You want to gain competitive advantage from your data analytics but don’t know where to start. Or have you started using Power BI but don’t really know how to optimize its usage in your organization? If yes, then this post is exactly what you’ve been searching for. In this article, I’ll reveal everything you need to know about Power BI. You’ll also get some tips to boost your productivity using Microsoft’s cloud solution.
Power BI is one of the newest tools offered by Microsoft, offering several interesting features such as dashboards, reports, analysis etc…
With this tool, it’s now possible to manage large amounts of data easily thanks to the ability to visualize them in attractive ways. You can create your very own dashboard or even build a custom report. But before you jump into building those awesome visualizations, there are a few things you should know first. Let’s go through each one of these aspects carefully.
Before digging into what is Power BI and the benefits of using it as a tool, it is important to understand the basics of BI.
Business Intelligence or BI is a process that analyses and converts raw data into coherent and actionable information for use in analysis of business operations.
Firms that have incorporated BI for making decisions have experienced better performance and productivity. Teams are observed to be delivering up to a ten-fold increase in ROI.
If stats are to be believed, the absence of BI in a firm has shown a high percentage of raw data, as much as 99 percent, left unutilized.
To sum it up, business intelligence uses tools to take raw data, and then converts it into smart plans, aiding in right decision-making.
BI helps organizations and businesses adapt an object-oriented approach by defining KPIs and setting benchmarks to have an aligned direction for achieving goals.
Moreover, BI makes it possible to organize and manage the otherwise unmanageable data into controllable streams, while putting it into respective uses.
Analytics is a major concern today considering we live in a data-driven age. It deals with discovering, interpreting, and processing data to reach a conclusion.
Albeit data and business analysts have multiple tools to choose from, they always go for something that is convenient to use and provides easy access.
Power BI tool from Microsoft is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to utilize all sources of raw data into coherent, easy-to-process, visually compelling, and interactive insights.
Curated by the tech-giant Microsoft, Power BI allows the user the access to resources they need to aggregate, visualize, analyse, and share data.
Connecting to a wide range of data resources from a basic Excel sheet to databases, and both cloud-based and on-premise apps, This business intelligence tool gives the user the convenience of sharing intelligible insights of what’s happening in their business.
Often used as an umbrella term, Power BI can also refer to either a Windows Desktop application called Power BI Desktop, or mobile Power BI apps on a Windows OS device, as well as for iOS and Android devices.
Often it is observed that business intelligence products tend to fall in the user-friendly zone for profiles like business analysts and data scientists.
But thanks to its user-friendly and easy-to-process nature, Power BI can be used by a wide range of people in an organization.
In fact, one of the major reasons for Power BI to be so widely popular is the point that users irrespective of their technical expertise level or background find it convenient for use.
Because of its versatility and useful features, professionals consider Power BI in healthcare industry as a must-have tool.
Organizations who do not have an in-house Power BI service, usually outsource it to another firm that has rich experience in data science and related tools.
Such is its effect on users and growth of organizations, that there has been a spike in demand for Power BI developers and services in almost all the industries.
Businesses wherein creation of data models and reports for analysis is mandatory, may or may not have the skills to operate all the BI tools.
In such cases data science consulting firms such as Datatobiz turn out to be extremely supportive, as Power BI is an essential tool for data scientists and analysts to work on.
Cumulatively, Power BI works with data in whatever way it is asked to do, so you can use it in any way.
A couple of industries that use Power BI regularly are airline, hospitality, healthcare, and retail.
Departments irrespective of the industry the firm belongs to, that use this BI tool include finance, marketing, human resources, and IT.
Power BI facilitates intelligent decision-making, eventually reducing the likelihood of failure and mitigating inherent risks.
The data that BI processes are available for viewing and interacting 24*7 from anywhere, as long as you have mobile access.
The mobility that it provides is considered a star feature against other BI tools where access to viewing is restricted to a particular location only.
This convenient feature allows the users to pull, process, and share real-time data anywhere anytime, making Power BI services rise in demand.
Data security is a major concern for any organization irrespective of the industry.
Power BI lets the user track and control data usage, granting access only to those who are supposed to have it, without having to bother tech support or IT security elements.
Power BI also offers the flexibility to save data on cloud storage, thus preventing exposure of sensitive data by blocking risky user activities in real-time.
That apart, Power BI is scalable, so it can fit under any organization and is capable of handling changes in size, be it a rapid business expansion or an unexpected downsizing.
The beauty of Power BI is its ease of use, even by people who don’t consider themselves to be very technologically sound.
As long as you have the access to data sources, the dashboard, and a decent network connection, you can use Power BI to process information, create reports, and share or send them to the right team or individual.
To summarize, Power BI is preferred over other BI tools because…
When trying to understand how to use Power BI, it’s best to start by getting acquainted with the different elements of the tool.
a free desktop application that can be installed on any PC. Power BI Desktop works with the Power BI service by providing advanced data exploration, shaping, modelling, and creation of reports with highly interactive visuals.
an online software used as SaaS; Power Bi Service is simply known as Power BI.
