Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Combining Dynamics CRM Online and Power BI Preview

I am a strong believer of the concept of “in-context analytics” and as I outlined in Mindful apps – putting people at the center supported by data I consider analytics and business intelligence to be essential in providing business value. So I was quite interested when I first learned about the Power BI preview with it’s built in support Dynamics CRM Online  (For a great write up about it check out Previewing the New Power BI Experience with Dynamics CRM).

When I started playing around with it I was surprised that it seemed to do things quite differently from Power BI for Office 365 since I thought it was simply the next release of the existing Power BI for Office 365 offering. Apparently this is not the case.

Power BI Preview seems to be quite different from Power BI for Office 365 - for a detailed description of differences check out Power BI vs Power BI Preview: what’s the difference – here’s a quick summary:
  • Power BI for Office 365 is based on technologies such as Excel and SharePoint and is an integrated part of Office 365, whereas Power BI Preview is built on a separate platform. 
  • Power BI Preview is using the browser the Power BI Designer as design tool for creating dashboards and reports whereas Power BI for Office 365 mainly relies on Excel as a design tool.
  • Power BI Preview also exposes an API which allows you to push data into the Power BI service – for more information check out the Power BI Developer Center. For a good introduction check out Developing for Power BI Overview (Video). This is something which I think is the key enabler for real-time analytics on your data. To stay up to date make sure that you follow the Power BI Development blog
  • Power BI Preview has some new data visualizations available such as single number card tiles, combo charts, funnel charts, gauge charts, filled maps and tree maps (Check out Visualization types available in Power BI Reports)

If you check out the official documentation Use Power BI with Microsoft Dynamics Online (Technet) – it seems to focus on the new Power BI Preview but the Microsoft Dynamics CRM templates for Power BI that you can download for free from PinPoint - listed in the second section of the page - seem to be based on Power BI for Office 365. (Use Google Chrome to see the download link – I did not see it when using Internet Explorer 11)

When you actually try to use it in practice together with Dynamics CRM Online you will however encounter some serious limitations which are hopefully resolved by the summer release:

My guess is that the way forward will be Power BI Preview (or name it Power BI 2.0) and it will replace Power BI for Office 365 – you already see it appearing in the license management section of Office 365 (see screenshot below). But for the moment it is still a Preview and no specific release date has been made available so go for Power BI for Office 365 at the moment.


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