Power BI Deferred Design with Reza Rad, RADACAD

Power BI Deferred Design with Reza Rad, RADACAD

#91. Join me with Reza Rad, the founder and CEO of RADACAD providing Power BI training and consultancy services to thousands of Microsoft customers and partners every year. Reza's list of achievements is pretty embarrassing. He's not just a 10 times Microsoft MVP.  He's a Microsoft Regional Director. He's written over 15 books on data analytics, in addition to dozens of courses on RADACAD. He's been a speaker at dozens of industry conferences and used all of that experience to organize and host the Power BI summit for over 3000 people earlier this year, as well as the Difinity conference in New Zealand, SQL Saturday, New Zealand BI user groups, and the list goes on and on.

Our discussion covers:

  • The story behind Reza's successful training academy.
  • The difference between the approach the Microsoft customer typically takes with a Dynamics 365 project and the approach they normally take with Power BI.
  • Areas where Reza's Power BI customers typically run into trouble:  architectural challenges as they scale up, and visualization challenges about representing their data in a truthful, insightful way.
  • What's coming next for Power BI which is exciting Reza and the Power BI community.

Resources

Support the show (https://buymeacoffee.com/amazingapps)

Transcript
Neil Benson:

Welcome to Amazing Applications. The podcast for Microsoft business applications builders who want to create amazing applications that everyone will love. Hi there. I'm your host, Neil Benson. Our goal in this show is to help you slash your project budgets, reduce your delivery timelines, mitigate technical risks, and create amazing agile Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications. This week I had my first COVID vaccination jab. And, you know, for lots of reasons, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be living in Queensland, here in Australia. Queensland's a state of about four and a half million people. And we've only recorded 1600 or so COVID cases and seven deaths in the last 18 months. We're very lucky. 264 people died in Queensland the year before from flu. So COVID presenta prettyty tiny risk. However, what it has done is shut Australia's borders. And I can't wait to see all of you again at our industry conferences to learn, to celebrate and to spend time with each other. Vaccination rates here in Australia and everywhere else are an important part of reopening up international travel. And I guess vaccination is a personal choice. So if you love virtual events and Microsoft teams, then you know, that's up to you. I'm personally looking forward to in-person events again, locally and internationally later this year. My guest on this episode is Reza Rad from Auckland, New Zealand. He's the founder and CEO of RADACAD providing Power BI training and consultancy services to thousands of Microsoft customers and partners every year. Reza's list of achievements is pretty embarrassing. He's not just a 10 times Microsoft MVP. He's a dual category MVP. The first in Artificial Intelligence. And he's also a Data Platform MVP. He's a Microsoft Regional Director. He's written over 15 books on data analytics, in addition to dozens of courses on RADACAD. He's been a speaker at dozens of industry conferences and used all of that experience to organize and host the Power BI summit for over 3000 people earlier this year, as well as the Difinity conference in New Zealand, SQL Saturday, New Zealand BI user groups, and the list goes on and on. Astonishing. You'll find show notes for this episode at customery.com/038. I'll put links to all of Reza's sites and his contact information in there. Let's meet Reza Rad. Welcome to the Amazing Applications podcast. It's great to have you join us.

Reza Rad:

Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. Pleasure to be with you, Neil.

Neil Benson:

You're a bit of a superstar in the Power BI world. It's great to have you finally, on the show and joining us, we don't get enough Power BI application builders joining us. So I'm really thrilled to hear about some of the projects that you've worked on and some of the customer stories that you can share with us. But just to help us get to know you a little bit better Reza. I wonder if you could start with answering a few simple questions that we normally like to ask on the show, starting with, what did you have for breakfast this morning?

Reza Rad:

I skipped breakfast this morning. I had lunch basically right away. That is normally what I do.

Neil Benson:

I don't think... We've had one person who's who was fasting, but I don't think we've had anybody who's just skipped breakfast altogether. All right. What was your first job?

Reza Rad:

My first job, like, if I want to say not in the IT world, like my father is a wood carpenter. He has retired now, was a wood I was helping him some like windows and doors with woods, things like that. That is like ages ago. But if it is about IT type of things, I've started my career with some VB 6 development internship, like 25 years ago.

Neil Benson:

Tell us about your role today?

Reza Rad:

I'm a kind of Power BI consultant adviser. And I do a lot of training as well. The type of consulting I normally do is helping people on their overall challenges, how to adopt Power BI is the way that they. Like the way that they incorporated power in their organization in terms of architecture, is it good or not that as a type of thing I do a lot.

