Power BI: What Is It and Why Should I Care?

This article focuses on Power BI and the influence it has on your organization’s data.

Do you ever feel like you’re inundated with information that doesn’t matter to you? If you’re nodding your head, then Microsoft Power BI might be an option for you. Power BI is a data visualization tool that helps users stay up to date with information that matters to them and complements their current third party and ERP reporting tools by bringing their data to life through visualization. Microsoft defines Power BI as “a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights.” The services and features enable you to find and visualize data in a compelling way, share discoveries, and collaborate in intuitive new ways.

Whether your data is coming from a collection of cloud-based and on-premises data sources or a simple Excel spreadsheet, Power BI lets users connect easily to their data sources, visualize what is significant, and share data to whomever they want, bringing their data to life. With Power BI, dashboards will help you stay familiar with the most trends, allow you to explore further, and connect to multiple datasets to bring all relevant information together in one place.

Let’s get down to the basics. Power BI comes with two types of licenses, Power BI free and Power BI Pro, and they are different based on the type of content users can consume. Pro content is a report, dashboard, or dataset that uses a connection that is only available to take in with a Pro license. Power BI free content is a dashboard or report connected to content packs for services or with data imported from files such as Excel spreadsheets and Power BI Desktop. For example, if you create a distribution dashboard that updates several times during the day, anyone using that dashboard would need a Power BI Pro license. Power BI consists of three elements: Power BI Desktop, Power BI service, and Power BI Mobile. You can better understand Power BI by following the common work flow in the software. It starts with bringing data from your ERP system or data warehouse into the Power BI Desktop, then creating a report. Next, you publish the report to the Power BI service in the Microsoft Azure cloud, where you can build dashboards and create visualizations. You can then share your dashboards with others, as well as view and interact with shared dashboards and reports in Power BI Mobile apps.

Preparing your data to be analyzed can be a time-consuming process. The Desktop has data shaping and modeling capabilities that can transform and clean data, taking back hours of your day. This element of Power BI is a complete solution for building analytics because the Desktop has all functionalities to quickly connect, visualize and share reports that need to be in the hands of decision makers whenever and wherever. Some users don’t follow the common flow and begin in the Power BI service. From data sources such as BI360, Google Analytics, Facebook and a whole assortment of other Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, this Power BI element provides a collection of ready-made visuals in dashboards and reports called Content Packs. Content Packs get you functioning in Power BI fast with data from the service you choose. You can select the visuals such as heat maps, and be taken to the Report page from which that visual was created. With Power BI Mobile, you can view personalized dashboards and reports anywhere, and you can see what’s happing with data-driven alerts. This allows users to find insights in time and act on them instantly if needed. You can also share live reports and your customized dashboards to keep your team on the same page.

These three parts are designed to let users create, share and absorb business insights in a way that benefits their roles. Like most software, Power BI may be used differently depending on your role in a project. For instance, if you are in sales, you might primarily use the Power BI phone application to monitor your sales quotes, and to delve into new sales leads information, but your colleague who creates business reports might use the Power BI Desktop more. You may use a different element each time, depending on what you are trying to achieve for a project or task. Power BI also lets you be productive and creative with what you build.

A common question most have is if a data warehouse is needed to connect to Power BI to your ERP data when systems like Microsoft Dynamics AX, GP, NAV and SL already are based on SQL Server databases. The answer is that it depends. For example, if you have multiple companies or currency conversion needs, it may be an advantage to first move your data to a data warehouse, like BI360.

Power BI complements your data in a way that an Excel spreadsheet cannot. If you’re hoping to run Power BI for dashboards, but want to complement your visualizations with a financial reporting, budgeting and data warehouse solution like BI360, this might be a great option for you and your organization. Power BI can provide compelling visual company insight. Once your data has been uploaded to Power BI, you can tailor the dashboards to highlight the information that matters.

For an intensive insight about Power BI, I highly recommend taking a look at Microsoft’s page where they offer samples of dashboards, reports and desktop files as well as courses of videos and articles that help you accomplish common tasks with Power BI.

Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

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