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How to create and use analytics reports with Power BI

Short story about Power BI

You see all the cool stuff that Power BI has to offer but you don’t really know what it is? Where do you really get started? What all it offers?

It is visualization tool to create stunning reports and dashboards to help you gain insights in your business. And to make business decisions.

In today’s world of fast changing trends and urge to make positive but creative business stories, sometimes it is overwhelming to gather all the data, go through, analyze them and figure out what would be the most optimal business decision for your company.

Power BI is the tool that visualize data you have and helps you to understand them better, but also to notice some trends within your work flows that are hard to see in Excel sheet. After all, human beings are visual creatures. Most of us process information based on what we see. 65 percent of us are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network.

There are 3 different pieces:

  1. Power BI Desktop – Free desktop app that offers you the most functionalities. Within just a few clicks you will get a bunch of visualization that will serve your business.
  2. Power BI Service – Cloud service in the Microsoft Cloud offerings. The point of the service is to drive and enable sharing of collaboration. It works as well in and out of your organization. You can have groups of people and share dashboards. Also, with the possibility of giving rights to ones who may or may not see particular visualization.
  3. Power BI Mobile App – It is possible to use all mentioned serviced on your phone, tablet or other devices wherever you are. Furthermore, there are other tools to help you while being mobile, like sending alert or annotation.
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Okay, now what? What’s the first step?

Data (Sources and Connectors)

First step is to download Power BI Desktop, upload relevant data and create your first visualization: dashboard or report. With Power BI Desktop, you can connect to data from many different sources.

Data types are organized in the following categories:

  • All
  • File
  • Database
  • Power BI
  • Azure
  • Online Services
  • Other

Each of mentioned data types provides the data connections. For example, the File category: Excel, Text/CSV, XML, JSON, Folder, PDF, SharePoint Folder;

And the Database category: SQL Server Database, Access Database, SQL Server Analysis Services Database, Oracle Database, IBM DB2 Database, IBM Informix database (Beta), IBM Netezza, MySQL Database, PostgreSQL Database, Sybase Database, Teradata, etc.

The Power BI team is continually expanding the data sources available to Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. For now, there are more than 250.

Query definition

When working in the Query Editor window of Power BI Desktop, there are a handful of commonly used tasks.

The common query tasks are the following:

  • Connect to data
  • Shape and combine data
  • Group rows
  • Pivot columns
  • Create custom columns
  • Query formulas

You can edit the steps that Query Editor generates, and create custom formulas to get precise control over connecting to and shaping your data. Whenever Query Editor performs an action on data, the formula associated with the action is displayed in the Formula Bar.

Data Modeling

Data Modeling is one of the features used to connect multiple data sources in BI tool using a relationship. A relationship defines how data sources are connected with each other and you can create interesting data visualizations on multiple data sources.

With the modeling feature, you can build custom calculations on the existing tables and these columns can be directly presented into Power BI visualizations. This allows businesses to define new metrics and to perform custom calculations for those metrics.

Data Visualization

Visualizations (known as visuals for short) display insights that have been discovered in the data. A Power BI report might have a single page with one visual or it might have pages full of visuals. In the Power BI service, visuals can be pinned from reports to dashboards. There are many different visual types available directly from the Power BI Visualizations pane.

It’s important to make the distinction between report designers and report consumers. If you are the person building or modifying the report, then you are a designer. Designers have edit permissions to the report and its underlying dataset. In Power BI Desktop, this means you can open the dataset in Data view and create visuals in Report view. In Power BI service, this means you can open the data set or report in the report editor in Editing view. If a report or dashboard has been shared with you, you are a report consumer. You’ll be able to view and interact with the report and its visuals but you won’t be able to make as many changes as a designer can.

Consume and share

Next step is to publish that visualization from Desktop to the Cloud – Power BI Service. Of course, if you are worried about your data – there are ways to publish visualization, without publishing your data.

From all these visualizations, one can make dashboard that collects all singular visualizations within the organization to give you visual overview.

