The Persistent Power of Pagination, w/ Microsoft’s Chris Finlan

Principal Program Manager-Power BI Team at Microsoft

Listen Now:

Chris Finlan is a Principal Program Manager on the Microsoft Power BI team, the creator of the popular and incredibly adorable mascot Paginated Report Bear, and a huge Philadelphia sports fan.  We try very hard not to hold that last item against him!  He’s done it all, from the product team to pre-sales, technical training, database administration and sales operations.  Tom is off this week, so P3 Adaptive Senior Principal Consultant Justin Mannhardt steps in to fill the void.  The guys cover quite a bit, including:

  • Working in sales vs engineering
  • Power BI, Paginated reports and SSRS; What are the differences?
  • How to make friends after a certain age
  • Seattle area COVID reactions
  • Can someone cheat at Scrabble and still lose?
  • Ignite announcements, Premium Gen 2 and the premium per user license, the differences between Pro and Premium options, and Rob has some fun with Chris about some pricing

Rob Collie (00:00:00): Hello, everyone. This week's guest on Raw Data is the one and only Chris Finland. We get a little bit of that Microsoft flavor this week because hey, that's where he works.

Rob Collie (00:00:10): We're going to be doing that from time to time on Raw Data, because, well, I started my career at Microsoft and I have connections there and they also happen to make the best data tools on the planet. So its makes sense. We're not going to do it every week, but we're going to splice it in. We're definitely going to weave some Microsoft into the podcast from time to time.

Rob Collie (00:00:28): What better way to kick off that practice than to have Chris? You might know Chris as the creator and voice of the much beloved Paginated Report Bear. So of course we talk about paginated reporting. We mostly talk about Microsoft stuff but we also talk about some personal things like making friends after 40, COVID in Seattle versus the American Midwest.

Rob Collie (00:00:50): I compare Microsoft Redmond to one of the strongholds in the Lord of the Ring series. You have to listen to the whole thing to find out which one. And of course, we have a lot of fun. So let's get after it. Let's queue up that intro.

Announcer (00:01:07): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?

Announcer (00:01:09): This is the Raw Data by P3 Podcast with your host, Rob Collie and your co-host Thomas LaRock. Find out what the experts at P3 can do for your business. Go to powerpivotpro.com. Raw data by P3 is data with the human element.

Rob Collie (00:01:27): Welcome, the Chris Finlan. How are you today, sir?

Chris Finlan (00:01:32): I'm fine. How are you?

Rob Collie (00:01:33): I couldn't be better, now that we're finally getting around to doing this.

Chris Finlan (00:01:37): You asked me three days ago.

Rob Collie (00:01:40): It's been a long three days.

Chris Finlan (00:01:42): I was like, you just texted about this. I was like, "Sure. Okay."

Rob Collie (00:01:45): Yeah. Well, that's all I've thought about in the intervening 72 hours. It's been Finlan on the brain. We're joined today by Justin Mannhardt, senior principal consultant here at P3. He's the ringer. He's the ringer today. He's going to ask the hard questions.

Justin Mannhardt (00:02:05): Real academic stuff.

Rob Collie (00:02:07): So academic because that's what Justin represents, is the ivory tower.

Chris Finlan (00:02:11): I like that at P3, you've taken a concept deal of Microsoft. You have senior then principle and you've combined them to a single title of senior principle.

Rob Collie (00:02:19): I actually think that Microsoft has actually decomposed our structure.

Chris Finlan (00:02:24): Oh, I see.

Rob Collie (00:02:25): And harvested it for their own use, but-

Chris Finlan (00:02:27): I'm curious how they would've done that considering when you started, but fine.

Rob Collie (00:02:31): Potato, potato. All right. I don't know. How long have we known each other? Seven years? Eight years?

Chris Finlan (00:02:38): Yeah. Seven years.

Rob Collie (00:02:39): Seven years. I just get this email one day. It said something positive about things that I was saying on our website at the time. I checked and I double checked and I triple checked and I kept seeing that it was from @microsoft.com address. I was like, "Is this spoofed? Is this real?"

Rob Collie (00:03:01): Something like, "I've been using your messages. Some of the things you've been saying, I've been trying them with customers and they've been working." I picked up the phone and I called you immediately. I was like, "What is going on here?"

Chris Finlan (00:03:11): Yes. You asked for a meeting almost immediately. That is correct.

Rob Collie (00:03:15): Yeah. It definitely took less time to get on the phone with you than it took to schedule this podcast for instance.

Chris Finlan (00:03:21): It was very quick.

Rob Collie (00:03:21): Yes.

Chris Finlan (00:03:23): I think I still have the mail.

Rob Collie (00:03:24): Really?

Chris Finlan (00:03:24): Yeah, I think so.

Rob Collie (00:03:25): That's awesome. I hope it's not framed or something.

Chris Finlan (00:03:29): No.

Rob Collie (00:03:30): That'd be weird, but you have it somewhere?

Chris Finlan (00:03:31): Yes I do.

Rob Collie (00:03:32): And so you were in the Microsoft sales organization. You were in the field. Tell us a little bit about what that role was at the time.

Chris Finlan (00:03:41): I was a pre-sales engineer, I guess, or pre-sales... I was called the technology solution professional. They've actually changed the title, I think, to just TS, so technology specialist, I think is what it is now but I was focused on business intelligence.

Chris Finlan (00:03:55): The way that the Microsoft field worked at the time was there was somebody who focused on doing the pre-sales activities as it related to showcasing the technology, doing demonstrations, proof of concepts, things like that. And then of course there was the business counterpart who would talk about fun things like licensing and how it fit into their overall solution, their data platform solution at Microsoft.

Chris Finlan (00:04:14): I was the TS and I was demonstrating these things and it was around the time Power BI V1 or maybe V0... Nobody ever talks about this flavor of Power BI anymore. It's been swept away to the dust bins of history because they always talk about Power BI's birthday being five years ago. And it's like you know what? I remember a version of Power BI that I was selling or not selling actually that was very different than what people are used to today and frankly, the success that Power BI has had in the last five years was really unthinkable at the time when I was going around and talking about these things because it was a very, very different product and positioning of that product.

Rob Collie (00:04:54): Naming, always a Microsoft strength. I say that obviously with some sarcasm. You were mentioning, even the roles, you were always renaming the roles.

Chris Finlan (00:05:07): Yeah. That's true.

Rob Collie (00:05:09): As soon as you get used to something, "No, no, no, that's not... That's yesterday." The stories that I tell to this day, some of the most amazing things that I personally got to witness were with your accounts at the time, because back seven years ago, really the only consultant at the company was me.

Chris Finlan (00:05:27): Yes.

Rob Collie (00:05:27): And so we did some really amazing things. You and I even got to collaborate on one of them. We're not going to get into the specifics because that's talking out of school. We still work with several of those accounts, several of those customers, we still have relationships with them today. But you're not there anymore. You moved to Mount Doom, Mount Redmond.

Chris Finlan (00:05:46): Mount Doom. Wow. You have some fond memories here.

Rob Collie (00:05:51): I remember I worked there at a time when Microsoft was considered the evil empire.

Chris Finlan (00:05:56): Very different, very different Microsoft.

Justin Mannhardt (00:05:57): First order.

Rob Collie (00:05:57): Yeah.

