Articles
October 14, 2019
Robert Sacco

Getting Started with Microsoft Power BI

Looking for a better way to do your analytics reporting? Look no further than Microsoft Power BI.

Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with Power BI. As I look back, I’m quite satisfied with how this investment of my time paid off. Before this, my reporting had been done almost exclusively in Excel. Although I was progressing with my ability to use this application, and was becoming more effective with it; I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better way.

Even if you’re an Excel pro and can use Power Query to populate worksheets, the final output of all that effort is still a clunky chart or a pivot table. Where is the tool that produces sleek, intuitive and appealing reports the end-user will look forward to?

Fast forward to present day and now, I work in Power BI on a daily basis. I even teach a class on its basics. I notice clients look forward to the reports we deliver to them. Reporting use to be synonymous with boring, but not anymore.

Here are just a few ways Power BI improves your data analysis and reporting:

One Report to Rule Them All

Prepare each report only ONCE. One of the (many) reasons why people get frustrated with Excel is the repetition of preparing the same reports…over and over again. With Power BI, those days are done.

Prepare a report, set up your query infrastructure, check that your data source is working properly, and you’re all set. All you need to do is sit back and watch live data flow into your dashboards. You may need to ask your boss what to do with all the time you have saved yourself, your colleagues, and the company as a whole.

Cross Source Analysis

Does this situation sound familiar? Some of your data is in your CRM, some is in a Google Sheet, there’s even a bit downloaded from a web application. With Power BI, you can analyze all this data in one place, and probably even in the same visualisation.

You might need to work a bit on setting up a relationship between the data sources, but I’ve already found a few tricks to make this work.

Create a DISTINCT value list which establishes a connection between the two tables you are looking to connect, play around a bit with the data model, and off you go. Or even better, if you are looking to analyze your data over time, create a date table with the CALENDARAUTO function, connect the dates through this table. That’s all it takes

Beautiful, Branded Reports

No more quirky filters and no more cross-tab references. A properly-prepared data model in Power BI lets you create reports that give stakeholders both a high-level perspective and the ability to zoom in and focus on the details that make a difference.

In fact, this is what I’m most proud of. We’ve been able to reduce reporting for our agency clients from dozens of Excel reports prepared manually every week, to a single Power BI report page. It’s prepared only once, branded, and easy to work with.

Everyone on the Same Page

Report sharing has never been easier. Here’s four easy ways to do it:

  1. Export a template image of your report and send it to your client via email.
  2. Turn your report into a Power Point presentation.
  3. Embed an iframe anywhere and watch it refresh.
  4. Send finished dashboards to colleagues and clients, let them see – and fall in love with – live reporting​.

Here is an example that we prepared, for a beginner tutorial we wrote on the product.

No More Data Surprises

The feature I am starting to use more and more often is report notifications in the Power BI online service. After the completion of a report and its upload, Power BI enables you to define a value-based notification. If I’m looking to hit a sales goal or reach a conversion KPI, Power BI will let me know when that time comes.

In Roivenue, we use this feature for data load checks. If the data does not load properly, a notification monitoring its completion will pop up in my email and I can resolve the issue before anyone sees anything may be amiss. No more manually clicking through our accounts, checking them again and again to make sure our loads are complete. That’s an example right there of how Power BI is saving me hours of time each week!

Make your life easier and become friends with Power BI. For the price of a six-pack, you can have monthly access to all of the described goodies and many many more. A wide-ranging possibilities of data sources enable you to produce meaningful analysis regardless of what you do – if you are a marketer, technical analyst, or simply a curious blogger. Just try plugging in any Wikipedia page into Power BI Desktop and you will see what I mean.

It might seem like I’m selling Power BI, but let me assure you that I am not affiliated with Microsoft in any way. I just want to help people use their data more effectively.

Interested in a professionally made dashboard to visualize your data? Schedule a live one-on-one demo with one of our product experts!