10th Blog Birthday

Earlier this year I celebrated 1000 posts on this blog; now it’s time to celebrate passing another milestone: ten years since my first ever post. Thanks to everyone who has been with me since then!

It’s my habit to post a review of the past year on this date, and as always there’s a lot to think about. This has been the first year where the majority of my posts have not been on SSAS or MDX. Most of my consultancy and training is still on these topics but given the lack of new features in SSAS recently it’s become harder and harder to find anything new to say about it (although a few other bloggers have managed to, such as Richard Lee’s great posts on using PowerShell to automate various SSAS administrative tasks). On the other hand I’ve invested a lot of time learning Power Query and as a result I’ve found a lot to write about, and this is true even after having written a book on it. I really hope that SSAS gets some attention from Microsoft soon – I’ve come to accept that I won’t see anything new in MDX, and the same is probably true of Multidimensional, but Tabular and DAX should get a major upgrade in SQL Server v.next (whenever that comes). Given the strong ties between SSAS Tabular, Power Pivot and now the Power BI Dashboard Designer I would guess that we’ll see new Tabular/DAX features appearing in the Power BI Designer in the coming months, and then later on in Excel and SSAS. When that happens I’ll be sure to write about them.

In the meantime, why the focus on Power Query? It’s not just to have something to blog about. If you’re a regular reader here you’ll know that I’m very enthusiastic about it and it’s worth me explaining why:

  • It solves a significant problem for a lot of people, that of cleaning and transforming data before loading into Excel. My feeling is that more people need Power Query for this than need Power Pivot for reporting.
  • More importantly, it’s a great product. It works well, it’s easy to use and I’m constantly being surprised at the types of problem it can solve. Indeed, where there’s an overlap between what it can do and what Power Pivot can do, I think users will prefer to work with Power Query: its step-by-step approach is much friendlier than a monolithic, impossible-to-debug DAX expression. Whenever I show off Power Query at user groups or to my customers it generates a lot of interest, and the user base is growing all the time.
  • I love the way that the Power Query dev team have released new features on a monthly basis. The amount that they have delivered over the last 18 months has put the rest of Power BI to shame, although I understand that because Power Query isn’t integrated into Excel in the way that Power View and Power Pivot are they have a lot more freedom to deliver. What’s more important though is that the Power Query dev team make an effort to talk to their users and develop the features that they actually want and need (the ability to set the prefix when expanding columns is a great example), rather than build whatever the analysts are hyping up this year. This gives me a lot of confidence in the future of the product.
  • Having seen the way that Power Query has been integrated into the Power BI dashboard designer, it could be the case that in the future the distinctions between Power Query, Power View and Power Pivot disappear and we think of them as parts of a single product.

One other big change for me this year was that I resigned from the SQLBits committee after seven years. There’s no behind-the-scenes scandal here, I just felt like it was time for a change. I work too hard as it is and I needed to free up some time to relax and be with my family; I was also aware that I wasn’t doing a great job on it any more. It was a very tough decision to make nonetheless. I had a great time with SQLBits while I was involved with it and I’ll be at SQLBits XIII in London next March as an attendee and hopefully a speaker. I know it will be another massive success.

Looking forward to next year, I hope the new direction for Power BI will be good for partners like me. There will certainly be continued interest in training for it, but the real test will be whether there’s a lot of demand for consultancy. I’ve done some Power Pivot and Power Query consultancy work this year, and demand is definitely increasing, but it’s still not a mature market by any means. Maybe the move away from Excel will change the nature of the BI projects that people attempt with Power BI, so that there are more formal, traditional implementations as well as the ad hoc self-service use that I’m seeing at the moment. The new Power BI APIs should also encourage more complex, IT department-led projects too. I don’t have a problem with the concept of self-service BI but I think it’s a mistake to believe that all BI projects can be completely self-service. I would like to think that there’s still a need for professional services from the likes of me in the world of Power BI; if there isn’t then I’m going to need to find another career.

Anyway, I’ve probably gone on for long enough now and I need to get back to enjoying what’s left of the holidays. Best wishes to all of you for 2015!

10 thoughts on “10th Blog Birthday

  1. Congrats and you are so right: “It solves a significant problem for a lot of people, that of cleaning and transforming data before loading into Excel. My feeling is that more people need Power Query for this than need Power Pivot for reporting”!

    I hope also that Microsoft share your opinion in combining Power Query, Power View and Power Pivot.

  2. Congrats Chris! I too have found a deep love of power query. I was at excel user group meeting here in the Seattle area and the presenter was showing some transformation in power query. It had clearly became the norm for him. Click.. remove this, click… calc this, click.. unpivot this, filter that. I was like “WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! What if you didn’t have Power Query. How would you do this?” I think the room was just barely understanding how freakin NICE PQ is. And I *love* their release schedule. Just great work from that team.

    And you! 🙂

  3. Cheers on the 10th anniversary Chris and Happy New Year!

    Hopefully as the new features in Microsoft BI are rolled out in coming years we will continue to enjoy your expertise by way of continued blogging and book releases.. keep up the good work !!!!

  4. I do believe (hope?) the direction of Power BI is more towards enterprise BI. Certainly Power Pivot has always been “better” with a database behind the data, and we’ve been able to upgrade a home-grown Power Pivot to an enterprise-scale tabular cube for a long time now. I think the new dashboard product is the enterprise answer to home-grown power query/power view solutions.

    In the Excel user group that I help organize, Power Query has gone over better than Power Pivot. Power Pivot is a solution to a problem that a lot of Excel power users don’t know they have – once the data is in Excel, they can already manipulate and VLOOKUP to their heart’s content. Power Query is a solution to a problem they know they have: getting the data into Excel and getting it in the right “shape” for their analysis. Without Power Query, they’re copying and pasting and moving and deleting columns and rows manually. It’s painful. When they see PQ for the first time, their eyes light up.

  5. Thanks Chris

    I just wanted to express my gratitude for your efforts over the years. I’ve turned to your blog many times over the years to solve issues. I do a little bit of blogging myself, and understand the effort it takes for each and every post.

    So… Thanks again …

    Cheers – Adam Gilmore

  6. Thanks for all your hard work over the years, a “must read” and the first place I come when I can’t get something working !

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