Tales from the Trenches: My personal experience with Power Update (by Tim Rodman)

Guest Post by Tim Rodman, currently blogging about reporting in Acumatica ERP @ www.AcumaticaReports.com

***Update #1:  a Free Version of Power Update is now available.  More info here.

***Update #2:  There is now a forum for Power Update questions, located here.

Intro from Rob: I’m what you might call a “gift horse optimist” – strongly positive outlook, but when the hoped-for thing finally arrives, I find myself closely inspecting it, testing it, before I trust it enough to advocate it to others.  I went through this same process with Power Pivot itself – I “saw” its gamechanging power in 2010, but it was a full eighteen months before I finally dropped all disclaimers and just started calling it far better – period – than anything we’ve had before.”

Similarly, I’ve long known that Power Update would be a MAJOR win for us in the Power Pivot and Power BI communities.  But I am willing to advocate it now only because I’ve watched others – like Scott, and Tim below – use it successfully, in production environments, in recent months.  (Also see my post last week “introducing” Power Update in case you missed it).

Take it away, Tim…

I first found out about Power Update two months ago via a LinkedIn post by Christian Floyd.

It took me a while to realize that he wasn’t talking about a theoretical future idea, but an actual product, something that exists today. Click the picture below to see the entirety of my foolishness. It wasn’t until I talked to him directly that I realized what Power Update really was and I was immediately interested.


He got me a beta version of Power Update and I began testing it at the company I work for: a manufacturing company in Cleveland, OH called The Robbins Company.

Our Background

We started using Power Pivot at The Robbins Company back in 2013 and I wrote about our experience on this blog (click here).

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Introducing Power Update!

Post by Rob Collie

***Update:  check out Scott Senkeresty’s review of Power Update over on Tiny Lizard.

***Update #2:  a Free Version of Power Update is now available.  More info here.

***Update #3:  There is now a forum for Power Update questions, located here.

Power Update:  Refresh any Power Pivot / Power BI Workbook, from Any Data Souce, and Publish to Any Location (SharePoint or Otherwise)

A brand-new software utility designed from the ground up as
a “Companion” to  Power Pivot, Power Query, and the entire Power BI stack.

Definitely Click on the Image for Larger Version – Surprises Lurk Therein

Do Any of These Sound Familiar?

Common Problems with Power Pivot and Power BI Scheduled Refresh

Power Update Helps With ALL of These (And a Few More, Too)

“What IS It?”

OK, a few things:

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The Dramatic Impact of the 2013 SKU Decisions

Impact of the Power Pivot not included in all versions of Office 2013 decision, visualized dramatically.

This is a Pretty Dramatic Dip and Recovery.  What Else Could Explain It?  I’m all ears.

No DAX Required

Nothing fancy here, just a chart of page views of a very specific page on this site – the What is PowerPivot? page.  I use that page as an indicator of new interest – most people viewing it are “early” in their Power Pivot journeys. 

That dip starting in February is incredible.  What else could explain it other than the decision to remove Power Pivot from most “flavors” of 2013?  Eight months later, after Power Pivot re-appeared in Excel 2013 Standalone, we’re back to the same “slope” of the line that we had in February.  Maybe a little better.

Of course, Power Pivot usage was STILL growing, a LOT, during the dip.  And in fact growing by a lot more than the same months in 2012.  It’s just that the RATE of growth fell during those months.  The faucet of new users was still flowing, and flowing fast.  It was just “turned down” from full speed for a few months.

But imagine where we’d be WITHOUT this 6-8 month dip in growth rate.  The curve leading up to February looks awfully exponential doesn’t it?  Let’s take a look…

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What Self-Service BI means to our world (with Excel)


Guest Post From Miguel Escobar!

Today we’re blessed with another guest post from Miguel Escobar.  I love the style of this one, and the movie industry tie ins of course.  I also really like that Miguel “detected” the similarity between Hans Rosling’s TED talk and the Power View demos that first emerged in 2011 – the first time I saw Power View, my immediate thought was “Amir is riffing on Hans Rosling” and I wondered how many other people were thinking the same thing.

But above all I love to hear people’s stories.  How they came to “get involved” in this stuff.  I would say Miguel falls somewhere on the more advanced end of the spectrum – even using the term “Self-Service BI” kinda gives that away – but the fact is that the worlds of BI and Excel are indeed converging.  So let’s hear Miguel’s story shall we?


What has been the impact of Self-Service BI in our modern world?

Its self-service BI a good thing? heck yeah it is. You can bet on that BUT…is that such a good thing that would drive engagement of the users into actually transforming data into information and information into insights? and even further…decisions based on those insights?

3 years ago I couldn’t even think of having a great reporting and visualization tool at my reach because I couldn’t afford that and college tuition at the same time and then Powerpivot became available…how did it impact me and some of my friends?

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The Ballad of Ken Puls, DAX Convert

PowerPivot Book Acknowledgements

No mention of Ken Puls – The Person Who Inspired the Book in the First Place
(In Author Circles, I’m Told This is Called a “Mistake.”)

Omissions:  the one thing you can never omit

I’ve been doing this blog since late 2009, back when I was still at Microsoft.  I started doing PowerPivot training in 2010.  And starting that same year, I began getting suggestions/requests to write a book.

I largely ignored those suggestions.  Books are a lot of work (more than I even knew!), I was very busy, I didn’t think of myself as a book author, and really, I didn’t think a book was needed.  I kinda figured “if *I* understand this stuff, everyone else does too.”

That changed on December 15, 2011.  I had sent an email to my fellow Excel MVP’s titled “The Excel Army Manifesto,” in which I outlined my opinion that we are on the verge of a revolution – one that dictates an explosion of the importance of Excel Pros.

Ken Puls replied and said:

“I firmly believe that PowerPivot is the future of Excel.  No question in my mind.  It’s insanely easy to get some killer BI in your hands with very little learning, which is awesome.  But…  What I don’t get is DAX.  The light just isn’t going on for me.  If you want to mobilize the Excel Pro army to really make this take off, DAX needs to become accessible for us.”

This was a light bulb moment for me.  Ken laying it all out there like that made it perfectly clear, because Ken is a monster.  When I was on the Excel team and he visited as an MVP, I don’t have a problem admitting that Ken’s knowledge (and blunt honesty) was intimidating.  He can make Excel do incredibly complex things – things I could not and still cannot do.  And here he was saying he just didn’t get PowerPivot formulas, despite sincere attempts.

I knew in my heart that DAX is actually quite…  simple.  DAX is a LOT simpler than many of the things Ken does in Excel.  I knew that what he was missing was actually something simple yet non-obvious.  If I could just fill in that small little gap, he’d be off and running.

DAX:  It’s the little differences

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1 Table, 50 Rows, 7 Columns: Analyze with PowerPivot? You Bet!

PowerPivot is ALSO good for SMALL Data Sets, like this Survey Data

Would You Feed This Data Set Into PowerPivot?  I Would.

“PowerPivot” is Really Just “BetterPivot” – PowerPivot Shines No Matter How Much Data You Have

I was having a conversation this weekend with a great guy who happens to be a business consultant and a hard-core convert to PowerPivot.  A True Believer.

At one point he mentioned that only about half of his clients “have enough data to benefit from PowerPivot.”

That’s a myth, but I can’t blame him (or anyone else) for unconsciously believing it.  People like me are responsible for the myth in the first place, because we love showing how PowerPivot takes complex data sets and chews them up.  We like drama.

But guess what folks?  About half of my PowerPivot usage is analysis on 50 rows or less.  Let me show you why, using this made-up data set.

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