Chris Finlan (00:05:58): Yeah.

Rob Collie (00:05:58): Microsoft has straightened up a bit. It's a kinder, gentler Microsoft for sure these days. We've gotten a good look at what real evil looks like in the form of other tech companies. It also is looking better by comparison as well. But so how long have you been in Redmond now?

Chris Finlan (00:06:16): Five years. I moved out here in August, 2015.

Rob Collie (00:06:20): It's a big risk, right?

Chris Finlan (00:06:22): It is. Going from Philadelphia where I effectively spent my entire life from nine, 10 years old until my adulthood, it was a big change and moving my family across the country, I have two kids. My wife, taking her away from her family and everything to come out here to take a job in the product team and I had no experience being an engineer or a program manager. I had to learn all that stuff on the fly once I got out here. And again, I didn't know anybody in Redmond either.

Chris Finlan (00:06:49): I was thrown in brand new. My team actually was based out of Canada because I was working with the Datazen team because we had acquired Datazen and I was working with them.

Chris Finlan (00:06:58): It was an interesting time. I moved into a role on the reporting services team, the SQL Server Reporting Services team when they went and added mobile reports to the Datazen technology, the SQL Server 2016. I switched teams at that point because they were going to go focus on something else. I took over that and I mentored under a very good PM named Ricardo for a few years and then he moved on.

Chris Finlan (00:07:22): I, for a very brief period of time, switched my focus. And then after two months, I circled back and stepped in when Ricardo left and I've been driving this area ever since. We've obviously taken on a lot more responsibility and a bigger charter since that time because Power BI Reports Server came along, paginated reports in the Power BI Services come along. My team also is responsible for things like exporting the PDF in PowerPoint in the service for Power BI reports and email subscriptions.

Chris Finlan (00:07:50): So there's a very large area of ownership that we have. SQL Server Reporting Services is a very, very popular product that is used by millions of people today. It's a real challenge, but it's a fun place to be. My team is a really, really great team to work with. It's very diverse. A lot of different backgrounds and histories and some people are very steeped in the product history, other are coming in brand new. So there's a lot of great mix of ideas and the engineers are a real pleasure to work with.

Chris Finlan (00:08:20): As a PM, you know that you have zero value in the engineer's eyes in general because they do all the hard work and they don't have any problem reminding me of this. It's definitely a great place to be. It's been one of the more gratifying experiences of my adult life in terms of getting a chance to work with this team and work in this product area, which as you know, there's a bit of irony to because when I was in the field, never talked about reporting services.

Chris Finlan (00:08:46): I was certainly had used it and was familiar with the capabilities and things like that. But I was very specifically told not to talk about it, it's boring, nobody cares. I know you were always a huge fan of reporting services.

Rob Collie (00:08:58): Oh, just amazingly huge.

Chris Finlan (00:09:00): Yes. Until your recent transformation, which is again, perhaps my three favorite blog posts of all time but it was one of these things where coming here, it was really eyeopening and exciting to see just all the different ways that people use this and why it was such a powerful piece of technology that Microsoft had and deserved to have... I'm very much driven by a sense of fairness.

Chris Finlan (00:09:25): I felt very strongly that this product was being unfairly ignored in the context of what customers were thinking about in terms of their overall solution. It's something that I've worked very hard and a lot of people on the team have worked very hard to kind of turn around. I think the events of the last few weeks and certainly over the last few months, that has certainly paid off because the community has responded in a way.

Chris Finlan (00:09:49): I mean it was either the first or second highest idea on ideas at powerbi.com in terms of wanting paginated reports to be more widely available, just the ongoing conversations with customers, the community, the reaction to some of the announcements last week, the reaction to something I mentioned on a video podcast over the weekend is almost an aside. The reaction to that has been overwhelming.

Chris Finlan (00:10:11): So it's really, really gratifying to be in this space and I'm really happy to be here talking with you folks about it today, but yeah, it's been quite the ride the last few years.

Rob Collie (00:10:20): I bet. I bet. We're definitely going to be talking some nuts and bolts shop about a lot of the things you just mentioned but let's not microwave this meal. Let's slow cook it.

Justin Mannhardt (00:10:32): Get out the Dutch oven.

Rob Collie (00:10:33): That's right.

Justin Mannhardt (00:10:33): Let's build a fire.

Rob Collie (00:10:34): It needs to be tender.

Justin Mannhardt (00:10:37): I thought you said Tinder.

Chris Finlan (00:10:38): I don't know exactly where he is going with this, but I'm just going to sit here and smile.

Rob Collie (00:10:42): Should I say tender one more time?

Chris Finlan (00:10:44): No, I'd prefer you move on as quickly as possible.

Rob Collie (00:10:47): Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I have this personal theory that because you're not the first person that I've crossed paths with in my time that suddenly got the idea of, "oh, you know what? I'll move to Redmond." It's a halfway humorous theory, but I think there's some maybe perhaps a little truth to it and I'll get your reaction to it. After you meet me and you get to know me, you're like, "He did that job. I can do that job."

Chris Finlan (00:11:16): I did not actually think that.

Rob Collie (00:11:18): No, no. All right.

Chris Finlan (00:11:19): Because I assumed you did that job ineffectively.

Rob Collie (00:11:22): I see.

Chris Finlan (00:11:24): Since you ripped out features that were incredibly valuable from Excel to further your own interests.

Rob Collie (00:11:30): That's true. That's true.

Chris Finlan (00:11:31): I still resent you to this day after I learned that you took away one of my favorite things of all time.

Rob Collie (00:11:39): You're not the first.

Chris Finlan (00:11:40): Yeah, no, no. I know I'm not the first. But in all seriousness, it was more a matter of I wanted to... My rationale for wanting to come out here is I truly did enjoy working in the field. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of travel, which was really hard with my kid's age at the time. I effectively missed my son's year in kindergarten and I can't go back and redo that.

Chris Finlan (00:12:02): One of the agreements I made with my wife is I'll move out there, but you can't travel like you were traveling for this job and I've kept my word on that. I do travel once in a while, obviously not in the last few months but that's something that I've been very, very conscious of.

Chris Finlan (00:12:15): But no, honestly, I wanted to feel like I was making a bigger impact. That's not to criticize or put down the field role because I truly did enjoy it but I felt like I wanted to have that opportunity at least once to see what it would like to be on the product team and be a part of that decision making process and how the sausage is made, I guess.

Chris Finlan (00:12:32): I knew you had been at PM, but I honestly... It's interesting and gentlemen, you know T.K. Anand who I guess was your manager for a short period of time and T.K. has now moved on to Oracle, bigger and better things for himself and his personal career.

Chris Finlan (00:12:44): He would talk about what a PM's role was. And it was, there really isn't a singular definition of what a PM is at Microsoft. They can vary very widely from one group to another and from one team to another in that same group. It was something where I had to kind of figure this out and Ricardo did a very good job of emphasizing to me.

Chris Finlan (00:13:04): He's like, "Hey, you're great with the customer contact. You're great with understanding the business needs. You're great with... But at the end of the day, a product program manager, product manager needs to be able to translate those into features and business requirements and to ship it in the product." That was the thing that I really had to learn is can be a steep learning curve. It takes a lot of time to go and figure that out and you have to be willing to take the feedback and make changes to how you go and approach it.

