Power BI – What new features have Microsoft given us in February 2020?

Power BI Update


By Damian Kars, Data Solutions Consultant, CSL


Microsoft has recently released their February 2020 round of updates. Even though it’s a small list, there are some gems in there.

One of the first things I picked up when opening Power BI desktop is that there was an update to the title ribbon bar and the menu look and feel. And as luck would have it Microsoft announced the detail around these changes in the feature summary.


New Menu Look 

Updated Title Ribbon Bar

Here are the highlights

What we have for you this month is a short description on the Incremental refreshes, Hierarchical slicer and New DAX functions. We go into a simple use case and provide any supporting details.

Just remember to enable any preview features in Power BI desktop settings! 


Incremental refresh is now Generally Available.

This one has been around a while but as you can pick up from the screenshot above it’s no longer available under the Preview features.

They key changes to incremental refreshes in Generally Available are:

1.    Not only a Premium feature anymore, this is now available on Pro licenses as well.
2.    Works with different time zones.

As a refresher, the benefits of incremental refreshes are best seen within large datasets that can take a while to load. You are essentially only updaing a subset of your data - the changes.

Hierarchical slicer (preview)

Probably one of the most needed changes has now come to Power BI!!! 

If anyone uses hierarchies in their data, and I’m sure this is most of us, then you will appreciate the importance of this feature. Even though this was previously available as a 3rd party visual we tended not to use it for various reasons, but now this is baked into the standard slicer visual.

A game changer not only when it comes to handling dates, but also other hierarchies like geographies (think Country > Province > Region > Postcode). Previously this would have been set up with a slicer for each element within your hierarchy (or taking up precious space in your filter pane) but now this can be combined into one.

Below is a snip of a simple calendar and the usage of the standard date hierarchy generated within Power BI.

Personally I found the relative and between setup, when it comes to dates, cumbersome and always felt it was a stop gap. A reminder for anyone who’s not seen them in a while, for obvious reasons they only work with certain data types:

So a new era of working with hierarchies is here. The next improvement we’d like to see is to be able to change the hierarchy slicer to work as a drop down rather than a list.

New DAX functions

New DAX functions don’t come around often but there is definitely a need for these ones:

•    FirstNonBlankValue
•    LastNonBlankValue

In a couple of recent projects I could have used these. As the names suggest, they will return either the first or last non-blank value of an expression based on a supplied column. Using a simple exercise I can demonstrate this with the below:

The line chart verifies that the first values for Product 2,3 and 5 are indeed 1,781, 5,674 and 465 resp.

Links to the official documentation is here:

A whole host of new connectors

If you are integrating with other systems outside of the standard warehouse tools, then here are some more connectors to play with:

  • MicroStrategy connector is now generally available
  • FHIR connector is now generally available
  • Factset connector
  • TIBCO connector
  • Jamf Pro connector
  • Asana connector

This adds to the ever-growing list and brings the total number of connectors up to around 125.

A bunch of updates to 3rd Party visualisations

With Power BI supplying around 34 standard visuals out the box, there is a huge collection of 3rd party visuals, which fill the gaps and add some interesting ways for you to look at your data. Below is a list of the 3rd party visuals which are included in this latest feature set:

  • Funnel and pyramid chart by xViz
  • OEE Dashboard by 3AG Systems
  • Organization chart by MAQ Software
  • PI VIZpack by PQ Systems
    • Histogram
    • Individuals control chart
    • Individuals and moving range control chart
    • Multi-group individuals chart
    • X-bar control chart
    • X-bar and range control chart
    • P-chart
    • U-chart
  • Updates to Zebra BI tables and charts

To Wrap It Up

For a full list, including any feature I did not touch on, here’s the official announcement