Robert Frost and Pie Charts

Earlier this year, Microsoft released an incredible self-service reporting and presentation tool called Power View (with SQL Server 2012).  It’s highly interactive, has excellent visualizations, and I could go on and on about the value it adds to businesses currently leveraging the Microsoft BI stack.  Instead, I’d like to point out the huge statement Microsoft  made regarding the usefulness of pie charts by explicitly leaving them out of Power View.  I was so impressed by this decision that I’ve made it a point to mention this fact to anyone who would listen…during presentations, client meetings, friends, family members, strangers in the checkout line at the grocery store…you get the idea.

In case you’re wondering what the big deal is…you can read the arguments explaining why pie charts suck and are terribly inefficient at conveying information: short version, long version.

Now, fast forward to the present.  Microsoft just released Office 2013 Customer Preview and the ripple throughout the Microsoft BI-blog sphere is right on queue.  Right off the bat, I’m amazed at the enhancements to Excel 2013…especially the integration of Power View.  That’s a big addition since it removes the SharePoint requirement. I keep reading and continue to like what I see…but then I notice something…yep, there it is…the “turd in the punch bowl”…Microsoft has added pie chart functionality into Power View for Excel 2013.  Ugh, damn you Robert Frost!

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost


If you are interested in reading more about the enhancements to Excel 2013,

Chris Webb (blog | twitter) has a very concise review of the new BI-related features in Excel 2013 along with some follow up posts that provide a solid walk-through of creating a BI solution in Excel 2013 with links to others in the SQL community that have been blogging about Excel 2013 from a BI-perspective.  Teo Lachev (blog | twitter) and Kasper De Jonge (blog | twitter) also have some good posts you should check out.


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