Chris Finlan (00:13:29): It's something that even today, I just was talking about a meeting I had earlier today where I had to take feedback on something and I don't necessarily agree with the feedback, but I should give it the same way I would give any other... I've often assumed that I'm not right. Getting that kind of feedback from folks in terms of a direction we should go is one of the biggest things.

Chris Finlan (00:13:47): PMs to have thick skin because you're never going to make 100% of the people happy, ever. The example I gave with you with the Excel thing, I'm sure that that feature was not widely used and it's a very small number of people who care, but sure enough, you have somebody you know who gets very animated about that every time it comes up.

Rob Collie (00:14:07): Yeah. For those of you listening, the program manager job was invented at Microsoft way back in the day, long before I ever walked through the door because when they were originally starting out, they were all programmers. Everyone working at Microsoft was a programmer, a developer and it made sense for the best developers to become the managers.

Chris Finlan (00:14:28): That still happens a lot.

Rob Collie (00:14:29): Yep. But then, at that moment, the development managers back in the day would also then suddenly become responsible for what should we do with this next release? What should the feature set be? What should the functionality? What should we build? What was discovered was that the skills that made you a good programmer didn't necessarily make you a good sort of customer empathizer or customer researcher. So they would end up with all kinds of really wonky features. They explicitly decided to separate the skillset and say, "We're not going to make it a management function that decides what the product should do. We're going to make it a separate skillset and they're not going to have any political control over the developers. They can't make them do what they want. They have to talk them into it."

Rob Collie (00:15:17): That is a very interesting job, especially when you're new at it. You talked about all the things that you had to learn, but one of the things that you brought with you that is somewhat rare for that job in my experience is that you actually had walked that walk. The software that you're building is in the space where you've had to interact with customers and you've been even a practitioner yourself.

Rob Collie (00:15:39): The analogy I use is if you're a team that's been building race cars, you build Indie cars. That doesn't mean that you understand what it is to be a driver. It doesn't mean that you actually know even how to drive. The fact that you've been a driver and now you're also a car builder, I like to joke that just now, after all these years sort of on the outside of the bubble, I'm just now qualified to do the job that Microsoft used to pay me to do.

Rob Collie (00:16:05): When I meet people now, Chris, that are in your old role, that are in the field, I introduce myself and say, "Hey, I worked on the product team in Redmond for 13 years but please don't hold that against me. I'm actually okay."

Chris Finlan (00:16:20): That's an interesting point. One of the things, at least at the time, this happens a little bit more now, but coming from the field to Redmond was extraordinarily rare to go from a field role to a PM role. It was very, very rare.

Chris Finlan (00:16:32): In fact, you were looked at a bit with disdain in terms of, well, you're a field guy. These guys complain all the time. They only care about their own selfish interests. They're not really interested, but to be fair, it's a very different mindset you have to have as a PM than somebody in the field.

Chris Finlan (00:16:51): It's a big shift because what doing is you have a set of customers, you're looking to make them successful. You could try and make them successful by ensuring you can pull together the solution you need, but it's not that you care about a customer halfway across the globe who needs the exact opposite for you in the same product space and you have two engineers available to work on something, you have to pick one of those two.

Chris Finlan (00:17:14): You have two customers of a similar size, similar opportunity that you have to choose, like which you're going to go do. I'm giving a very simplistic example because for me, it's not a one versus one, it's hundreds versus hundreds or thousands versus thousands that you have to make these types of decisions around and you have your reporting chain, which has a different set of priorities and what they're to do and balancing all these things is very challenging.

Chris Finlan (00:17:37): But I've kept that very close relationship with the field even today. I think that having that conversation with them and I'm very frank and open and honest in my interactions with them and they are the same to me and that has been extraordinarily valuable in terms of helping shape the direction of the product and make several business decisions where they would have a lot more insight than even talking to a customer directly.

Chris Finlan (00:18:02): When you're talking about licensing conversations, sure, it's important to get customer feedback, but the field ultimately is the one who has to go and communicate this and balance it against the other things that they're being asked to sell and is this going to disrupt them making their number? Does this make their job harder? How does this fit into the overall conversation that they're having? How would you position this alongside the rest of the product portfolio the customers have?

Chris Finlan (00:18:26): That's a very challenging thing to... If you've not actually been there, to understand those types of decisions that they have to go through. It's definitely a... Having that experience has ended up being one of my greatest strengths in this role because I've come from that background and continue to learn from those folks on a daily basis.

Rob Collie (00:18:49): That takes a humility that I probably didn't have back when I was-

Chris Finlan (00:18:52): No, you did not.

Rob Collie (00:18:54): When I was back there. Come on. You didn't know me back then.

Chris Finlan (00:18:55): No, I met you in 2013.

Rob Collie (00:18:59): Come on. I was already well on my path of reform at that point. I had three years in the wild at that point.

Chris Finlan (00:19:10): I guess I'm still talking to you now, so something was going right.

Rob Collie (00:19:14): All right. Well, I appreciate that. Let's start turning the wheel a little bit. I'm sure we'll have other personal questions that have come to mind, but let's start turning-

Chris Finlan (00:19:22): If it's about cheating at Scrabble, I continue to deny I did anything wrong in that game.

Rob Collie (00:19:26): Yeah. All right. Well, you know what? Maybe we'll try it again.

Chris Finlan (00:19:31): I cheated at Scrabble so well, I lost.

Rob Collie (00:19:33): I don't think you lost.

Chris Finlan (00:19:34): No, I lost.

Rob Collie (00:19:39): Maybe because I out-cheated you. Let's talk about SSRS, SQL Server Reporting Services and paginated reports and all that kind. Let's talk about it from a historical perspective first because you hinted earlier correctly that I've never been what you would call a proponent historically of reporting services.

Rob Collie (00:20:02): I think mostly that if we really want to be accurate about it and not just glib and funny, I didn't even really understand at the time that what I was really reacting to was misuse. I think the world is still living at least the aftershocks, but still probably live in the main shock of misuse of reporting technology, traditional reporting technology. Here's the old story, that we're either told or we just sort of absorb it from the air and it's a lie, but this is the story.

Rob Collie (00:20:39): The story is we go and we build reports and we publish them. And then people in the business will go and look at these reports and based on the information that they see in these reports, they will go and they will make decisions and take actions.

Rob Collie (00:20:54): It's a really tight, tidy little narrative. But when you go out and you watch what's actually happening with these reports, first of all, a lot of them are sitting there never being used. They were created once and maybe looked at and then never looked at again. So there's this whole thing about stale or orphaned reports that no one's using. But the ones that are being used overwhelmingly are being used as export sources to Excel. Then there's some crunching in Excel that happens and then some decisions are made, then some conclusions are drawn and things like that.

Rob Collie (00:21:30): The industry for a very, very, very long time considered this to be BI. Like reporting and BI were at least out in the wild were basically synonymous. I didn't realize this so much when I worked at Microsoft. When I worked at Microsoft on even back in the early 2000s, I just kind of assumed that interactivity and analysis and things like that were sort of on even par with reporting in the world. That's just not true. You even said it earlier. Like the usage footprint of reporting, even Microsoft's SSRS is just massive in the world.

Chris Finlan (00:22:12): It's huge.

