Storytelling with Power BI 7/7: Let them ask questions

The seventh and last blog in the storytelling series. Took a while before writing it and finishing this blog series. Up front I promised to publish a blog every week, but that simply didn’t work out regarding time. Besides that, the last topic in the storytelling series is also related to my latest presentation about AI features in Power BI what I presented at Data Scotland on September 13th.

Let them ask questions

As a report author, you start building your reports based on the information needs and business requirements you collected before your project. However, every answer to a question, triggers a new question to come up. In the end you end-up with more questions to answer than you thought about up front. Maybe even with scope creep in agile projects.

However, it is very unlikely that you answer all the business information needs in your dashboard or report within one iteration. So why not give them the ability to exploitative interact with the report and ask questions in a native language to their dataset? Power BI has the ability to ask questions to your data in your native language in just a few clicks. This functionality is available in different ways within Power BI. Below a short line-up of all the possibilities where you can use native language querying in Power BI:

  1. Ask questions to your data in a dashboard
    On top of every dashboard in the Power BI service, you have ability to ask questions about your data. This feature triggers the Q&A engine to match your natural language to the measures and objects in your dataset. Don’t see this option in your dashboard? As a dashboard author, you have the ability to switch this feature of in your dashboard settings.
  2. Q&A triggered by a button in a report
    Within a report you can add a button triggering the Q&A functionality. A new pop-up screen will appear to ask all your questions related to your dataset. In this window, report authors will be able to set suggested questions and already prepare the end-user with some inspiring questions to ask.Triggering the Q&A by button, is a default feature in Power BI. In the top ribbon in Power BI desktop you can easily add a button. The Q&A button is available there and assigned to the Q&A action by default.
  3. Build visuals in your report with Q&A
    Creating visuals in an easy way without selecting the fields manually? This is possible with building visuals by using the Q&A feature. You can do this easily by double clicking on a blank area on your report canvas. This will trigger the Q&A feature to build your visual easily. As a result, you will get a normal visual which you can tweak afterwards like every other visual.
  4. Native language querying in the Power BI mobile app
    Power BI also supports native queries in the Power BI mobile app. This is integrated in the app, but that is not the only thing you can do with Q&A on your mobile device! Power BI also integrates with native voice control on your mobile devices, for example Siri on an iPhone. In this blog Microsoft explains how Power BI integrates with Siri.Below video shows how you can easily setup an example to test-drive the Q&A experience on your mobile device.

How to ensure that Q&A has an added value

In order to create a visual, Power BI matches the words you type to the measures and objects available in the datamodel. As soon as Power BI recognizes one of the words, it will yellow-underline the word. Still, it can be hard for the Q&A engine to recognize your columns and measures. There are a few things you can do to make this work

  • Make sure you give every column and measure a reasonable name. Very useful for both working with Q&A and end-user self service report building.
  • Nobody is the same, so every user might have a different frame of reference. In order to make this feature work for your users, you can add synonyms to every measure and column name in your Power BI dataset.In the modelling view in Power BI desktop, you can select and object and add multiple synonyms, comma separated.
  • Every data analysis has its own specialties. Besides adding synonyms to objects in your datamodel, you have the ability to add phrasing to your model. This option is available in the Modelling section in the top ribbon of Power BI Desktop. With the option to change the linguistic schema, you can add really specific questions.
    Find more about details on why the linguistic schema can be useful here.

Wrapping up

With this blog, I hope I showed you that there are lots of options where and how you can use the Q&A feature within Power BI. During the last few meetups which I’ve attended, I asked lots of attendees if they are familiar with the Q&A features within Power BI. Most of them were but didn’t use it at all. Simply because it didn’t act like they expected, or Q&A didn’t understand the specific things they asked.

I hope this blog inspired you to start using the Q&A feature more and more. In my opinion, it does have an added value to give your end-users more flexibility. However, for a successful implementation it is key to be aware of the possibilities you have to make the Q&A feature work better. Your first quick win, start adding synonyms to all objects in your datamodel!

6 thoughts on “Storytelling with Power BI 7/7: Let them ask questions

  1. Pingback: Storytelling with Power BI – Curated SQL

  2. Hi this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!|


  3. Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I want to put in writing like this moreover ?taking time and precise effort to make an excellent article?but what can I say?I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.


  4. Pingback: Webinar recap & blog series: Storytelling & interactive reporting with Power BI – Data – Marc

  5. Pingback: Synonyms, the secret behind Power BI Q&A and Natural Language Query – Data – Marc

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