After creating and publishing wanted content, it’s time to share it with particular colleagues or groups of them in or outside your organization. And real time collaboration starts.

To be part of this collab, people you share visualizations with can use their private email addresses. Power BI Service is user friendly even for newbies who don’t have IT background, which is important because it really gathers experts from all departments in organisation. This is particularly important for analytics departments that create relevant analytics and reports, and then share them across the company.

Apart from consuming the mentioned materials, one can set different access rights for collaborators. Row-level security (RLS) with Power BI can be used to restrict data access for given users. Filters restrict data access at the row level, and you can define filters within roles. This is a practical tool for larger companies, especially ones that have more departments or operate in multiple countries.

Power BI Desktop is a versatile tool that supports four development modes:

  • Live Connection
  • Import (cached)
  • DirectQuery
  • Mixed

Live Connection is mode to develop a report that directly queries an existing data model. With it, one can exploit existing data assets and allow connecting to the base model or a perspective. Also, measures can be added to the report.

One of the features that will be interesting for some companies is that the user’s identity is passed through to enforce role permissions. A great benefit of Live Connection is definitely automatically dashboard tiles update.

Import mode is the most common mode used to develop models. This mode delivers extremely fast performance thanks to in-memory querying. It also offers design flexibility to modelers, and support for specific Power BI service features (Q&A, Quick Insights, etc.). Because of these strengths, it’s the default mode when creating a new Power BI Desktop solution.

It’s important to understand that imported data is always stored to disk. When queried or refreshed, the data must be fully loaded into memory of the Power BI capacity. Once in memory, Import models can then achieve very fast query results. It’s also important to understand that there’s no concept of an Import model being partially loaded into memory.

DirectQuery mode is an alternative to Import mode. Models developed in DirectQuery mode don’t import data. Instead, they consist only of metadata defining the model structure. When the model is queried, native queries are used to retrieve data from the underlying data source.

There are two main reasons to consider developing a DirectQuery model:

  • When data volumes are too large – even when data reduction methods are applied – to load into a model, or practically refresh
  • When reports and dashboards need to deliver “near real-time” data, beyond what can be achieved within scheduled refresh limits. (Scheduled refresh limits are eight times a day for shared capacity, and 48 times a day for a Premium capacity.)

Mix mode can mix Import and DirectQuery modes, or integrate multiple DirectQuery data sources. Models developed in this mode support configuring the storage mode for each model table. This mode also supports calculated tables (defined with DAX).

The table storage mode can be configured as Import, DirectQuery, or Dual. A table configured as Dual storage mode is both Import and DirectQuery, and this setting allows the Power BI service to determine the most efficient mode to use on a query-by-query basis.

Mix mode strives to deliver the best of Import and DirectQuery modes. When configured appropriately they can combine the high query performance of in-memory models with the ability to retrieve near real-time data from data sources.

For any inquiries about purchasing a Power BI license or any additional questions, feel free to contact us at here

Video: This is Power BI

For more Customer Showcases, see Microsoft Power BI website

Share dashboards with your organization

Share dashboards with your organization

Power BI reports help you find data, collect it in a data model, and build reports and visualizations. These features are even more powerful when you share your insights with others in your organization.

Video: Share dashboards

To share a dashboard, open it in the Power BI service and select the Share link in the top left-hand corner.

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From the Share dashboard page, select the Share tab. In the Email address field, enter the names of people whom you’d like to grant access to your dashboard. You can also copy and paste email addresses into this field, or you can use a distribution list, security group, or Office 365 group.

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If you select the Send email notification to recipients check box, then your recipients will receive an email with a link to the shared dashboard. You can add an optional note to the email.

Note: Recipients without an existing Power BI account will be taken through the sign-up process before viewing your dashboard.

Anyone whom you share a dashboard with can see and interact with it exactly as you do. However, they have read-only access to the underlying reports, and they have no access to the underlying datasets.

