The purpose of this blog post is to provide an introduction to Power BI and how it can be used for your business. The post is intended for people that are new to Power BI and need help getting started. Firstly, we will explore why you might want to use Power BI, and then focus on the different components of Power BI. We’ll connect to some data, build some visualizations, and then dashboards that we can share with our colleagues.
Why Power BI?
Throughout many organizations, you’ll find business applications used across the different departments of the business. Most of these applications will have a data store of some kind that may be cloud based or on-premises based, and will vary in formats. The applications may store their data in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL, Oracle, My SQL or similar. The applications may be Customer Relationship Management, Payroll, Manufacturing, Inventory or many other types of application. Having all of these different applications in many different formats presents challenges around training on the solutions, issuing of licenses, permissions and security, These data stores are often referred to as Silos of Data. Power BI provides components that enable you to connect to these data sources, organize the data, build visualizations, and then publish the visualizations into a dashboard form. These dashboards enable business users to view valuable insights into the company data in a uniformed way that overcomes the time consuming challenges of trying to find and manipulate data across different systems. Let’s look at the components of Power BI that makes this all possible.
In this webinar, we demonstrate how to get started with Power BI. Starting with the Power BI Desktop, we create a connection, build visualizations, and publish our visualizations to a Dashboard.
Components of Power BI
Power BI Desktop is a free desktop application that is used to connect to your data source, and enables you to model and transform your data in a way that makes it structured in order to create your data visualization. Power BI Service is a cloud based application that enables you to create visuals on a Report that contains one or more pages. You can then pin each of the visualizations to a Dashboard. A Mobile App for Power BI enables you to view Power BI workspaces and dashboards. Power BI Desktop can be downloaded for free from here, or also added from the Microsoft Windows Store. Obtaining Power BI from the store is preferable since the very frequent updates will be applied. Power BI Service will be accessed through Microsoft 365.
There are four main components to consider and familiarise yourself with when using Power BI. These components are Datasets, Reports, Dashboards, and Workspaces. We’ll explore these components below:
Datasets are a set of data comprising of one or more tables from one or more data sources. The Dataset is then modelled and transformed allowing you to have the perfect dataset to create your visualization.
To get started, you must first connect to the data source. There are connectors for almost every data source within Power BI Desktop allowing you to connect easily.
Once connected, you may need to model your data by building relationships between the tables of data. Let’s take for instance that you connect to a Customer Relationship Management solution and that you want to create a report on Sales Revenue per country. In order to produce a visualization representing the sales revenue per country, we made need to work with multiple tables such as the Customers table, Orders table and Order Details table. The Country field we need is in the Customers table, and we need to calculate the order value from the Order Details Unit Price, Quantity and Discount columns. The Orders table is a junction table between Customers and Order Details. This structure allows for One Customer placing many orders containing many line items.
Once the data is modelled, you may need to transform the data. Transforming the data may include changing the data format for some columns, cleaning data such as Null values or incorrect data stored in columns, and maybe also aggregating the data (summarising)
Once you have connected to your data, you’ll be able to model use the three icons on the left hand side of Power BI Desktop to switch been Data Modelling, Table View and Reports. In the next section, we’ll discuss reports and how you can get started with them.
Reports provide a canvas of one or more pages in which you can build visualization(s). Once you have created the visualization(s) that you desire, you can publish them to a Dashboard using Power BI Service. To create your first visualization, you can simply double click anywhere on the canvas. This will insert the question and answer visualization and will suggest questions that you could ask such as Count Orders, Top Orders by Ship via. Alternatively, you can select one of the Visualizations from the Visualizations pane, and then map the fields from each table into the different sections such as Axis, Legend, Values and Tooltip. In the below example, the Line and Column Clustered Visualization is selected, and the Category Name from a Categories table is displayed in the Column Series. The Units On Order and Units in Stock are the Column Values, and Reorder Level is the Line Value.
Once you have created your first Visualization, you can keep on experimenting with the different Visualizations. When you are ready, we can start to build your dashboards.
Workspaces and Dashboards
The next step is to publish the Report to Power BI Service. Click Publish in the top right hand corner will prompt you to authenticate with your Microsoft 365 account. You can then publish the report to a Workspace. Each user will have their own Workspace called My Workspace. You can select this and continue working on your report using Power BI Service, or also Publish to a workspace (Microsoft 365 Group) where other users can collaborate in the building of the report.
when your visualization are as you would like them, and you are ready to build a dashboard, you can click the Pin icon next to each Visualization. This will allow you to pin your visualization to an existing Dashboard, or to create a new Dashboard.
If you have Power BI Pro, you can share your dashboard with other users in the organization.