TECH Talk: PowerBI – What’s that all about?

Author: Miodrag Ivanović, Senior BI Developer and MCT at Semos Education


So, what is Power BI?

This is Microsoft’s definition taken from their website. I wanted to highlight what I felt are the most salient points:

Power BI consists of a suite of business tools, an ecosystem of tools that allow us to connect multiple data sources, and once connected allow us to shape the data to perform some analysis on it.

We perform that analysis by way of producing interactive reports, which are then published to people within our organization who can then view these interactive reports on the web, and of course on their mobile devices. Our users can take sections of the reports that they find interesting and create their personalized dashboards allowing them to focus on their specific interest area. Finally, from a business perspective, Power BI gives leadership teams the ability to manage, access and publish analysis and reports securely and systematically across the enterprise.

What is PowerBI

Now that we have established that PowerBI is a suite of tools, let’s discuss in more detail what those tools are, and what its purpose is:

What is PowerBI

Power Query: It can be used to search, access, and transform public and/ or internal data sources.

Power Pivot: It is used in data modelling for in-memory analytics.

Power View: You can analyze, visualize, and display data as an interactive data visualization using Power View.

Power Map: It brings data to life with interactive geographical visualization.

Power BI Service: You can share data views and workbooks which are refresh-able from on-premises and cloud-based data sources.

Power BI Q&A: Ask questions and get immediate answers with natural language queries.

Data Management Gateway: By using this component you get periodic data refreshers, expose tables, and view data feeds.

Data Catalog: Users can easily discover and reuse queries using the Data Catalog. Metadata can be facilitated for search functionality.

Power BI’s architecture has three phases. The first two phases partially use ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) to handle the data. Let us take a look at these phases one by one:

  1. Data Integration

An organization can be required to deal with data that comes from different sources. The data from data sources can be in different file formats. The data is first extracted from different sources which can be your different servers or databases etc. This data is then integrated into a standard format and then stored at a common area called a staging area.

  1. Data Processing

The integrated data is still not ready for visualization because the data needs processing before it can be presented. This data is pre-processed or cleaned. For example, missing values or redundant values are removed from the data set. After the data is cleaned, business rules are applied to the data and it is transformed into presentable data. This data is then loaded into the Data Warehouse.

  1. Data Presentation

So once the data is loaded and processed it can be visualized using a variety of top customizable visualizations that Power BI has to offer. Use of reports and dashboards can help one represent what was once raw and disparate data, more intuitively. These visual reports help business leaders make calculated and strategic business decisions based on the insights that are available at a “switch of a button”.

PowerBI Architecture

So why choose PowerBI?

  1. Microsoft positioned himself as a clear leader in the field of Analytics and Business Intelligence platforms, according to Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms 2020 edition, other players on market simply could not keep the step with PowerBI.
Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms
  1. PowerBI is simple to use. Anyone with previous Excel experience: creating reports, charts, diagrams etc. can easily switch to PowerBI. Its’ highly intuitive and Office-like interface makes it more user friendly to the broader audience. In just a few steps you can grab some data, do some cleaning, cleansing and create meaningful visualizations.
  2. Currently, there are more than 100 different data sources available in PowerBI. You can consolidate data from a variety of databases, files, online pages, pdf extracted data files, and online source, etc. into one report, which can save office workers a lot of time – it’s a real “plug-and-play” application.
Power BI Desktop Data Sources
  1. You can also use natural language to interact with your data, giving them questions like: “Show me, top 5 customers, by sales as a matrix”, and PowerBI will display your results, you only need to dive into the insights, analyze it and create your conclusion or continue to measure the changes over time by updating your data sources.
  2. Last but not least, PowerBI has extremely large documentation, which also provides you with guided learning, so you can jump right away, and start learning about the capabilities and how to’s of this amazing tool. The only investment is your time, but as always the best investment is an investment in ourself and our knowledge.

I hope this will persuade you, to start learning, start creating reports and perform some of your own advanced data insights.

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