Setting up Power BI Preview for MSDN developers when own email address does not work

Update- our IT department have now got this working internally, so we no longer need the workaround below.

Power BI is currently in preview, and has just been made available worldwide. Many developers have been champing at the bit to get their hands on it. If you’re anything like me, with an MSDN subscription and things on the go in Azure, you might have experienced a couple of problems getting up and running. Here are the problems I had, and a workaround that has allowed me to continue my Power BI journey!

Note: Power BI is moving very quickly, so I fully expect these tips to be out of date very soon.

Problem: When I went to and typed in my work email address, it said that it couldn’t sign me up, as my IT department had disabled access to Power BI. Now, I know that our IT department wouldn’t do this. I asked them, and they confirmed this- and couldn’t find anything wrong at their end. Perhaps we have an odd mix of Office 365 and Azure- and with me as a developer who has an allocated MSDN license, I have my own subscription area plus access to other Azure directories. So perhaps this is causing the issue I was seeing.

Lots of ‘trying stuff out’ ensued- and finally I hit on something that has seemed to work.

Short version:

  • Use MSDN Azure subscription to create Azure Active Directory
  • Create new user in new Azure Active Directory
  • Log in with new user and change password
  • Use new user to sign up/sign in to

Longer, waffly version:

In my own MSDN Azure subscription, I created a new Azure Active Directory, and created a new user, something like

Using the admin email that was sent relating to the creation of the new user, I followed the link and signed in as that new user.

This didn’t work at first- It remembered my main azure login and wouldn’t let me log in as the new user. To fix this, I had to click the … next to my main login and ‘forget’ the login. I closed the page, followed the link from the email again and it worked.

It made me change my password as a first time login, then took me to my Azure page.  It correctly said there was no Azure subscription for this login. Fine… So now for Power BI. Signing in for Power BI for this new user worked, and I could finally access the new Power BI goodness.

To summarise, this workaround has allowed me to create a user login that works for Power BI, that I can use to try out the Preview. Your results may vary!

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Power Map April update- signs Microsoft are listening

Many people have been confused and disappointed with Microsoft’s recent BI strategy, or at least regarding licensing and availability of the various parts of Power BI. It started with PowerPivot (now Power Pivot, of course): a free plug in for Excel 2010, it was more integrated into Excel 2013 but only in certain SKUs and subscriptions, reducing uptake of what could still be a game changer for Microsoft. Eventually Microsoft threw people a bit of a bone in including it in Excel ‘standalone’.

We’ve now grown accustomed to the new strategy, whereby various elements of Power BI available in Excel were available only in top notch versions- Office Professional Plus, or Office 365 ProPlus if you’re on a streaming Office 365 subscription, and the aforementioned Excel standalone.

Then came the announcement that Power Map, one of the jazzy new features of Power BI, would only be part of Office 365 ProPlus- not Professional Plus or standalone. This was really odd, since all the other parts (Power Pivot, Power View and Power Query) were fairly consistently available. This was a new level of exclusivity, and a disappointing one at that. The versions we’d been trying out were going to expire by the summer too!

Thankfully, Microsoft have listened and have changed their mind (kind of): with the April update of Power Map they have also announced that the versions we’ve been working with won’t in fact expire- you’ll be able to download another non-expiring version soon. Although it sounds like great news, it appears it will still only be a preview, unsupported version.

However, the next version of Excel will incorporate a properly supported version. Why they can’t make a properly supported addin available to Professional Plus and Excel standalone users now, I don’t know, but maybe the reasons are technical and down to not wanting to support two diverging versions of a plugin- it is perhaps hard to keep track of all the different versions.

I think they should have gone further, but this is a useful compromise and a step in the right direction for Microsoft.

Next, all they need to do is to put in place a decent solution for developers (MSDN subscribers and otherwise) to get hold of versions of Office that incorporate the latest Power BI stack, including access to the online Power BI for Office 365. At the moment all you can do is get a short trial of Power BI for Office 365, for example. We need to be able to access the latest parts of Power BI, in the cloud and in Excel, to do our jobs, supporting businesses to make the most of the tools. Power BI has some powerful features, like the M language, and optimising Power Pivot models to make the most of Q & A, that may be complex for many users and so Microsoft really needs to support its loyal developers and consultants to help gain Power BI traction in the industry.

April update announcement:


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Power BI announced for Office 365

At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Power BI has been announced: Microsoft’s solution for cloud-based BI. It is for subscription-based Office 365 only, with Excel as the main authoring tool and SharePoint Online for collaboration. Also announced are iOS and Windows 8 mobile BI apps, HTML5 access rather than Silverlight, natural language search, and even new names for some recent innovations (Power Maps is the new Geoflow, for example).

