Machine Learning with M in PowerBI and Excel

Very often I have thought about trying M instead of R for machine learning problems in PowerBI. Not only because I’m such a big fan of M, but also because we don’t have the R-integration in Excel (yet?).

Leila Etaati’s brilliant series of how to use R in PowerBI for KNN-prediction (nearest neighbourhood) finally kicked this off. In order to trigger some thoughts I have structured the code in a way that resembles the R-structure. So the core M-code looks like this:

KNN in M


Where this sits in a function that you feed with the following parameters:

Function Parameters


In there, 2 functions are called, like in the R-code. While the functions already exists in R and you just have to load the necessary packages, in M we don’t have these functions (yet), so I had to build them:

Normalizing the table:

Evaluating the nearest neighbour-label:

I also added some comfort-features: The k-value will be calculated automatically and you can enter a %-value for the split between training & test-data.


M has all it needs to calculate the results, but the performance can be a pain. To my understanding so far, this is mainly due to the fact that it will call the sources multiple times. Unlike in SQL-server for example, the execution plan is hidden and we also don’t have stored procedures which enable us to de-activate the re-evaluation of the execution plans with every data refresh.

While I see the point in not re-inventing the wheel, there is an aspect of how many languages we are expecting the PowerBI-users to learn. Just a thought.

File to download:
zipped pbix:

Enjoy & stay queryious 🙂

Use Slicers for Query Parameters in PowerBI

Reading Rob Collie’s latest cool blogpost on how to retrieve slicer selections in Power BI, I couldn’t stop thinking of how awesome it would be, if we could use this technique to pass slicer selections as query parameters to the M-queries in the query editor. Not only would we have a very convenient user interface, but – what’s actually more important at the moment – we could pass multiple values as parameters to our queries, as this is not possible at all currently:

But how to fetch them? Rob’s post simply uses cross-filtering to show the values in a separate visual. In Excel we have cubefunctions where we can pass the slicer(-selection) as a parameter. Igor Cotruta, who is describing beautiful PBI-hacks on his blog here, kindly helped me out on this: “Via DMVs. Check $system.discover_sessions for the field sessions_last_command”. This worked perfectly into the following function, in which you just have to pass the name of the measure as a parameter:

Make sure that you have used that measure on one of your visuals, as otherwise the function cannot harvest it. Also you have to first save the file and then push the refresh-button in order to trigger the correct refresh. The above function sort of “reads the current PBI file from outside”, so it will only see the saved version.

When you do the first refresh, a dialogue will pop up, where you just have to accept the default values like this:

The example in the file below fetches temperature data where every selected year will create a unique URL and the results of all those calls is consolidated into one table. But of course, this technique can also be used to pass multiple parameter values to SQL-commands or others.

A final note: The query to extract the slicer parameters from the DAX-statement is not particularly robust and you might have to adjust it, if your slicer-selection-strings contain special characters.

Download for logged-in subscribers

Edit 25-Sep-2017: Adjusted the code to retrieve PortID.

Also: You have to disable privacy-settings for this code to run!


  1. If you create a new measure or adjust this file to your settings, you have to use the new measure in report somewhere and save the file. This is necessary to “initialize” the measure to your model so that it can be seen in the query editor.
  2. From then on, when you use it: Just change the selection in your slicer and click “Refresh”

Enjoy & stay queryious 🙂

Guide for switching Signs in Power BI and Power Pivot (bypassing Unary Operators in DAX)

In finance & accounting, you very rarely report the figures with the signs of their source systems, but switch (certain) signs according to different needs. Instead of using unary operators for it, I’ll present an easy and dynamic way for it in Power BI and Power Pivot using DAX. It will cover the following 3 main scenarios:

  • 1_SwitchAll: All signs are switched (red)
  • 2_SwitchExpLiab: Expenses and liabilities are switched back to their original values (green)
  • 3_BWT_Indiv: Only the main figure for expenses (or liabilities) carries a minus, all following positions specifying the expenses are (principally) reported as positives (blue)


Switching signs in Power BI and Power Pivot without unary operators

I’m using the sample data from this article but changed the source-data to a double-bookkeeping structure. There signs are used and the transaction entries in your ledger table always add up to zero. This is a method that prevents errors when posting and can also be used to prevent errors in reporting. If you keep the signs in your reporting system, all you have to do is add up the relevant figures and the returned (absolute) figures will always be correct. If you have read my previous articles on Easy P&L, you have seen this method in action: No minus-operation there, just a simple stupid adding of all accounts who fall into several (sub-) total categories via the bridge-table.

The Account-table also contains of (sub-) totals and the column “AccountType” shows if the positions are regarded as Turnover (Revenue) or Expenses:

Table “Accounts”


My values on “1_SwitchAll” corresponds to “FinalValue” in the article above. The revenues come from consultancy and coursed provided. But the revenue for courses don’t just consist of attendee rates, but the costs for catering and paid instructors shall be deducted (highlighted in yellow). So the “good” numbers that contribute to cash in your pocket shall be reported without a sign and the “bad” numbers that result in an outflow of cash shall be reported with a minus. Within the expenses category, the costs carry a minus and the travel refunds (highlighted in orange), which are cash positive, are reported as positives.


Another requirement that is often used for balance-sheet-reporting or reports that only report on cost-situations, require that the costs or liabilities are reported without signs. … Principally, because the reimbursements/cost deductions shall be reported with an opposite sign (to show the adverse effect to the cashflow). This is what “2_SwitchExpLiab” shows (not covered in the article).

3_BWT (“BossWantsThat”)

Last but not least comes a typical “BossWantsThat”-requirement: Basically some strange stuff that you just have to deliver. Here the main categories “Revenues” and “Expenses” shall be shown with the signs that reflect the cash-direction, but all specifications that follow below shall be reported without signs (again: Principally, because positions with opposite cash-effects than the main category shall carry inverted signs).

Reporting techniques covered with this approach

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