Thursday found me in Manchester with the Power BI user group to discuss Cortana integration with Power BI and the Cortana Intelligence Suite. The group can be found here if you want to attend any of their future events. It is well worth it.
What is Cortana?
One of the most common questions that we are asked is what is the difference between Cortana and Cortana Intelligence. Cortana is the personal digital assistant, or as my children tell me, she is my other friend! Cortana will help you find things on your PC, manage your calendar, track packages, find files, chat with you and even tell some funny jokes. The more you use Cortana, the more personalised your experience will be. I have to say that I rely on Cortana heavily in both my personal and professional life on a daily basis and she helps me get my work done on time.
What is Cortana Intelligence?
Cortana Intelligence is different. Cortana Intelligence is a suite of technologies that provides a platform to deliver data science and/or artificial intelligence solutions. Using this in conjunction with the Team Data Science Process, you have both the platform and the process to deliver successful solutions.
So how does Cortana get involved with this?
Cortana is still the personal digital assistant that is found in the intelligence section of the Cortana Intelligence Suite. You will also notice from the graphic above, that PowerBI provides the dashboard and visualizations that will surface the data that is orchestrated and stored in Big Data Stores.
It is here that Cortana can be integrated with Power BI, so that you can call reports from your Power BI service from either your Windows 10 desktop or your Windows 10 phone.
So how can we make this happen?
First of all, you need to right version of Windows. The minimum version required is 1511, and you can run the command winver in Windows to confirm you have the right version. If you do not have the right version, you will have to upgrade to use this feature.
The next step is to create a workplace account for both the windows machine and for Power BI. From a windows machine perspective, the account you login as should match the same account used to login to Power BI. In my case that would be email@example.com.
However, if this is not the case, you can add additional accounts within Windows using Settings followed by Access Work or School. From here you can click Connect and provide the credentials of a secondary account. Be mindful however there could be Domain Administrator restrictions on performing this operation, so it is worth checking and asking permission if you can perform this operation first.
But there’s got to be more to it than that, right?
Yes. The steps above are essentially the provisioning work that is required to get the ball rolling. They are one off operations to get the integration started. There is still work you have to do within Power BI for both datasets and reports.
Within the dataset, you have to allow Cortana access to the dataset. There is a specific checkbox next to this precise setting found in the data refresh properties of the specific dataset itself. You can also augment the querying of Cortana by adding your own custom questions to the Featured Q&A questions section as well.
But there is also work to be done within the individual reports as well. Within Power BI Desktop, in the Report properties, you must modify the Page Size property in the format section and set the Type drop down to “Cortana“. In addition you can also use the Page Information section to add alternate names for the report as well.
After these setting have been defined, you can then publish the report to your Power BI workspace, and after a few minutes you can use Cortana on either your laptop, or your mobile to ask questions. Your all set!
If you want to try this yourself, here are a couple resources that will get you started:
- Enable Power BI Integration with Cortana
- Use Power BI to create a custom Answer Page for Cortana https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-service-cortana-desktop-entity-cards/