Power BI: The Complete Guide to the Microsoft Tool
Do you often think about what strategies can help you reduce costs in the company and simplify the work routine of your employees? Tools like Microsoft Power BI are the solution!
The software, built to integrate large databases with technologies that optimize their visualization and analysis, is an excellent asset for companies that are focused on data-driven management.
The following guide will help you better understand the tool, explain what areas of the business it can be used for, and discover the key differentiators of Power BI. Are you in?
What is Power BI?
Created in 2010, “Project Crescent” was the origin of Power BI. Microsoft engineers’ idea was very simple — to put all the additional features of Excel in one place, so that users could take advantage of all of them simultaneously, with agility, and using a friendlier interface.
Power BI is not exactly new software. Much of its components are already on the market and Power BI Desktop is just the latest addition to the family. A few years ago, Power Pivot was released by the Microsoft team, with tools like PivotTable and PivotChart. The latest system was Microsoft’s way of uniting all of its data analysis and processing services into one tool.
This is important to understand that Power BI is not just a data visualization feature like Tableau. Its differential is to integrate data with many of the sources used daily by the business and take all the work to the cloud, using the Azure environment if your company wishes.
This gives rise to the versatility of the system. Whether the user chooses to import spreadsheets or to integrate an entire database into it, the same agility, modeling, and analysis capabilities will be available. If you want to develop solutions using Power BI features, you’ll also find this functionality in the tool, which works as both a report generator and a decision maker.
We can divide the Power BI components into:
- Power Query: a feature developed to combine and transform data;
- Power View: Microsoft visualization tool;
- Power Map: 3D system to visualize spatial data;
- Power Pivot: a data modeling feature;
- Power Q&A: part of the system that responds to queries made in natural language; and
- Power BI Desktop: allows you to develop solutions that use all these technologies.
Microsoft also makes available the Power BI website where you can share information and store it in the cloud, and mobile applications where users can take full advantage of the system on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
How does it work?
Using Power BI is very simple. There is a common flow of implementation that follows the roadmap:
- Connect the data to Power BI and create a report;
- Publish the data to the Power BI Service to create visualizations and build your own dashboards;
- Share dashboards with stakeholders; and
- View and interact with the dashboard, making modifications and adaptations as needed.
With the help of a consultant, all this work can be outsourced, and your company receives the solution planned to cover all the possible use cases.
It’s a good idea to know the main components of Power BI since you will interact with them every day — visualizations, data sets, reports, panels, and blocks.
Views are the representation in charts and maps of the data that is entered in Power BI. They are fully customizable, which means your company can insert a logo, modify the colors of the project, and create complex compositions for the data to be absorbed quickly.
The main datasets are the worksheets and databases that Power BI feeds into to generate views. They can consist of a single data source or several of them, which can be filtered and combined as the user pleases.
A table that comes from your Google Analytics and an Excel file can make up a single dataset.
In the reporting area, the viewsets you’ve created can be divided into pages. From there, they turn into data presentations that are directly or indirectly related and serve some defined purpose, such as presenting the number of sales in a period and location.
There are panels that allow you to share a report or a view, and they are made up of only one page that provides insight into everything that was included in the story that is trying to feed from that data. Blocks are either a single view within a report or a dashboard, and can be clicked and dragged so you can better distribute them on the page. Whoever receives a file can interact with it, redistributing the information as they see fit.
When you connect Power BI to an Azure database, the information in your reports and views is updated and filtered in real time, allowing you to keep track of what’s happening in your business. With the software you can create everything from scratch or use templates provided by Microsoft to help you distribute certain types of information.
How important is it for decision making?
Want some reasons to start using Microsoft software in your organization? The process of decision-making and finding insights becomes much easier with Business Intelligence systems.
They modify the way your company handles data and guide decisions so that managers and employees can achieve more predictability in actions that would previously be based on perceptions not always supported by real data.
Data Science experts rely on the decision-making tool because it brings visibility to all business actions, allows all databases to be integrated into one place, and enables you to see the company’s past influencing its future. With algorithms, these professionals create predictions (such as a user’s likelihood of acquiring a particular product) and draw conclusions about the most interesting actions for the future of a business.