Neil Benson:

How long have you been working with Power BI now?

Reza Rad:

Since it started, let's say 2015, but before that, like it was as add-ons in Excel partially in SQL Server I've been working with those as well. So like probably from 2011, 12, maybe.

Neil Benson:

All right, but you're doing some heavy kind of report kind of database work in SQL server before or were you from the Excel side helping people visualize their data.

Reza Rad:

I actually came from the development, like application development background, like that VB 6 work. I said I joined the company as an intern to be like a VB 6 developer and SQL Server 6.5. I think that time then move to .Net development, C#. I like that a lot. I'm a coder actually behind the scene. I do a lot of coding, things like that gradually not really slow, it fast moved to SQL server side. I liked database. I liked how to query tables and things like that. And then I moved to transformation SQL server those days it was DTS packages in SQL server seven sequel server, 2000. Then very fast after that the SQL server integration services came in. SSIS, SSAS, SSRS which is like the BI components of Microsoft. And that is what like Power BI kind of build on top of those at the moment. That is how I got into this.

Neil Benson:

It's amazing how quickly the product has taken off. If I think of Cognos and Tableau and some of the competitors in the market and Power BI just seems to have blasted right past them. It's trajectory has been pretty phenomenal over the last couple of years.

Reza Rad:

Yeah, that is right. One of the reasons I would say is because Microsoft had these pillars. Like long time before announcing this is Power BI. They had power query since 2013. I remember that I had a little chat with Matt Mason. He was one of the people that who building power query called Data Explorer. Those days in Excel in Hong Kong, we've been in a conference and he showed me that it was really amazing and Power Pivot. That comes like from 2010 in Excel, or a Power View, which is coming from 2013. So in fact these been working with some years already when Power BI announced in 2015, it was actually based on some really solid foundations and the community really helped it to to take off definitely.

Neil Benson:

It's phenomenal to watch it. And tell me about your training academy. I'm really impressed. You've really well known for this amazing training academy training, probably thousands of students by now. And is it a beginner Power BI topics you're specializing in or is it advanced stuff? I'd love to find out more about it.

Reza Rad:

So this started with being like a place that me and Leila recorded our video courses because we've done training, like in person training for people and they wanted to have a place that they can refer back too. And watch it again. So we've created our video courses. We've hosted that into our website to be called it's academy. But that academy at first was only like few courses from me and Leila. Then we increased the number of courses. Now we have over 20 courses just for Power BI subjects and we have courses on AI and machine learning on SQL server, so a of those at the moment we have 47, I think courses which is a good content. We get a lot of good feedback from our members for that. And we are maintaining that in the best way as possible. We are not using, let's say Udemy, LinkedIn Learning or things like that. They are good platform, of course, but we are actually build a platform internally and we use it and trying to improve it as we go.

Neil Benson:

We'll make sure there's links to that academy in the show notes for people who want to go and check it out. I could probably do with some Power BI training myself. Hopefully I'll get to join as a student someday soon, too. What we'd love to do on this show is to help you tell the story of an amazing Power BI application or report, a dashboard, a solution that you've built for one of your customers, or maybe a couple. So it'd be great if you could share one of those stories with us. And some of the lessons learned, maybe what the challenges were that you faced, how you overcame them and what the outcomes have been for some of your customers.

Reza Rad:

