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Coffee Talk

Welcome to an experimental new feature here at PowerPivotPro, where members of the team discuss various topics related to Power BI, Power Pivot, and Analytics/BI in general. These conversations take place during the week on a Slack channel, and are then lightly edited for publishing on Friday.

This Week’s Topic: Managing Pace of Change in the Power BI Era

In our second installment of our weekly Coffee Talk leading up to the Microsoft Data Insights Summit in June we will be discussing the current pace of change, and what decisions organizations can make to ensure they are balancing their new investments in Power BI with their existing investments in Excel based BI.

But first, let me introduce the team members we brought in for this week’s Coffee Talk, and their role within the PowerPivotPro team:

Myself, Kellan Danielson – I joined the P3 team in 2015 as a Consultant and am now responsible for ensuring we offer the highest level of service to everyone we interact with.

Austin Senseman – My counterpart, Austin joined the P3 team as a Consultant as well in 2015 and is now responsible for ensuring P3 functions like a well oiled machine.

Ryan Sullivan – Our newest Principal Consultant, Ryan is an expert in an annoying amount of tools and query languages. He is right at home here at P3 and is already making his presence known.

Matt Allington – Our Australian DAX aficionado, Matt is an unmatched resource for the team and also runs the blog

Reid Havens – One of our Principal Consultants, Reid provides consulting and training to some of our largest clients in the Seattle area as well as becoming a common voice on the blog.

David Harshany – One of our Principal Consultants, David provides remote consulting to clients with a myriad of business and technical challenges.


Channel created April 4th. This is the very beginning of #coffeetalk_apr14 channel. Purpose: Weekly roundtable of what went on in the company, on the blog, in the wider community that we think is worth talking about!

2017-04-10 17:25
Welcome back! Last week was a lot of fun and thank you Austin for co-facilitating! This week let’s bring in several of our Principal Consultants that are in the weeds with clients week in and week out. The topic this week is Microsoft’s BI Platform Architecture, and more specifically, what guidance you would give to folks who are starting their journey into the new Microsoft BI world of Power BI, Flow, PowerApps, and on and on and on.

2017-04-10 17:27
Here is a helpful diagram from Microsoft that puts the BI platform in simple terms.

2017-04-10 17:31
First Question: How do organizational leaders or “grass roots data junkies” stay up to date with the current pace of change, and what decisions can organizations make to ensure they are balancing their new investments in Power BI with their existing investments in Excel based BI? This is a question I get routinely and one I am interested in hearing some of your perspectives on.

2017-04-10 18:23

Staying up to date can be difficult, at least it is for me. Microsoft has awesome pages talking about the amazing new things coming out each cycle!

2017-04-10 18:24
They have also built forum based community pages on each of those sites that lets us see everything from how the experts are using these new tools to how problems are being fixed.

2017-04-10 18:26

To answer your second question: All of these tools are specifically designed to interface smoothly with each other. When I first learned how to use each one, I’d log in and be amazed at the ease with which I hit the ground running with my existing data from other solutions.

That said, DAX is the backbone of Excel and PBI, so for learning DAX and making a couple of clicks/sign-ins, look at all of the awesome functionality we receive!!

2017-04-10 20:06

I often get the question or reactions from people that think that Power BI is replacing Excel. I try to describe Excel/PowerBI as a Venn diagram with each other. There’s significant overlap of reporting needs that can be done in either universe but there’s also a very large and distinct section of reporting that can only be done with one of the two tools. Rob actually has a great Venn diagram visual explaining some of this, and that I show to clients occasionally. The entire post is great actually when it comes to discussing “Power BI”

It’s a beautiful symbiosis between the two of them, complimentary rather than oppositional.

2017-04-10 20:09

I will say that *learning* DAX, Power Query, etc… is best done in Excel first, then knowledge transferred over to the PBI universe.

My typical elevator pitch of the two at a very high level. “Power BI is best for visualizations and telling a story. Excel is best for tables and detail reports.”

2017-04-11 00:43

To the general public reading this, I need to confess that I _really_ like Venn diagrams

Yes Excel and Power BI are *slowly* starting to come together better. I remember at the Data Insights Summit last year Kellan and I playing around with the “Analyze in Excel” feature which was totally new at the time – pretty relentless pace since then.

Last week we spent a lot of time discussing / looking ahead on new features and yeah the pace is relentless. I will be the first to admit that I’m not totally up to speed with this Power BI / Power Apps / Flow stack. I’ve got the first piece down, sure. When I think about our business over the next year I hope we stay focused on bridging the gap between reporting and the actions people are taking to improve their business. To the extent that this new stack helps achieve that goal then count me in.

As far as keeping up to date – there are two stories here, a surface and a depth. Twitter is my surface story. That’s where news happens. In many ways I know everything that’s going on. As far as depth, I can’t get too far in building a process in Microsoft Flow. It gets too technical too quickly for me. I’m wondering if many people feel that same way about Power BI.

2017-04-11 01:20
I’m with Austin on “the surface and the depth” story. My main source of information is email lists. Lists such as Microsoft Power BI, TechNet Flashes, Azure Updates and User Groups are my go to sources for keeping up to date with the ever changing technologies. If something catches my eye such as a gamechanger like Connect to Dataset in Power BI, I’ll go right to the source and investigate. For the rest, I’ll mark them as follow ups and try to set aside some time every few weeks to catch up. The changes and updates are coming at such a furious pace, I think one can get overwhelmed if you try to focus on every single detail. Gain deeper knowledge of the items that will move the needle for you and just be aware of the rest for when they’re useful in the future.

