In Power BI, the Q&A Natural Language (Bing-like search) capability is pretty cool for being able to render Power View visualizations in the browser "on the fly" quickly. I admit when Q&A was first announced, I was pretty darn skeptical. but now I see that one of the values of this capability is that every possible version of a report doesn't have to be created. If you've ever ended up with several versions of a report that are just a little different, you'll understand what I mean. Q&A also gives users a way to execute reports in the browser if they're on the go and not somewhere with a full-fledged version of Office handy. Q&A is also useful for users who aren't familiar with creating Power View reports from the ground up.
In this post I want to focus on a feature called Featured Questions (pun intended). Here's what a few of my Featured Questions (with custom images) look like on the Power BI home page:
Featured Questions are useful to help users quickly render a report for popular questions that may be asked frequently. It also helps users get acquainted with Q&A initially.
At this time, there can be a maximum of 50 Featured Questions in a Power BI site.
Enable the Workbook for Q&A
Before using Q&A or setting up any Featured Questions, you want to make sure that the workbook(s) you want to query are Q&A-enabled. This can be done from the ellipsis next to the report in the Power BI site.
Enabling the workbook causes the Power BI engine to index the metadata such as all of the column names. This helps the natural language engine work its magic.
Synonyms and Other Q&A Optimizations
It's really important to make sure the workbook is optimized to handle Q&A. There are more features around this coming soon, but right now one of the biggest Q&A-related optimizations is Synonyms. These are done in the Power Pivot model, and can help the natural language engine understand that Unit is the same as Division, or Month Name is the same as Month.
The Power BI team posted a great reference of optimizations to do for Q&A here: Demystifying Power BI Q&A.
If you don't see Synonyms in your Power Pivot menu, it could be because you aren't yet using the Click-to-Run version of Office. More info on that here: Getting New Power Pivot Features.
You'll want to have your custom image(s) ready if you plan to use them for the background of any Featured Questions. Personally I think they are a nice touch. If you do use a custom image, make sure it is landscape shaped (rather than portrait) and at least 250 pixels wide.
I prefer to store images for use with Featured Questions in a SharePoint Online document library called Site Collection Images, but you can use whichever document library you prefer (as long as it's allowed that content type).
Once you have identified the document library to store your images in, go ahead and upload the image(s) there.
Once the image is uploaded, click on it so that one it is shown in the browser. Copy the URL from the browser address box so you have it - we'll need the URL in just a few moments.
Creating a Q&A Featured Question
To add a new Featured Question, go to the Q&A page by following the "Ask with Power BI Q&A" hyperlink at the top right of the Power BI home page.
Try your question out first in the search box at the top to make sure it returns the answer you expect. If the resulting visualization meets your expectations, then click the button to the right of the search box to Show Featured Questions.
Click the plus sign on the page to create a new Featured Question.
In the "Type a Question" box, input your natural language query that you just verified.
Select the checkbox if you wish for it to appear on the home page. If it's not selected, it'll appear on the Q&A page only.
Choose a tile size. The background color and background icon won't matter if you are using a custom image.
For the background image, input the URL that you copied from the images document library. After you click Save, it will be able to render a preview with that image and the Featured Question will be ready to use.