Yep I can explain it in this way that because recently I don't, let's say build much of but I get in touch a lot with with architecture advisory of how Power BI implemented in an organization. I can explain that like normally when a client contact me and ask for Power BI architecture advisory, they are already halfway through Power BI, they already have some Power BI reports in production. Sometimes some users already using it. So the fact that they in touch with me normally is because they found out that something is not the way it should be. Like normally it starts with this that they have created like my report and shared it with a group of people and at that report has been used for a long time. Now they are, they created a new report and shared it with some other reports and then they realize some parts of information is in both of these reports and they are repeating themselves, repeating the calculation over there, over here, maintaining it. All those challenges of the source code is in different places, they can minimize that maintainance or is this the right way of sharing those information? Normally that is the situation that I get involved with. And surprisingly, most of these situations is the same because companies aren't organization that you start using Power BI, of course they don't need to think about architecture at the first using Power BI and it works really well because Power BI is something you can go and connect to a data source and build your report but then all those other bits and pieces comes around it that if you are using Power BI. How can you make sure that you have shared it in the right way with your let's say audience or how you can make sure that you have put a good architecture that your developer, once they build a code, they reuse that code instead of repeating it having the inconsistent result. Actually, I had an example of a client that the whole Power BI adoption was at a really big risk because created like four or five different reports and they realized the same KPI, the same measure, which should have been returning the same value with the return, like totally different value for each of these. And that was really big frustration point for the board of directors, because they've been looking at these reports, they realize they are not really the same, which one to trust which one, not to trust. It was a really frustrating moment for that whole data analytics team. But we went through, we talked about how to how to make sure that they are using one calculation over again, using the concepts such as shared data set, where you build a data set and you connect multiple reports to it, or even build other data sets on top of it, using data flows to separate that data transformation layer. This is the type of things that I normally talk a lot with my customers and that in general helps like after few months, normally when I talk with the clients, normally they explained that how the improvement, they feel it on the backend, on the site themselves and also users feel it because now they have more trust on how this went through and how the whole implementation is successful from their point of view.

Neil Benson:

It seems to me that there's a big difference between the approach the Microsoft customer typically takes with a Dynamics 365 project and the approach they normally take with Power BI. Somebody at a data analytics or reporting team or an operations analyst, dives in they've got some Excel skills, they learn how to build their first report in Power BI. It works pretty well as they try and scale up and scale out, they get into a bit of a difficulty. They go into some more training. They call Reza, they hire Microsoft consultants. And then the hard work begins of setting up the architecture, defining good governance and standards and business practices. Nobody ever seems to do that with Power BI at the start of a project. Whereas in Dynamics 365 I very rarely hear clients say we started a project, we've been building it for six months, and now we're going to set up a formal project and look at hiring a Microsoft partner to help us finish it. It's much more structured at the start. Is that a fair characterization that I'm making?

Reza Rad:

That is exactly correct. But I would say the reason is the persona of people using it because Dynamics 365 is I would say an enterprise application. If I am working in a company and I heard about Dynamics 365, my first action, wouldn't be going and building a CRM using Dynamics 365, I call for help. I go to consulting companies and I say this is our requirement. This is what we want. And they have a lot of experience. They come with a structure, they say, we suggest you do this, and this is how we are going to do it. So it comes with the right structure at the beginning. With traditional BI, which was more like enterprise way of doing BI, we have the same situation. For example, if before the age of Power BI, if 10 years ago, if, someone wanted to do BI system, the situation was the same. They normally contact at a consulting vendor. They said we want reporting on this, but our data is like in heaps of different places, parts of it in Excel, parts of it is Dynamics 365, SQL server then that consulting partner came now say is our structure. We are going to suggest you to have a data warehouse, have an ETL to move data into this data warehouse, have some calculations cubes, and then this is reporting and this is the whole package and go and choose these options and things like that. Right now, Power BI is not of this type. Power BI is self-service tool. Same as Tableau I would say. Like when when someone hears about Power BI, they use it in a same way that they use Excel. They don't, they might go to a training like dashboard in a day or something like that, but their first point of action, I would say 90% of the time would not be reaching out to a consulting company, especially if that person not in the IT team or a BI team of a company. For example, we have people in the Finance team. It's like an account and someone, analyst who is now who was using Excel now using Power BI. So this person basically would start with Power BI would connect to the data source. Previously, he has done this with Excel. Now he's doing it with Power BI I'm getting great results. happy with that. Publishing it. Then telling other people that I've built this report. They go and also build their own Power BI reports. So by the time that the IT team or the BI team or the data analytics team, whatever everyone might call it get informed that Power BI is getting used. It is already used half of the organization. that is what it makes that difference. It is it has good things and bad things. Good because it enables everyone to do their data analysis. Bad because it starts with a lot of silos. Everyone builds their own silos. It doesn't mean that the product is wrong. I would say it means that the culture of incorporate in implementing that product might need some revision. Which still is one of the good things of a self service tool because otherwise how these business analysts could have done this data analysis before, like definitely the data analytics team doesn't have the capacity or resources enough to cover all of their requirements.

Neil Benson:

So if there was a very structured project to develop a Power BI platform for users, it could be months or years before that finance analyst got her hands on a self-service BI tool. So the guerrilla tactic of just, downloading Power BI desktop, connecting to your finance system and building your own report is a much quicker, faster way for these business users to access their data and generate some insights. So it's a bit of a trade-off there.