Rob Collie (00:22:13): It is used everywhere. Now that we've reached the point in time where... And this is that three part blog series that's on our website, that's where this comes from is that now, even though I think the reality distilled it, most of the "BI" in the world is still reports being pumped out if you could like weigh it, like in biomass. Like most of the biomass is still reports.

Justin Mannhardt (00:22:41): There's an infographic here.

Rob Collie (00:22:43): There is. There is.

Justin Mannhardt (00:22:44): Somewhere.

Rob Collie (00:22:46): The earth would weigh less if we deleted all of the SSRS reports.

Chris Finlan (00:22:51): I want to just bring up a point here. Internally at Microsoft, we have an internal setup of RS running that's been running for quite some time. Interestingly, one of these orphaned reports was created by one R. Collie because-

Rob Collie (00:23:03): No.

Chris Finlan (00:23:03): Yes. Yes, there is still a report out there with your name tagged to it and I'm dying to go and understand exactly what you-

Justin Mannhardt (00:23:10): I need the RDL on that ASAP.

Chris Finlan (00:23:14): Or you subscribed yourself to a report. I'll have to double check.

Justin Mannhardt (00:23:21): He doesn't know how to do that.

Chris Finlan (00:23:21): No, no, no. Trust me. I have the proof that I'll have to surface, but yes, trust me, I'm well aware of the orphaned report issue because you haven't been there quite some time.

Rob Collie (00:23:32): I've been framed.

Chris Finlan (00:23:35): No. No. I would never do that. I was so stunned to see that, I was dying to go and... I'll have to go and double check.

Rob Collie (00:23:41): This is probably Jason Carlson's last act at Microsoft.

Chris Finlan (00:23:44): It's possible. It's possible. Jason would've had good reason to do so from what I understand, but...

Rob Collie (00:23:52): All is well that ends well.

Chris Finlan (00:23:53): Yes.

Rob Collie (00:23:54): All right. Now that sort of like Power BI has gotten the mind share, even if you go out in the world and you see that most of the reports in the world, even in the Microsoft ecosystem, they're not Power BI reports still, there still the majority of them are traditional reporting services style reports. Power BI is now like the hot thing.

Chris Finlan (00:24:13): Well, it's also a single brand that you talk about Microsoft BI under, because if you remember when I was in the field, Power BI came along, but we didn't really have that. We had, well, you have this in SharePoint and you have this in SQL. You have this in Office.

Rob Collie (00:24:26): Yeah. The name doesn't even mean the same thing over time because the umbrella grows and all of that. But you know what I'm talking about? I'm talking about reports built in the Power BI desktop environment using DAX and all that kind of stuff.

Rob Collie (00:24:41): What the blog series was about is that basically what I was reacting to is that "everyone" was treating SSRS reports as the only thing you needed essentially. That was never true. I was never okay with that. But that was the state of the world. And so now the world's come around and said, "All we really need is Power BI reports."

Rob Collie (00:25:04): That's also wrong. I covered this in the blog series, but what are the three or four top scenarios for when a paginated SSRS style report is still the right answer relative to a Power BI desktop built Power BI report.

Chris Finlan (00:25:25): I'll give you just a few in terms of where I kind of land. The name paginated reports obviously lends itself to the use case of, "Hey, is this something that I need to go and print out?"

Rob Collie (00:25:36): Hold on. First of all, there's something I realized. Paginated reports, is that SSRS?

Chris Finlan (00:25:41): So SQL Server Reporting Services is a full product that includes both and then the capabilities that exist on the server that you host the reports on. Paginated reports are very specifically the reports themselves that you used in the context of SRSS. You just now can use them in the context of Power BI.

Chris Finlan (00:26:02): One of the biggest challenges that I have as a program manager is hey, people use X abilities beyond that in the context of SRSS and Power BI is a fundamentally different product than SSRS. The report format itself is something that we've spent a lot of time and we're almost there in terms of having full compatibility between the two surface areas. It's really down to essentially one major feature and then some very, very small items beyond that. But I can reasonably say 90% of the capabilities are there.

Chris Finlan (00:26:31): In terms of the overall server however, that's different because you're doing things on the server side, those capabilities may exist kind of in the context of RDL but let me give you a very simple example. We have this concept of SSRS of something you might have seen in other products. They're called folders. And so folders allow you to organize and group content together in a structure where you can then also apply security to a folder or to individual content items themselves in that folder.

Chris Finlan (00:27:00): Power BI doesn't have a concept of folders. It has a concept of workspaces and apps, which at least for me was a very different way of thinking about how you organize managing group content. Guess what? Customers look at these two things and say, "These are different." And they say, "When is this going to do exactly what this does?"

Chris Finlan (00:27:19): Depending on the customer, it may be a big deal, it may not. But you find that all of those, you run into these things where it could be some very minor thing, but if it doesn't match 100%, they're not going to go and potentially move over because they would miss that feature. It's not technically SSRS, but it's the same report you would use in both environments.

Rob Collie (00:27:39): Now, is there any difference in the functionality within a report itself between SSRS and paginated reports?

Chris Finlan (00:27:46): That's what I was saying. In general, we don't have today, the same capability that you have at SSRS where you can create a drill through action from one RDL to another in the authoring experience like you can at SSRS. Because the way we do it in SSRS is very specifically look at folder structure. Where is the content being housed in the folder and allow you to point to that.

Chris Finlan (00:28:06): We have to change that in the context of Power BI. That's the last major item. There are smaller items. People can do all sorts of things with SSRS reports because you can run code in there. Even the expressions you use in the context of an RDL, which is the report definition language that this is what RDL stands for, you can go and run custom actions. People... I'm sure you've seen in the past these power hour projects where people do things like battleship and hangman and other things like that.

Chris Finlan (00:28:37): It's interesting. All the different things you could do now is that, can you do that in the cloud? The answer is yes, you can actually go and write custom code and do that and we've actually specific work to ensure that a product that was built quite some time ago or had functionality that was conceived and implemented well before there was an idea of a multi-tenant cloud service, which has a different set of rules and things you need to think about in terms of code isolation and security and things like that, we've actually gone and done the work to ensure that you can do those same things in the cloud service that you can do on prem.

Justin Mannhardt (00:29:05): Chris, that's a common question theme from customers around the parity between the two environments. Is it fair to say the goal is to get there and then is it a goal potentially to surpass it? Like similar to premium and SSAS where we're seeing features shipped to Power BI that aren't being shipped to analysis services.

Chris Finlan (00:29:31): I think in the context of the report definition language, the report itself, ideally we're getting to a place where you're getting for all intensive purposes, full compatibility. Because you can do certain things, like for example, in certain teams, they have custom fonts that they go and embed into a report.

Chris Finlan (00:29:48): That's not an out of the box feature, but it's something you can do with SSRS. That would be something where potentially we don't necessarily have that exactly. It's something we could do, but again, this is all the types of things you have to weigh.

Chris Finlan (00:29:59): I think in terms of the overall feature parity between reporting services and Power BI, what I talk about is not... The idea of lift and shift is never going to be there as it relates to going from reporting services to Power BI. Fundamentally, you have a different security model.

Chris Finlan (00:30:15): I mean, there's no way to rationalize that today nor in the future. They're not going to go in say, "Yeah, you know what? We have the same security model as we have in SSRS and Power BI." APIs are different. These are just basic things that I'm calling out there. So what I've been talking more about is that it's going to be a migration experience and you're modernizing your reports.

