The Gartner Magic Quadrant for 2019, announced earlier this month, names Microsoft the leader in Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms. Microsoft also coincidentally announced the public preview release of its first AI-driven visual for Power BI – Key Influencers – this month, among a number of new features for Feb 2019. Inbuilt integration of Power BI with many Azure data products would catapult Power BI miles ahead of Tableau in the long run.
Key Influencers is the first of many AI visuals Microsoft would release I assume, in their efforts to democratize AI and make their customers look cool 🙂 In this article, we will go over the various features of this new visual using a publicly available dataset, and get familiar with interpreting the results. Download a copy of Power BI Desktop file for the example I am using in this article and try it out yourself using the free Power BI Desktop tool.
Key Influencers is a powerful Power BI visual that lets us understand the factors that drive a metric. Power BI analyzes data, ranks the factors that matter, and displays them as key influencers. Under the hood, Power BI uses ML.NET to run logistic regression to calculate the key influencers. Logistic regression is a statistical model that compares different groups to each other, also taking into consideration the number of data points available for a factor.
As the visual is still in preview, there are a number of limitations. My first attempt to use Key Influencers using a survey responses dataset was rather unimpressive.
In my second attempt, I used the popular Heart Disease dataset from UCI to identify key influencers affecting heart disease, and achieved good results.
Before we delve any further, let us take a look at the limitations that apply in the public preview phase of the visual. Pay attention here to avoid frustration as you explore the visual.
Following features are not supported:
- Analyzing metrics that are aggregates/measures
- Direct Query / Live Connection / Row Level Security – support
- Consuming the visual in Power BI Embedded and Power BI mobile apps
Using the Key Influencers Visual
As a first time user, I found the Key Influencers visual intuitive and self-explanatory. It hardly takes a few minutes to set up the visual once you have clean data. Check out Microsoft documentation to understand all aspects of the visual. You could also download a copy of Power BI Desktop file for the example I am using in this article.
Note: Keep column names readable as this will help interpret the visual better
There are 2 tabs available within the visual – Key influencers and Top Segments.
The Key influencers tab displays the key factors affecting the metric value selected. In this case, the top factor that affects positive diagnosis of Heart Disease, based on our dataset, is Reversible Defect Thalassemia – increasing the risk of heart disease by 2.83 times when the value of Reversible Defect Thalassemia is 7.
On the right hand side, there is a column chart showing distribution of the selected factor. The check box at the bottom lets you display only influential factor values. We could click-select a different factor to see how it contributes to heart disease.
The Top segments tab displays different segments identified by Power BI within the population, for the metric value selected. Click-select a segment to view more details such as the factor values that define the segment, and how the segment compares against the average. We could also drill down further into the segment to split by additional fields.
Under the hood, Power BI uses ML.NET to run a decision tree to find interesting subgroups. The objective of the decision tree is to end up with a subgroup of datapoints that is relatively high in the metric we are interested in – in our case, the patients who are suspected to have heart disease.
Considering that it is still in preview and is only going to get better, Key Influencers ticks the right boxes. The rationale behind choosing a popular dataset, such as the Heart Disease dataset from UCI, for my example was to allow for comparison of results to Machine Learning models that are already publicly available. Power BI seems to identify influencers correctly and does a good job at presentation. I’m thoroughly impressed by this new feature.
If you enjoyed this article, consider reading my other articles on Azure data products.
Download the Power BI workbook used in the example – https://drive.google.com/open?id=13Pt25UPt7dOW3raZmavHHVl7gAStv5uy
Intro to Key Influencers by Microsoft: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-influencers
Power BI Feb 2019 feature summary – https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/power-bi-desktop-february-2019-feature-summary/
Heart Disease Data source
Donor: David W. Aha (aha ‘@’ ics.uci.edu) (714) 856-8779
- Hungarian Institute of Cardiology. Budapest: Andras Janosi, M.D.
- University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland: William Steinbrunn, M.D.
- University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland: Matthias Pfisterer, M.D.
- V.A. Medical Center, Long Beach and Cleveland Clinic Foundation: Robert Detrano, M.D., Ph.D.