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Ask Amir Anything: Self-Service Composite Models in 2020!

Amir%20Netz.jpgAmir Netz , Technical Fellow at Microsoft. He is CTO of Power BI & Intelligence Platform products and servicesOn November 20th, Amir Netz hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) event with the Power BI Community. Amir Netz is a Technical Fellow at Microsoft. He is CTO of Power BI & Intelligence Platform products and services.

 

During this AMA event, he talked about a new level of composite data models and gave some tantalizing details. About 20 minutes in, Katie asked "when will mashups with live connections be available?" And another participant asked, "when will mashups with live connections be available?" Amir answered that this is a top priority and might even be the number one request from enterprise customers. He said that there is a large team working on it with lots of investment over two years.

 

What do we know about the new composite models?

The new composite models are related to shared and certified datasets. An organization may have a central model created by their BI Team or IT department that is a trusted source of data. Currently, users can use these datasets to create their own reports. With these enhancements, however, users would then be able to enrich these datasets and even combine them together. 

 

Enrich Shared Datasets

When users create reports from shared datasets today, they are limited to the data included in the model by the designer. They can add measures, but they cannot add columns, change formatting of existing measures or columns, add hierarchies, or add other data to the model. During the AMA, Amir discussed three aspects of enriching datasets: 

  • extend the model
  • add new data sources.
  • additional hierarchies

How do I see users enriching datasets with this feature? I can, for example, see a user taking their enterprise's certified dataset, and supplementing it by bringing in postal codes, enabling them to do a regional analysis. I could also see opportunities for enriching data with other public sources. I don't know, but I would be interested to hear if changing formatting on measures and columns would be possible because to add a format currently, the dataset creator has to add a new formula for each formatting needed in reports. This aspect alone would be a powerful addition to Power BI. 

 

Combine Shared Datasets

Amir compared this functionality to the ability of a database administrator to create a view. Instead of copying all the data into a new dataset, you would align multiple datasets into a single model.

 

How do I see departmental users taking advantage of combining shared datasets? Currently, I can create a model that is broad or deep. So, I could look at many different types of recent transactions (sales, customer service, inventory, etc.) in a single report. But due to the size of the data, I have to split full transaction histories out into stand-alone reports. I can then use cross-report drillthrough to connect the separate reports. This functionality would allow me to have one report that is both deep (all years) and wide (different types of transactions). This would make for a much more streamlined experience for consumers of my reports. 

 

A Word About Existing Composite Models

We already have a certain kind of composite models available for creators of datasets. Currently, report creators can make composite models using some data that is imported and other data...

 

What Next? 

This is everything I know about self-service composite models. It's not even on the public roadmap yet. In the AMA, Amir teased that we would start hearing about it in the first half of 2020. I would expect LOTS more details, demos, etc., at Microsoft Business Application Summit (MBAS) 2020. I would expect that functionality could change as it's developed. There may be parts that are implemented before other parts, and so forth. But I am definitely excited by this announcement and will be eagerly awaiting more information in the months ahead. 

Comments

This sounds like what we've been waiting for. We have a "gold" data model, but to be truly useful we need to allow it to be extended in specific contexts with additional data, relationships, and measures. Given the abysmal state of Power BI SDLC tools, we have no choice right now but to try and build one model to rule them all or to make copies of the gold model, both of which are terrible options.