This blog will cover the following topics:
What is Business Intelligence?
Before learning about Power BI, it is good to have some basic knowledge of business intelligence.
Business intelligence is a collection of methods and tools that analyze raw data. Business intelligence refers to strategies and methods used by companies for performing data analysis of any business information. Business Intelligence works on ETL processes, i.e., extraction, transformation, and loading of data into a database, which also includes data mining, online analytical processing, and business reporting. Most organizations use business intelligence to improve their performance and operations efficiently.
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What is Power BI?
Microsoft Power BI is a tool that converts data from various data sources to interactive BI reports and dashboards. With Power BI, you can quickly connect your data, wrap it, visualize it as needed, and share it on sites securely.
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Power BI History
For the successful growth of an organization, it is important to make the right business decisions based on the available data. It is also necessary to fetch relevant data and present it in an understandable format. This was the primary reason why Microsoft Power BI was designed. Power BI turns raw data into meaningful and useful information in a short span of time.
Power BI was originally designed by Ron George, and he named the project Crescent. Later on, it was renamed Power BI after being accepted by Thierry D’Hers and Amir Netz of the SQL Server Reporting Services team at Microsoft. It was then released by Microsoft in September 2013 as Power BI for Office 365. It was first released to the general public on 24 July 2015.
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Power BI Components
The following are the main Power BI components :
- Power Query: The Power Query is an important component that is used for searching, accessing, and transforming public and internal data sources.
- Power Pivot: Data modeling for in-memory analytics in Power BI is taken care of by the Power Pivot.
- Power View: You can visualize, analyze, and display data in Power BI with the help of Power View.
- Power Map: The Power Map is responsible for creating interactive geographical data visualizations.
- Power BI Service: By using Power BI Service, you can share data views and workbooks, along with refreshing from on-premises and cloud-based data sources.
- Power BI Q&A: The Power BI Q&A allows you to ask questions and also get prompt answers by using a natural language query.
- Data Management Gateway: The Data Management Gateway provides regular data refreshers, view data feeds, and expose tables.
- Data Catalog: By using Data Catalog, the user can discover along with reusing queries using the Data Catalog. Also, this kind of functionality can be facilitated by using Metadata.
Power BI Architecture typically consists of a data foundation layer, data analytics engine, and data visualization dashboard.
Different file formats from different cloud data sources can be harmonized and brought into a unified data model by using Power BI. Power BI can integrate with various cloud sources, such as Azure Dataverse, and different data formats such as flat files and .csv.
Power BI has comprehensive analytics capabilities, ranging from descriptive to diagnostic. Using DAX-based logic and analytical frameworks, Power BI can execute a varied range of analytical calculations and experimentations on the data foundation. Power BI also can integrate with cloud-based machine learning platforms such as Azure ML.
Power BI offers various visualizations, simple as well as complicated, for creating state-of-the-art insights-driven dashboards. Power BI has easy-to-use and intuitive visualization capabilities that make visualization from unified data models straightforward to implement and execute.
Power BI has multiple data sources, which form an important part of Power BI. Power BI connects with these data sources to import data from files in the system and/or cloud-based online data sources. Some of the examples of data sources are:
- Power BI Datasets
- Power BI Dataflows
- SQL Server
- Analysis Services
- Text or CSV
- OData Feed
- Blank Query
- Power BI Template Apps
- MySQL Database
- Google Analytics
Why do we need Power BI?
Power BI provides interactive visualization of data with self-service business intelligence capabilities. With Power BI, end users can create their own interactive business intelligence reports and dashboards without having to depend on IT personnel or database administrators. Most organizations use Power BI as their business analytics solution.
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Power BI Tools
Next in this Power BI Tutorial, we will go through some of the essential Power BI tools:
1- Power BI Service
Also known as Power BI Online, Power BI Service is a web-based platform that allows you to share the reports made on Power BI Desktop. Power BI Service facilitates ease of collaboration with users and the creation of dashboards and reports. It is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tool that hosts Power BI models, dashboards, and reports. Sharing reports, administrative operations, and collaboration all happen with the help of Power BI Service. However, it is only available with the pro license, for which a user has to pay US$10 every month.
