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Power Platform release wave 2 highlights 2020: integrate, simplify, protect

Microsoft has published its Dynamics 365 and Power Platform plans for 2020 release wave 2. The features and updates will be rolled out by the Business Applications group from October 2020 through to March 2021.

And starting August 3, 2020, customers and partners will be able to validate the latest features in a non-product environment.

The 2020 wave release plan includes several updates for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Power Platform. Post release, we spent some time speaking with our BI consultant to find out what he thought of the new updates and the impact they will have on our services and customers, Stewart Duffill, comments:

“There’s some exciting updates within the wave release 2 plan but the top three highlights for Seaton Partners’ and our customers have got to be the Azure Synapse Integration, Power BI data as an Excel data type and updates to data protection – integrate, simplify, protect”.

Screenshot of Power Platform release wave 2

Power Platform release wave 2: integrate

Azure Synapse Integration

This new feature will provide enhanced performance and user concurrency and is to become available in November 2020 for admins, makers, or analysts, automatically.

Azure Synapse will automatically create and manage materialised views on larger Power BI models. The materialised views will be based on usage and query patterns. Power BI queries to Azure Synapse in DirectQuery mode will automatically use the materialised views.

“Our core product offering at Seaton Partners has traditionally always been Finance and Operations products. These are brilliant standalone solutions but integrations from the Microsoft Dynamics 365 product stack can really help customers leverage the power of D365 and ensure you receive the best results from your investment”, comments Stewart Duffill, BI consultant, Seaton Partners.

Power BI: simplify

Power BI data as an Excel data type

“This is by far one of my favourite features due for release. Excel is often the product of choice for housing data, but it is not necessarily the best place for data. This new update will simplify the user experience, allow for easier access to data sets, and customers will have far more information at their fingertips”.

Power BI data in Excel’s data types offer quick access to reference data to:

• speed up analysis by referring data easy to discover

• keep data connected and up to date from enterprise systems

• broaden who in the organisation can benefit from enterprise data in Power BI

Power BI data model authors can mark tables in Power BI dataset to be shown in Excel’s data types gallery. Users of Excel with Microsoft 365 E5 plan discover these through the Excel ribbon.

Excel users can link individual cells to a row in a Power BI dataset through search experiences by selecting a specific data type or searching across data types published from certified datasets.

By curating data types in certified datasets, organisations can ensure Excel users see official corporate data first to help in authoritative decision making.

Select Power BI data type from release wave 2 notes

Select Power BI data type

Once a cell is linked to Power BI, users can see data from table columns in Excel’s info cards, add

it to the cell using a reference function and refresh that data to keep it up to date.

View Power BI data type from release wave 2 notes

View Power BI data type

Excel users will only see data types for which they have permission in Power BI. The public preview will support a subset of the datasets available in Power BI.

This feature for end users, automatically updates in October 2020.  

Power BI release wave 2: protect

Data Protection

“Providing information protection capabilities in Power BI is critical to enable our customers to control and protect their sensitive enterprise data. This update allows for users to consumer data in multiple ways, and dependent on classification, reducing the likelihood of GDPR breaches. And further improves the ability to view, analyse and interpret data securely, across the organisation”, Stewart Duffill, BI Consultant, Seaton Partners.

To achieve this goal, Microsoft has integrated the capabilities of Microsoft’s leading security solutions for information protection, threat protection, and Microsoft Cloud app security.

Some of these data protection enhancements are already available, including allowing customers to classify and label sensitive data in Power BI. These labels are displayed throughout the Power BI service and in the Power BI mobile apps, and label-specific permissions are enforced when data is exported out of Power BI. Customers can also monitor user access and activity including real-time risk analysis and protection.

Moving forward, Microsoft will continue to strengthen these capabilities, by allowing customers to:

• apply sensitivity labels and protection to Power BI Desktop files (.pbix)

• persist sensitivity labels and enforce protection in Power BI Embedded (SaaS embedding)

• support inheritance of labels between artifacts, starting with inheritance upon creation of new Power BI assets

• provide APIs for administrators to retrieve asset sensitivity labels

Sensitivity labels are currently available and will persist when applied to Power BI content and exported to Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files; however, with this release Microsoft are taking Sensitivity labels one step further. When you connect to a Power BI dataset from Excel, that dataset’s sensitivity label will be inherited and applied to the Excel file and all associated outcomes, such as headers/footers and encryption.

Export to Excel screen grab

Figure 1: Export to Excel

Set sensitivity label screen grab

Figure 2: Set sensitivity label

To find out more, view the Data protection in Power BI overview.

What next?

You can now view a full compilation of new capabilities and hundreds of new features and enhancements for Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform in the release wave 2 plans.

Starting August 3, 2020, customers and partners will be able to validate the latest features in a non-product environment.

Features and updates from the 2020 release wave 2 notes will be rolled out by the Business Applications group from October 2020 through to March 2021.

If you’d like to speak to the team about any of the above then please contact us, or you can read further highlights from Maciej Obojski, senior developer on the Dynamics 365 wave release, here.

Further Power Platform 2020 release wave 2 highlights

Power Apps

  • Improvements to sophistication and usability of apps that are created across the web and mobile devices
  • Create Power Apps directly within Microsoft Teams to easily customise the Teams experience
  • Add custom pages to model-driven apps using the app designer, bringing together the best of canvas and model capabilities, including creating custom layouts and components
  • Microsoft Power Virtual Agents is now a component in the Power Apps portals studio, as well as support for code components created using Power Apps component framework
  • AI Builder introduces new AI scenarios for receipt scanning and translation, and improvements to connect to remote training data
  • The AI builder home page and model details page updated to improve discoverability and integration with Power Apps and Power Automate

Power BI is investing in three key areas to drive a data culture:

  • Amazing data experiences
  • Modern enterprise BI
  • Insights where decisions are made

Power BI Desktop new capabilities:

  • Create content quickly and easily
  • AI-infused authoring experiences

Power BI Mobile split view support for iPad

Power BI Service

  • Integrates with Azure Synapse to automatically create and manage materialised views on larger Power BI models
  • Enhanced integration with SharePoint lists to build additional custom reports
  • Enhanced Data protection capabilities enabling customers to classify and label sensitive data.

Power Automate

  • Enhancements will combine the best of WinAutomation with the cloud-based AI builder and connector-based capabilities in automated flows.
  • Automate everything from Office apps to legacy terminal applications that haven’t been updated in decades.
  • Automated flows running in the cloud will include richer automation and approval experiences.

Power Virtual Agents

  • Expanded capabilities in the authoring experience including tools to create richer content, Adaptive Cards capabilities, topic suggestions from documents, improved Power Automate integration, voice integration with smart speakers, theming to customize the look and feel of the bot, and much more.