Reza Rad:

Yeah, exactly. I've actually published. I think, couple of articles about that, that traditional BI, the reason that traditional BI is moving away and we have this whole new generation of self-service BI tools, such as Power BI in Microsoft, Tableau, Clicksense all of these, like all of those vendors that had traditional BI technologies. And now they have, offering self service. The reason that this appeared was the challenges we had in the traditional BI. In the traditional BI if I was a business analyst and I asked the BI team that I want a report like this. BI team will usually ask some consulting vendors, there's process had involved like selection of consulting vendors, then like that consulting company came and do some business requirement BA work, understanding what is required, then doing that whole project. Building that report, it might take two years. And until and when the report is ready, my requirement might have totally changed or I might have even moved to another company. This big gap was really a big problem that caused self-service BI to enable everything, everyone to do it, which comes with a cost.

Neil Benson:

It's just occurred to me that Power Apps is that self service enterprise application builder for, it's going to take two years for our new ERP application to roll out or 18 months before that new CRM applications rolled out but I can build point solution in Power Apps to address my needs today, just like I could self-service Power BI. I can do self-service CRM with with Power Apps.

Reza Rad:

I think that is right. Yeah. The whole Power Platform, I would say our self-service generation of what in enterprise, would have taken probably months or sometimes years to implement which are great, but they come at a cost of creating silos like different databases, different platforms, different ways of doing it, different signatures which normally brings more demand into an architecture or framework around it.

Neil Benson:

So from an architecture point of view are most of the Power BI customers you talk to, are they connecting to a data warehouse, which, quite well-structured data there's quite well planned inflows of data into that data warehouse and various source systems? Or is it more operational users connecting to those source systems directly?

Reza Rad:

I would say probably like 70% of them not using data warehouse and those 30% who are using data warehouse. The reason is that they might have someone coming and implementing a BI system for them before, or they already have a data analytics team, a BI team that they've spent years already building that data warehouse. 70% of them they are not using data warehouse because they don't have it. Many of them and some of them, they do have it, but still that data warehouse is not, let's say complete enough for their analysis because the files that they want to analyze is like some CSV files in a shared folder in SharePoint. Sometimes it comes as an attachment of an email, like some extract they get from their partners coming, email, monthly, things like that. And sometimes they just use that. And that is where the challenge comes in because there is no data warehouse. There is no place that these information is stored in. Sometimes the previous data is wiped out when the new data comes in, there is no way to keep those history. So part of that architecture discussion is normally around this, that how. Let's say we might persist data if it's needed, how we can use the concept of data warehouse, even if they don't have a data warehouse, things such as data flow might help that is type of conversation that normally we have with customers around it.

Neil Benson:

So is a data warehouse something that every customer should be aiming for or is it overkill for some customers and in some situations.

Reza Rad:

I would say like data warehouse is a good thing but it's comes as a price of making things a little bit complicated. For example, it really depends on the case. Let's say if I'm talking about a very a small business. This small business, has one business analyst altogether. There's only one person doing business analysis and in terms of Power BI we have a lot of these type of customers. This person has no SQL server backend has no database technologies at all. It's just the bunch of files sometimes CRM online and things like that. They are using that too, but they don't have an integrated database for all of their systems. For a project like this, if we talk about creating a data warehouse using the technologies such as Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Synapse technologies, such as Azure Data Factory, bring data from other places into this and doing the rest. It is complicated in terms of the fact that person can not maintain it. It requires a developers touch. That developer should be either hired by that company, which is an extra expense or should be someone external, which then it means that somehow they should have this long-term partnership so that they can follow it up. Or alternatively, they can use some technologies that added recently into Power BI, which kind of built that data warehouse, not this scale that we know it as a data warehouse but some things similar in a smaller scale, like data flow is basically a way to create that kind of integrated storage, but without using like parallel processing of Azure SQL data warehouse, Azure Synapse. It still helps in terms of performance and things like that. If someone uses Power BI premium storage and things like that, because then they can use things such as computed entity, special entities that can actually enhance the whole compute engine of Power BI as a result, they get a better outcome. So I would say it this way that having a data warehouse in conceptual form is definitely recommended for everyone, but in terms of choosing which technology to do that data warehouse with, that really depends on the customers for someone this might be Azure Synapse, or let's say, [Azure] Data Bricks or other technologies like that. For someone, it might be as simple as the data flow or a Power BI data set together combined.

