The Power BI Q&A Tool
Power BI has many features that will be a value to a business when looking at reporting, visualizing and analyzing their data. The value added is clear from this powerful tool within both Excel and on the Office 365 dashboards and sites. The Q&A feature is one aspect of the Power BI for Office 365 sites that I wanted to highlight for users as it is one of the most utilized features for Power BI.
The Power BI for Office 365 sites allows you to upload and connect your data so you can share your queries and data models from Excel. In Excel, the data querying and modeling done through Power Query and Power Pivot is what drives the reports you create with Power View. The Power View tool is helpful for creating reports to present your data in a controlled way. Q&A complements what is offered in Excel by allowing for ad-hoc reports and can be used by users who aren’t as familiar with Excel or how data models work. The Power BI for Office 365 sites offers another way for creating reports or getting the information you need from your data set with the Q&A feature.
What is Power BI Q&A?
Power BI Q&A is a natural language way to query your data and get the results you need from it. The natural language is essentially using everyday statements to ask questions of the data. You do this by typing into a dialog box which the engine instantaneously generates an answer in similar ways as Power View. Q&A interprets your question and shows you a restated query of what it is looking for from your data. Q&A was developed by Server and Tools, Microsoft Research and the Bing teams to give you the feeling of truly searching your data.
The data is displayed in numerous ways depending on the type of question you ask. The visualizations could be tables, charts and graphs that are all dynamic and interactive the change as your query or question changes. This helps in creating on the fly reports or getting calculations when giving a presentations and someone wants to see a different report. The views and types of report types can be changed by adding it to your query (i.e. sales by region bar chart) or changing the display using filters on the menu options.
Find meaningful correlations and insight quickly
The Q&A tool provides a means to determine, without delving into Power View in Excel, what types of correlations your data has fairly quickly and easily.
Collaboration between Data Analysts and every-day users
Using the Q&A feature to create reports to quickly look at data can be extremely helpful by allowing others to collaborate and query the data to provide additional insight and new correlations through an accessible tool.
Harness the power of multiple tools and multiple data sets
The tool is able to complement both Power View and Power Map in Excel in the way it displays the data. And with Q&A you can search multiple data models and workbooks simultaneously as well.
Quickly share new insight into your data
When you find a new view or query of the data that interests you or your team using Power BI Q&A, there are a multitude of sharing capabilities; including sending the web address or pinning it to your Power BI site.
Design with Q&A in Mind
You will get the best results from Q&A if your data model in Power Pivot is well thought out and organized. Here are four tips to get the most of this powerful feature:
- Give data columns proper names that users can search. The column names and headers is the main thing searched by Q&A when it looks to bring up your results.
- Add synonyms to the data model on columns. For example if a user is searching for Leads but your data set is labeled Opportunities, no results will return. But adding Leads as a synonym to the Opportunities will yield results for a user. Synonyms are created in the Power Pivot Data Model under the Advanced tab on the ribbon.
- Clearly define hierarchies and the relationships for your tables. This includes deleting columns that are not needed.
- While a good feature of Power BI is being able to search multiple workbooks it is best to limit the search to a specific workbook if possible to yield the best results on a search.
Get in and Check It Out!
Microsoft has many options for getting a hands on learning approach to the Q&A feature. They have a business scenario of Retail Analysis Sample on the Power BI for Office 365 site once you sign up for that. They also offer some fun ways to learn that I found interesting. They have historical data of the Olympics medalists, medals by country, event and so on as well similar data for the FIFA World Cup readily available to search and learn. From the sample retail data I ran some simple searches to show the many uses of Q&A.
Simply get an answer to a question like Sales. Or run reports in two different views as below.
The Bottom Line
Q&A is a strong tool that only adds to the many benefits of Power BI. Like Power BI it provides a user with deeper business insights to their data. Being a core feature of Power BI for Office 365, it also allows users to remotely access their data model. The core themes of Q&A is the enterprise data search and exploration and search-driven visualization.