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Power BI Desktop “Preview Features” Option and You

Author by Seth Bauer

I like to begin each blog with the assumption that at least a few of the people reading it aren’t keyed into the daily changes that occur in Power BI. That being said, this product is evolving and features being added like I’ve never seen in any other Microsoft product I’ve interacted with. Microsoft is leveraging its resources to be agile, responsive, and deploying new features continuously. It would appear the Power BI team is trying to outpace Marty Mcfly in terms of leaping into the future. A large part of the user excitement, I believe, revolves around the strong focus on user feedback to shape the product. Whether it is requesting new features, providing feedback, getting answers to questions, or creating your own visuals, this is a very unique BI product offering.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get more interesting, the Power BI team throws in something no one saw coming. They are now giving everyone the ability to use a “Preview Features” option in the Desktop. You can read about it in the October release here. This will allow users to see what the development team is working on, and give them a chance to weigh in on functionality and usability of features prior to their introduction into the final product. Let’s explore why this matters, and what it means for you.
 Private previews are often relegated to a small group of super users. There are a number of different means in which these groups provide feedback, and they represent a huge slice of what is happening in the BI world. These users help shape products that we all use, and the addition of a preview option in the actual tool, makes YOU that super user. You can now leverage your years of experience in BI with an assorted array of tools and tool sets, and bring that to the table using the “Preview” to test out and influence how Power BI works in the future. Your feedback will help shape and give direction to the final feature set in the tool, how cool is that!
A preview option also gives the user community an opportunity to peak behind the curtain of fully baked production level software. This means, that you as the end user, can not only read about feature requests, but actually see what the Development teams are working on, and have a chance to test it out. That provides you with the capabilities to do your own development work, and prepare to leverage new features when they are pushed to the production version. Working with and understanding the preview selections will set you apart from other Power BI users in that you can plan ahead and prepare to implement them right when they are released. The two selections that you have an option to work with in this first release in October are KPI’s and direct query to SQL and Azure SQL Databases.
Whether you come from the business side, or the IT side of BI, this new ability to preview is really unique. This is a vastly different concept than we are used to seeing in BI solutions up to this point. Having the option to be part of product development compared with the “norm” of just learning how a product works. Power BI appears to be pretty serious about giving power to every end user.
I can’t tell if the Power BI team is pushing their limits, or our limits. I hope they are ready for the flood of suggestions that will be incoming, and that the feedback loop is in place as well, so that the community feels engaged. And just to show us how great our feedback is, wouldn’t it be awesome to see some of those metrics shared back with us in a Power BI Dashboard! This team is showing that it is committed to opening doors to the user community, so are you going to be walking over the threshold, or just standing in front of other BI products knocking on their door hoping someone answers?