For more information, see Share Power BI dashboards and reports with coworkers and others

Display visuals and tiles in full screen

Display visuals and tiles in full screen

When you’re looking at dashboards or reports in the Power BI service, it can be helpful to expand and focus on an individual chart or visual. You can do that in two different ways.

Video: View visuals full-screen

Hover over a dashboard tile and select the ellipsis to see possible actions for the tile. Select Open in focus mode to expand the tile to encompass the full dashboard space.

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Focus mode allows you to see more detail in your visuals and legends. For example, some of the columns might not be shown because of the space that is available in the tile.

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In Focus mode, you can pin the visual directly to a different dashboard by selecting the pin icon. To exit Focus mode, select the Exit focus mode icon in the top-left corner.

The process is similar when you are viewing a report. A visual is still interactive in Focus mode, though you will temporarily lose any cross-filter effect between visuals.

Edit tile details and add widgets

Edit tile details and add widgets

After you’ve built a dashboard, you can format your tiles in the Power BI service.

Video: Edit tile details

To modify a tile, hover over and select the ellipsis to see the choices that are shown in the following screenshot.

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Select the pen icon to open the Tile details pane. From this pane, you can change the tile’s TitleSubtitle, or include its last refresh time.

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By default, when you select a dashboard tile, you’re redirected to the report from which it originated. To change this behavior, use the Set custom link field on the Tile details pane. One popular use of this feature is to redirect users to the organization homepage when they select a logo image.

Add images and text to your dashboard

You can also add tiles that contain images, online videos, text boxes, or web content. When you select the Add tile link in the upper-left corner of a dashboard, the Add tile dialog box appears.

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When you add a text box, for example, a Tile details pane appears on the right side, where you can edit details. A section is also available for you to define or modify the tile content, such as a rich text editor for a text box.

With tiles and the ability to edit details, you can customize your dashboard and make it appear how you want.

For more information, see Edit or remove a dashboard tile

Get more space on your dashboard

Get more space on your dashboard

After you’ve built a dashboard, you can format your tiles in the Power BI service.

Video: Edit tile details

To modify a tile, hover over and select the ellipsis to see the choices that are shown in the following screenshot.

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Select the pen icon to open the Tile details pane. From this pane, you can change the tile’s TitleSubtitle, or include its last refresh time.

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By default, when you select a dashboard tile, you’re redirected to the report from which it originated. To change this behavior, use the Set custom link field on the Tile details pane. One popular use of this feature is to redirect users to the organization homepage when they select a logo image.

Add images and text to your dashboard

You can also add tiles that contain images, online videos, text boxes, or web content. When you select the Add tile link in the upper-left corner of a dashboard, the Add tile dialog box appears.

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When you add a text box, for example, a Tile details pane appears on the right side, where you can edit details. A section is also available for you to define or modify the tile content, such as a rich text editor for a text box.

With tiles and the ability to edit details, you can customize your dashboard and make it appear how you want.

For more information, see Edit or remove a dashboard tile

Introduction to content packs, security, and groups

Introduction to content packs, security, and groups

Likely, you will want to share your reports and dashboards with your coworkers and friends at some point. With Power BI, publishing and sharing your reports and dashboards is straightforward.

Tasks in this module:

  1. Publish reports
  2. Print and export reports
  3. Build apps
  4. Integrate with OneDrive
  5. Publish to the web
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Video: Introduction to publishing reports

Share and collaborate with colleagues in Power BI

Power BI offers various ways of sharing and collaborating with colleagues on your dashboards, reports, and data including:

  1. Publish your reports from Power BI Desktop to the Power BI service.
  2. Create Apps that package a dashboard, report, and dataset to send to your colleagues, who can use the content pack as a starting point and further enhance it.
  3. Create Groups, which you can use as a security model to identify a subset of users who have access to dashboards, reports, and datasets that you create.
  4. Publish to the web so that live reports can be embedded in a webpage.

Publish Power BI Desktop reports

Publish Power BI Desktop reports

Publishing your reports to the Power BI service is fast and simple.

