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Getting Started with Power BI Reporting: The Most Important Basics and Tips

Power BI is essentially a business analytics tool that gives users an easy way to data modeling. It lets you visualize data, share it across your enterprise, or even embed it into your app or website. Connecting data from hundreds of sources and molding it into purposeful incites with live dashboards and reports.

Using data modeling created with Power BI gives executives and PMOs a chance to make informed decisions faster and easier. It allows to connect and explore vast amounts of data and create visual reports to publish and share. Power BI integrates seamlessly with other tools, so you don’t have to change the pre-existing toolbox, and continue working with apps you’re used to.

 

Why do you need Power BI and data modeling?

The bigger the enterprise, the more issues there are to track, the more intricate the programs which aid business processes

Data modeling is an essential step in the process of creating any complex project, no matter the segment: business, academia, education, IT – you name it. If you’re working with complex data sets, frequently changing data streams and landscapes, simply large amounts of critical data – check it out. It helps developers understand the domain and organize their work accordingly. Data and database modeling help the project of any complexity and size have a clearly defined input and clearly defined output.

Obviously, when you create such a complex multi-layered project, like university software, you still can’t design it “on the go.” However, you will end up re-doing and rewriting it over and over, because of multiple decisions you should have made and you didn’t (as well as many things your customers should have told you and them didn’t) in the first place. This is where data models come in handy. When you create a data model, it makes you focus on the details. Data models work as a simplified abstraction of reality. In data modeling, unlike real life, you can make decisions about what information is important and should be included in the data model and what to omit.

 

What does a data model with Power BI look like?

So, what does a data model look like, actually? It is usually created in a graphical form. You must create a diagram which identifies the main concepts in the domain, their features and relationships. There are many graphical notations that data modelers use. While there are some differences, the basic principles stay the same in all notations. And they all serve the same purpose: to understand the underlying domain.

The three major building blocks in data modeling that elegantly intertwine in Power BI:

  • Datasets
  • Reports
  • Dashboards

As long as dashboards and reports will be empty and useless without any data in them, we’ll start with datasets.

Datasets can be imported from or connected to all sorts of databases and data flows with Power BI. The connected datasets are listed in the navigation bar. Each represents a source of data, with a wide variety of different data sources supported. Like Excel, Salesforce, OneDrive, etc. One dataset can be easily used again and again, in many different reports and visualizations from a particular dataset can be displayed on many different dashboards.

Reports in Power BI can be:

  • pulled into creation from scratch,
  • imported with dashboards with you
  • created by connecting to databases, SaaS applications, and content packs

They are represented by one or more pages of charts, graphs, and images that visualize the collected data. There are two ways to view and interact with reports:

Your reports are listed in the navigation pane; each represents one or more pages of visualizations based on one dataset. All the reports can be opened in both Reading View and Editing View.

The dashboard is a complete work space – a “canvas” that contains tiles and widgets that show visualizations created from a dataset. Dashboards are also listed in the navigation bar under the Dashboards heading. “Your dashboards” include all dashboards you have access to. Each dashboard represents a customized view of the underlying datasets. One dashboard can show visualizations from many different datasets and reports.

 

Tips for Getting Started with Power BI
  • Understand the purpose of your report, then find a way to build it. A common mistake is to start out thinking that you should simply replicate what you have previously built in Excel. This approach will limit your thinking and make the journey much harder. Start by thinking about the purpose of your report.
  • Don’t try to replicate what you do in traditional excel. Power BI is not Excel. Don’t use it as one. The closest thing in Excel to Power BI is the Pivot Charts. Pivot Table is an aggregation and summarization visualization tool. If you start using the Matrix with the view of replicating a Pivot Table, then you are bound to be disappointed.
  • Explore the visualizations to understand capabilities. Instead of replicating what you do in Excel, explore the various visualizations to see what each of them does. There are lots of new ways to communicate the insights in data that don’t exist in Excel. A great place to start is the TreeMap or a Column Chart. Also, check out the Custom Visuals Gallery for some of the great free tools that have been shared with the community by industry leading experts.
  • Build your reports in power bi desktop, not the service.

The report in Power BI is a symbiosis of the data model and visualization of the data.

  • Using Power BI Desktop, you can make a model of data and visualization to it – a set of pages in graphs, tables, etc.
  • Using Power BI Service, you can edit only the visual part of the report, downloaded from Desktop, or create a new visualization based on any model data from previously loaded reports.

 

After editing the visual part of the report in Power BI Service, it can be downloaded along with this data, but only by the report owner and under condition that the second report was not created directly in the Power BI Service.

  • Learn how cross filtering works and how to turn it off. Cross filtering is one of the great features of Power BI – use it to your advantage. However, the default cross filtering can be not always the best experience for you personally. In a recent release, Microsoft deployed a feature that allows you to change, customize and turn off the cross-filtering behavior between visualizations. It is easy to work out how to do it, so just give it a go and learn by doing.

 

If you are only starting with Power BI at your company, you might be interested in our Power BI consulting services. Also, if you are a user of Office 365 and/or Microsoft Project Online, you may not want to spend lots of time creating your own reports. FluentPro team has created them for you. Learn more about Power BI Reports Pack for Office 365 Planner and Power BI Reports Pack for Microsoft Project Online.