In this beginner’s guide to Power BI you will learn everything there is to know about Power BI. Get ready to explore and visualize data better than you’ve ever explored before.
We will be concentrating on Power BI Desktop in this guide.
What is Business Intelligence (BI)?
An increasingly common buzzword used today, “BI” stands for business intelligence, the process of combining business analytics, data mining, data visualization, data tools, and infrastructure together with proper practices to help keep things organized in order to make informed data-driven decisions.
Whilst “BI” is nothing new and has existed for a number of decades, the modern take on it brings it to a whole new level, allowing any business to use “BI” tools to their advantage.
What Is Power BI?
Microsoft’s Power BI is a Business Intelligence and data visualization tool, which allows you to connect and visualize any data for self-service and enterprise Business Intelligence. It is easy to use and helps you gain a deeper data insight.
With Microsoft’s free Power BI Desktop, you can:
- Connect to data, including multiple data sources.
- Shape the data with queries to build insightful data models.
- Use the data models to create striking visualizations and reports.
- You can share your files, like any other file, but the best way is to upload them to the Power BI service ($9.99 per month per user)
Installing Power BI Desktop
Step 1) Head on over to https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/desktop/ and click the “Download free” button
Step 2) You will be redirected to the Microsoft store, just press the get button and wait for the download to complete
Step 3) Launch Power BI Desktop. You will be greeted by this screen, you don’t have to sign in to use Power BI Desktop
Step 4) Click the “Get data” button, to start importing your data, and begin the visualizations.
How to Use Power BI
Power BI enables even the not so technically inclined individuals to easily connect to data and create stunning visuals. It also offers enough features for your more advanced users to get the most out of it.
It has a couple of different components to it:
- Power BI Desktop: The free downloadable desktop application
- Power BI Service: The paid for online Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Mobile Apps: Apps designed for Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices
- Power BI Report Server: Publish reports to an on-premise report server
Usually, you will build your report using Power BI Desktop, and then you will want to share your report with people, the easiest way is to publish it to the Power BI service, which will allow end-users to view and interact with it. But there are alternatives, you can send the Power BI file just like any other file, or you can convert your report to a pdf but you will lose interactivity.
Another way is to publish the report to the Power BI report server if you want to keep it within your company.
More Advanced Features
Whilst it is easy getting started with Power BI, most datasets will likely require some manipulations or custom calculations. This is where some of the more advanced features kick in.
Similar to SQL you can create relationships between different tables, this is useful when you need to connect multiple tables with each other and allow filters to be applied to all tables with a relationship.
Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) helps you create new information from data that is already in your model, it is a set of functions, operators, and constants that can be used within formulas. It can be used in measures, calculated columns, and tables.
Measure: You can easily perform calculations across the entire dataset, without the need to create new columns. There are some useful built-in measures that you can easily use.
As an example, if you want to calculate the sum of all the prices.
|Sum Price = sum(Item[Price])|
Calculated Column: Add a new column to your dataset by using the data that is already there.
A very simple example would be to calculate a new price for our items:
|New Price = Item[Price] / 2|
Table: You can create an entirely new table by using a DAX function with your data, as an example, we want to get a list of the countries in our user column.
|Countries = DISTINCT(User[Country])|
Power Query is a data transformation and data preparation engine. It has a graphical interface, which makes it more user-friendly, it has some pre-defined calculations that you can use to transform your data.
M-Language is the data transformation language for Power Query, anything within power query is ultimately tranformed into the M-Language, for more advanced users you can directly modify the query in the advanced editor.
Benefits Power BI
There are so many advantages of Power Bi, here are just some of them:
- User Friendly
- Import data with more than 70 methods
- Incredibly cost effective
- Interactive visual dashboard
- Power Query offers easy data manipulation
- Automated Machine Learning
- Custom Visualizations
Limitations of Power BI
Whilst Power BI is an amazing software, it is not without some limitations.
- Can’t accept file sizes larger than 1 GB
- Limited Data Cleaning functionality
- Reports and dashboard can only be shared with those useres with the same email domain
- Complex to master
A career in Business Intelligence can be quite lucrative with an average annual salary of $107k in the USA, and thanks to Power Bi’s versatility, there are a variety of different relevant positions out there:
- BI Analyst
- Business Analyst
- Power BI Developer
- Power BI Consultant
- Data Analyst
- Data Visualization Consultant
Furthermore, there are a variety of industries that use PowerBI, such as IT, Healthcare, Insurance, Banking, Recruiting, and Software developers to list a few.
Where to Learn Power BI?
Power BI is exceptionally popular, and as such there are plenty of educational resources to help you learn how to use Power BI. And if you want a career working with Power BI, it’s best to get a certification.
I’ve found these resources which should help the true beginners as well as the seasoned veterans.
- Introductory Courses:
- Advanced Courses:
LinkedIn Learning also has a variety of excellent Power BI Courses available.
Power BI is an easy to use powerful Business Intelligence tool, which will enable you to get actionable insights from your data.