Neil Benson:

I'm familiar with data flows in Power Apps as a way of replicating or copying data from one source into Power Apps. So I can have a data flow with my legacy system. And every time there's new record created there, it'll copy that record over into my Dataverse environments so that it's available in my Power App. Are Power BI data flows the same, or is it the same word for two different technologies?

Reza Rad:

It is actually the same. I think Microsoft is going to call it Power Query Data Flows at some point. I'm not sure but we also have it somewhere else as well. We have it like I don't exactly remember, but we have Power BI data flows. Then we have Power Platform data flows, which is what on the Power Apps portal. And there is another place. I don't remember where that is and they are very similar there. There are few, very few differences. Like for example, when you use Power BI data flow, output is always stored in Azure Data Lake versus in Power Apps, the output you can choose it. The default is in Dataverse the new name of CDS I'm still getting used to it or you can say I will, I want this to be Azure blob storage Azure data lake storage. There are differences like this but in principles that has the same data flow is a transformation engine that gets data from different sources. Transform it, keep it in one place that one place could be Dataverse, could be Azure Data Lake storage, or any other storage that might come in the future. The fact is that bringing those into one place then means that other places can use this result. For example, you can have like many Power BI falls using this or even in the Power Apps technology, especially if you use Power Platform data flows. You can use it in Power Apps Power Platform, or you can also use it in Power BI, but you can get your data flow in Power BI, you might not be able to use it everywhere else. So it's a little bit different but the general concept is the same.

Neil Benson:

So moving on from data flows, thinking about how people can learn to grapple with and adopt Power BI for the first time. Let's talk about the differences maybe between a customer who is let's take our financial analyst as our persona. What's a good path for them to learn and adopt Power BI and is that different to a analyst working for a Microsoft consultancy who is going to be building reports and dashboards for a living. What kind of training pathways would you recommend for those two people?

Reza Rad:

So I would say for business analysts, the training, normally it starts from the business understanding, right? So someone who is a business analyst, let's say a business analyst in a company that does travel, things related to travel. So I'm familiar with the KPIs, measures and concepts calculations that I have there. I'm probably using those Excel. For this type of person, I would say the training of Power BI starts with some like general understanding what Power BI is. Like in RADACAD we have something we call it Power BI Essentials which is a little bit of everything. It's a little bit of Power BI desktop, a bit of visualization, a bit of calculations, a bit of power query for data transformation, get data, bit of publishing it and then how to share it. Similar to what Microsoft offers as a dashboard in a day as well, is basically like a little bit of everything. This is a good very basic start then after that more requirement comes in, especially on the type of visualization. Like one of the benefits of having Power BI as a visualization tool instead of Excel, is that in Power BI you can have lots of interesting visualization. So a little bit more deep dive on the visualization can be a good next step for these people to learn how to use different types of visualization, how to control interaction between visuals, how the filters slicers working total integration between pages, master details, scenario, and things like that. I would say that is the starting point for anyone who's starting with Power BI, especially from business analyst point of view, which like in, in our training, normally we do a two days. One day on Power BI essential, one day on visualization. Then like I would say a few months, a few weeks depends on the pace of using Power BI for that person, the next stage would be understanding how to model the data. And especially this is really important because someone who is coming from BI background wouldn't normally require that because they understand what is the star schema, what our tables, how they should be connected to each other. What are best practices to design? For example, product category, product self category are totally separate tables has to be combined because it has some performance impact in the future and things like that. They know these principles, they know how to build this, but someone who comes from Excel background or business analysis background, they do not have that fundamental basis understanding of modeling in Power BI. So I would say the next stage for them would be understanding modeling. Some basics of modeling, and then learning about how to do data preparation and calculations, a combination of Power Query and DAX in Power BI. The total architecture understanding, I would say you may not need to go to a special training to learn about it, but it is good to go to follow some best practices. Like in our website, I have a lot of articles that explain how to do this, how to do that. And that way they can learn about how to do things.