Power BI Service lets you ask questions about your data. There are three versions of Power BI, Free Version, Pro Version, and Premium Version.
All in all, Power BI Service is one of the building blocks of Power BI; Power BI Service lets you create, share, and consume business insights.
2- Power BI Desktop
Power BI Desktop is a free data analytics and visualization tool that allows users to create data models, dashboards, and reports. Connecting with multiple available data sources becomes easier with the help of the Power BI Desktop. A majority of users working on business intelligence projects depend on Power BI Desktop for creating and sharing reports. The main uses of Power BI Desktop are:
- Connecting to multiple data sources
- Data visualization
- Creating reports
- Data transformation
- Sharing reports
The three views available with Power BI Desktop are Report View, Data View, and Model View.
3- Power BI Report Server
Power BI Report Server is an on-premise platform that allows you to display and manage reports and KPIs. It hosts paginated reports, dashboards, power applications, and KPIs. You can modify the existing reports, created by the development team, and use filters to get a customized experience. You can access reports on web browsers or mobile devices. The reports can also be accessed via email.
4- Power BI Gateway
Installed by BI admin, Power BI Gateway acts as a bridge between Power BI and on-premises data sources such as Excel, DirectQuery, PowerApps, Azure Analysis Services, etc. The data extracted out through secure channels, with the help of Power BI Gateway, is used for analysis and reporting. Power BI Gateway provides ease of accessing data as it directly connects the client platform to the on-premises source.
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5- Power BI Mobile
Power BI Mobile is a Power BI mobile application that can run on iOS, Android, and Windows. Power BI Mobile allows you to view reports and dashboards anywhere and at any time.
6- Power BI Apps
Power BI Apps are mobile applications that are available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices. By using Microsoft Intune, you can share reports and dashboards with other users, which they can access on their smartphones over the internet.
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Power BI Dashboards
Power BI Dashboard is basically a page consisting of visualizations for representing a story or business insight. It is limited to only one page and can be viewed and shared on mobile devices as well. The visualizations that are seen on the dashboard are obtained from the reports that are gathered from datasets.
Advantages of Power BI Dashboard
The interactive visualizations available on Power BI Dashboard are considered one of the best ways to monitor business. All the metrics can be viewed at a glance. Power BI Dashboard is also known as Canvas as it consists of a single page. This is going to make it easier for you to have a clear view of the metrics in spite of multiple reports from different datasets.
The following is a sample screenshot of the Power BI Dashboard:
Power BI Reports
Power BI allows you to create reports with multiple perspectives into one single dataset, which are later stored in the Power BI Report Server. These reports are known as Power BI reports. You can create and also edit the reports on the Power BI desktop and publish them on the web portal. Post-publication, the readers can view the reports in the web browser or the Power BI Mobile on a mobile device. The reports in Power BI can have one or more visual pages.
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Power BI DAX
Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) in Power BI is a formula expression language that is used to create calculated fields and apply them to datasets. DAX offers a collection of operators, functions, and constants that can be used to create formulated columns and rows for better understanding. DAX has different data types such as numeric, decimals, currency, integers, binary objects, strings, etc.
How does it work?
To understand the working of Power BI DAX, it is very important to understand the three key concepts in Power BI DAX- Syntax, Context, and Functions.
The syntax is basically the Power BI formula consisting of many components. To write effective DAX syntax, it is suggested that you break the formula into understandable language. Consider a simple syntax below:
Total Sales = SUM ( Sales [sales amount] )
In the above syntax,
Total Sales refers to the measure name
The beginning of the DAX formula is denoted by ‘=’
‘SUM’ is used to add up all the figures in the column
‘( )’ Parenthesis means the expression consists of more than one argument
Context is considered an important Power BI DAX concept. It can be explained by enlisting its two types- Row Context and Filter Context.
Row Context is simply speaking, the current row and is used especially in the case of measures. Row context is applied to a formula where the function uses filters for identifying a single row in a table.
