Microsoft's interactive data visualization and analytics product for business intelligence is called Power BI. You can use Power BI to extract data from the various cloud and on-premises systems and create dashboards that track the metrics that matter most to you. You may even ask questions about your data by drilling down into it.
Complex reports and dashboards from Power BI can be included in existing reporting portals. You don't need to be a designer to develop its dashboards, reports, and visualizations, which can go far beyond bar and pie charts. Power BI may also prepare and manage high-quality data for use in other business tools, such as low-code apps. Here's how to extract more value from the data you already have in more ways than you would think.
1. Make a visual representation of the services you use
Power BI includes pre-set reports and visualizations in hundreds of content packs, templates, and integrations for hundreds of data providers, apps, and services. If you use Xero for accounting, K2 Cloud for business process development, MailChimp, Salesforce, Adobe Marketing Cloud, SAP HANA, Marketo, or Google Analytics for marketing, you can use Power BI to visualize the data in those services, create reports against it, and combine it in a custom dashboard.
You may also use the on-premises gateway to explore data sets on your own servers using Power BI. You may then compare website visitors to sales or determine which campaigns resulted in new clients. To control who may view more sensitive information, you can construct your own reports and visualizations, execute calculations (Power BI calls these calculated measures), and define access levels for certain users, data sources, or specific dashboards and reports.
2. Use your data to tell stories
Charts are wonderful for data, but Power BI's new Timeline Storyteller is perfect for showing information that evolves in an easy-to-understand format. You can use this tool to make a straight list of dates or times or use it to arrange them in circles, spirals, grids, or other designs. You can also use relative or logarithmic scales and a chronological list or a sequence that illustrates the duration of events. Choose how you want your data to be represented, scaled, and laid out, and Power BI will create a timeline for you. You can then use it to convey the tale of your company's history, demonstrate how demand is increasing, or explain anything else where the order of events is important.
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3. Explore the 'What-ifs.'
While Excel allows you to compare situations, Power BI allows you to do so by dragging a slider bar to indicate changes. You may use the New Parameter button in Power BI Desktop to add parameters that change in your What-if scenario after you've added a calculated measure for a figure like revenue. This provides a calculated measure that you can use elsewhere; for example, if you build a What-if parameter for the number of consumers who respond to a specific campaign, you can enter that into a calculation to show how many customer support tickets you can expect to receive. In the What-if parameter dialogue, select “Add slider to this page” to add a slider bar that you can move to demonstrate the difference when the number of customer answers is higher or lower.
4. Ask questions in your own words
Power BI's natural language features can also be used to ask queries and receive visuals in response. Specify how the data should be presented — for example, “total sales by region by month as a line” — or let Power BI choose the best layout for the data by asking a more general question like, “What were the sales numbers for the last quarter?”
Q&A will offer questions based on the tables in the data set if there are tiles pinned to the dashboard, and as you type a question, it will suggest phrases you could add based on the tables in the data set. If the visualization proves to be really useful, you may pin it to the dashboard, making it a quick and easy way to generate data visualizations. You may also add featured questions to the dashboard settings if you own the data collection. If the column is designated "area" rather than "region," you'll have to ask for "sales by area" unless you add synonyms, and table names like CustomerSummary will make Q&A less natural than names like Customers.
The Power BI website and the iOS Power BI app both support Power BI Q&A. It can deal with data in an Excel table (or a database via the on-premises gateway if Q&A is enabled for the data set), or it can use Power Pivot to optimize the data set for Q&A. To customize the columns displayed and the type of graph or chart Q&A will show, make sure all the tables in your data set are joined correctly, verify data types for dates and numbers, and define the default field set for columns and a default label for tables.
5. Create your own custom visualizations
You may add new visualizations to Power BI by either downloading them from the Office Store or building your own using the open-source Power BI Custom Visual Tool. Microsoft visuals, such as word clouds, a correlation plot based on R script, and a "box and whisker plot" that displays outliers, clusters, and percentiles, are available in the Office Store, along with visualizations generated by Power BI customers.
If you wish to analyze progress via workflows and processes, you can also integrate Visio diagrams to Power BI and use them as custom visuals. With Frontline's Analytic Solver, you can convert Excel analytics models into custom Power BI visualizations. It's not a static report; instead, it's a dynamic model onto which you can drag and drop Power BI data sets to simulate or optimize different scenarios.
6. Utilize AI-powered visuals to their full potential
Machine learning is used in Power Bi's interactive visualizations to find insights that normally require a data scientist. Key drivers aid in identifying and ranking relevant elements, such as what causes things to be out of stock. The decomposition tree aids in root cause analysis by directing you where to look in the data. Anomaly detection examines time-series data, such as line charts, for outliers and other anomalies, as well as possible causes. Smart Narratives can help you develop data stories by extracting key takeaways and trends and wrapping them in autogenerated language.