Knowing if it’s time to invest in one technology or another, understanding how to retain a customer and anticipate the profits of the next period are all pieces of information that become more transparent with BI solutions.
Therefore, decisions within companies are optimized and they gain predictability and control over previously unknown variables that greatly influence the outcome of each action.
What are its main advantages?
Have you ever wondered how many reviews your company cannot do exclusively using Excel? Companies that still focus all their data on this software face great challenges in managing the data they deal with every day. This is one of the top reasons to migrate to Power BI.
The tool provides resources to produce reports and analyze business information that empowers managers and helps them make better decisions.
Power BI optimizes data visualization and gives even those users who are not familiar with Business Intelligence more information about the data that impact their results. Understanding what is happening in all departments of the organization is easier and your employees do not have to devote so many hours to this task.
Sharing insights with other contributors is a fairly simple task. However, these are not the only benefits of using Power BI. We’ve selected five of them so that you better understand the applications of this solution.
Access to large data groups
With Power BI your company will have ease to access large groups of data, which can be combined in the form of sets. Sets, as we have already mentioned, are associations between more than one database or more than one source (such as a spreadsheet and an SQL database). This is reason enough to migrate to Power BI, which processes information from multiple sources quickly and efficiently.
Think of, for example, those data groups that cannot be viewed with Excel because they are too large. Power BI integrates all the tools you could use to view them with this other Microsoft software, so it’s the most compelling alternative to replace it in those situations.
Your employees, however, will have many other reasons to prefer to process, view, and analyze data with Power BI. They will not need to reduce databases they deal with daily and can aggregate all of them into a unified dashboard that gives a complete view of the business and helps decision making across all areas of the business.
Intuitive user interface
When an organization adopts new software, it must have in mind how long employees will take to learn how to handle the new tool. Betting on Power BI is saving a lot on training because it has an interface that is not only intuitive but recognized by everyone who knows the Office suite.
Copying formatting from one dashboard to another with Format Painter that we find in other Microsoft software is easy. This helps to create consistent branding for presentations and reports and save it for later use, saving you a lot of time in creating your documents.
Advanced security features
The data your business has are valuable and need to be protected from external threats. Software like Power BI have advanced security features based on Azure, the infrastructure platform developed by Microsoft.
Using a technology known as Azure Active Directory (AAD) it ensures the security of both information and the person who logs into the system. Entries are authenticated by the platform service, and then this information is passed on securely to Azure whenever new information is required to ensure ease of use of the system.
That is not all that the AAD does. It also protects the networks and environments where data is stored and adds extra security to everything that is migrated to Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure.
Optimized views for reports
Power BI turns you into a data analyst, with rich visualizations and interactive dashboards that give you a consolidated, real-time view of your business. To the analyst by nature, Power BI Desktop provides a free-form screen for drag-and-drop data exploration, as well as a rich library of interactive visualizations, simple reporting, and rapid publishing to the Power BI service.
Data tools in the cloud
It is the cloud, though, that makes Power BI much more resourceful. The main reason for this is the tool features that operate only from the cloud, such as panels sharing with team members.
With just a few days of use, it will be already possible to realize that the BI self-service from Microsoft is better than others because it is able to publish panels and reports both for those who have a service license and for the ones that just wish to visualize the data.
The analyses created by a company with its Business Intelligence solution are much more valuable when they can be easily sent to clients and business partners, and modified by employees wherever they are. The cloud makes all that possible.
If you would have to write an e-mail, attach a file or add it to another cloud service when using spreadsheets, in Power BI, all this is natively integrated. A few clicks are enough to send panels to all the stakeholders of a project.
However, those are not the only Power BI Service characteristics. The quick insights, generated by algorithms run in the cloud, allow one to have better knowledge of what goes on with the business in a few seconds, without the need of investing in local infrastructure.
