Using Power BI To Extract the Hidden Value in Your Data

Using Power BI may be even more valuable than you imagined. Just think about how much of the data at your organization gets used.   What percentage is really used to analyze, evaluate, and help drive better and faster decisions?


Many data-driven companies are only beginning to think about how to turn their data into useful, business-driving information. First you need the right tool to extract the value. Power BI – Microsoft’s self-service business intelligence tool – is continually expanding its features to make data extraction more accessible.

With Power BI, you can analyze important trends in your data, and then publish user-created dashboards and reports to the cloud. Topping the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms for two years running, Power BI allows you to explore, blend, and visualize data across your organization.

Using Power BI with Azure Data CatalogUsing Power BI to Visualize Data

Knowing which data resides where, and having the ability to explore it, is the first step to more meaningful analytics. It’s typical for companies to be unaware of all the data that exists within their organization, or where it resides. Instead, they rely on tribal knowledge to find the data they need to analyze. This is inefficient, and becomes less feasible as data grows at accelerating rates. Azure Data Catalog (ADC) is a service that saves key structural metadata, samples of registered datasets, and annotations describing the source to serve up to other users. Some setup time is needed to register datasets, but there will be a pay off over time.

Data registered in ADC relies on the authentication of the source dataset, so even if users can see that the “salary” database exists, they’re unable to explore it further without the proper permissions. Authorized users can open these datasets directly in Power BI and explore the full dataset immediately.

Using Power BI for Data Mashups

A data mashup is the integration of data from many sources into a single functioning dataset. Power BI’s connectivity/mashup engine now supports over 70 data sources and can be extended with Microsoft’s new Data Connector SDK. Combining datasets allows for analyses across data that were previously siloed, leading to potential new conclusions. Power BI’s “Get Data” experience helps you avoid the difficulties of interpreting data types, building connection strings, and adding complex data relationships. Power BI supports two data modes, Import and Direct Query. Import mode allows for scheduled data refreshes, while Direct Query mode ensures that the report displays up-to-date data every time it’s opened.

Power BI uses a data manipulation language, Data Analysis Expressions (DAX), which enables you to create custom calculations through manipulating data within your data model. DAX is supported in Power BI, Power Pivot, and SSAS Tabular, making DAX a powerful differentiator. Seamless re-factoring capabilities in Power BI like table and column renaming trickle down to calculations within your reports, makes designing reports in Power BI extremely productive.

Combining datasets, adding custom analytics, and displaying current data are three ways to provide better analytics to your end users.


Using Power BI Data Visualization to Impress the Executives

With the data in one place, now what? Even with the most beautifully, text-book run analyses, it all comes down to how that information is presented. Visualization can make or break your next report.

Luckily using Power BI’s built-in visualizations is easy.  Power BI will even recommend new charts and graphs depending on the data you need to display. Built-in templates and theme support simplify branding and sales management needs, generating an entire report filled with pre-cooked analysis. When these out-of-the-box solutions won’t cut it, Power BI offers extensive customization.

Many open source solutions are available for download within the Custom Visuals for Power BI area of the Microsoft Office Store. It’s possible to start with a community-submitted visual, or to build from scratch in Typescript or R.

Using Power BI on Web sites and Mobile Devices

Power BI is available to users, anytime, anywhere. For beautiful visualizations on-the-go, Power BI offers iPhone, iPad and Android compatible apps with touch-enabled mobile access to your business information. You can find an example dashboard from DesignMind on the Microsoft Power BI showcase website right now. Power BI may also be embedded easily into existing websites and mobile apps. Using JavaScript and the Power BI JavaScript API you can easily control reports from an application.

Extract More Value with Power BI Now!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to extract more value from your data.  Power BI and Azure Data Catalog are user friendly tools that can help you ramp up your data usage quickly. Learn more about how to explore your data in How To Use Power BI to Enhance Data Exploration.

James Mazzanti is a Senior Business Intelligence Consultant at DesignMind.