Microsoft Power BI Desktop is a free piece of software which can create dynamic dashboards using a mixture of text, charts and maps by linking to existing data in other sources such as Excel. Different tabs are produced viewing different subsets of the data by utilising filter facilities within the product which provide added flexibility that is difficult to achieve from within Excel.
It consists of 4 key areas which together make Microsoft Power BI the powerful tool that it is.
Importing and Connecting data
Data can be connected from a variety of different data sources including Excel, CSV and many database products. The tables are connected by relationships which enable data from different table to be analysed together. As part of the import process, the data can be tidied up. Choices like changing the data type, removal of blank rows, removal of columns not required, formatting and much more are available.
Once the data is available in Microsoft Power BI further manipulation is performed. This can be done as part of the import process but there are many more options at this stage. These include the ability to sort, filter, create custom columns and format data. On each tab created these settings are customised independently. For example, a tab called Jan could have only data related to January and similarly for February. If the data changed these queries would automatically update based on the new sets of data.
Visualisations come in many forms. Some of the most common are tables, charts, maps, matrices and slicers. Although the way these are created is different to other packages such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint many of the outputs look similar. There is one key difference though. By linking back to queries each tab can have its own unique subset of the data to base its graphics on. Each tab can have any combination of graphics required to illustrate the required information effectively.
Each tab or report is further customised by use of pictures such as logos, text boxes (to add titles and other useful information) and report filters to filter out specific data just for this tab (this can be done as part of a query too).
Convinced of Power BI’s Benefits?
This underutilised piece of software is an amazing reporting tool. It’s well worth having a look at if you are currently creating dashboards directly in Excel. The flexibility in its analysis capability makes it a really powerful tool. With a free version to explore what excuse do you have to not have a look at it today?
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