By: Martin Faith
I have been exploring the possibilities of Power BI over the past year and, as I look back, I’m quite happy with that education. Over my professional career to date, my reporting has been done almost exclusively in Excel. Although I progressed as an Excel user and was becoming more effective with it, I couldn’t help but think that things could be easier.
Even if you're an Excel pro and can manage to query data into your worksheet with Power Query, the final output of your work is still a clunky chart or a pivot table. Where is the tool that produces sleek, intuitive and appealing reports the user will look forward to? A report that someone will look forward to? To me, at that time (and probably to you at the moment), this seemed like a far off utopia.
Fast forward to present day… Now, I work in Power BI on a daily basis, and teach a Power BI basics class. I see clients looking forward to the reports we deliver for them. Reporting is mostly synonymous with boring, not anymore. Here are the few ways Power BI makes your data analysis and reporting life better:
One Report to Rule Them All
Prepare each report exactly ONCE. One of the (many) reasons why people get frustrated with Excel is repetition of reporting – the same reports…over and over and over again. With Power BI, those days are done.
Prepare a report, set up your query infrastructure, check that your data source is working properly, and you’re all set. All you need to do is sit back and watch live data feed into your dashboards. You may need to ask your boss what to do with all the time you have saved yourself, your colleagues, and the company as a whole.
Cross Source Analysis
Some of your data is in your CRM, some is in a Google Sheet, there’s a bit downloaded from a web application. With Power BI, you can analyze all the data in one place, and possibly even in one visual.
You might need to work a bit on setting up a relationship between the data sources, but I’ve already found a few tricks to make this work.
Create a DISTINCT value list which establishes a connection between the two tables you are looking to connect, play around a bit with the data model, and off you go. Or even better, if you are looking to analyze your data over time, create a date table with CALENDARAUTO function, connect the dates through this table, and you can compare even apples and oranges over time.
Beautiful, Branded Reports
No more quirky filters. No more cross-tab references. A properly-prepared data model in Power BI lets you create reports that give stakeholders both a high-level perspective and the ability to zoom in and focus on the details that make a difference.
In fact, I’m using this right now. We’ve been able to reduce reporting for our agency clients from dozens of Excel reports prepared manually every week, to a single Power BI report page, which is
prepared once, branded, and easy to work with.
Everyone on the Same Page
Report sharing has never been easier.
We made this one in just a few minutes with a demo account. Expand it to full screen and click around!
No More Data Surprises
The feature I am starting to use more and more often is report notifications in Power BI Service. After completion of a report and its upload to Service, Power BI enables you to define a value-based notification. If I’m looking to hit a sales goal, reach a conversion KPI, or waiting for a price to sell, Power BI will let me know when the time comes.
In Roivenue, we use this feature for data load checks. If the data does not load properly, a notification monitoring its completion will pop up in my email and I can resolve the issue before anyone sees anything may be amiss. No more manually clicking through our accounts, checking them again and again to make sure our loads are complete. So, thanks Power BI for saving me hours of time each week!
Make your life easier and become friends with Power BI. For the price of a six-pack, you can have monthly access to all of the described goodies and many many more. Wide-ranging possibilities of data sources enable you to produce meaningful analysis regardless of what you do – if you are a marketer, technical analyst, or simply a curious blogger. Just try plugging in any Wikipedia page into Power BI Desktop and you will see what I mean.
It might seem like I'm selling Power BI a bit, but let me assure you that I am not affiliated with Microsoft in any way. I just want to help people use their data more effectively.