At IIH, we are experts in many tools and technologies. This is one in a series of blog posts introducing data visualisation technologies we think are highly beneficial. Next month, we’ll continue with Google Data Studio. The series will conclude in fall with an overall perspective on the tools presented.
Information is power. Unfortunately, vital information is often scattered across company departments. To use the information to make better decisions, we need to collect it, analyze it and, of course, share it. The emerging business intelligence (BI) tools are here to help, by keeping track of data, as well as making data, regardless of origin, easily accessible, easily manipulatable and easily shareable. A tool that delivers all that, and more, is Power BI. Microsoft’s Power BI manages to take several daunting and troublesome tasks and make them executable by you, without an army of IT Specialists.
Power BI combines both the needs of viewers and creators; meaning that advanced functionalities favor highly technical users, but also accommodate users working with visual identity and design.
One of the many strengths of using Power BI is the multitude of native connectors that it supports. It will come as no surprise that Microsoft’s own stack of products is well supported – Microsoft clearly wants their Office 365 users to use Power BI to visualize their data. However, there are also numerous native connectors for external sources.
For example, connecting to Google Analytics through the Content Pack for Power BI is a built-in function. After granting Power BI access to your Google Analytics property you are good to go, and you now have various web data at its disposal. Power BI is filled with native connectors that allow you to get data directly from its source. Besides Google Analytics, other native connectors include MailChimp, Zen Desk, Facebook, Adobe Analytics and so on.
The ease of use is something that new users will enjoy about Power BI. People who have been working with database queries, where everything had to be declared in statements, will find Power BI’s drag-and-drop solution very intuitive. Adding different types of data requires simply dragging them from the panel into place – and connecting data is nothing more than drawing a line between two queries that we want to be able to combine and filter.
Adding visualizations also simply requires dragging them into the canvas and then shaping them by adding data. It’s even possible to align the visual identity with a company’s overall standard by changing the data colors and customizing each visualization. Even better, you can configure a theme with your corporate colors that will be applied to the entire report.
One of the great advantages of Power BI is the functionality to combine basically whatever data you wish. If we, for example, want to combine data from our offline sales and data warehouse, this is possible using the DAX-Editor – DAX is a language used to calculate and return one or more values. Although this might seem a bit technical at first, this allows us to have perfect control over how to create new queries and new tables and to generate the right calculations in order to show the most meaningful visualizations.
Sometimes it is easier just ask. A nifty feature of Power BI is the ability to ask Power BI a question related to your data in natural language. It might be “For how many months have we reached our target?” and Power BI will answer you back in the form of charts and graphs. As we ask the question, Power BI picks the best way of visualizing the answer. This can lead to new ways of viewing data as well as the discovery of new interesting paths to dive further into. Of course, we can sit back and let Power Bi choose our visualizations or we can also tell it to “Show the months we reached our targets in an area plot”.
Power BI’s ability to use various native connectors, and the feature to manually combine them as we please, is extremely valuable. It enables us to see if two data variables are associated with one another and to deep dive into our data as we discover correlations we could never have dreamt of.
Power BI is the perfect combination of good looking design and Microsoft Excel. With the basic knowledge of the Microsoft Office, you are good to go, and with the data you have at hand you can start making interactive graphs in reports.
If you and your department are thinking of starting to collect business intelligence, Power BI is a tool worth looking at. Power BI is not limited to a certain size of a company, which makes it vastly scalable. Power BI can be used by the smallest teams using only one connector, to big enterprises processing data through a variety of connectors and external data.
Power BI is a powerful tool and IIH Nordic has the expertise to help you implement it within your organization. Contact us to learn about how IIH Nordic can assist you working with Power BI. We’re looking forward to discussing this powerful tool further!
Rasmus Bøgelund Christiansen