Author: Etienne Oosthuysen

Can this be done in Power BI?

We see so many great examples of visual storytelling in digital news articles, for example this one from ABC News – How life has changed for people your age – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), where stories and data merge and come to life.

Is this possible through a BI platform such as Power BI?

To answer that, one must look at the audience of a BI solution. The audience is normally the exec who will use the visual data story in a board meeting, or a senior manager when communicating the key messages to their teams, or a team manager that needs to monitor the performance of her/his area, an operational worker that relies on a report for operational tasks, and so on. Those audiences typically do not work with text heavy artefacts, as is the case with casual news article readers (for example readers of the aforementioned ABC news article), but instead rely on a visually informative reporting landscape. So the question is RATHER can Power BI can bake visual data stories into the day-to-day reporting landscape?

Let’s revisit the backstory and the four narrative elements (characters, setting, conflict/ win, and resolution) of our fake energy provider, ACME, and see if we could craft something that conveyed this narrative and lead to actionable insight?

The characters are the customers between 25 and 44, environmentally conscious Australian public and therefor our fake company’s customers in this cohort, and the target audience is ACME’s management (decision makers) and marketing departments.

The storyframe shows our 25 to 44 cohort as being our second largest customer segment, with a high population growth trend and high support for phasing out fossil fuels. It is also worth noting that the future for the 25 to 44 cohort, i.e. the 00 to 24 segments shows the highest population change, so its worth keeping that additional cohort in mind in this analysis.

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Further story framing shows that our setting is our 25 to 44 segment, and specifically in NSW as that is where the highest percentage of customer churn is occurring.

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The conflict is confirmed through key trend analysis that shows the population growth for our segments as well as the correlation between customer loss, and social media sentiment across data that monitors topics such as Fracking and ACME (our fake company).

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Selecting New South Wales confirms our setting and the conflict analysed.

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Our resolution is highlighted by the final piece in our Power BI visual story, but in stead of drilling into the 25 to 44 segment for New South Wales, we look at the future of the future 25 to 44 segment, i.e. the 00 to 24 segment. We can see a significant population increase in our cohort (future customers), and an expected further customer churn in this cohort of a call to action and marketing around it is not taken. The call to actions is clearly spelled out.

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So, can Power BI be used for effective visual story telling with data?

My view is yes, and it provides more. Unlike other methods of visual story telling which delivers a great user experience but are mostly static, the Power BI visuals shown are interactive which means it can be analysed for any state, age group, date, etc. and they will change as the data changes (notably customer numbers), including the forecasts. And that is the major benefit of merging the concepts of visual story telling with data and interactive reporting tools such as Power BI.

PowerPoint integration into Power BI was announced as part of the key note at Power BI Summit. Although full details are not yet available, this will enhance the visual storytelling capabilities of Power BI even further.

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All of these report pages were built from underlying data (ABS, Lowy Institute, Pop sci, and dummy customer data).

Additional references

Where does Australia’s gas come from? And where can we expect new gas projects? | Climate Council

Data Storytelling: How to Tell a Story with Data (

Green electricity guide – Energy | CHOICE


This article was originally published here

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