One of my older posts explains how to enable Copilot on Fabric and how to use Copilot to generate Power BI reports. In this post, I aim to explain yet another use case for Copilot that can help us to make a better and more useful semantic model in Power BI using synonyms. In an old post published in May 2016, I explained how to use Power BI synonyms to take our Power BI Q&A experience to another level. In that post, I explained how we could use synonyms to translate data model objects in different languages so the end-user could ask questions in their native language and get the results in Power BI. That was such a cool use case for synonyms, I suppose, wasn’t it? Fast track to December 2023, I believe the Q&A is still one of the coolest Power BI features that stands out when demoing the solutions to the customers; therefore, it makes absolute sense to use synonyms to improve the Q&A‘s efficiency and accuracy. This blog post explores the possibility of using Copilot to define synonyms in Power BI Desktop.
As explained here, we first need to enable Copilot on Fabric Service. Please note that the technique explained in this post requires either Power BI Premium Capacity or at least F64 Fabric capacity and won’t work on PPU, Embedded capacities, Fabric capacities smaller than F64 or Fabric Trial (FT) capacities.
We also need to have the latest version of Power BI Desktop installed on our machine. With that, let’s begin.
Using Power BI Copilot to generate synonyms
While defining synonyms for the semantic model objects significantly helps with the Q&A experience, it is still a cumbersome process if done manually. So, if we meet the prerequisites, we can summon Copilot to the rescue. Follow these steps after opening a Power BI file in Power BI Desktop:
- Ensure you’re signed into Fabric service with your account
- Click the Insert tab
- Select the Q&A visual
- On the Q&A visual, click the Q&A Setup button shown with a gear icon
- On the Q&A Setup window, you must see a message offering to “Improve Q&A with synonyms from Copilot” on top of the window; click the Add synonyms button
The following image shows the preceding steps:
Copilot now starts analysing the semantic model objects and generates the synonyms.
- Click the Review synonyms button, which navigates us to the Synonyms tab
On the Synonyms tab, review the synonyms generated by Copilot and select the desired ones to be included in the Q&A by toggling the buttons on or off. As the following image shows, we have the option to approve or delete the synonyms for the entire table or specific fields.
During the review and approval process, you may get the following confirmation asking to “Share the approved synonyms with your organization”. You can accept this option and click OK.
If you do not see any suggestions from Copilot, check if it is selected as a suggestion source by clicking the Suggestion settings, selecting Copilot and clicking the Apply button as shown in the following image:
As seen in the preceding image, we can also toggle on the Share the approved synonyms with your organization option from the Suggestion settings.
After we finish the review, all the approved synonyms show up under the Approved synonyms as the following image shows:
By far, we have approved the suggested synonyms and shared them with the organisation. Sharing synonyms with the organisation, however, is bound with a setting on the Fabric Admin Portal, which the following sections explain.
Synonym Sharing Setting on Fabric Admin Portal
Sharing synonyms within the organisation helps to minimise duplicate efforts in creating synonyms. This feature must be enabled by a Fabric Administrator from the Admin Portal within the Fabric Service by following these steps:
- Click the Settings button (the gear icon on the top right)
- Click the Admin portal link
- From the Tenant settings, find the Q&A settings
- Expand the Synonym sharing setting
- Click the toggle to Enable this feature
- Click the Apply button
The following image shows the preceding steps:
As mentioned before, sharing synonyms settings in the Power BI Desktop is bound with enabling this feature from the Admin Portal. It may take a few seconds to enable the Synonym sharing feature from the Admin Portal to take effect on the Power BI Desktop.
How do Synonyms Help with Q&A?
As mentioned earlier in this post, we can use the Q&A visual to ask questions in a natural language to gain insights. Now that we have added synonyms to the semantic model, the AI engine in Fabric has a broader vocabulary range; therefore, it understands a wider range of questions. For example, the following image shows the Q&A‘s response tothe same question, before and after defining synonyms:
To review the approved synonyms in the data model, we can switch to the Model view in Power BI Desktop and select the desired object. The Synonyms section of the Properties pane shows the approved synonys. For example, the following image shows the approved synonyms defined for the Call Center table:
Now that we defined the synonyms, let’s discuss some important points about defining synonyms.
Notes and Gotchas
So far, we have learned how Copilot can help define synonyms in Power BI semantic models and share them with others across the organisation to improve the end-user’s experience with the Q&A feature. But indeed, there is more to it. In this section, I’m trying to raise some important points that need more attention.
- We add the synonyms in the Power BI Desktop, which means the synonyms will be available in the Fabric Service (aka Power BI Service) after the semantic model is published to the service.
- Currently, we can add synonyms to the semantic models with Import, Direct Query or Composite storage modes. In other words, we cannot define synonyms on semantic models with Connect Live. Learn more about the differences between Direct Query and Connect Live here.
- The Synonym sharing setting on the Fabric Admin Portal is an organisational setting, meaning that it is enabled for the entire organisation. This means that the shared synonyms are visible to everyone within the organisation who uses the Q&A feature. If this raises privacy concerns for your organisation, you should discuss enabling this feature with your security team first.
Since the synonyms suggested by Copilot might not be accurate or appropriate, reviewing them before approval is highly recommended. That aside, I am very impressed by the level of accuracy of synonyms suggested by Copilot on my sample data model, and I loved the time I saved using this impressive Copilot feature. For example, for the Call Center table, Copilot suggested the following synonyms:
- contact center
- customer service center
- support center
- service desk
Another example of Copilot’s cleverness is how it identified the AutomaticResponses field is indeed Automatic Responses and suggested automated reply as its synonym. However, I did not like the programmed feedback suggestion. But hey, nothing is perfect, right?
That’s all for this blog.
As always, I would love to hear from you and hear about your experience using synonyms to improve the Q&A feature in Power BI. So please share your thoughts in the comments section below.