Power BI is Microsoft’s business intelligent platform. It has a wide range of services and functionality to help organisations do more with their data. In this article we discuss the different areas of functionality and how they help.
Most people will be familiar with what Power BI looks like. Power BI provides an ability to make dashboards or reports that combine a wide range of data visualisation techniques. From charts, graphs, maps, tables and more, the ability to represent your data in a way that allows your users to easily see and interpret it.
Another great feature of Power BI is the way you can drill down to the data to better understand it. For example, if you want to look at a particular month, simply click on it and all the visuals will filter to just that period, providing a much deeper insight.
Reports and dashboards
Power BI reports are the most commonly used in Power BI. Taking a data source and querying the data with a range of visuals across potentially multiple pages to give you insights that can be used to make decisions.
Dashboards are normally made up of visuals from different reports to give a more high-level view of how your organisation is performing across KPIs. When looking at a dashboard and wanting to do deeper analysis you normally drop into the report for that particular area and do the analysis there.
The differences include reports being able to slice data and reports having multiple pages. Reports are where the interactive elements of Power BI live, if you click on a visual in a dashboard then you are pointed to the report where that visual can be found and here you can then drill down further.
Power BI is one of the only BI platforms available that allows you to build a data model within the platform. So, whether you are using well-structured data or connecting to raw data sources, Power BI can help you transform it.
You can easily query the data using Power Query. You can edit the data, remove columns or rows, define relationships, add formulas and a wide range of other features to get your data into shape. In Power Query you can also define relationships between multiple sources of data, allowing the data to interact in your reports.
Power BI uses Data Analysis Expressions (DAX). DAX is a collection of functions, operators, and constants that can be used in a formula, or expression, to calculate and return one or more values. For regular users of Excel DAX will be easy to pick up as it shares a similar approach.
Power BI can be used to present live or near live data in your reporting. This can be done through a number of different mechanisms within the platform. This is great for automatic data feeds such as from IoT devices. Power BI comes as standard with the ability to refresh data manually or schedule refreshes throughout the day allowing you to keep your data up to date.
Before you can build your data model or reports you need to be able to access your data. As Power BI is part of the Power Platform there is a huge number of out of the box connectors for a wide range of digital solutions from leading providers. These are available to allow you to easily connect data straight into Power BI.
If you have a data warehouse or cloud-based data model, regardless of the platform, it is also extremely easy to access this data in Power BI. Any cloud service with an API available can easily be accessed.
For on-premise data in older systems, there is an on-premise gateway for SQL data that should provide you with all of the access you need but may require a developer to do.
If you have data in spreadsheets this can also easily be uploaded or if it’s stored in OneDrive/ SharePoint connected to as well.
Sharing your findings
After you’ve created reports and dashboards, you can share them so end users in the Power BI service and mobile devices can view and interact with them. Being able to control how you share your work is one of the most important features of the Power BI service.
You create workspaces where you and your colleagues can collaborate on reports and dashboards. Then you can bundle and distribute them as apps. You can also share the datasets themselves, so others can use them as a basis for their own reports. Read more about ways to share your work in Power BI.
Like most Microsoft offerings you can easily access Power BI reports on any device, via a browser, making it even easier to access findings and data on the go.
Power BI is completely secure in the cloud. Using Azure Active Directory permissions similar to across your entire Microsoft 365 suite, you define who has access to workspaces, reports, data sources and even row, field or column level security.
Azure Active Directory provides multi factor authentication and a range of security features making it the ideal tool to support Power BI.
You can utilise Microsoft information protection sensitivity labels across your data, reports and dashboards to guard your data against unauthorised access.
Are you looking to start your journey with Power BI, download our Power BI guide or contact us today.