Chris Finlan (00:30:36): So some reports you want to bring just as is. For a lot of customers today, the canonical use case, I'm using a SQL server data source because that's what it was optimized for, it was SQL server and I have a report built and I'm just moving that report as is. But as Rob rightly points out, oftentimes people created reports, apparently Rob was one of them, that-

Justin Mannhardt (00:30:57): We got him on the record.

Chris Finlan (00:30:58): No. It was done in reporting services that really shouldn't have been built that way or doesn't really give you the functionality you need in the context of that. They would look to change that to a Power BI desktop report as part of their migration process. It's something that needs to be thought through.

Chris Finlan (00:31:16): I talk about it in the context of 80/20 is that what we'd like to get to is you get effectively 80% of the functionality you get within RS in terms of the large features. They may not work exactly the same way, but it's something that I can stand in front of an audience with a straight face and say, "You get data driven subscriptions in SSRS. You get them in Power BI and here's how you achieve that."

Chris Finlan (00:31:38): What's interesting is that for a lot of people, I think the expectation when the project kicked off was the focus of this is just to move the people who are coming from SSRS up to the cloud.

Chris Finlan (00:31:47): Interestingly enough, what Power BI has done has opened the door for a lot of people who have legacy BI vendors beyond reporting services, which again is, I don't think it's a secret that it's popular because it's packaged with SQL server and everybody has it and everybody uses it to a certain extent because it's part of the value proposition of SQL servers.

Chris Finlan (00:32:08): So it's very, very widely deployed but these other legacy BI vendors, they don't really have a similar cloud story to what Power BI has done and they're looking to consolidate everything into Power BI. It's a different set of expectations there and I think that providing an experience that is, I hate to use the word delightful, but so delightful in terms of the cloud experience, that you're getting a much richer experience than you could ever get or that we could ever offer on prem, I think is part of the... Has to be a major part of the equation because it's not just about getting to the exact same thing.

Chris Finlan (00:32:45): It has to be something where it's so compelling. I've always wanted that. Yeah, I've used some of these things, but boy, look at the direction they're heading and where I need to take my business. I've been dying to get web-based authoring for this and not use report builder anymore, for example or hey, look, Power BI now uses Power Query. Wouldn't it be great if I didn't have to use the legacy data stack anymore that I do on prem?

Chris Finlan (00:33:08): For some people, that's very, very important. Again, we have capabilities there that allow that type of scenario for folks but they want to use Power Query because it opens up 120 data sources. We've done some things in just terms of the capabilities in terms of how you view the report in the browser. We introduced something that a developer was very passionate about called paginated view where you just change the view and you essentially are looking at it like a printed page.

Chris Finlan (00:33:33): You're looking at it like it's a word document as opposed to the experience in SSRS where it was optimized for web-based viewing experience, even though yes, you could go and print the documents, but it's a very different mindset in terms of I just want to view this in my browser like I'm looking at word online because that's the way I want to interact with it and eventually I'm looking to have an archived copy of it because I'm a government agency and I need to get it every day as an archive because of regulations.

Chris Finlan (00:33:58): There are going to be some use cases where it's better is a Power BI report than a paginated report. On the flip side, people who keep trying to use a Power BI report to do what SSRS does so well, that is not a good idea. They essentially ask like, "Hey, Power BI team, can you spend engineering resources to effectively rebuild the technology that was used in RS and shove it into desktop up and let me do all the things?"

Chris Finlan (00:34:22): Ideally, that would be... I think we'd all love to do that, but the complexity to try and go and accomplish that, this is one of these things that, again, coming from the field, I talked about earlier about coming from the field and the point of view you have there versus working on the product team and I'm going to present two points of view and I'm not saying either one is right or wrong. I think they're both valid. But one of the things I heard in the field was Microsoft, it's so annoying. You have multiple tools to do multiple things. I want a single tool.

Chris Finlan (00:34:52): Tableau has a single tool. Click at the time had a single tool. I want one tool to do all this stuff because that's much easier for me to rock and understand and manage, et cetera. I very much bought into that. I'd heard this customers bring this up time and again and I was like, "Yeah, you know what? Why don't we have a single tool? This is really frustrating."

Chris Finlan (00:35:11): And then I come to Redmond, this isn't a case where I was talked out of it by engineers, is that I talked to a different set of customers and the feedback was, "Well, I don't try to create a PowerPoint presentation in word, wouldn't, I use the right tool for the right job?"

Chris Finlan (00:35:27): Perhaps there's some things we can do to better deploy the things together or to bring the capabilities together in a way so it's easier to manage and handle some of those complaints, but it's not an unnatural act to try and deal with these two different tools because if I need to screw in a screw, I don't grab a hammer, I'll grab a screwdriver.

Chris Finlan (00:35:44): Again, I think that they're both very valid points of view, it's just rationalizing that and just making those kinds of trade offs are the things that I have to have in my head every single day and talk with the other folks across the Power BI organization and our customers on a daily basis.

Rob Collie (00:35:59): You know it's a Microsoft story when we get to this kind of nuance. One of the metaphors that we used to talk about, I'm sure that it's still... It definitely still applies, I just don't know if it's still in use in Redmond was that we used to joke about Microsoft will give you the parts to the Porsche.

Rob Collie (00:36:17): Those other companies, they might deliver like a car that's fully assembled. It's not as nice. It doesn't do all of the things. What it really is that like even parts to the Porsche wasn't the right metaphor. It's like the parts to the Porsche and the parts to the pickup truck, they're all in there. They're mixed together.

Rob Collie (00:36:37): So many different capabilities, but the mental tax of just figuring out how to navigate the Microsoft ecosystem as a customer from the outside, I think is really... That's hard sometimes. I like to joke back when I would teach seminars in person a hundred years ago back when we used to get together in rooms, it's a joke of course but there's some truth to it, which is that Microsoft is amazing at building software and then they are bad at every other thing.

Justin Mannhardt (00:37:08): I'm not going to cop to that.

Rob Collie (00:37:10): You couldn't, even if you agreed.

Justin Mannhardt (00:37:11): That was a setup.

Rob Collie (00:37:13): By the way, this is the way you want it because no one's ever going to be good at everything. You want the company that's actually good at the software. That's what you want. Now I get it, having changed teams, essentially having gone from the opposite of the direction that you went. Even the naming, it's just so hard.

Justin Mannhardt (00:37:29): Yep.

Rob Collie (00:37:30): Is paginated reporting SSRS? Well, it kind of depends upon what you're asking, but then you kind of have to go and whisper, "But yeah." Just humor me for a moment. This is just going to be fun.

Chris Finlan (00:37:42): Not for me I assume.

Rob Collie (00:37:45): Well, it's fun for some of us.

Chris Finlan (00:37:48): Okay. Fine.

Rob Collie (00:37:50): You've got Power BI reports. Now, of course, when you're talking to customers, they inevitably use the word dashboard to distinguish between these things. But a Power BI dashboard, no, that's different.

Rob Collie (00:38:02): There's always this immediate translation between the word dashboard and report. Most Power BI reports are what people think of as a dashboard. We've got this impedance problem already. And now we have paginated reports in Power BI. We've got paginated reports, we've got Power BI reports, we've also got Power BI dashboards, but really the dashboards are reports.

