data set, move the copy to the Version 2 group. This way, I have both copies and can ensure I don’t accidentally change the wrong version.

In the example below, I used groups as a way of organizing my demos for a webinar. Each group demo number corresponded to a PowerPoint slide so it was easy to keep my place.

Power BI Using Groups

To create a Power BI query group

  • Right click anywhere on the Query Editor left pane
  • Select New Group…
  • Fill out the name and the description
  • Click OK

The description can be seen when you hover over the group name. It is very helpful for providing additional context.

To move a data set to a Power BI query group

  • Right click on the data set name
  • Select Move to Group
  • Select the Group

These three techniques will help you keep things organized and understandable. Next week, we’ll discuss best practices for enabling a great end user experience.

Chaos Management and the Cubicle Hero

When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you may have replied, “Firefighter.” If you did, I’m sure you meant one of the awesome individuals who provide medical services, rescues and ride the fire trucks. While, most of us never realized that dream, there are days at the office where you probably feel that “Fire Fighter” should be your job title.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Cubicle Hero, where fighting fires is part of your job!

Perhaps you ask yourself at the end of each day, “How did I get here?” Many feel stuck in these roles without a way out and are puzzled as to how it happened. I talked about the True Cost of the Cubicle Hero in this previous article, so let’s look at how Cubicle Heroes form.

One reason Cubicle Heroes arise is due to a work environment that isn’t structured to respond well to chaos. If there are no processes for reacting to chaos in a controlled manner, the result is a crisis, which requires some brave person to step in to address. This person is caught in that role going forward, thus evolving into the Cubicle Hero. Chaos is ever present and needed for the organization to evolve and remain competitive. The organization is going to run out of Heroes unless a systemic way of reacting is created.

Internal efforts such as implementing a new HR system creates short-term chaos and long-term impact the organization. If your organization doesn’t have a formal project transition process to production, Cubicle Heroes usually form from the project’s team members who hold the detailed knowledge about the project’s deliverables . A problem related to the project arises. This leads to a project team member solving the issue and then becoming the Hero going forward.

Ad hoc project transformation process creates “human hard drives” out of the project team members, where they must store and retrieve organizational knowledge as needed. This restricts the ability of team members to grow their skills as letting go of that knowledge results in a loss to the organization. A formal transformation process ensures relevant information is captured so that it can be widely used within the organization, freeing the team members to move on.

External events such as a large client with a new, immediate need or a viral photo of a dress of indeterminate color are also chaos sources. Does your company treat these requests as fire drills  or do they have a way to manage them?

The best companies have a deep respect for chaos and put practices in place to manage it and to learn from it. New products and services are sometimes rooted in chaos learnings. Successful chaos management becomes a source of positive change within an organization, as it provides opportunities for people to learn new skills and encounter new situations. As discussed in the earlier article, these new skills and experiences prepare these individuals to be the Explorers that we need.

If your company grows Cubicle Heroes, then the first step in the solution is to address the underlying cultural issues. Adding tools too soon will simply result in chaos at light speed. Addressing this issue is especially problematic in organizations where management has built their careers on their firefighting abilities. Cubicle Heroes tend to prosper in environments which lack visibility into cause and effect. One of my Project Management Office  tool implementations came to a grinding halt when the sponsor, who was a master Cubicle Hero, realized the system would also show that he was also the company’s biggest fire starter .

Your company’s reaction to chaos is a key process necessary to maximizing your long term competiveness and productivity. One way to address chaos is to create processes for categories of chaos. Categories help keep the process manageable without having to address each specific and unique possibility.

One category should also be “other,” as the truly unexpected will happen. One example where this was successful is an organization who assigned a team member to work the “other” category, thereby sparing the rest of the team from being randomized by the unexpected.

I’ll write more on this topic in the weeks to come. For other articles, please visit my blog at

The True Cost of the Cubicle Hero

Heroes. Society loves them, honors them and exults them. Corporate offices are filled with a new breed of hero, the Cubicle Hero. These are the people who go beyond the norm and figure it out. They burn the midnight oil and they get it done. They overcome the chaos and reach the goal. All hail the hero!

However, heroes tend to overstay their welcome. In the movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”, character Harvey Dent intones, “You either die the hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The Cubicle Hero’s individual victory is celebrated initially, but situations change and the need for the hero diminishes over time. Or so we hope.

Cubicle heroes can become process bottlenecks and productivity killers. Why? The organization’s reward structure doesn’t lead them to being mentors. The cubicle hero has great value to the organization but their way of working can’t scale and the lack of information sharing prevents the organization from truly benefiting from their victory. The hero then gets involved in every project that touches their area and becomes the bottleneck as the demand for their time is greater than what is available. Thus, the hero slowly becomes the villain, delaying projects.

Many years ago, I worked at a company where a core process of the company was dependent on a very skilled hero. He was a great employee and did his job earnestly. However, he also guarded his knowledge so that he was the only one who understood it completely. This became a serious company concern when he was involved in an accident, leaving him unable to work for several months. Several key projects were impacted.

Changing the perspective, expectations and language of what happens as part of these efforts can lead to a different outcome. We need to make it clear that we want and need Corporate Explorers rather than Cubicle Heroes. Leif Erickson, the Viking, may have been the first to reach North America on a heroic journey, but it was the explorer, Columbus, that opened up North America to the world.

Explorers and Heroes share many common traits. They can see the big picture. They can dig down into the details when needed. They put in the extra effort to get the job done. The real difference is in the aftermath. Explorers open new trails so that others may come behind them. Explorers become guides to help others make the same journey. Heroes, on the other hand, continue to hold onto their conquest.

Changing your company culture to encourage Explorers over Heroes creates a scalable culture of knowledge sharing. This organizational approach leads to greater productivity, higher quality collaboration and timelier project progress.

To summarize, I recommend reviewing the following in your organization.

  • Provide a clear path to success for as many as possible to the rewards for exceptional effort, in a way that others and ultimately the organization can leverage
  • Provide public recognition for knowledge sharing
  • Structure rewards, within the process, so we can move from the mentality of one time hero-creation to our true goal of constant productivity improvement
  • Provide the Explorer with opportunities to help facilitate and implement their achievement within the organization. This keeps the Explorer engaged and looking for additional ways to improve
  • Provide collaborative tools like Office 365 and Yammer to help facilitate and support the Explorer’s journey

If you are ready to address more productivity issues in your organization, talk to us or join our Community.