With the acceleration of Microsoft’s BI initiatives over the last couple years, starting with Power View in SharePoint, releasing add-ins for Excel, creating Power BI sites that can integrate with SharePoint Online, and just recently introducing the new direction for Power BI (In Public Preview) that includes Power BI Designer, and the Power BI Dashboard. It is no wonder that business leaders are chomping at the bit to see and share their data in different ways.
The Microsoft BI platform provides a powerful means by which organizations can share information and make critical business decisions like never before. There are many different ways to visualize data, and many charts and graphs to choose from. But when it comes to displaying geographically relevant data, a map, is one of the best initial tools to help business leaders conceptually get a grasp on the overall picture. This begs the question, “If I want to make the biggest impact with a geographical map, what Microsoft BI mapping tools can I use?”
There are several applications that support mapping tools, but if we look at these tools in terms of appearance, we can place them into two categories. The first, we can reference by name “Power Map”. The second, is essentially the Power View – map, but since it’s used in different applications, such as, Power BI Designer and Power BI Dashboards, let’s reduce confusion for now and just call it “Map” due to the lack of a better term (or imagination).
Let’s begin by finding out where these tools are, outlining some of the features, and then determine where we can deploy them for presentations and re-use.
First, let’s find out where these two types of mapping tools can be accessed.
Excel 2013: (Power Map is a separate add-in. In Professional Plus you need to download the add-in and enable it in Excel. With Pro Plus it will be included in the add-ins and just needs to be enabled.)
Power Map: Is found by heading over to “INSERT” on the tool bar and you will see “Map” sandwiched between the “PivotChart” and “Power View”. Click on this and “Launch Power Map”.
Map: Is also on the “INSERT” toolbar, Click “Power View” and you can choose the “Map” on the “Visualization” section contained within Power View after you have selected data from your Power View Fields.
Other Locations of Map:
Power View in SharePoint 2010, 2013 (On-Premises)
Power BI Designer
Power BI Dashboard (Hover over Chart icon on upper right of Visualization)
Power Map: Visually this tool is just downright awesome! It renders the map in 3D and has a bunch of different options to change the visualization dramatically. The basic concept to keep in mind when using a Power Map is you are creating a visual story via the map. Each map template is called a scene, and you can tie multiple scenes together to create a tour. Each scene has capabilities to add layers utilizing the data in different ways.
Key Map Visuals:
- Heat Map
Key Map Features:
- Time Bar (Think of the Scatter Graph in Power View)
- Create multiple layers on each scene
- Only requires latitude and longitude to create data points (Exception is Region)
- Add interactive chart to scene
- Zoom in to data detail
- Find Location Feature
- Change Themes (Light/Dark Backgrounds)
Screenshot of Power Map – Heat Map
Map: This tool’s design and layout is consistent throughout the Power BI tools. The visuals leave the user wanting a bit more when you move from Power Map to this, but it’s still incredible that we can land into these maps with just a minimal amount of data setup. The strength of Map is the interaction between maps and charts on the same page, it does a really great job in explaining and engaging end users. And on top of that, it allows the end user to zoom in and out to interrogate data points anywhere on the map.
Key Map Visuals:
- Filled Map (In Power BI Designer and Dashboard Designer as separate map option – shows data by region)
Key Map Features:
- Bubble/Pie to add multiple elements
- Zoom in to data detail
Screenshot of Map – showing web page sessions by year
Deployment and Use:
Power Map: Can only be exported as a Video (Mp4) so it can be uploaded to a site like the SharePoint Online Video library. Unfortunately at the time of this writing, the only way to use it interactively is in the Excel workbook on the client side.
Map: Is an integrated part of the current and future Power BI platform. You can create maps in SharePoint on premises in Power View. You can upload your Excel work
book into SharePoint (Online or On Premises), or onto a Power BI site where your Power View visuals show up as reports. You can create a map from scratch in Power BI Designer, or connect directly to your Excel workbook in Power BI Dashboards. And you also have the ability to connect to any number of data sources and create your own map in the Dashboard Designer. Whatever you choose, you obviously have multiple options to create and share this type of map.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Power Map: The strength of the Power Map is its ability to create stunning visual representations and build stories with data. The weakness is obviously the limited number of ways in which we can utilize it.
Map: The strength of Map is its ease of use and interaction with other chart visualizations. In addition to that, there are so many ways you can use and share these maps in the Power BI realm that there’s no question you will use this map type the most. The weakness is only here because we’ve seen what Microsoft can do in maps visually, therefore I’d have to say it’s visually weaker than Power Map.
I encourage anyone unfamiliar with these mapping to tools to check them out and discover new insights into your geographical data. Hopefully I’ve cut a little time off your exploration by showing you where these mapping tools are, some of the high level features of each map type, and outline where you can use them.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the new fast cadence releases by Microsoft to Power BI make the mind wander a bit to the “what if’s”. I’d love to see some additional integration of Power Map’s visual capabilities in the other Map tools, such as, the addition of 3D or the time lapse functionality. Or possibly adding some additional ways to share interactive Power Maps in the new Power BI realm.
All in all, it is undeniable that the new geography mapping tools in the Power BI tools are pretty amazing and can add a lot to a data story.
If you have any suggestions or want to see any mapping features that aren’t currently in the mapping tools, you can suggest different features to Microsoft via their feedback site.
You can also vote to support new feature ideas proposed by others already. Here are a few related to enhancing the mapping tools already.
Heat Maps in Power View Maps:
Power Map: Ability to publish Power Maps on SharePoint site or as a webpart:
Power Map integration: