The right foundations changes everything
The Digital Renaissance

Visualizing Data in Model-Driven Apps

By Shweta Kamble

It’s all about the data.

And most businesses — whether they know it or not, whether they’re acting on it or not — are swimming in a vast sea of data. The key to acting on it is visualization, and that’s where model-driven applications have come to the forefront.

Model driven apps (MDAs) in the Microsoft Power Platform do almost all that’s needed to help you both visualize and analyze data.

But how? And why are they fast becoming the go-to for businesses on the Microsoft stack?

Let’s take a deep dive into data visualization in MDAs and show you how to unlock the true potential of your data.

Why data visualization matters

Simply put, it makes understanding and acting on data easier for “the rest of us.”

Where data used to be mostly in the hands of engineers and analysts, most businesses now wisely opt for making actionable information as accessible as possible: to executives, field technicians, sales and customer services reps — everyone in the enterprise.

Data visualization delivers specific benefits to every business, including:

Simplification and clarity: Visualizations transform abstract data into clear, intuitive graphs, charts, and dashboards. This clarity helps users understand complex relationships and patterns quickly, leading to better decision-making.

Real-time oversight and insight: Real-time data visualization allows users to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and respond to trends, outliers, and correlations within the data effortlessly.

Improved user engagement: Human brains process visuals much faster than text or numbers. As a result, data visualization enhances user engagement and enables users to consume information more effectively.

Simplified reporting: Instead of sifting through pages of spreadsheets and reports, visualizations offer a concise and coherent way to present information, making it easier to communicate findings across the organization.

So how do MDAs support these benefits? Let’s dig in.

Understanding model-driven apps in a data visualization context

Model Driven Apps are a key component of Power Platform, Microsoft’s low-code solution for… well… just about everything.

As part of Power Platform, MDAs are built on Microsoft’s Common Data Service (CDS), and also the Dynamics 365 framework, allowing users to create custom business applications without the need for extensive coding or development.

Model-driven app design focuses on building components such as forms, views, and charts and dashboards (such as the one shown in Figure 1) using an app designer tool.

Figure 1

Types of data visualizations in model-driven apps

Data visualization does not come in one size. Like the data it represents, it’s endlessly variable. With MDAs, visualizations are typically streamlined into the following categories:

  • Charts: Individual graphical visualizations that can appear in a view or form, or that can be added to a dashboard.
  • Dashboards: Larger scale graphical visualizations that provide an overview of actionable business data.
  • Embedded Microsoft Power BI: Microsoft’s primary means of delivering actionable data, Power BI embeds tiles and dashboards to your business apps.

Let’s take a beat and explore these categories n more detail.

Charts

In a Model-Driven App within the Microsoft Power Platform, you can create various types of charts to visualize and analyse data from your underlying data source. These charts help users make informed decisions and gain insights.

  • Bar Charts
  • Column Charts
  • Pie Charts
  • Line Charts
  • Area Charts
  • Funnel Charts
  • Doughnut Charts
  • Scatter Plot
  • Bubble Chart
  • Gauge Chart
  • Radar Chart

Dashboards

Charts typically make their way into dashboards, which can be as varied as the people in your enterprise, as a user can create a dashboard unique to their KPIs.

MDAs also provide system dashboards (more comprehensive) by default and offer essential insights and information about the app and its entities. They are often created during the app development process and serve as a starting point for user dashboards.

In both types of dashboards, there are two types of interactive experiences: multi-stream and single-stream.

A multi-stream dashboard (shown in Figure 2) display data in real time across multiple data streams. While the data in a stream can be based on only one entity, there is no limit on how many streams can be configured on a dashboard.

A single-stream dashboard displays real time data on a stream based on an entity view or queue.

Figure 2

Embedded Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is one of the most powerful analytical tools in the world and users can easily embed Power BI into model-driven apps (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Embedded Power BI is a powerful integration that allows developers to seamlessly integrate Power BI reports and dashboards into their own applications, websites, or services.

With embedded Power BI, organizations can extend the capabilities of existing applications and provide users with rich and interactive data visualizations without requiring them to leave the application.

Key features and benefits of embedded Microsoft Power BI include:

Seamless integration: Embedded Power BI allows developers to integrate reports and dashboards directly within applications, creating a unified user experience. Users can access Power BI visualizations within the context of the application they are using, without needing to switch to a separate interface.

Interactive data visualizations: Power BI offers a wide range of interactive data visualizations, including charts, graphs, maps, tables, and more. Embedded reports retain all interactive features, such as filtering, drilling down, and slicing, providing users with the ability to explore and analyze data in real-time.

Customization: Developers can customize the appearance of embedded Power BI reports to match the look and feel of their applications. They can also control the layout, color scheme, and branding to create a seamless integration that aligns with the application’s design.

Security and authentication: Embedded Power BI provides robust security features, ensuring that only authorized users can access reports and dashboards. Developers can leverage the same authentication mechanisms used in their application to control data access.

Real-time data refresh: Embedded Power BI reports can be configured to automatically refresh data at regular intervals, ensuring users always have access to the most up-to-date information.

Scalability: Power BI is built on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, providing high scalability and performance for embedded reports. This allows applications to handle large volumes of data and user interactions without compromising on performance.

Mobile responsiveness: Embedded Power BI reports are responsive and adapt to various screen sizes, making them accessible and user-friendly on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.

Power BI API: Developers can utilize the Power BI REST API to interact with embedded reports programmatically, which allows for advanced customization and automation of report generation and distribution.

Data visualization in MDAs: More than just a pretty face

While the charts and infographics are eye-catching, data visualization in MDAs means far more than just pretty graphics; it is a critical tool for transforming raw data into meaningful insights understood by anyone in the enterprise.

By empowering users with visually appealing and interactive representations of their data, MDAs foster data-driven decision-making and boost overall productivity.

Whether it’s tracking sales performance, monitoring customer satisfaction, or analyzing operational efficiency, visualizing data in MDAs plays a pivotal role in modern business success. As business platforms, programs, and processes continue to evolve, data visualization will remain at the forefront of effective analysis and decision-making, empowering organizations with actionable insights and a competitive edge.