Show, don’t tell

Thomas Kohnstamm

Microsoft News Center staff

Posted

Publish eye-catching Power BI data reports straight to Web

Data is no longer the niche fixation of engineers and statisticians. It has grown beyond a buzzword in fields from entertainment to public policy to education. Data is essential. Data is mainstream. Data might just be on its way to becoming cool.

Microsoft’s Power BI enables those who are data-inexperienced or even data-phobic to transform spreadsheets into rich graphical reports. It also allows data experts to visualize data in a fraction of the time and to experiment with new ways to show and interact with their reports.

Today, Power BI launches its “Publish to Web” feature so organizations as disparate as Bing Predicts, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Water 1st International can instantly share their reports online – without any coding requirements.

When the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) was founded in the 1980s, its mission to end pediatric AIDS was guided by the epidemic in the United States. EGPAF began working internationally in 1999 and is currently active in 14 countries around the globe. As the organization has grown, so has its need to report data to stakeholders and use data to evaluate and improve its various programs.

Eric Nawar, who leads EGPAF’s cutting-edge Informatics Unit, says, “Very smart people can still be intimidated by having to pick data out of a spreadsheet. It needs to be summarized in a way that resonates.”

“The Power BI solution allows people from across our organization to customize data in the way the works best for them,” Nawar continues. “And it’s more efficient because someone on-site in Zimbabwe doesn’t have to rely on developers or the data team in Washington, DC to get everything they need.”

The foundation used Power BI to create the new EGPAF Data Dashboard. This interactive visualization tool summarizes EGPAF’s core work in HIV prevention, care and treatment services. It supports EGPAF’s efforts to use data to evaluate the efficiency, reach and effectiveness of its programs and communicate that information clearly to a variety of technical and consumer audiences.

Stephanie Bruno, Data Architecture Manager, explains, “The Power BI experience makes data fun, so it encourages people to get more involved and explore.”

Water1st International, started in 2005, is a Seattle-based nonprofit that implements high-quality water and sanitation projects in Honduras, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and India. They provide long-term solutions for the world’s poorest communities.

With a civil engineer at the helm, Water 1st has always been very data-oriented. Founder and Executive Director Marla Smith-Nilson has built an organization that asks itself constantly whether they are meeting the needs of poor families around the world. “We rely on data to be sure we are achieving the intended results with our projects. We document, monitor and follow-up over time with the communities where we work. This practice generates especially rich data.”

As a small non-profit, Water1st prefers to direct its resources to projects rather than using donations to hire developers and designers to visualize and publish their data. In the past, they have produced their own simple maps and charts to show their work. The maps are clickable and contain images and descriptions. But Power BI allows them to create and publish a much deeper analysis of their work.

Now they have a dashboard on their homepage that allows visitors to see where projects are located, how many people they serve and even the status of loan repayments. Power BI allows visitors to customize the information displayed on the screen, providing a real interactive experience.

“We love for our donors to better understand the work that they’re supporting,” says Smith-Nilson. “This software brings them closer to what is happening on the ground and makes it feel more immediate and real.”

Bing Predicts is not just data-oriented; it is data to its core. Bing applies machine-learning techniques on top of anonymized and aggregated search, social, and other relevant data to make intelligent predictions about upcoming events, like sports games, reality TV shows and more.

The Bing Predicts team publishes many stories that need robust visualization such as their recent project exploring insights from Republican debate viewers. They had to produce and publish the project overnight after the debates, which required a strong, coordinated cross-team effort at Bing that went late into the night.

Walter Sun, Principal Applied Science Manager at Bing Predicts, says, “With Power BI the process of taking similar data and visualizing can be simplified, thus allowing for a faster turnaround to press. This is extremely important for time-sensitive events like political debates or sports contests.”

On the most recent story analyzing the Republican debate in Iowa, Bing used Power BI to visualize the reports in-house and got it posted in less time than it usually takes to eat lunch.

Shahar Ronen, Product Manager at Bing Predicts, says, “Now, as we can get reports posted so quickly, we will move toward creating more layered and interactive visualizations. Rather than just showing overall Iowa caucus predictions, a user will be able to customize and, say, decide to look at Trump versus Cruz versus Rubio predictions. We’ll be able to show a lot more in a lot less time and provide a much richer experience.”

Data visualization and publishing is no longer a game that just a few, specialized people are playing. With Microsoft Power BI “Publish to Web,” everyone can post their work to public-facing blogs and website in minutes or generate a hyperlink for email or social media with one click. And for data professionals, the sky is the limit. It’s never been easier to capture, transform, mash-up, analyze and visualize any data, of any size, at any scale, in its native format.

Now, as people from a broader set of career backgrounds interact with data, it will be used in innovative and colorful ways that were once unimaginable. Microsoft Power BI is excited to help advance this new, data-driven world with its “Publish to Web” sharing capabilities.