Introducing Microsoft’s Power BI
Tool for data visualization and business analysis
What is Power BI?
Power BI is a data visualization and business analysis tool by Microsoft that helps companies analyze their operations and gain valuable financial insights.
Power BI is a data visualization and business analysis tool that can help your company analyze its operations and gain valuable financial insights. The software can collect data from a multitude of sources including Google Analytics, Excel, Salesforce, Azure SQL DB, and your own database (depending on setup). Power BI then takes this large scale data and simplifies it into easily digestible visuals customized for your business needs. The tool is versatile, able to handle any data set from a small excel file to millions of data points from multiple data sources. It can be used to generate a personal report or serve as an analytics and decision engine for whole teams. Either way, Power BI is a smart tool to extract actionable, intelligent insights from large amounts of data.
Check out our Power BI Tutorials
Our learning hub will teach you the ways to master Power BI. It is useful for all backgrounds, novice to experienced. Our instructors will walk you through the step-by-step processes to integrate Power BI into your workflow and leverage the full power of the software to garner key insights into your operations. Our courses will constantly be updated with new material. Check out our courses page to learn more.
How to use Power BI
Power BI Desktop imports data from a source or sources that can include Google Analytics, Salesforce, your own database, and many more. There is a wide variety of graphics that Power BI offers natively to easily visualize the provided data. Additionally, there’s a marketplace for additional graphics and the ability to develop your own depending on your professional needs. Check out our interactive example below.
The workflow of Power BI is pretty standard. There are three components of Power BI: Power BI Desktop, Power BI Service, and Power BI Mobile. Power BI Desktop ends up doing most of the heavy-lifting analytical work. It is important to note that Power BI Desktop only works on Windows devices so this will not be compatible with MacOS. However, Power BI Service is an online version of the tool with limited functionality and can be accessed by any browser.
Usually, the high-level Power BI workflow starts with connecting the data sources to Power BI Desktop. From here, a list of fields and provided visualizations is shown on the right pane. To create a visual, it is as easy as selecting the desired diagram or chart then selecting the relevant fields. However, the true power in Power BI lies in the customizations. Power BI supports combination charts, slicers (to isolate data segments instantly), and world maps for location based analysis. If there’s a graphic not readily supplied by Power BI, there’s a few other options to explore.
First and easiest, there exists a whole marketplace of community sourced visuals that can be found here. Many of these graphics are designed for specific industries or nuanced analytical questions. If a certain graphic is not available, then Power BI also supports Python and R script development in its own native console for developers to create their own visuals (which can then be put on Microsoft’s marketplace).
How to Collaborate and Share
Collaborating is easily done in realtime using Power BI Service. There are different roles that grant various permissions to collaborators. Once the report is finished, the dashboards can be shared with consumers without granting access to the underlying data.
Once all the data has been brought into Power BI, it is time to publish the report. Once the report is published to Power BI, it can be accessed by Power BI Service and Power BI Mobile. Power BI Service allows light report editing and real-time collaboration. Most users utilize Power BI Desktop to do the bulk of the data analysis and creation work, then publish to share it with the rest of their team.
Once the report is created, it is saved to a workspace where a designated team can collaborate. The team has access to reports, datasets, and workbooks. Workspaces also provide roles to differentiate users. Different roles have different permissions determining who can manage the workspace (admin), edit its content, or distribute it.
Dashboards are created on top of the reports that show the engaging visualization of specific data, rather than the underlying data points themselves. These dashboards can be shared with report consumers who view the dashboards in Power BI service in Read Only view.
How to get Started
Check out our Power BI courses for an easy-to-follow setup and installation guide.
Getting started with Power BI is pretty easy. All you need is a computer running Windows 7 or newer and an internet connection for the download, found at the link below. Once Power BI Desktop is downloaded and installed, it is time to create a Power BI Microsoft account. There are two main options: Power BI Pro which is mainly oriented to self-service use and Power BI Premium which is the enterprise version. A more detailed breakdown of their differences can be found here. Once your account is made, Power BI is ready to go and you can start connecting your data sources and generating insights.