Some thoughts:

– This is a big shift away from SQL Server-based BI to Office-based BI

– This is Cloud First- but more than that, it is Cloud Only, which could be a real kick in the teeth for organisations who are on-premises only. With there already being concerns about the previously free functionality of PowerPivot now being only in premium Office SKUs, and the suggestions that Microsoft are missing an open goal to eat up the market for the likes of Tableau and Qlikview, I’m hoping that Microsoft will allow Power BI to be accessible widely and for a reasonable price.

– Finally with the mobile! I really look forward to Power View for iPad.

As usual Chris Webb has compiled the best starting point for links and opinion on this announcement:


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Telling stories with data

Microsoft came a long way when they created Power View- one of the things I thought was most useful about it was its ability to help tell a story with data. Not only could you take people through your insights a page at a time, interactively, you could also output your reports to PowerPoint itself, to be interactive as part of the presentation.
Since then, Power View has become even more useful, being part of Excel 2013 (controversy about which SKUs of Office 2013 it is available in notwithstanding).

I’m pleased to see Microsoft is taking the idea of ‘telling a story with data’ seriously, exploring the idea further in their research labs. Check out this video:

Sketch Insight

How cool is that? The best bit about it, as far as I’m concerned, is that using BI in this way is surely not actually that far away. With the advent of Windows 8, many more people will soon have touchscreens.

So- I shall see you in the bright future! All that remains is for personal jetpacks to become mainstream.

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IPL a Microsoft Gold BI partner

I’m pleased to announce that IPL has become a Gold partner in the BI competency. This has involved a lot of hard work from my team and reflects our continuing commitment to the MS BI platform as a leader in the field.

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Power View in Excel 2013 and SharePoint 2013

Yesterday I blogged about the new BI features that will be in Excel 2013- one of them being Power View. He’s some more detail, particularly about what’s coming in Power View in the next version. link

It looks like you’ll be able to use this new version in Office 2013 or SharePoint 2013- which begs the question- will you need to pay for SQL Server 2012 any more, to use it in SharePoint? I’m sure the answer will become clear. But in the meantime, you can look forward to hierarchies, maps, drilling, and pie charts.

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Excel 2013: Improved BI a good thing?

Microsoft look to be getting pretty serious about using Excel as a self-service BI tool, with the promised features in Excel 2013 advertised here

PowerPivot is going to be incorporated into Excel itself (rather than being an add-in), and Power View reporting will be able to done in Excel. If you’re the kind of Excel user who mostly plays with data, rather than crunching numbers, then this news will be music to your ears! But is a more powerful Excel, in terms of BI, a good thing?

I’m quite excited about it myself- but that could be mostly because of the frustrations of Power View only being available in SharePoint so far (and PowerPoint, if you export a report from SharePoint). BI people have, for the longest time, advised against excessive Excel use for sharing of data- and that’s not just because Excel wasn’t as good at it as ‘real’ BI tools. It was because of good data governance, and data lineage- people doing their own thing in Excel was seen as a ‘bad thing’, where something more manageable and controlled like a data warehouse was seen as the solution to silos of Excel data on the desktop. When you can service people’s needs via standard reports and ad-hoc reporting capability, you reduce their need to ‘do BI’ themselves, achieving all the benefits of decision making using high quality data.

However, reality and experience suggests that an enterprise DW doesn’t solve all of an organisation’s craving for information. What if you need a report now, rather than waiting weeks or months for IT to provide you with a report? What if you need to combine data from carefully curated data warehouses with other publicly available sources? What if you want to tell a story with data, and don’t have the budget or expertise to build a full BI system? As a BI consultant, what if you want to prototype a report with a user, to help refine your understanding of their requirements? I frequently find that Excel is the answer to this, and PowerPivot is the key thing that you need to deal with these questions.

The only thing missing is manageability. This comes via SharePoint- by publishing Excel-based PowerPivot ‘cubes’ to SharePoint you can again define and manage a ‘single version of the truth’, but in a much more agile way than a typical enterprise data warehouse development.

So I welcome incorporating PowerPivot into Excel, and I’m such a fan of Power View that giving it a wider audience is very exciting- maybe they’ll even include it in non-SharePoint SSRS deployments in the future. I think there will always be a place for a well designed data warehouse and purpose-built BI toolset, but Excel 2013 will give BI power to end users, and when managed via Sharepoint, organisations might not consider there is a need for traditional BI at all.


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