Neil Benson:

So that sounds like a reasonably simple path. It's take some essential training, take some visualization training a bit like the dashboard in a day, or the courses that are available on your website. Get some hands on experience for a few weeks or a few months, and then some data modeling experience and training, really to structure my data, to prepare it. And then picking up some architectural principles as my self-service BI environment becomes more complicated and I'm tackling bigger problems and trying to distribute reports to a wider audience. I need to think about some of the architectural principles before I'd call up Reza and say, "Hey Reza, can you come and fix it? I've stuffed it up". What's the training like for an IT professional, maybe a business applications professional, who wants to get certified and go through that kind of rigmarole before they're a Power BI consultant?

Reza Rad:

I would say they are mostly familiar with let's say basic stuff, data modeling. They have been through it already. So for them it would be learning DAX as a expression language because we write most of our formulas over there. If they want to use Power Query as a data transformation tool that is another part of training. The reason I'm saying, if, is that BI professional might be using another tool for data transformation, things such as Azure Data Factory, or SSIS or other tools, just pure T-SQL code or things like that. If they want to be upskilled in Power BI they're new things to learn would be Power Query, which is quite strong technology and language itself. So Power Query and DAX I would suggest these as the fundamental thing to start with, if you are, let's say a BI professional learning about visualization, of course, but not let's say pardon me at essential, basic more like understanding of how to do these configuration individualization in Power BI. And I would say architecture part would be an important part for that group of people, because they need to understand how to put these things together. They need to really understand how components work well with each other. So architecture is a component for them to learn. So if I want to it in four pillars, it would be DAX, Power Query for data transformation, visualization, and architecture.

Neil Benson:

You mentioned visualization a couple of times, and I wonder how much of that is an art versus a science. Can you teach somebody, how to build beautiful visualizations or does somebody have to be artfully gifted and bring those talents to Power BI, from their innate ability.

Reza Rad:

It is important to have that art view at the things, because it's all about graphic, it's all about presenting how to present it. So that is important, but I would say it is something that definitely people can learn. Now in terms of visualization you mentioned that, it's partially the technology, this is how you do this, this is how you configure this. Partially it is the concepts. For example, where should I put this visual or what combination of color is important or what type of chart would be best to demonstrate this things. And there are really good visualization gurus out there that people can follow. They have courses, they have books. Like one of them is Alberto Cairo, I always recommend. He has couple of books as well. He's not technology oriented, so It doesn't really teach Power BI it's just pure conceptual. Like one of his books, if I remember correctly, 'Charts Don't Lie', something like that or 'The Truthful Art', which explains like different situations that the same data presented in different ways, but different outcome generated based on that. Really interesting books and topics I highly recommend. And there are many visualization gurus out there that has these kinds of information. I definitely recommend that to like everyone looking into Power BI to understand some concepts of visualization. I'm still learning that part myself.

Neil Benson:

It really annoys me when I see, for example, a line chart representing revenue by month, right? The revenue by month, isn't a smooth line each month is a discrete data point and it should be represented in a column and somebody has put this nice kind of wavy line in place. It was just like you said, it's about representing the truth in our insights not trying to massage your story too much but to uncover the

Reza Rad:

Or a pie chart that is favorite for a lot of peoples to look into, because it is colorful, but in fact, getting some insight out of it might be too hard. There are lots of mysteries in how to do that in the right way.

Neil Benson:

So what are the other big challenges that Power BI customers typically run into? We've talked about some architectural challenges as they scale up, and maybe some of the visualization challenges about representing their data in a truthful, insightful way. Where do you find that people get into trouble in other areas?

Reza Rad:

Performance, I would say and this doesn't just start at the beginning. This is also one of the things similar to architecture. It comes a little bit later because people start with importing data into Power BI doing visualization. Everything is fine. After two years, the amount of data grows and grows into this model and the performance would become a challenge. Like one of the things I hear a lot from people, especially this is, especially from those who haven't really used Power BI in a proper way. They say Power BI is slow for a large dataset which is not really the case. They normally use a wrong way to work with it. If you have a huge data sets if you use direct query, which is one of the things that you see in a lot of documentation direct query makes it slow. You shouldn't be trying that, but on the other hand side, if you import that data, that is a huge data, your Power BI file size will become huge and big, and that might cause some other performance issues. Right. So when the size of data is big or when you have Power BI performance issues, there are a bunch of things you can think about, like performance tuning would become the next important thing to tackle in the world of Power BI, which can start from first looking at how big is the data? Sometimes the data size is a problem, and if the data size is the problem, and then can be solved with things such as creating aggregations in Power BI instead of just using the direct query table, your main table would be direct query, but then you can have aggregations on top of it. And the report normally would based on the aggregation, that is one of the fundamental things we do to performance tune reports, reports that have been taking like more than a minutes to respond response in less than a second with aggregations, fine tuning the measures and the way that calculations is done, fine tuning the model itself. And that is why I mentioned basic soft modeling is important in those trainings, because that would help them in the future doing analysis. So performance tuning is a big area. It's has a lot of things to go through like a checklist that is file size is, how performance this is, things like that to go through and fix them one by one. I would say that is another area that people need to work on, but the skill to do that performance tuning comes from those essentials and conceptuals training at the beginning that if they go through those trainings, they normally have enough understanding of how to make it faster.

