Use Voice Activated BI to Reduce IT Expenses & Fast Track BI Development

Conversational BI is here, and it is a competitive advantage your firm needs today. Conversational BI gives you the ability to ask plain language questions about your data via voice or search, and you


Conversational BI is here, and it is a competitive advantage your firm needs today. Conversational BI gives you the ability to ask plain language questions about your data via voice or search, and your BI solution returns answers in the form of data to explore, charts, graphs, etc. Gartner predicts that “by 2020, 50% of analytical queries will be generated via search, natural-language processing or voice, or will be automatically generated.” Gartner, Inc. (2018).

Firms that take advantage of this technology can simultaneously reduce costs and fast track BI development by reducing their dependence on:

  • Technical experts for ad-hoc data requests and analysis
  • BI developers to create new reports and visualizations
  • QA Teams for testing
  • IT infrastructure teams for deployments and operations
  • On-premise hardware and associated CapEx/OpEx

In this blog, we will explore the integrated Q&A feature in Microsoft’s Power BI. Q&A allows your users to ask questions directly of your data such as “what were total sales last year.”

Power BI Q&A

Power BI Q&A quickly and easily enables natural language processing by leveraging the names/aliased names of columns within the dataset to build an automatic default linguistic schema.

To enable Q&A for a data connection

  1. In the upper-right corner of Power BI, select the cog icon Cog icon and choose Settings.
  2. Select datasets and choose the dataset to enable for Q&A.
  3. Expand Q&A and Cortana, select the checkbox for Turn on Q&A for this dataset and choose to Apply.


Pro Tips

  • It is extremely important to name/alias the dataset’s column names with descriptive meanings that your users will understand and use when questioning data.
  • You can also edit the default Power BI linguistic schema to tailor it to your users and business with custom phrases, synonyms, etc. You can export and import the linguistic schema YAML file for a model by opening it in Power BI Desktop, going to the Modeling tab in the ribbon, finding the Q&A group and clicking Linguistic Schema.


Where to Find Power BI Q&A

You’ll find Q&A on Power BI service dashboards (web and mobile), above visualizations in Power BI Embedded, and as a visualization type (Q&A Explorer) you can add to reports.


How to Use Power BI Q&A (Text)

  • When selected Q&A shows you keywords and sample/suggested questions that can be selected and added to the question box.
  • Q&A helps you ask questions is with prompts, auto-complete, and visual cues.
  • Answers are nearly instantaneous since Power BI runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform with in-memory storage.

Your initial question is just the start. You can explore your data and expand or refine your question, find new information, and traverse hierarchies and drill in on the details.

How to Use Power BI Q&A (Voice)

Search-based type questions are just the start though. Power BI also integrates with Cortana (Microsoft’s virtual assistant) making voice-driven Q&A available across many of your devices including PCs, Android, and iOS. Simply say “Hi Cortana” and ask your question.

“Hi Cortana. Can you show me the last 12 months revenues by store?”

Power BI Data Sources and Compatibility

Power BI supports a wide range of data sources that can be internal or external to your organization including flat files, databases, and cloud or web platforms such as Facebook, Google Analytics, and Salesforce objects.



The fastest way for your users to get an answer from your data is to ask a question using plain language. By democratizing access to data and significantly reducing dependence on IT expenses, the ROI on Power BI Q&A is extremely high because it starts at an affordable price of $9.99/user/month with a Pro license.

Keep your firm a leader in the legal services industry with answers to your questions at your fingertips. If you need a company with extensive experience in setting up, configuring, and customizing linguistics for Conversational BI, please contact JBS Solutions at (888) 421-1155 x682.

About the Author

Chad Evans completed his undergraduate degree and postgraduate specialized studies in data warehousing and business intelligence at the University of California – Irvine, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School where he gained advanced insight into business performance metrics and analytics.

Chad has 16 years of Kimball method dimensional data warehouse design, and full stack SQL Server BI experience in SQL Server Database, SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) Tabular and Multidimensional, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Mobile and Paginated. Much of his time is focused on Microsoft’s cloud technologies in Azure, Power BI, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, Dynamics 365, etc. Industry focus includes: banking and financial services, telecom, higher education, law and legal services, healthcare, insurance, retail and marketing, and the US federal government.

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