7. Streaming data flows can be analyzed in real-time
The majority of business intelligence is based on data retrieved from a database at regular intervals. You'll need real-time streaming data if you wish to evaluate data from e-commerce sites or operational technology systems with sensors. Normally, extracting the data requires some development, but Power BI streaming dataflows can connect to Azure Streaming Analytics, allowing business analysts to combine batched and streaming data in the same report to find exceptions, trigger actions, and respond more quickly changes in physical systems.
8. Activate the Teams integration
Bringing Power BI reports to where everyone is working makes it more useful if your organization spends most of the day in Teams. According to Microsoft, when Power BI is pinned in Teams, data utilization nearly doubles. If the IT department has spent time and money implementing Power BI, allowing Teams integration will maximize the value of that investment.
9. Prepare data for usage in Excel by curating it
When you share data in Power BI, it's also available in Excel for others to use. Power BI may also be used to power Excel data types, providing a single, authoritative source of data for entities like customers, suppliers, products, and other business data used throughout the organization. You get a single source of truth, and Excel users don't need to know Power BI to use it. They can type in data they want to search for, such as a client name, mark the range, and then click on a tooltip to insert new columns from the data set into Excel to work with.
10. Power BI is a great way to get started with machine learning
Dataflow in Power BI enables you to automate data preparation and enrichment, making it an excellent place to store data sets for machine learning. Because of its integration with Azure Machine Learning AutoML, business analysts may now use machine learning without the requirement for a data scientist – or an Azure subscription. Define what you want to predict, such as whether a product will be out of stock, and AutoML suggests which columns of data to use for the model, automatically selects and tunes the algorithm, and includes the performance and reliability of the model created, as well as what features influence the predictions it makes for which products are most likely to be out of stock at specific distribution points.
11. Power BI and Power Apps hand-in-hand
From within Power BI, you can embed Power Apps into reports and build up Power Automate workflows. So, if you want to add a consumer to an email marketing campaign or submit a budget request after gaining data insights, you can place the app or flow for that in the report where you acquire the insights — and the filters and selections you make in Power BI transfer over to the app or workflow. Instead, you can integrate the Power BI report into the app for mobile users who are more likely to be working from a Power app.
12. Increase the amount of data in executive dashboards
Different BI users in their visualizations require different amounts of information. Managers and business analysts may demand a lot of information. Still, if your executives are watching 20 or 30 vital indicators for several regions worldwide, a straightforward view that provides the target and the actual figure is preferable to a more sophisticated representation. That way, you can easily seek up material in a conference without getting lost in a sea of graphs and numbers. Multiple report kinds are combined onto a single tile in the Power KPI custom visualization.
13. Goals can be used to create scorecards and OKR boards
Making a data-driven culture work requires using data to assess how effectively decisions are performing for the company. Use the Goals hub in Power BI Premium to connect scorecards to Power BI reports instead of paying for a separate product to create dashboards for tracking performance and achievement on important criteria. You fill in when you need to reach the result by measuring it and choosing the necessary data points on a chart in a Power BI report for goals like revenue, sales, hiring, or user numbers. You can utilize Power Automate to create notifications or organize meetings if performance toward a goal is falling behind, in addition to seeing progress in the Goals hub.
14. For sensitive data, use information protection
When putting sensitive company data in Power BI, CIOs and CISOs can use the same Microsoft Information Protection sensitivity labels in Office, SharePoint, and other applications to ensure that only the right people have access. For end-to-end data leakage security, those labels enable auditing, enforce access in Power BI, and follow the data if it's exported to Excel or PowerPoint.
15. Power BI may also be used to analyze IT data
You can use Power BI to show data for IT monitoring tools, so it's not just for business users. The Azure Activity Logs solution template in Power BI uses an Azure SQL database and Stream Analytics to collect logs and display them in prebuilt Power BI Desktop reports so you can look at usage trends and problems. There's also a solution template for System Center Configuration Manager with a dashboard that covers client and server health, malware protection levels, software inventory, and which devices are missing updates, as well as a set of prebuilt Power BI reports for the Intune Data Warehouse that show device details like configurations and compliance state. You can create your own dashboards and reports for additional tools using the templates provided, as long as you can get the data into a SQL Server or Azure SQL database.
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If you enjoy analyzing data and using Power BI to discover and unlock data insights, then check out the all-new Microsoft Power BI course (Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst certification), especially if you use those insights to provide easy-to-understand data visualizations that can help drive the success of your team and organization.
You fit the profile for a Power BI Data Analyst Associate if you have a fundamental understanding of data repositories and data processes, both on-premises and in the cloud. You’re also a subject matter expert who enables organizations to maximize the value of their data assets by using Power BI. Your responsibilities include designing and building scalable data models, cleaning and transforming data, and enabling advanced analytic capabilities that provide meaningful business value. You also collaborate with key stakeholders across verticals to deliver relevant insights based on identified business requirements.
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