This past Monday we hosted Dashboard in a Day – a workshop designed to cover the capabilities of Microsoft Power BI and provide practical hands-on experience. The 1-day event brought together technology leaders across industries who are looking to enhance their business by leveraging data to make critical business decisions in an efficient, precise, and effective manner.

Among the topics covered, there was a lot of discussion around developing and deploying the Power BI solution into your organization. Whether you’re creating a new Power BI project or looking to make your current one sustainable and scalable, there are key factors you need to consider for optimal design.

4 factors to consider while implementing Power BI:

 

1) Know Your Data Model

Building insightful and powerful dashboards and reports requires a strong foundation – your data model.  Once you know the key metrics that you’re targeting, you need to examine your data model and be able to answer three things:

  1. What type of data is it?
    This is the first logical step in building reports.  You’ll need a good understanding of the data you’re working with – what it looks like, and what it all means.
  1. Where is the data located?
    Is it living in a database? Is some of it exported into Excel workbooks?  It’s common to need data from multiple sources to find the answers to your data-driven questions, and you’ll need to know where to look to find the pieces you need.
  1. How do I connect it all together?
    So you’ve found all of your data – now what?  This may take some work, and requires a good understanding of how your data fits together.  Thankfully, Power BI has an impressive suite of tools to help you format, mold, and mash-up your data.

2) Clean Up Your Data

It’s frustrating to try and parse through dozens of columns of data to find the information that is relevant to the report you’re building.  It’s imperative that you take the time to correct formatting, datatypes, and remove the data that you don’t need in your report.  This will not only improve the performance of your Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service environment, but it will make future updates to your data model and reports easier to implement.

 

3) Share Your Reports, the Right Way

Power BI was built to support everyone: enterprise, SMB, and individuals.  This flexibility means that there are multiple ways, rather than a single best practice, to organize and share your reports and dashboards with others. Consider:

  • Do users need to be able to create their own ad-hoc reports?
  • Are users allowed to see the underlying data?
  • Are you producing canned reports that are meant to be read-only?

Understanding the various modes of report sharing (Apps, Workspaces, and the soon-to-be-deprecated Content Packs) will ensure that you don’t end up at a dead-end within a few months.

 

4) Stay Informed and Up-to-Date

As with all of the software-as-a-service offerings that you interact with on a daily basis, Power BI is being tweaked and updated on a regular monthly schedule.  It’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest additions to make sure you and your users are taking advantage of what the platform has to offer. Understand usage of the cost of Power BI within your organization and take advantage of the Power BI Premium calculator for planning.

 

Okay, what’s next?

 

Visualize Your Data

So, you’ve got your data model perfected and it’s time to start visualizing. Hold on! One of the most common mistakes that people make is using the wrong type of visual for the data that you’re trying to show.  There are plenty of great resources to help you make the most impactful message with your visualization, and ensure that you’re not making an eye chart for your report viewers. Stephen Dew provides two great data visualization resources to check out – Information Dashboard Design and Show Me the Numbers.

 

Go One Step Further – DAX

Unlock the potential of your data with DAX and expand the insights that your data provides. DAX functions are similar to Excel Expression language, and add powerful functionality to your model to slice and dice your data to generate deeper insights. This introductory video course is a great way to get started with DAX, and continue to build your DAX skills by learning DAX Patterns with ready-to-use data models and formulas.

 

Keep On Learning, and Be Engaged!

Connect, learn, and share ideas with experts and peers. Together, help each other get the most out of Power BI! Join the Power BI Community, and if you’re local to Austin, join the Austin Power BI User Group!

 

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