Neil Benson:

Some foundational training can keep you out of trouble. And then there's some steps you can follow to find out where the performance bottlenecks are and resolve those patterns inside your environment.

Reza Rad:

Yeah, absolutely. Correct. Yes.

Neil Benson:

Thinking about what's coming next for Power BI. What's getting you excited. I saw that with some recent announcements at the Business Applications Summit around goals. The Power BI community seemed pretty excited about that. I think Microsoft had signposted that feature for quite a while. It was there was a lot of people, certainly really happy to see goals coming into Power BI so they can measure the performance of their key performance indicators against those. What's coming next that's exciting you and the community.

Reza Rad:

So the Goals that you mentioned is a really good feature. It, it doesn't mean that we can measure a goal at the moment in a Power BI report. Before that we could have created like KPIs, gauges, things like that and Power BI report, but Goal as a separate object, like it's not Power BI report. It's not Power BI data set. It is not a dashboard. It is not a data flow. It is totally different thing. It is different object called Power BI Goal this makes a whole lot of interesting things around it. Like I can specify that goal and then I can use Power Automate to track that goal. If something happens, it does something else instead of considering this as part of my Power BI report. I can show of course, KPIs gauge a lot of things in it. I can make my goal date dependent ,value dependent. A lot of things around it, as you mentioned, it's a big area to talk about. That is one of the exciting thing I would say.

Neil Benson:

So can I just ask a question there? You talked about triggering a Power Automate flow, so if I was measuring a sales person's performance against a goal, and the goal attainment at the end of the month was 50%. I could use Power Automate to terminate that person's employment in Dynamics 365 HR, or if they were 150% of attainment, I could I could pay them a bonus. Yeah. Awesome.

Reza Rad:

Yeah, definitely. yeah. There are a lot of interesting things that Actually, this is already available right now but one of the recent things, is a better integration between Power Automate and Power BI. If we had integration of Power Automate and Power BI let's say six months ago, or before that the whole integration was about just refreshing Power BI dataset, or refreshing Power BI data flows or Power Platform data. That was the entire integration we have with Power Automate and Power BI for a long time. Now, this integration is much better. Like what you mentioned that is an example or another example can be, I have emails of people in my Power BI dataset, and I have the performance based on the performance of each person. I sent email to that person, let's say, or to the manager of that person. I can actually do a lot of data driven automation, which we couldn't do that before. That, that is a big thing, definitely. Another big thing is Teams. Everyone is using Teams. Digital transformation is upon us. Everyone is using Teams. Like you can like these are parts of what is coming, but you would be able to have a Power BI report attached to a Teams meeting or Power BI report attached or shared through a Teams chat, like when I'm chatting with you, I shared the Power BI report so that you can also have a look at that instead of going and having all the difficulties of first going to Power BI website, finding how to share it with you, then bringing that link in here. Having a better integration between these so that they feel like each other, even Power BI apps to be considered as a Teams app. Kind of really interesting let's say combination so that you don't really feel that you are stepping away from Teams. Part of Teams will become Power BI.

Neil Benson:

So it's really about making Teams, the operating system, the first thing you log into in the morning, and the only place you need to go to get most of your data, most of your insights, most of your messages. It's amazing. Teams is taking over the world.

Reza Rad:

That is correct. Yeah. Especially with the COVID 19 thing, all of worst thing we had, this was of the good thing that everyone moved to the digital transformation and technologies evolved around that, fast.

Neil Benson:

I'm excited this morning. I just checked in my Teams tenant and they've made the webinar feature available so I can now host a webinar where people can register. Teams will then tell me who's registered who attended and who registered, but didn't attend. And I can follow up with all of those people. Yeah. Great to have those webinars capabilities in our hands as well. So looking forward to using that for some of my user groups and things. What's next for you? What's what's coming up with Rad Academy and, what's on your horizon?

