Journey of Discovery for Microsoft Power BI

Power BI became generally available in July 2015, and has helped Microsoft to be recognized by Gartner as a leader in Business Intelligence and Analytics over the last 2 years. A Power BI product review appeared to be in order, but I decided to document my journey of discovery instead.

Understanding Power BI

An obvious starting point for learning more about Power BI are the product pages. The home page, can be confusing since it had many CTAs and you might wonder where to start. To make matters worse Microsoft offers 5 products (Power BI Service, Power BI Desktop, Power BI Mobile, Power BI Developer, and Power BI Report Server) under 3 different plans (Power BI Desktop, Power BI Pro, and Power BI Premium). That’s confusing, but the figure below helps to illustrate how different products work together to form a working solution.

Power BI Desktop is a free plan for individuals that allows you to download, install and use Power BI Desktop. You can also Sign Up for a free version of Power BI Service, but it has certain restrictions in connecting to online services. If you have an Office 365 plan, you might have access to the Power BI Pro plan at no extra cost. Simply check for the Power BI icon on your Office Home page or Sign In from the top right side of the Power BI product pages. If don’t have access to Power BI Pro, consider upgrading your plan or sign up for a free trial. Power BI Premium hasn’t been released, so let’s not discuss it until a later date.

To increase your understanding of Power BI, I have compiled the following list of resources:

  1. Power BI Documentation – Microsoft’s own documentation on Power BI is extremely helpful and well organized. It’s tucked away under the Learn menu on the product pages, but I recommend that you jump right to it before reading the other content. I haven’t had the time to read all the articles, but the ones I did read gave me that Aha moment.
  2. Microsoft Power BI Review & Rating – PCMag.com just reviewed Power BI and awarded it Editor’s Choice in the self-service BI tool review roundup. It’s interesting to see that the review debates the need for using both Power BI Desktop and Service due to their complementary features. In my view, a data scientist will Power BI Service for visual storytelling, while a data analyst will use Power BI Desktop (or other tools) for data preparation.
  3. ArcGIS Map in Power BI; Simple, but Insightful – This is one article in RADACAD’s blog that I enjoyed reading. It was written by Reza Rad a Microsoft Data Platform MVP and a real Power BI guru. It shows you that BI and analysis is not just fun, but valuable and exciting.

Using Power BI

I guess it’s my turn to show you how you cool and powerful Power BI is. I am still a rookie, but I’ll show you how you can visualize Google Analytics data in Power BI. It’s really simple!

To begin open the Power BI Service application and click on “Get Data” as shown below.

In the Get Data window that opens click on “Get Services” to choose a content pack from one of the Online Services that you use.

In the following window scroll down until you see the Google Analytics icon and click on “Get it now”.

Just follow the instructions in the next screens to import the content pack into Power BI. The Google Analytics data will be stored under the DATASETS tab in your Power BI browser allowing you to create your own visualizations through drag and drop (see graphic below). This sounds simple but will be challenging if you are new to Power BI or unfamiliar with the Google Analytics data structure.

However, something truly amazing will happen if you click on Quick Insights during the data loading or any time later. By doing so Power BI will create a multi-page report and a dashboard (see below). I am not too excited about the performance of my website, but my report and dashboard are Wow!

 

Conclusion

I am glad that I took the time to get started with Power BI and plan to invest more time in understanding it better. This should help me to demonstrate how Power BI could add value to any kind of business.

I also recommend that you take time to understand the value that Power BI could bring to your business. Moreover, if you wish to pursue a career in data analysis, data science or Business Intelligence, Power BI could become your tool of trade. Take some therefore time to learn it, starting with the free plan if you can’t invest in a paid plan.

I hope to write additional articles on Power BI over time once I gain additional insights.  I simply must investigate ArcGIS Maps for Power BI, since Location Intelligence was and remains my passion. Meanwhile I look forward receiving your thoughts and feedback.

About Author:

Willy Simons came to Kenya from The Netherlands in 1994. He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Oakar Services, Esri Eastern Africa and Spatiality. He blogs about business, geospatial technology and cloud computing.