Microsoft brings Cortana, Quick Insights to Power BI for better business intelligence

Kip Kniskern


Microsoft’s Convergence conference for business professionals is being held this week in Barcelona, Spain (it’s coming to New Orleans, LA next April) has been bringing us a number of business oriented announcements, including a new Office 365 E5 tier, Power Apps, and more. Now today, from day 2 of the event, Microsoft has some more news, this time around its business intelligence platform, Power BI.
First, for a quick overview of Power BI, Microsoft recently released this video explaining what visualizing business intelligence is all about:

Today, Microsoft announced some new features to Power BI, including integration with Cortana, and Quick Insights. Cortana, along with the Cortana Analytics Suite, can query Power BI data and either return results directly, or connect with previously generated reports:

By utilizing Power BI’s data visualization capabilities, answers can range from simple numerical values (“revenue for the last quarter”), charts (“number of opportunities by team”), maps (“average customer spending in California by city”), or even complete reports from Power BI all provided directly from Cortana. Potential answers are either determined by Cortana on the fly directly from the data, or by using reports already created in Power BI that help answer a question. To further explore an answer, users can simply open a result in Power BI.

There are new features in Power BI to make it easy for Cortana to return and display reports. You can give reports alternate names, so that Cortana can find a report using a variety of queries, and set special report sheet sized to get the most out of displayed results.
Microsoft also introduced Quick Insights, a set of algorithms developed in partnership with Microsoft Research that can search your data for potential insights “hidden” in your data. These insights can highlight category outliers, time series outliers, trends in time series, seasonality, steady share, and major factors, where a single factor contributes to the majority of a total value when broken down by another dimension.
Microsoft is holding a new conference, the Data Insights Summit, next March in Redmond, for business analysts to learn more about best practices and new tools for business intelligence, as the company continues to extend Office 365 to provide new tools and insights to keep Office relevant for a new generation of users.