Reza Rad:

So we are going to have a lot of more courses for sure. And also we had the Power BI Summit last month. This was like the biggest Power BI gathering happened virtually. We had over 3,700 attendees, which was great. Yeah, very glad to have the support of all the speakers. We had over a hundred speakers. So thanks to them all. We managed to put that together. It was 5 days event, 100 sessions repeated like three times each it was a lot of work behind the scene. We are glad to put that together and that is something we just first did it because we said it's COVID times there was no in-person conferences happening, after we've done it, we got a lot of feedback that thank you to do that because I, even, if there was no COVID I couldn't go to an in-person event. Because let's say I'm a mom and I have kids at home, cannot travel that far. Most of the big conferences are in, let's say US, so that is not, let's say location friendly for everyone in the world. The costs and many other things. So that is why after that, we decided to do it virtually, even if world gets back to normal, which I hope works back to normal pretty soon. We would still do it virtually. So we have already announced the dates for 2022, which is March 7th of March t o 11th again, would be whole week. Sessions still have to we have to have call for speakers and see how this is going but that does another exciting things we are looking to, and we will have lots of time to plan for it this time. The previous one, we planned it very fast in a few months and there are still a lot of places we can do improvements. This one, we will have much more improvements on it. That is one big things to do. Our training, we have some new training programs in the plans, like a training on data flows, specifically. A training on performance tuning. Some trainings like these are coming and more and more courses So a lot of plans, you have to see which ones get implemented.

Neil Benson:

That's a busy team. How many people are behind the academies, you and Leila? How many others?

Reza Rad:

So in total we are something about 10 people. The whole Radacad, this includes every type of person, it includes people who are doing training, which is mostly me and Leila and one other, consulting, the administration behind it. We also have a team of developers who are building that let's say application of academy and also the conference. So in total that's really a small team to do this.

Neil Benson:

It's many times bigger than my team. So congratulations on reaching that scale. Reza, it's been a pleasure to have you on the Amazing Applications podcast. Thanks so much for joining us.

Reza Rad:

Thank you. I really appreciate the time that you put together and thank you everyone for watching or listening.

Neil Benson:

Thanks Reza. I have to admit I'm a bit of a RADACAD fan boy. I've got my own online academy, at Customery.Academy, for agile application creators, and I hope it is someday as successful as RADACAD. Thank you for the inspiration. My key takeaways from this chat with Reza were that it's very typical for Power BI analysts to start building Power BI reports and dashboards, and then design the architecture sometimes a long time later, once we're successful. That's backwards compared to my experience with complex Dynamics 365 apps. In truth, a lot of app builders using Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents probably use a design pattern similar to Power BI more so than Dynamics 365. Build it first. Demonstrate adoption. Then redesign it later. I learned a lot about all the variations of data flows and how we can use them across Power BI and the rest of the Power Platform. Definitely a technology to invest time learning and using. And when it comes to learning about Power BI, Reza simplified it into four pillars: DAX, Power Query, visualization and architecture. DAX is the data analysis expressions that we need to understand to manipulate the data. Power Query for data transformation. Then there's the art and science of visualization so that we can generate insights from the data. And finally architecture, so we can later design for performance, scale and security. If you want to learn more about Power BI, then I recommend you visit RADACAD dot com. There are dozens of individual Power BI courses from lots of MVPs and MCTs. Or you can go for the monthly membership, which is just $49. And that gives you access to all of the courses. Power BI Summit is going to run again in March, 2022. And it will remain an online event over multiple days and multiple time zones so everyone has an opportunity to attend. Visit GlobalPowerBISummit.com to register. It's only $80 if you register before 31st of July, 2021. You'll find links to RADACAD, Power BI Summit and everything else covered in this show, in the show notes customery.com/038. I've got another great guest coming up in the next episode. We've had a couple of ISVs recently, Reza shared a new perspective on Power BI, but my next guest is someone quite special who does some amazing work, often behind the scenes, to help us tell our stories about amazing applications. Don't forget to follow or subscribe to the Amazing Apps show so you don't miss it. Thanks for listening. I really appreciate you. And a big thanks to everyone who shares the episodes on LinkedIn or Twitter. That means so much to me. And it's a great way for us to grow the show so we can continue to serve you and help you build amazing applications. Keep sprinting!