Rob Collie (00:38:23): But wait, wait, wait. These paginated reports are in the Power BI service now. They're also kind of Power BI reports. You sort of get a sense for why this is confusing, even though the tools metaphor, I think absolutely works. It's just sort of like the cognitive load.

Chris Finlan (00:38:40): No, that's a fair point. One of the reasons why in the Power BI service, you notice all the reports are under a single tab called reports. That was actually a fairly lengthy debate on whether or not we break that out and call them one report type or another.

Chris Finlan (00:38:54): The decision was made and I think it was... You could argue it either way, but at least at the time, I thought it was a good idea, is that no, they're all just reports. And so people didn't have to go think about this. I think if it was three and a half years later, maybe I would've gone in a different direction, but I do think that in general, it was the right decision to make at that time and I think it did help kind of bring the things together in people those minds, but certainly with the different actions and the way that you just used these things, it has been a challenge at time to kind of explain why they're all listed under a single thing when for example, Excel, workbooks was not.

Rob Collie (00:39:27): Something occurred to me when you were talking about moving to Redmond, nothing to do with Microsoft or technology or any of that. It's famously difficult to make new friends past a certain age.

Justin Mannhardt (00:39:41): That's true.

Rob Collie (00:39:41): I basically grew up at Microsoft. Straight out of college and it was basically like straight into what was basically like another, almost like dorm environment. You could even sleep at work if you wanted. Every single day it was like, I was meeting someone new that could be my best friend for life.

Rob Collie (00:39:59): We were just inundated with amazing friend potential and you're like, "No, no. My [inaudible 00:40:07] card is full. I've already got a million great friends." And then I left that environment and moved to the middle of the country and it's like, oh yeah. Now I get it. It is hard to make friends past a certain age.

Rob Collie (00:40:17): But I've always wondered how much of it had to do with the age and how much of it had to do with the environment. You're like the test and we can test this theory.

Justin Mannhardt (00:40:26): Well, I could tell you. I didn't think the conversation was going to go this direction.

Rob Collie (00:40:29): Well, of course not. I didn't know either.

Chris Finlan (00:40:32): I was about to say, I doubt this was planned but fine.

Rob Collie (00:40:34): Yeah. Even Quentin Tarantino says that he didn't know Mr. Blonde had a razor in his boot until he pulled it out. You've just got to find out.

Chris Finlan (00:40:45): Hot take, Reservoir Dogs is overrated.

Justin Mannhardt (00:40:48): That's a different episode.

Rob Collie (00:40:49): We'll come back to that.

Chris Finlan (00:40:52): I like Reservoir Dogs, but I think that people tend to overvalue that movie.

Rob Collie (00:40:56): Yeah. Pulp fiction really is the class of that. But anyway, some other time, some other time.

Chris Finlan (00:41:01): I'm a big sure romance guy, but that's not technically a Tarantino film.

Rob Collie (00:41:04): I also like that one. What's been your experience? You're now like just sort of like swimming through an ocean of our own kind, but later in life, you've made a bunch of friends that you hang out with socially, pre-COVID, I mean.

Chris Finlan (00:41:17): It's going to be different just because I have a family with kids, so it's always a bit different in terms of like how you would... Hey, let's go play Xbox or something like that. But yes, I've made a couple friends at Microsoft who I would consider close personal friends. You and I became friends well after I was 28.

Rob Collie (00:41:34): Yeah. Well, you're on the very short list.

Chris Finlan (00:41:38): Yes. Yes. No, no. That's the thing is it is harder to make friends as you get older. It's very easy to not even think about that because you're just busy with day to day life. You had this experience when you moved to Cleveland, I think, where you talked about how it takes a certain amount of time to feel like you actually belong and have kind of planted roots and it's much longer than six months or a year.

Chris Finlan (00:41:58): It's only been in like the last year or so where I've really felt like, oh yeah, Redmond is where I have roots now. My son came here when he was five and now he's 11. For him, this is where he's going to remember his childhood. He'll remember Philadelphia, just because as if you looked at the back of my wall, there's obviously a lot of still Philadelphia ties in terms of the sports teams and that's where my wife and I are from.

Chris Finlan (00:42:21): It definitely is something where I... There's some people who I've met, who I truly consider very close friends. Right before COVID hit, in fact, I had them and their families over for a get together and it was a lot of fun. It really was. It was a lot of fun. We hadn't done that in the ages. We hadn't really had a chance to do that while we were out here. It was nice getting a chance to spend time with people your own age, just socially. It was fun. I'd obviously spent time with them outside of that, but yeah, it was good.

Rob Collie (00:42:51): The Seattle area, Redmond area, what's it like on the COVID front? What's the mask wearing compliance in public?

Chris Finlan (00:43:01): This area, everybody wears a mask. People are very conscious of this. Because it was here first almost, where you really had the first major outbreak at that assisted living center, it really hit home very quickly here in a way that I don't think the rest of the country really understood.

Chris Finlan (00:43:20): I was one of those people at Costco that weekend where people across the country were like, "Wow, look at that. How crazy is it that people are going and getting all that food?" And then suddenly everybody like three weeks later as I'm sitting here laughing at them with all my toilet paper around me.

Rob Collie (00:43:33): Your Castle native toilet paper.

Chris Finlan (00:43:36): No, it was one of those things where clearly everybody overreacted a bit, but you didn't know it was also new that you would be having these challenges. But in this area, it's been something where people are very attuned to this and they keep their distance and they have on the masks and it's something where kids are all doing homeschooling and so...

Rob Collie (00:43:56): Are bars open and things like that?

Chris Finlan (00:43:58): Yeah. Things are open, but you have to wear a mask if you go out. It's 25 or 50% capacity, but everybody's just kind of adjusted in terms. It was already an area where it rains a lot. We're used to kind of being inside, not going out anyway for several months a year because it gets dark at four o'clock in December. It's not something where it's that unusual for people to be like, "Yeah, on Friday we're just going to hang out at home and order in."

Rob Collie (00:44:22): Yeah, that's right. That's right. You're going into that time. Here, if someone comes to your house like a contractor or repair technician, it's a coin flip whether they're going to be wearing a mask when they come in your house.

Chris Finlan (00:44:33): Oh yeah. No. Here, that's not even a question.

Rob Collie (00:44:36): Yeah. That's kind of what I expected.

Chris Finlan (00:44:38): Yep.

Justin Mannhardt (00:44:39): Chris, last week, Ignite a lot of cool stuff announced in the Power BI space. A lot of things we're all excited about.

Chris Finlan (00:44:47): What was your favorite announcement?

Justin Mannhardt (00:44:48): Oh man. My favorite announce is definitely Premium Gen 2, without a doubt. I've been through several scenarios with Premium and I think some of the limitations, if you will or ceilings or whatever term you want to use there, just seeing the plan for that is just amazing. Pretty excited about that.

Justin Mannhardt (00:45:11): I just kind of wanted to ask you a little bit about because I know you've kind of been privy to the work that led up to Gen 2 being alive and the par user licensing model. What are some of the things you guys are particularly excited about getting shipped out?

Chris Finlan (00:45:27): Well, I think we're excited about everything in the announcement. I have a specific interest in the Premium Per User piece because I've been driving that train for quite some time.

