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This post is for those of you who have heard about Power BI but haven’t had a chance to explore it yet. You probably know there is value in your data and want to display it graphically. You may even have some great charts already built out but you need had hoc reporting. Maybe you just like to play with data. In any case, let’s you and me take a few minutes to jump right into Power BI together. What do you say?

You can either use the Power BI desktop application or connect to Power BI online. Since we’re just familiarizing ourselves with Power BI, we don’t want to download anything just yet. Go to PowerBI.com and sign in with your organizational account. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

(Ok, I’m just going to pretend like you’re following along… Slacker.)

Good job, we’re in! Let’s start playing with some data. Do you see that yellow button at the bottom left of the page that says, “Get Data”? Click it. From here we can connect to our data. If you don’t have any data sources to connect to, don’t worry; we’re going to use the sample data Power BI has provided. First though, let’s check out our options: We can either choose to connect to a content pack, which has a bunch of reports pre-built for us, or we can start from scratch with our own databases and imported files from say, Excel.

#1

Let’s focus on content packs to see what’s possible with Power BI. Click on the yellow “Get” button below “Services”. Take a moment to browse through all the services that directly integrate with Power BI. If you have any of these services you can click on the corresponding tile to get all of your related data sliced and formatted onto a single dashboard. The out-of-the-box dashboards are typically pretty comprehensive and allow for individual customization.

We won’t worry about connecting to a service just yet because Power BI provides sample content packs for us to explore. On the left side of the page under “Content Pack Library” click “Samples”.

#2

This will take us to a collection of sample content packs we can play with. Let’s check out the Supplier Quality Analysis Sample. Click on the tile then click the yellow “Connect” button that appears. Now we’ve got a dashboard! Under “Dashboards” on the left side of your screen, select Supplier Quality Analysis Sample. Whenever something new is added there will be a little yellow asterisk next to it. Do you see it?

#3

Now you have a bunch of stuff to play with. Move the tiles around. Resize them. Click on them to drill in. Pretty cool, right? Now ask let’s ask it a few questions. Type, “Show total defects by month” into the textbox at the top of your dashboard. That’s right, it sliced the data and presented you with a visualization based on your natural language question. Let’s try another one. How ‘bout, “What are the total defects in logistics by city?” Awesome. Now, suppose we want to add this report to our dashboard. Just click the thumbtack icon next to the search box and click the yellow “Pin” button. Go back to your dashboard and scroll to the bottom to see your new report. Ok, one more. Type in, “Average downtime by category”. The resulting bar graph is good but I’d prefer a pie chart here, wouldn’t you? Glad you agree. So let’s change it. Click “Visualizations” on the bar spanning the right side of your screen. Now click on the little pie chart icon. Sweet, we got a perfectly pinnable pie chart to add to our dashboard!

#4

Keep messing around to get a better feel of what Power BI can do. Later we will explore how to harness the real power behind Power BI: your data. We will build custom reports and dashboards from scratch. We will apply filters and design for aesthetics. Until then, I hope you got an intuition of what’s possible and satiated your Power BI curiosity!

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