Microsoft Power BI seems to be the analytical tool of the moment. And why not? with a proactive developer team and an ever-expansive suite of easy to use analytical functions, Power BI has indeed ruffled some feathers in the BI Spectrum.

However, there are a few functionalities missing in Power BI. The User community group acknowledges those and priorities them based on popularity for the Developer Team to include in the next update. Meanwhile, there are always workarounds which the User Community group is happy to share. This article illustrates two such workarounds for a fairly essential functionality which is missing.

KPI Indicators in Charts

Power BI does have a visual for KPIs, but it’s a standalone visual and cannot be clubbed with any other. One common use case we see when working with, say Pie or Donut charts, is the ability to show the increase/decrease of a segment versus prior week/month/iteration.

Let’s say a pie chart represents the sale of cars by Manufacturer’s origin. Currently there is no functionality in Power BI to show the variance of sales versus prior month/year etc.


The workaround for this problem is by making use of Unicode Characters. By creating a measure that calculates the difference and then inserting the right Unicode Character, we can include an additional functionality to an existing visual.



The trick here is to make use of the “Details” field on the right-side menu to show the data with Unicode characters. Here is a GIF explaining the steps undertaken


The ability to include Unicode characters is a great alternative for those in need for custom KPIs. What’s more, there are currently several hundred Unicode characters of varying symbols that can be used in conjunction with almost every single visual in Power BI.

Negative values in Pie/Donut Charts

Generally, Pie/Donut charts are not the best visual to show negative numbers. In fact, Pie/Donut charts in Power BI does not have the capability of showing negative numbers at all. But there are many situations where you may want to show a negative segment in a pie chart. There is a workaround for this problem. By making use Absolute values to build a Pie/Donut chart, we can represent the negative portion. Then by making use of the Details field, we can display the actual values (in this case a negative number).

For example, consider Department ABC’s performance in 4Q’2016. It has a target of $114M to meet. Projects on hand will bring in $68M, profits are ($48M) and Gap to Target of $94M represents the amount by which the Department ABC is missing its target. Using conventional methods, a donut chart would look like this with a message saying its inability to represent ($48M) on the chart.


To accomplish the task of showing a negative value, all we need to do is create another column containing the absolute value of the balance.


Then use the Absolute Value in the “Values” field. Change the “Label Style” to Category and use the actual value in the “Details” field. The following GIF explains the sequence of steps.


There are many other use cases that needs a different approach in Power BI to accomplish certain tasks, some due to the nature of the data itself others due to the design of Power BI. Nevertheless, these workarounds make working with Power BI intriguing.