Chris Finlan (00:45:36): As I mentioned, I did a podcast with a couple of MVPs last week and I think they dropped it earlier this week. We talked about... The Premium Per User announcement got a lot of buzz and excitement and it's the fact that the Premium Gen 2 architecture is there is the reason why we can offer this. Because in the context of the first generation of Premium, it was released in mid 2017 and these other workloads that have now shown up there including paginated reports is...

Chris Finlan (00:46:03): They didn't show up til for 18 months later. So it was never optimized for this scenario in terms of having these different services that have potentially different architectural demands to just optimize for it.

Chris Finlan (00:46:14): I think the teams all did an excellent job of bringing together experience that worked pretty well for Premium customers to date, but there were things we could do to make this even better and to broaden the access to it.

Chris Finlan (00:46:27): One of the biggest things, if you're talking about, I mentioned earlier, the stuff you can do with rewarding services and code, that's a big deal. [inaudible 00:46:34] talking about a tenant, having that type of isolation, if you want to offer it at a per user license, you have to fundamentally rethink how you have that implemented in the context of Power BI.

Chris Finlan (00:46:44): People pounding their fists, I live the fun of two years and I think one of the people on here at least joined in gleefully giving me grief about the fact that paginated reports weren't available in the Per User license option. I'm not going to say who, I'm just going to say someone on here who's not asking me questions right now.

Rob Collie (00:47:08): This is the same guy who impersonated me and created a report at Microsoft.

Chris Finlan (00:47:13): Yeah, that's right. Bob Collie. Bob. But no seriously, it was just something... I would say this, but it was just technically something we couldn't do. It wasn't that we didn't want to do it from a business perspective, but rather, we had to make the technical changes to go do that. That was a very extensive investment. There needed to be something other than hey, we just want to make paginated reports available for all these folks rather because the type of investment you're making was going to affect all of these other products and certainly widening access to that capability was a big driver of it.

Chris Finlan (00:47:51): But the things that Premium Gen 2 does for all the different workloads, especially for things like AS, some of the things that people have been looking for a long time in terms of auto scale and the ability to handle parallel refreshes very elegantly and not have to worry about that from a management perspective and really reducing that burden.

Chris Finlan (00:48:07): There's a ton of things that this now opens up. From a selfish perspective, certainly we're widening access to that, what's available in the P1 skew and above and the A4 skew and above and now suddenly it'll be available in all of the A and P skews and the EM skews and this Per User option that people are very excited about, which goes to public preview in November.

Chris Finlan (00:48:29): Everybody can use it in Power BI for the entire preview period at no cost. I know that there's some people that are concerned that somehow Microsoft, this is a bait and switch. We're going to give you this thing and then, oh, by the way, at the end, we're going to announce some astronomical price. Rob knows me and I mentioned earlier, I'm driven very much by a sense of fairness and I was heavily involved in these conversations and discussions of how we would land on that.

Chris Finlan (00:48:51): I wouldn't be out there putting my stamp on it in this manner, if I was uncomfortable with how we were going to go to market with it in terms of ultimately the price and the packaging of it. I'm very, very excited for people to go start using this and I think we're going to have the announcement as we get closer to GA, but I think people are going to be very, very happy with the value that they're getting at the price point.

Chris Finlan (00:49:11): It really does solve a huge need, especially for organizations like P3. I wouldn't expect P3 to go buy a P1 node necessarily to do some of the things there. Certainly, we would love it but that just wasn't the use case that we saw in terms of organizations going and buying them.

Chris Finlan (00:49:27): It was really designed for the enterprise scenario, just like SQL Server Enterprise was changed used to be licensed per core because then hey, you don't have to worry about a named user license for each of these people.

Chris Finlan (00:49:37): I want to address something that came up on Twitter in terms of... Some people look at this like, "Microsoft. Now everything's just going to be premium. How dare you go and create this new skew and you're just going to shove everything in there and Pro's going to be forgotten." If you look at the announcements at Ignite, every feature was essentially something that's coming to you across the entire spectrum.

Chris Finlan (00:49:57): It's coming in Pro is obviously available as Premium Per User and that's not going away, but there are certain features that we just couldn't offer if we didn't have a premium option because I don't want to get into the guts of how you go and land on a price in terms of the cost of goods sold and the amount of use.

Chris Finlan (00:50:18): There's a very, very complicated effort to come up with a price point that achieves the goals that the team has in terms of just it can't lose us money. When you're talking about adding some of these things to a price point, which I think has been extraordinarily aggressive for a long period of time in Power BI Pro, we effectively couldn't offer the features and continue to make any revenue.

Chris Finlan (00:50:38): Again, it's like, "How? Microsoft makes all sorts of money." It's like, well, you have a lot of people on the team who we are very talented and are spending a lot of time and energy building a product. Microsoft at the end of the day is a business and they need to make a profit on this product. By having this flexibility, it allows us to do things that frankly we've potentially never been able to do in the product or would've had it locked behind this much higher price point.

Chris Finlan (00:51:02): Again, nobody really wanted that. I think this is something where people are going to be very excited. For me, it's the team that has obviously been very energized by the reaction in the community to this. I was very confident that it would be very well received and that's why I pushed so hard for so long around it. It was definitely a journey in terms of trying to get there.

Chris Finlan (00:51:23): It wasn't just me. There's a lot of people who were involved in bringing this to market and making it successful. I mentioned earlier the joke about the engineers saying the PMs do nothing. The team that's building the platform for Premium Gen 2 is doing the hard work. I'm having these types of conversations, but ultimately if the platform doesn't work and the feature doesn't give people what they want, all what I'm saying is of no value.

Rob Collie (00:51:42): Two things here, Chris. First of all, you mentioned the analysis and the planning and forecasting, et cetera, that has to go into setting a price point.

Chris Finlan (00:51:52): Yep.

Rob Collie (00:51:53): But you can sort of imagine like the rocket scientists huddled with the Ivy league MBAs for long hours evaluating the price point. I'm sure the same exact process went into the original pricing of Pro, which is how we arrive at a round number like $10 a user per month. It's just what a coincidence that that sophisticated process always results in such a round number. I couldn't resist that dig.

Chris Finlan (00:52:20): To be fair, I'm privy to what that process was. It's much more involved than you're giving it credit for.

Justin Mannhardt (00:52:25): Rob, can you imagine the quantity of SSRS exports that were used to crunch the data to come up?

Rob Collie (00:52:35): I know. I know. I know. I know. So I'm expecting a price point for this new premium license. It's going to end in like 72 cents because it's so precise. It definitely won't be rounded to the nearest 10 or anything like that. That's how you'll know that it was sophisticated.

Chris Finlan (00:52:53): You said you had a second point?

Rob Collie (00:52:55): I did have a second point. This one's maybe a little friendlier.

Chris Finlan (00:53:02): I'm about to say it's a pretty low bar to step over at this point.

Rob Collie (00:53:05): I think this is the problem is that like... When I worked in office, back in the day, we had Office Standard and Office Pro.

Chris Finlan (00:53:13): Yep.

Rob Collie (00:53:14): I was told with a straight face multiple times that back then, I have no idea what's going on now, I'm not speaking for today, but back then that Microsoft never wanted anyone to ever buy Standard. It was just there to sort of justify the price point of Pro. What we would do, in the engineering team, we hated this. It was always forced on us.

