Over the course of the next few weeks we're going to be releasing a series of videos in our "Complete Introduction to" series. The idea behind the series is to provide a comprehensive introduction to a variety of different data analysis and business intelligence tools and techniques so that business users can fully understand the tools available to them, and how they can work smarter not harder.
The first video for the series will introduce you to Microsoft Power BI.
One of the biggest selling points of Microsoft Power BI is that, because it's based on the Excel platform, the millions of Excel users working with data on a daily basis will find it easy to navigate and not be intimidated by this incredibly powerful tool.
You will see how quickly and easily I produce an interactive report from an Excel spreadsheet using Microsoft Power BI. An Excel spreadsheet of Sales data has been used as the source of the data, but data from many different sources such as databases, .csv and Web sources can just as easily be used.
In the video you'll see how easy it is to format tables of data, perform more advanced functions, like cross filtering, and add visualisations, such as column charts, line graphs and pie graphs, resulting in a detailed, interactive sales report emerging in minutes!
The Microsoft Power BI Query Editor gives you a wide variety of options that allow you to transform, manipulate and prepare your data. It allows for perform simple and advanced tasks such as:
A big component of Power BI is it's unique programming formula language called DAX but don't be put off because, as I said at the beginning, Power BI is based on Excel, so many of the DAX formulas are the same and when you start using Power BI you should find yourself picking it up very quickly.
At the end of the video I show you how to publish the report into the Power BI Service. The Power BI Service allows you to share the report to other users using a web browser, smartphones or tablets. I also show how to create a dashboard in the Power BI Service which makes it easier to access your content through mobile devices.
Last but not least, I demonstrate how to use natural language queries (Q&A) to ask questions of your data. This powerful feature allows you to type in questions in a natural way and have Power BI provide the answers to them. I can ask 'What is my total Sales?' or 'What is my Sales in Italy?'and take it even further by asking 'What is my Sales by Product Category in Italy as a Column graph? This function fundamentally changes that way that users can interact and ask questions of their data.
One of the most common challenges that faces Excel users is having two separate sets of data that need to be referenced for reporting purposes.
In this video I show you how to use Power BI to create a relationship between two spreadsheets in order to create a report using information from both.
I've used a common challenge which many HR professionals encounter, where there are two sets of data, an employee training file (which records all training done by every employee) and an employee master file (which has details for each employee such as department, gender, marital status etc). I show you how to create quick reports and graphs to easily visualise information such as total training cost by department or percentage training costs by gender. In Excel, these reports traditionally take a long time because they require complicated formulas and VLookUps but in Power BI it's done in a few simple clicks.
For more information on our training, please look at our classroom training courses.
Our previous post "Data or People? What is the most important resource in a business?" discussed the importance of developing your staff data analysis capabilities.
Here we will outline the key steps in the journey to being able to use the latest technologies and techniques to produce reports and analysis. The following is focused on users who primarily work with spreadsheets and use Excel.
Step 1 - Learn to use Pivot Tables
Pivot Tables will speed up the time taken to produce reports and analyse your data tremendously. An important aspect of Pivot Tables is that you need to understand how to structure and format your data for Pivot Tables to work effectively.
Step 2 - Create a Data Model
New technologies such as Power Pivot and Power BI allow Excel users to easily create powerful data models. Data models allow you to easily centralise the storage of your data, calculations (business logic) and create relationships between the tables of data. Data models make it much quicker and easier to develop reports and speeds up your processes.
Step 3 - Learn some Analysis Techniques
Once you have an engine for the production of your reports, you need to learn how to ask questions of your data. There are many different types of analysis that can be performed on your data - comparison, trend, ranking, contribution, variance, frequency etc. are some examples. Add a bit of simple statistics and you will find a whole new world of interpreting and understanding your data.
Visual analysis is a growing field of importance. Learn which graphs to use with which type of data. Visual analysis provides critical understanding of patterns and relationships within data.
Step 4 - Time for New Data
Technology such as Power Query makes it easy to access new data and to mash them up with existing tables of data. However the data may not always arrive in a format that is easy to use for data analysis. This is where you need to know how to use different methods to transform, append and merge data that creates powerful new data sets for different insights.
Step 5 - Share your Insights
Data analysis is of no use if we are not able to share the new insight and knowledge. Learning how to create effective reports and dashboards that can easily communicate key insights and information to your audience. Being able to tell a story about what your data means is a skill that will develop over time as your experience develops.
Unfortunately often trial and error is required to find the best methods of what resonates with your audience and what does not. My advice is start simple with your presentations. Your audience will quickly tell you what they want.