Whether you’re already a Power BI user or considering using Power BI for your business, here’s how to get more insights from the information you already have and in more areas than you might expect.
1. Visualize the services you use
Power BI has hundreds of content packs, templates and integrations for hundreds of data services, apps and services that include pre-set reports and visualizations — and not just Microsoft ones like Dynamics 365 and SQL Server.
You can use Power BI to visualize the data you have in your various apps and services, create reports against them and bring them together in a custom dashboard. You can create your own reports and visualizations, perform calculations (Power BI calls these calculated measures) and set access levels for individual users, data sources, or specific dashboards and reports to control who can view more sensitive information.
2. Tell stories with your data
You can create a linear list of dates or times, or lay them out in circles, spirals, grids or custom shapes. You can also show a chronological list, a sequence that shows the duration of events, or pick relative or logarithmic scales. Pick how to best represent, scale and lay out your data and Power BI will build a timeline from it; use that to tell the history of your business, show how demand is growing, or explain anything else in which the sequence of events matters. If you use Xero for accounting, or K2 Cloud to build business processes, or Adobe Marketing Cloud, SAP HANA, Salesforce, MailChimp, Marketo or Google Analytics, or even GitHub, you can use Power BI to visualize the data you have in those services, create reports against them and bring them together in a custom dashboard.
3. Explore ‘what-ifs’
You can compare different scenarios in Excel, but Power BI lets you do it by dragging a slider bar to show changes. Add a calculated measure for a figure such as revenue and you can use the New Parameter button in Power BI Desktop to add parameters that change in your What-if scenario – setting the data type, minimum, maximum and increments. That creates a calculated measure that you can reference in other calculated measures; so if you create a What-if parameter for the number of customers who respond to a particular promotion you can plug that into a formula that you create to show how many customer support tickets you can expect to have to deal with.
4. Ask questions in real time
Instead of designing charts and reports, use the natural language features of Power BI to ask questions and get visualizations in response. You can specify the way the data is presented — ask for “total sales by region by month as a line” — or let Power BI pick a layout that suits the data with a more general question like “what were the sales numbers for last quarter?”
5. Custom visualizations
Power BI includes a good range of visualizations, and you can add more, either by downloading them from the Office Store or by creating your own with the open source Power BI Custom Visual Tool (which uses CSS, TypeScript and NodeJS). The Office Store includes visualizations from Microsoft, like word clouds, a correlation plot based on R script, chord charts to show interrelationships in a circular matrix, the “box and whisker plot” that highlights outliers, clusters and percentiles to show data that might otherwise get lost in summarized figures like averages, as well as visualizations created by other Power BI customers.
6. Fit more data into executive dashboards
Different BI users need different levels of information in their visualizations. Managers and business analysts may want a lot of details, but if your executives are tracking 20 or 30 key metrics, maybe for multiple regions around the world, it’s better to present that at a glance with a simple view that shows the target and the actual figure rather than a more complex visualization. That way you can look up information quickly in a meeting without getting lost in too many charts and figures. The Power KPI custom visualization combines multiple report types into a single tile.
7. Power BI is for IT data, too
It isn’t only business users who have large amounts of information they need to distil down for insights; you can use Power BI to visualize data for IT monitoring tools. The Power BI solution template for Azure Activity Logs uses an Azure SQL database and Stream Analytics to collect logs and display them using pre-built Power BI Desktop reports, so you can look at trends in usage and problems. There’s also a set of pre-built Power BI reports for the Intune Data Warehouse that shows device details like configurations and compliance state, and a solution template for System Center Configuration Manager with a dashboard that covers client and server health, malware protection levels, software inventory and which devices are missing updates. There are templates for a range of other tools, and you can build your own dashboards and reports for other tools as long as you can get the data into a SQL Server or Azure SQL database.
Interested in Power BI for your business? Contact us at email@example.com for a free product demo and find out how Power BI can save you money while increasing your bottom line.
Read the full article at CIO.