Video: Publish reports

After you’ve completed writing your report, select the Publish button on the Home tab.

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Power BI packages your report and data, including visualizations, queries, and custom measures, and uploads them to the Power BI service.

Note: It’s common to refer to Power BI Desktop reports as .pbix files, which is the extension that they’re given in Microsoft Windows.

When the upload is complete, a dialog box appears, informing you that the publishing process succeeded, and provides a link to your report in the Power BI service.

Print and export dashboards and reports

Print and export dashboards and reports

Occasionally, you might want to print a report or dashboard for a meeting or for sharing with others. Power BI provides a few ways for you to make these printouts.

Video: Print reports

In the Power BI service, select Export in the top-left side of the service and then select Print this page to open a print dialog box.

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Export data from a visual

You can also export the data from any visual in the Power BI service. Select the ellipsis on any visual and then select Export data. You can save to a Microsoft Excel file or a .CSV file.

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You can also print or export directly from a report. When you are viewing a report in the Power BI service, select Export > Print to open the print dialog box.

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Manually republish and refresh your data

To update reports and datasets that you’ve already published from Power BI Desktop to the Power BI service, select Publish on the Home tab.

When you republish a report in the Power BI service, you’re prompted to confirm that you want to replace the previous dataset and reports.

When you select Replace, the datasets and reports in the Power BI service are overwritten with the new datasets and reports.

For more information, see Export data from visualizations

Introducing Power BI Mobile

Introducing Power BI Mobile

To keep track of your data while you’re on the move, you can use one of Power BI’s touch-friendly mobile applications for iOS, Android, or Windows devices.

Video: Introducing Power BI mobile apps

Sign in to your account by using your Power BI service account information. The first screen displays all the content to which you have access, including reports, dashboards, and groups. The workspace also includes sample dashboards that you can explore for inspiration.

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Tap any dashboard to open it. Within a dashboard, you can tap a dashboard tile to focus on it in a larger view. Note any insights that you discover by tapping the Annotate button in the top-right corner. The Annotate feature allows you to draw on a focused tile to highlight areas of interest. The annotation tools are along the bottom of the screen.

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Share your annotated tile by tapping the Share link in the top right-hand corner.

For more information, see What are the Power BI mobile apps?

Create workspaces in Power BI

Create workspaces in Power BI

In this unit, you will create a group that defines a set of users who have access to specific dashboards, reports, and data.

Video: Create workspaces

Workspaces are places to collaborate with colleagues to create and refine collections of dashboards, reports, and paginated reports. There are two types of groups in Power BI:

  • Classic workspaces – groups are based on the groups in Office 365. If you’ve been using Office 365 groups to manage your group’s email, calendar, and documents, then you’ll find that Power BI offers the same features. When you create a group in Power BI, you’re actually creating an Office 365 group.
  • New workspaces – are now the default workspace in Power BI. -Assign workspace roles to user groups: security groups, distribution lists, Office 365 groups, and individuals.
  • Create a workspace in Power BI without creating an Office 365 group.
  • Use more granular workspaces roles for more flexible permissions management in a workspace.
  • The Power BI admin can control who can create workspaces in Power BI

Setting up a new workspace

In Workspace settings in the admin portal, admins can use the Create workspaces (new workspace experience) setting to allow everybody or nobody in an organization to create new workspace experience workspaces. They can also limit creation to members of specific security groups.

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Setting up a classic workspace

Imagine setting up a new finance group. Start in My Workspace with the dashboards, reports, and datasets that you’ve created or that someone has shared with you.

Expand My Workspace and select Create a group.

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Give the group a name, for example, Finance. Power BI makes sure that the name doesn’t exist on the domain.

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Set the privacy level by deciding whether anyone in your organization or only its members can see the contents of the group.

In the Create a group dialog box, type email addresses, security groups, and distribution lists. Select Add to make the set of users members of the group, and then select Save to save the group.

For more information, see Create classic workspaces in Power BI  and Organize work in the new workspaces in Power BI

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