In simpler terms, Filter Context means that there is one more filter applied in a calculation. It is a difficult context to understand as compared to the Row context. Usually, it is not possible that the Filter context is applied in place of the Row Context. But it is possible that the Filter Context is applied in addition to the Row Context.
Functions in Power BI refer to the predefined, ordered, and structured formulae to carry out calculations using arguments. Some of the common DAX functions are MIN, MAX, SUM, AVERAGE, MAXX, SUMX, and more.
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Calculated Columns and Measures
‘Calculated columns’ is nothing but the extension of a table using DAX formulae to add new columns while creating data models on the Power BI Desktop. Also, the content to be added in the new columns is defined by a DAX expression.
‘Measures’ are a different way of defining calculations in DAX models. Basically, they are used when you are not operating on a row-by-row basis but are doing so on aggregated values that are defined by the current context.
Working of Power BI
In Power BI, you should first connect your data to the tool, transform the data that you have uploaded, model the data as needed, visualize the data, and share the generated results.
Connecting Your Data
You can either use Power BI or Power BI Desktop to connect a variety of data from various data sources such as MySQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, etc. You can connect your data in Power BI in two ways, either upload your file to Power BI or import the file to Power BI.
Uploading your File to Power BI
Connect to the data in your workbook so that you can create Power BI reports and dashboards for it.
Importing your File into Power BI
In order to view your file, you will have to fetch it in Power BI; you can interact with the file just as you would do in the case of Excel Online.
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Transforming Your Data
Once your data is loaded, you can transform it as per your need. You can do this by using the Transform menu. It has a set of operations including reverse rows, count rows, rename, replace values and errors, pivot and unpivot columns, etc.
Modeling Your Data
For data modeling, add the data sources in Power BI new report option. Power BI lets you add functions, calculations, relationships, measures, etc., to your data for better visualization and analytics; this is done so that the data can be used to derive better business insights. This functionality of Power BI is referred to as Data Modeling. By using Power BI Data Modeling, you can even write a query to your files so that you can accomplish different tasks in a short span of time.
In Power BI, you can create reports, dashboards, etc., based on the modeled data and depending on your organization’s requirement. Report creation can be done in many ways; you have to select a field of your choice from your CSV or data file, and then choose the tool that you want to give to your data so as to generate the desired report. You can use a variety of tools and even add a custom visual gallery effectively.
The following are some samples of data visualization:
Sharing the Generated Reports
To share a generated report, select the ‘Share’ option that appears from the top navigation.
On selecting the ‘share’ option, complete the form, and share it with your team.
You can share the generated reports from Favorites, Recent, and My Workspace.
Companies Using Power BI
There are many companies that use Power BI for efficient decision-making. Computer software companies are the largest segment of companies that uses Power BI. Some companies that use Power BI are:
- Tableau Software
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Advantages of Power BI
The following are the advantages of using Power BI:
- Has a short learning curve as compared to other BI tools such as Tableau
- Simple and easy-to-use interface with drag-and-drop features for data visualization
- Introduces new functionalities and data analysis functions almost every month
- Crowning features allow you to create customized dashboards and meet exact organizational demands
- Power natural language interface lets you run database queries through voice commands
- Allows the author to connect with live data sources and provides the information to the stakeholders in real-time
Disadvantages of Power BI
The following are the disadvantages of using Power BI:
- Reports and dashboards can only be shared with users having the same email domain
- You cannot merge data from live connections with on-premise datasets. Instead, you have to connect all data sources with Power BI Server and publish your dashboard on the website
- Power BI only accepts datasets with a maximum size of 250 MB to its in-memory database. If a dataset is larger in size, then you have to run direct queries on the database, which makes the process much slower
- Few data sources and parameters as compared to Tableau
In this Power BI step-by-step tutorial, you learned that Power BI is a business intelligence tool through which you can make creative reports and dashboards for better decision-making. You also learned about business intelligence, its importance, how Power BI came into existence and importance, the working of Power BI, companies using Power BI, etc. You will learn about the building blocks of Power BI in the next session.