Smart Narratives in Power BI to Help Reporting

by | May 12, 2020 | Articles, Opinion

Power BI introduced the smart narratives feature that allows users to add dynamic and interactive narratives to reports.

Preparing a management report is a tedious task, which requires time and effort. It often comes down to finding the right balance between showing enough details and telling a story. 

Many things have been said about the benefits of using BI in management reporting. With its latest update to Power BI, Microsoft brought another layer of convenience to reporting. The Smart narratives feature is an exciting new tool that will improve reporting in Power BI. The Microsoft team demonstrated the new feature during this week’s Business Applications Summit.

When preparing financial and management reports, we spend looking through numbers and writing comments about data. This changed here, that changed there, then you find a mistake and the whole thing should be changed.

How Smart narratives work

Suffer no more, said Power BI developers. During a presentation last week, Justyna Lucznik, a senior program manager at Microsoft’s Power BI development team, introduced us to the smart narratives feature. Smart narratives allows report authors to add and tailor dynamic, interactive text narratives to reports. Power BI automatically generates the narratives. Users can see real-time explanations to their reports, as they continue to slice and dice data.

One can click on a visual and select summarize to get a summary of that visual. The smart narratives instantly comes up with a text that interprets the key facts within a report. You need to add or change something in a report? No worries, just add new data and hit refresh.

“When I select smart narratives it automatically scans all my data. It is going to figure out what are the most important things and it’s going to generate me a summary of everything that was going on in my report page…” Justyna said during her presentation.

The amazing thing about the smart narratives is that they are dynamic and can be cross-filtered. Every time a user wants to look into a new product or location, the text will update automatically showing a different summary.

Custom reporting in Power BI

The feature is highly customizable, which means users can change text type, size, and color. Automatically generated summaries look absolutely “natural”, as if written by a human analyst. Right now, this feature is only available in English.

It looks like the management reporting has gotten a lot easier with the new Power BI visual. There is no more static text, like in Excel, which makes it hard to do bulk changes in reports. No more writing down the process steps when re-evaluating reports, you simply won’t forget where you stopped and which part is yet to be completed, as the text has just become automatic.

Welcome to the new era of management reporting.

Author: Nikolai Pavlov, PMP

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