The cloud also enables the use of tools like natural-language queries to work using millions of pieces of information from the Internet to understand, in a few minutes, exactly what someone is talking about and what he or she wants to know when a question is received by the system.
Another incredible Power BI resource to make your job easier are the e-mail alerts. Every time you create a panel, you can receive notifications when your KPIs are updated. This makes not only the work with data, but also their continuous monitoring easier, which is a main part of the decision-making process.
Which areas benefit from it?
To know if a piece of software is a good idea for your organization there is nothing like understanding its applications in day to day operations.
That’s why we’ve listed some of your company departments that will benefit the most from Power BI and show you what kind of results it can bring to every business area.
Sales departments face a constant challenge: producing accurate, up-to-date reports with customer data, number of products sold, and many other pieces of information. This task, which is already complex, becomes even more laborious when the area expands. The larger a company, the longer it takes by setting up reports of this nature and the less its professionals can dedicate efforts to actually sell.
One of the key features of BI systems is to give visibility to this information and make it easier to embed it in systems. All this saves not only time but also provides features that improve your department’s performance indicators and show management what you need to do to optimize sales and profit more.
There is nothing that affects more the success of marketing departments than to understand the customer well. Optimized data management gives these teams the ability to visualize what the company’s consumers have in common and understand how to exploit those quirks to win new leads.
Patterns of consumer behavior, what they want and need, and what kinds of approaches work best are just a few of the findings that a system like Power BI can help your business accomplish. In sectors such as the Pharmaceutical Industry, it is this information that points out where to look for customers and which differentials to exploit to captivate them.
How does your company track team performance, and what criteria makes the difference when it comes to promoting an employee or increasing his or her workload? By monitoring all the team’s activities, performance, and KPIs that show the results achieved by teams and employees, the Human Resources department can know exactly when it’s time to hire more staff, who stands out within the organization and what initiatives can be taken to qualify the results of the teams.
The Finances department of a company does not just deal with bills. It administers all the planning for a venture to make a profit and keep up with legal and labor obligations.
It is the Financial Team’s role to find opportunities to cut costs within the business and to point out ways to do so. With Power BI, areas that do not generate enough return for the company, products that get accumulated in their warehouses for long periods of time, and the constant exchange of equipment for lack of maintenance can be perceived quickly and mitigated.
By running more efficiently, your company can invest what it has saved on new technologies, recruitment, and improvements that will leverage its results.
How to properly hire this service?
Do you think Power BI is the right solution for your business and you want to know how much it costs to implement it successfully? The Microsoft Smart Analytics tool has a free version that you can use to better understand the tool and check its suitability for your business.
Larger companies that require large, scalable deployments should seek help from a consulting firm. It will be able to define exactly what your business needs, how much capacity the deployment will use, how many upgrades it can make to the system, what types of reports it will receive, what geographic region it will install its deployment in and with whom it will share the data without having to purchase licenses for each one of these users.
Universities and government institutions have special pricing to use Power BI and only in the Pro version can you publish content to the Microsoft Report Server.
Each Power BI licensing mode addresses specific needs. Today, four types of licensing are available for the tool, which are:
- Free: free version of Power BI, for those who have an Office 365 account. It does not allow sharing of panels between teams and has space limited to 1 GB, being more suitable for small businesses;
- Pro: allows sharing of information between members of your team. Provides 10 GB of storage so your business can better manage BI demands;
- Premium: an offering that allows you to share reports even with users who are not licensed in Power BI and helps businesses work on a larger scale, with better performance and 50GB storage; and
- Embedded: targeted at those who need to insert reports and dashboards into their own applications. In this release it is also possible to share reports even with users who are not licensed in Power BI.
Power BI is an easy-to-use tool that helps companies introduce an analytical culture into their routines. With self-service BI features and features that can be easily utilized by all members of the organization, not just the IT department experts, the software will be a great partner for your company to get better results with the data obtained.
Fast views, integration with multiple databases, and security for information sharing are just a few of the reasons to consider using the Microsoft system in your organization. The future of business is in data analysis and with Power BI your organization can stay ahead of the competition.
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