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Make sense of your data with Power BI

Make sense of your data with Power BI

If you’re currently asking ‘Why should I use Microsoft’s Power BI?’ in this blog, we will be explaining why, if your organisation isn’t utilising its features, it should be.

The article will cover:

  • A brief overview of Power BI
  • The core elements of Power BI
  • The benefits of Power BI

I'm new to Power BI - what is it?

Part of the Microsoft Power Platform, Power BI is the name given to a suite of cloud-based apps and software services enabling you to analyse business data via an incredibly user-friendly interface.

Managing data from various sources can be a headache for many organisations but the strength of Power BI lies in its ability to render data into coherent, interactive visualisations and insightful reports. If you want to gain snapshots of exactly how your organisation is performing; see that information presented clearly and then share it with members of your team, Power BI is the tool for you.

What are each of the elements of Power BI?

In order to allow you to create and share business insights as efficiently and effectively as possible. Power BI has 3 main components:

  • Power BI Desktop - a Windows-desktop-based application for PCs and desktops to enable the design and publishing of reports
  • Power BI Service - the SaaS (Software as a Service) online service
  • Power BI Mobile - apps for Android and iOS devices plus Windows phones and tablets.

Note that there are 2 further elements: Power BI Report Builder and Power BI Report Server which enable the creation of reports and their publishing respectively.

How do I get started with Power BI?

Power BI is available with your Office 365 E5 subscription or you can purchase licensing for it separately. If you’re just curious for now, you can try it out with a free trial. What are the benefits of Power BI?

The adaptability of Power BI

The way in which Power BI is utilised is dependent upon the role performed by the end user. If you’re responsible for financial reporting, it is likely that Power BI Desktop or Power BI Report Builder will help you create reports and then share them via the Power BI service for senior management to view. Conversely, someone within the sales team will require access to sales-related insight such as prospect and lead information. If you want to see the information presented specific to your own reporting requirements, it’s possible to customise what you want to see and then share that format within your team.

Integration with other apps

When you first access Power BI, you will be asked to pull in all the data from your organisation’s existing library which includes your current 365 apps and perhaps other sources such as MailChimp, Google Analytics, Jira and so on.

Here’s a simple scenario which will help demonstrate the functionality of Power BI - pulling data from Excel.

Your data is currently sitting within an Excel spreadsheet. Within your own personal workspace, you can either retrieve the file from your own local drive or from OneDrive or SharePoint. At this point, you have the option to connect Power BI to your Excel file or import the entire Excel file into Power BI.

Now you can create a report adding visuals including charts and graphs as well as filters. Once created, you have the ability to share this with your team and allows them to view realtime data. This means your organisation is responding to current, live data, not old.

Timeline Storyteller

Another persuasive feature of Power BI is Timeline Storyteller which enables you to mark events against time and see how metrics such as orders, sales and demand are affected by a specific timeline. Capturing this historical data and presenting it in an easy to understand way is an invaluable decision-making tool.

The ‘what if’ scenario

Power BI offers some useful slide bar functionality in the form of ‘what if’ parameters. This is particularly insightful if you want to compare the impact of one measure upon the other in various situations. For example, if you’re a charitable organisation and you want to create a ‘what if’ parameter for the number of people who donate to a particular campaign you’re running, you can compare that with how many responses you’re likely to get. Using the slide bar shows what could happen if the number of responses is made greater or smaller.

Natural language with Q&A

This option enables you to ask a question in your own words and see a visualisation as a consequence - without having to design a report.

Within the Power BI service , there’s a dashboard which has various tiles pinned to it from one or more datasets. This enables you to pose your questions relating to any of the data within those datasets. As you type a question, Q&A picks the best visualisation to display your answer. What’s even more powerful, as you adapt your question, so the visualisation also updates. Once you’re satisfied that your answer is a true reflection of what you want to present, the results can be pinned to a dashboard for others to view.

Custom visualisations

With a variety of visualisations from which to make your selection, Power BI also allows you to create your own with the open source Power BI Custom Visual Tool. The tool allows your dev team to show exactly what they can produce in-house to meet internal reporting requirements. This thereby solves the issue when a report format is outside the confines of the standard charts available.

Want to know more?

This brief overview should give you enough reason to consider implementing Power BI into the reporting process of your organisation.

If you would like to know more and need some guidance, please contact us. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we are uniquely placed to help devise the best strategy for your digital transformation, so give us a call and discover how we can help.

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