Power BI – An Interactive Visualisation Tool

Introduction to Power BI

Power BI is a business analytics tool, provided by Microsoft, which give insights connecting to many data sources. It produces beautiful reports and publishes them for the organization to consume on the web and across mobile devices. It provides interactive visualizations with self-service business intelligence capabilities, where end users can create reports and dashboards by themselves, without having to depend on information technology staff or database administrators.

How to install Power BI

To install this tool, we have to go to the link given below,
https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/
We can see “Microsoft Power BI Desktop” written in bold.  Click the “download” option given below. The “PBIDesktop_x64.msi” file will get downloaded. Then continue with the installation steps as the dialog box pop up.
The four major building blocks of Power BI are: Dashboard, Report, Workbook, and Dataset.

  1. Dataset – A dataset is a collection of data that you import or connect to, and bring all of it together in one place. A single dataset can be a part of many workspaces. 
  2. Report – A Power BI report is one or more pages of visualizations that brings out meaningful insight from a dataset. All of the visualizations in a report come from a single dataset.
  3. Dashboard – It is a single canvas that contains tiles and widgets pinned from a report, showing a single visualisation that was created from a dataset and pinned. From here we can see all the information needed to make decisions, in one glance. Also, we can monitor the most important information about in a business.
  4. Workbook – Workbooks are a special type of dataset. When we use Get data with Excel files and choose Connect, our workbook will appear in Power BI just like it would in Excel Online. Workbooks can’t be edited in power bi. These are the blocks we get under “My Workspace”.

Basic Features of Power BI

Microsoft Power BI has features that can provide powerful insights through an interactive visualization at lower costs of ownership.

  1. Power BI Desktop provides an option of on-premises and cloud data sources, which may be structured or unstructured in nature. And these get added each month.
  2. Its Content Packs includes dashboard reports, data model and embedded queries (from SQL and R).
  3. Allows the user to write questions and accordingly, the software will provide with the content and answer, which can then be manipulated to match user’s needs.
  4. The feature of printing dashboards can be useful in any board meetings and discussions.
  5. It has more than 200 functions and counting. The rich DAX formulas help in creating powerful analytical data models.

When we open power bi desktop tool, let’s take a look at the interface and get to know about the pieces that make up the landing page for Power BI service
     

1. Report – It is the work space where we can create visualizations, as per we need. This is the first icon in the left pane.
              

2. Data – It shows full data set that is imported to power bi, the fields along with the records. This is the second icon in the left pane.

              

3. Relationship – It is useful when we import more than one related data sets in power bi. Clicking on this icon, we get to see relationships between the tables. In fact, we can even create relationships if needed. This is the third icon to the left pane.
                

4. Fields – To the extreme right we have this icon. This shows all the tables and their corresponding fields (or, attributes)  of the data set imported. We drag and drop the fields on the visualizations from this place.
                

5. Visualizations – This is seen just beside Field panel. It contains all the visualization charts available to the users.
We can select any chart with a single click on it, and work on the data accordingly. It has a section of “Filter” below where we can drag the field to be filtered and the filtering criteria.

                
           

6. Page 1 – To the extreme bottom, this is the place where we can enter the name of the particular page. “Page 1” is the default name provided  by the tool. Right click on it and click rename, to change the page name according to our choice.
              

Key features in a Power BI dashboard

  1. Navigation Pane – This is the left-most vertical window on the work space. It can be used to locate and move between our work spaces, dashboards, reports and even data sets.
  • The “Get Data” option mentioned below, can be used to add data sets, reports and dashboards to power bi.
  • By “Favorites” we can mark and later open our favorite content.
  • By “Recent”, we can view and open our recently opened content.
  • View, open, or delete an app by selecting “Apps”.
  • By “Shared with me”, we can search and sort the content we want to find.
  • Display and open your work spaces by selecting “Work spaces”.

2. Canvas – The canvas area displays visualization tiles, if we open a dashboard. Again, if we open the report editor, the canvas area would display a report page.

3. Q & A question box – This can be used to add content to a dashboard or report. We can ask a question and Power BI Q&A would give us an answer in the form of a visualization. It basically looks for an answer in the data set connected to the dashboard. A connected data set would mean that it has at least one tile pinned to that dashboard.
             
4. Icon buttons – The icons in the upper right corner are the resource for settings, notifications, downloads, getting help, and providing feedback to the Power BI team.
             

5. Dashboard title – It is the navigation path that Power BI creates for us, to figure out which workspace and dashboard are active.

6. Office 365 app launcher – From here we can quickly launch our emails, documents, calendar, and all our Office 365 apps. 
             
7. Labelled icon buttons – This area contains additional options for interacting with the contents, i.e., options for        duplicating, printing, refreshing the dashboard, etc.

Video Links

Below are mentioned few links of power bi tutorial videos, which would be useful for the beginners,

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c01r_pAZdk&list=PL1N57mwBHtN0JFoKSR0n-tBkUJHeMP2cP&index=1

Clicking this link, you would find a list of 148 videos on power bi, from scratch. It’s an authentic site of Microsoft.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqO0EiCn4cY

This link has 21 videos that would help you understand step by step knowledge on Power BI

Case study to demonstrate how to create Power BI Dashboard with Salary Data set

Explaining the visualizations with the help of a small case study.
A sample data set is attached to the link below. Click on the link to view the full data set.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/10MdSVb46-8QMRwgyP3YVDDsFczjCGkXt/view?usp=sharing
It is the data set of salary structures for employees in few countries taken into consideration.
We will analyse the data set, its variables and try to bring out some insights, with the help of power bi tool.

Steps followed to create Power BI dashboard:

  1. Install Power BI Desktop as instructed above.
  2. Download the data set from the link provided.
  3. Open Power bi
  4. From the home tab, click on the option “Get Data”. Select the type of file you want to load. (Here, the example data set is in xlsx. Hence, choose the option “Excel”)
  5. A pop-up box appears. Select the tables you want to load from the mentioned dataset and click on “Load”.
  6. The data gets loaded.
  7. Under “Visualization” tab on the right side we see all the types of visualizations available to us, to work on (like, bar chart, column chart, line chart, stacked area chart, pie chart, etc.). Select the visualization you need. Also, many “Custom Visualizations” are available to be downloaded freely and used.
  8. Drag and drop the fields you want to analyse, on relevant boxes thus provided.
  9. You can edit the visualization and make it more colourful and attractive, according to choice.
  10. After the visualizations are all ready, go to “Publish” option on the top right.  Sign in with your official power bi account, and then click on “Publish on Web”. The dashboard is created and published on the web.
  11. You can generate a link to the dashboard and share with colleagues, friends, or in public.

One such dashboard is made and using the Salary Data set and attached. It looks like

Introduction to Power BI

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