2017-04-11 16:23

@djharshany I’ve found Pocket ( really useful for saving items for later. I’m on a schedule as well – I save a lot of articles and then pour through them when I’m on an airplane or waiting in line somewhere. #productivityhack

I think this furious pace of technological development has made me much more aware 1) of the amount of noise out in the world that I’m safe ignoring and 2) of how we need to stay vigilant in producing content that cuts through the noise.

2017-04-11 16:59

Going off Austin’s second point, I think that staying vigilant of what we create to cut through the noise ties into something we talked about last week: the difference between GUI created DAX/visuals and expert guided development.

As the BI field becomes filled with solutions and loads of new people using them, the difference between the two becomes more important than ever. Many Excel people aren’t aware that they already have most of the tools in their back pocket to build amazing reporting that will rise above the rest and that we are here to help them get there!

2017-04-12 04:11

So I’m not sure if this is purely coincidence or related. But our wonderful colleague Matt Allington just posted a blog titled “Which To Use: Excel or Power BI”

After giving it a thorough read it does a great job of breaking out the pros/cons of using Excel, Power BI Desktop, or as the reporting tools to use. It even mentions a fourth option, SSAS Tabular as a data modeling option outside of the above three.

2017-04-13 21:46
Thanks for sharing Reid, and thank you everyone for a number of great resources for our readers to take advantage of! There is a treasure trove of great advice in this Coffee Talk, even for myself who uses these tools day in and day out. The pace of change is indeed furious but ultimately, would we want it any differently!? :slightly_smiling_face: The key, which Austin points to, is targeting that content that cuts through the noise and brings the largest value to your specific organizational challenges and skimming the rest. The tools don’t matter so much to me, it’s the insane capabilities that they allow and every month I see added capabilities that are changing the way I solve huge business problems in a ridiculously short amount of time. Stay tuned for another Coffee Talk series coming soon, To SQL or Not to SQL, the Power Query Story. Thanks again everybody!
This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. gentlemen, what about the elephant in the room, the cost !!!, the current Pricing model for does not scale well, the idea that every occasional user need to pay a subscription just to read a report is hard to justify, unless Microsoft come up with a different Model then Excel is the cheapest way to distribute reports for a large numbers of users ( Technically Tableau desktop is even cheaper but that’s another discussion)

      1. to be honest i don’t know, they have this enterprise agreement, but it is not relevant, as we need Excel anyway, Obviously PowerBI is not a replacement for Excel, two software that are installed automatically for every new PC, Excel and Outlook 🙂 sorry if i sounds negative but it is important to talk about cost. i made the same comment in Matt blog, and he made an excellent suggestion !!

  2. The pace of change is concerning yet as stated above we wouldn’t want it any other way. I find myself bouncing between Excel and Power Bi for the same datasets. For example, I am in Excel then wishing I had bi- directional filtering. So, I switch to PBI desktop. Then, I want to drill into the data like a pivot table but my skills are lacking to create the DAX equivalent I think the message boards are great but the replies are not clear, and concise. For that matter, the questions aren’ t either ( wishing we could come up with a better method to define the issue and respond to it). And, my business is only interested in the cloud. Anyway, better integration between Excel and PBI desktop is needed without going to Cloud. Specifically, I want to use PBI Desktop to pull in the queries and the model for any Excel import.

  3. I missed the Slack party here, so I’ll add my thoughts as comment…

    Let’s start with a provocative question: How strong IS the pressure to stay up to date? i know, i know, heresy. of COURSE one should stay up to date. of COURSE.

    But MAYBE (as louis ck says)… we already have all of the important things. The new stuff IS exciting and interesting. And useful too.

    But none of our readers should feel “bad” if they don’t have time to keep up. It’s one reason why folks come here to read what we have to say – because we DO have more time to keep up with things.

    It’s a professional form of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that i want to talk about – this fear that “oh no i didn’t devour the release notes from the April Update, so i no longer am relevant” subconscious insecurity that i imagine some people DO feel.

    To which i would say…. NO NO NO! You are a rockstar! Breathe easy. You’re still using DAX? (check). Maybe some M? (check). Blowing people’s minds (including your own) relative to what you were able to do six months ago? (check and check). Then you’re doing GREAT.

    Remember that it is MICROSOFT that is in an arms race. Against their competitors, and even moreso, the perception of their competitors. (The perception of their competitors exceeds the reality of those competitors – ex: tableau managed to grab enough mindshare that it became thought of as “the cool kids are doing it” but in terms of actual productivity and insight… not nearly as good as what the MS stack can do for you at a fraction of the licensing price).

    MS is correct to be throwing tremendous resources at this, and to keep both the perception and reality of their monthly updates strong. as the months pile up, it really DOES make a big difference – again, both in reality and perception – to have all of those improvements and additions piling up relentlessly.

    But the people USING these tools should not feel captive to that arms race. THEIR arms race is much easier to win – the race against the dark ages of “just yesterday.”

    (Of course, PowerPivotPro staff members reading this… yeah, YOU should be keeping up, heh heh – if for no other reason than to keep that FOMO pressure off of our readers, and of course our clients).

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