Fabric’s Data Activator

Erik Hamoen
6 min readOct 5, 2023

With the public preview of Data Activator, we can now finally blog about this incredible new addition to Microsoft Fabric. In this blog post, I’ll tell you what Data Activator is, how you can use it, and what the business value is.

So, what is Data Activator?

Data Activator gives you an e-mail, a Teams message, or a custom action (using Power Automate) that notifies you a certain threshold has been passed or a certain status has been reached. You can compare it with the Alerts from a Power BI Dashboard, except that it has more functionalities. And you don’t need a dashboard anymore, but it will work with charts and tables.

Okay, so how can I use it?

First, make sure you have a workspace with Fabric capacity. While writing, you can still use the trial option, but that one may be gone, depending on when you’re reading this.

Then I created a report, based on some Excel input, that looks like this:

There are two Bar charts, a line chart, a table, a matrix, and two cards. An “old” one and the new shiny one. After publishing it to my Fabric-backed workspace, I can open the report in the Power BI Service/Fabric portal.

When you open the report online, you can click on the three dots in the header icons and select Trigger action.

On the right side, a new pane will open where you can create an alert.

At the bottom of the pane, you can create your new reflex and give it a name.

After you press continue, a new Trigger will be created and after it’s finished, you can press “Start your trigger”.

A new tab will open, where you can configure your Reflex.

On the first visual, the Select, you can see when the data was added and what the value was:

On the X-axis you will see a 24-hour scale, this is because the trigger is checking every five minutes. Even when the dataset is not refreshing.

In the second visual, The Detect, we now see nothing:

Because so far there hasn’t been a value higher than 500. So, no triggers have been activated. If we change the “Becomes greater than” to “Is less than”, we can see the same data points as in the first value (since all of them are less), but this will affect our detection, so let’s put it back:

The third and last visual is the Act, where we put the actual action if a reflex is triggered:

You can select to send an e-mail, a Teams message, or a custom action. The customer action is disabled for now because we haven’t created one yet. Let’s just keep it to this and send a test alert!

In the top menu, you can select Send me a test alert:

And after it has successfully run, you’ll get a nice notification of that:

A few seconds after that, we received the following e-mail, clearly notifying us that it was a test action:

So, after that, let’s run the trigger!

Before we add some data, I create a few extra triggers on the other visuals.

With the second visual, I already have a problem:

Because the data is sliced by two dimensions (YYYY-MM and Store) it cannot create a trigger. This automatically also counts for the line chart below it. Or does it?

For the line chart I created two separate measures for Store A and Store B, and in the “What to monitor”, you can choose which measure needs to be chosen from the visual. Now it would be nice if you could create two Triggers at the same time, one for the measure of Store A and one for Store B, but haven’t figured that one out yet.

You can however create a new trigger action, and add it to the same Item:

When you select the measure, don’t forget to add the dimension on which you want to track the value, if you don’t select anything, it will use the total of the measures context.

For the Act part, let’s send a message to Teams:

The table and the matrix are unfortunately not supported:

For the card visuals, the brand-new shiny card visual doesn’t support triggers, the classic old does! But unfortunately at this time, you can only use measures with a numerical value response. Even when I change the “Alert when value is” to “Changes to”, I cannot say true or false. So, for now, this doesn’t work but let’s hope it will in the future!

One last thing before closing Data Activator, the custom Action. When you select this option in the top menu, a new pop-up screen will open:

Now please note that you can’t press Create before you copy the connection string. Pretty smart!

After you copy the connection string and press Create, Power Automate will open, with a preselected step from Data activator, where you only have to copy your connection string:

And then you can do whatever you want to do!

And that’s it for Data Activator! Let’s add some data, and see the Teams message and e-mail we will get!

Here’s the new data, 2000 euros for Store A, 1250 for Store B.

And here is the e-mail I got:

And the Teams message:

Now be really careful when creating these alerts. As I said before, my trigger for Store A didn’t look at the months, so took the total and already sent me the alert early.

That looks cool, but what is the business value?

Imagine you have a bunch of IoT sensors that send data every several seconds, for example temperature in a room. You want to be notified (even better, start an automatic action) whenever it’s above 40 degrees Celsius for example. Or if you have a measure that checks every 30 seconds if it can connect with the server. It should be true all the time, and you want to be notified whenever it turns to False. Sales above a certain amount are maybe the least interesting things 😉. But this has so much great value if you need to track a lot of things or react very fast.

And with that:

Take care.

Originally published at http://sidequests.blog on October 5, 2023.

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