Rob Collie (00:53:37): We would take features out of Excel and make them only available in the Pro skews. Originally it had just been Access that was the differentiator between Pro and Standard. When Access started to come under fire and no one wanted Access anymore, now, the main differentiator was erased.

Rob Collie (00:53:59): I think when you come along with a pricing differentiation but like Pro and Premium and Power BI and this time, like what you're saying, it's absolutely legitimate. There's a lot of functionality in Pro. There truly is differentiation between these two. I love the Pro product. I think it's great. Microsoft isn't playing that playbook in this case, like the one that I described that we used to play back in office.

Rob Collie (00:54:26): It's just more like... It's just kind of like reputation. It's hard for the customers to know which playbook is being used. I agree with you. This is the true white hat playbook. This one's not that other one. But the world knows that every now and then, Microsoft does come along with that other playbook and they're just a little gun shy, I think.

Chris Finlan (00:54:46): No. I would be skeptical as well. I think that's perfectly fair. Honestly, I don't think any large company has always nailed the price the first time out of the gate and the set of features. I think this is one of these things where again, the capabilities that you see there are generally more compute intensive and do have an additional cost in the backend.

Chris Finlan (00:55:06): Now, as we achieve economics of scale and we find different ways to optimize, we certainly look for ways to potentially bring things down to lower skews and Premium, if we had not done paginated reports initially the way we did, we could have just kept working out behind the scenes and not had anything or we could put it in Premium and allow people who had that to go and leverage that as part of their Premium investment.

Chris Finlan (00:55:31): A lot of people did. Premium is very popular. I know that the broader Power BI community, especially that's active in social media is generally smaller companies, MVPs, self proprietors, et cetera. Again, I love that community because a lot of those people also are very passionate about SSRS because they've made their living for many years creating reports in that space and delighting people.

Chris Finlan (00:55:53): You know Paul Turley is somebody I always reference. I have his book right over here in fact. This is one case where I'm very confident and very comfortable with the decision we made here around this and where we landed and even the restrictions we have here to ensure that we offered it at a very fair price and it acts the same way as Pro in terms of everybody needs a named user license, which I know some people immediately were like, "Well, can I just get this and then use all my Pro licenses?"

Chris Finlan (00:56:22): No, because you know what? Then our Premium business is gone. Because effectively then, any organization that happened to have both of those things in place, like let's say they had a large E5 buy and Premium, well, that's a big difference in terms of revenue.

Chris Finlan (00:56:37): People may not like that, but ultimately it's a successful business model that has propelled Power BI to the top of the market and has allowed us to go and make these additional investments, including a new infrastructure that's built for the next generation of all these capabilities that we want to go build for things like reporting services, AI is a big area of investment and interest.

Chris Finlan (00:56:58): All this stuff with analysis services and making that a super set of what has existed for many, many years. I appreciate the fact that people are skeptical based on past experience, but I assure you, it's something that this is not that in this case.

Justin Mannhardt (00:57:11): I think it's interesting to contrast the business model of pricing with just what customers are really going to get their hands on. If I worked at a small to mid market company before and I saw something like Azure machine learning models, running over Power BI data flows and I saw opportunity like to take advantage of that, the price tag was too high for me. Now, there's just tremendous capability that people are going to be able to get their hands on at a much more reasonable situation.

Justin Mannhardt (00:57:47): I honestly think it's going to explode because that was... Budget was just such a huge disqualifier for these capabilities. Now, it's more accessible.

Chris Finlan (00:57:58): Yeah. It was something where it's viral premium effectively. My relationship with the field was very, very important as part of this process because if they didn't like this skew, it wouldn't be happening. It would be killed because they're the ones that are on the hook at the end of the day. Their jobs are on the line to ensure that they can successfully sell Power BI into their accounts.

Chris Finlan (00:58:26): If we put together a product offering or a skew that in any way put that at risk, that was one of the largest things that we had to as a team ensure was not going to happen. That's why this is so important in terms of absolutely the idea of opening this up for the scenario is you, you talk about Justin was extremely important, but at same time we had to ensure that it wasn't going to be something that disrupted the existing Premium business in any way. I think we've done a great job of doing that.

Rob Collie (00:58:54): So for the people who haven't been necessarily paying attention all that closely in the marketplace, do I understand correctly that it's in preview right now?

Chris Finlan (00:59:01): Not yet. Starting in November, early November.

Rob Collie (00:59:04): Not yet. Starting in November. Okay. Well that seems like right now.

Chris Finlan (00:59:07): Depending when you air this show.

Rob Collie (00:59:08): We're going to spike this for at least a month. When it hits general availability, we will then find out what the price is.

Chris Finlan (00:59:17): It'll be before general availability. They announce it X amount of time before that. But yeah.

Justin Mannhardt (00:59:23): Let's try an analogy with Chris, Rob. Let's see if he'll bite on this answer.

Chris Finlan (00:59:29): Probably not.

Justin Mannhardt (00:59:30): If today, getting a Pro license is like buying a cup of coffee from the coffee shop and Premium is like buying a coffee shop, what is a Premium Per User? Give us a spectrum.

Chris Finlan (00:59:48): It's between a coffee and a coffee shop.

Rob Collie (00:59:52): It's actually 312.6 cups of coffee or something. It's a very precise number. You have a very sophisticated process.

Chris Finlan (01:00:02): I honestly don't think it would be that hard for people to whittle down what the exact price range would be.

Rob Collie (01:00:08): People in the Microsoft field have had this sort of play tested with them and they like the price point. That's kind of all we need to know, right?

Chris Finlan (01:00:15): No. Actually we have not... We've given ranges and gotten feedback just to just try and line it up, but we actually are not... It's not widely discussed. It's something that's... There's very specific process around this. As we get closer to GA, things could change. One of the reasons they do this is they potentially lower the price. It's something where-

Rob Collie (01:00:36): That makes sense.

Chris Finlan (01:00:37): Yeah. For the customers that they do disclose it to, because deal is blocked or whatever the thing is, if the reaction is very negative, then they would adjust accordingly. Again, I think it's better to have that flexibility to do that and hold off versus announce something and then lose that flexibility.

Rob Collie (01:00:52): Yeah. We really appreciate you being on here.

Chris Finlan (01:00:55): No, it's my pleasure. I always love talking to you, Rob. Except when you accused me of cheating at Scrabble.

Rob Collie (01:00:59): Well, I didn't do that here on the air. You did.

Chris Finlan (01:01:03): No. It still hurts though.

Rob Collie (01:01:04): I think Val Doss protests too much.

Chris Finlan (01:01:06): We'll see.

Rob Collie (01:01:07): So we'll have to have you on again.

Chris Finlan (01:01:09): Yeah. Of course. Anytime. I love talking to you guys.

Rob Collie (01:01:11): Many, many, many things left to cover. So thanks again very much.

Chris Finlan (01:01:15): Thank you. It's nice to talk to you, Justin.

Justin Mannhardt (01:01:16): Same to you Chris.

Chris Finlan (01:01:17): Thank you all.

Announcer (01:01:18): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 podcast. Find out what the experts at P3 can do for your business. Go to powerpivotpro.com. Interested in becoming a guest on the show? Email LukeP L-U-K-E-P @powerpivotpro.com. Have a data day.

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