Designed for Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices.
an on-premises report server product that comes in handy where uploading data to the cloud isn’t an option.
Users connect to the desired data sources and build a report using the Power BI Desktop. Once the report is complete, it can be published to the Power BI service, allowing end-users to view and interact with the information.
Power BI consultants often use the software to run reports and extract surface insights based on the company’s data.
Power BI is also infused with ML (Machine Learning) capabilities which enables it to spot patterns in data, use them to make informed predictions, and run the ‘what-if’ scenarios.
To perform these functions, certain apps are made to be a part of the Power BI tool. These include…
Power Query: a data connection tool that lets you transform, combine, and enhance data from multiple sources.
Power Pivot: a data modelling tool for creating data models.
Power View: a data visualization tool that generates charts, graphs, and other interactive visuals.
Power Map: a visualization tool for creating immersive 3D visuals.
Power Q&A: a question-and-answer engine that allows you to ask questions regarding data in plain language.
Apart from these apps, there are a good number of programs that constitute Power BI, eventually helping users to not only see the data trends in the past and present, but also predict what might happen in the future.
As you begin to master the power of Power BI, you will find yourself encountering the term “DAX”. It stands for “Data Analysis Expressions” and is a set of mathematical functions used in certain analytics applications. DAX is also referred to as a Function Language because the entire programming logic is embedded within the function itself. In essence, DAX is essentially an extension of Excel formulas made into a standalone application.
DAX was developed by Microsoft before they released Excel. You could say that DAX is based on Excel without all those annoying limitations like formula errors, slow performance, and poor support for VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). However, DAX does not come along with any of these drawbacks; instead, it’s a feature-rich tool for data analysis and reporting. With DAX, you can easily manipulate your data and create powerful calculations without having to write complex code.
To put it simply, a Power BI user takes data from various data sources such as files, online services, or other gateway sources.
The collected data is then worked on a client development tool, say Power BI Desktop, where the imported data is cleaned and transformed according to the user’s needs.
Once the data is transformed and formatted, it is ready to make visualizations in the report.
These reports can be published on two platforms; Power BI Service and Power BI Report Server. Now in order to learn how this works it’s important to know about the architecture of Power BI.
A vital component of Power BI is its vast range of sources. Data can be imported from different files in a system, cloud-based data sources, or by connecting directly to live connections.
Few commonly used data sources in Power BI are Excel, CSV, XML, MySQL Database, Oracle Database, IBM DB2 Database, Impala, Facebook, Google Analytics, GitHub, etc.
Power BI Desktop
A client-side tool popularly known as a companion development and authoring tool. Power BI Desktop is loaded with tools and functionalities to connect data sources, and transform data for data modelling and creating reports.
Power BI Service
A web-based platform which allows the user to share reports made on Power BI Desktop, collaborate with other users and create dashboards.
The part of the Power BI architecture also offers advanced features like natural language Q&A, and alerts.
With the Premium version, one can buy the capacity to run the powerBI service on the cloud from various options based on the specific requirements.
Power BI Report Server
The Report Server component is quite similar to the Power BI Service except the fact that the Power BI Report Server is an on-premise platform.
It is mostly used by organizations who do not wish to publish their reports on the cloud. This feature of Power BI enables creation of dashboards and sharing reports as per security protocols.
Power BI Gateway
This component connects and provides access to on-premise data in secured networks. Power BI gateways are mostly used in organizations where data is kept in security and watch.
Power BI Mobile
A native Power BI application, Power BI Mobile runs on iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. These applications are used to view reports and dashboards.
Power BI Embedded
Whenever there is a need to embed visuals into custom applications, Power BI embedded is used to offer the APIs required for the task.
Like most BI tools, Power BI also comes with its star features and a few disadvantages.
Power BI is a relatively inexpensive BI tool used for data analysis, as compared to its contemporaries. Moreover, Power BI Desktop has a free version for beginners to get started.
In addition to the general set of visualizations, a wide range of customized visualizations like KPIs, Maps, Charts, R script visuals, etc are available with Power BI.
Power BI allows its users the option to upload and view data in Excel format helping them work with raw data simultaneously.
A tool provided by Power BI to validate data sources that are on-premise and outside the firewall.
Because Power BI gives the option to store data in a centralized location, the data can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
Power BI requires the user to create a data model with multiple unique fields so as to not get confused when handling complex data sources.
The versatility of Power BI comes at the cost of interface cluttering. Meaning, most users wish there were fewer icons so as to not block the view of the dashboard or report.
Power BI is the most sought tool used for importing data and creating reports, for anyone who hasn’t used a BI tool before or is technologically unproficient.
However, when the purpose of using Power BI is more than just creating reports, there is a lot that needs to be learnt and mastered like Gateways, and other components of the Power Bi Architecture.
Businesses today are becoming data-driven. They need to use analytics to make decisions based on real information, not just guesses or hunches. And they cannot afford to wait until there is an incident before acting. Data visualization tools like Power BI help them understand their data and provide insights quickly so they can act appropriately.