Translate Stories into Insights Fast with Microsoft Power BI

Data is a summary of thousands of stories. Crafting the right story will reveal invaluable insights that will set you up for a better outcome. Microsoft Power BI is one way to achieve short-term goals or stopgap measures.

Article originally published March 2020

Data has existed since the beginning of time, but nowadays technology has given us the power to analyze it. Let’s walk through just how to take a situation, such as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and craft it in a way that will allow us to analyze all the data that is coming in.

This high-level introduction to getting started with Microsoft Power BI is based off a simple dashboard Smartbridge deployed to track the COVID-19. In fact, the data showcased in this report was near real-time, while other popular dashboards show data up to a day old.

As we’ve shared in a previous article, it’s critical to invest your efforts wisely in BI projects that will effectively manage and monitor productivity, employee performance, organizational efficiency, and business productivity. In many cases, this can even be achieved with out-of-the-box solutions.

1. Build Your Case

  • You should always start by coming up with as many questions as possible. Brainstorming and sketching can help you build your case.

  • Try to find all the dimensions involved in the analysis, a dimension is a way to break the data and might also be known as categories. Countries are an example of a dimension we used in our COVID-19 example.

  • List out all the measures/metrics to be reported, a measure is a value that can be summarized (sum, avg, etc). For our case, we used Cases, Deaths, and Recoveries as our measures.

2. Source Your Data

Now that you have your case, find a reliable source of data that includes those dimensions and metrics. With Power BI Desktop, you can connect to data from many different sources such as:

  • Databases (Snowflake, SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, DB2, etc)

  • Files (Excel, CSV, XML, Jason, etc)

  • Azure (Database, Data Warehouse, Cosmos, etc)

  • Power BI (Datasets, DataFlow, etc)

  • Online Services (Sharepoint, Salesforce, Google Analytics, etc)


Supporting Microsoft Documentation: Connect to data in Power BI

3. Clean, Transform, and Reshape Your Data

By using tools like PowerQuery and DAX, you can manipulate your source and get the expected outcome of data that you will then be able to use when it comes to modeling and visualizing.

Supporting Microsoft Documentation: Transform, shape, and model data in Power BI


4. Build Your Model

Data can come from multiple sources/tables. By building your model you will teach Power BI how to understand the relationship between them.

Supporting Microsoft Documentation: Create and manage relationships in Power BI Desktop

5. Build Your Measures and Visualizations

Now that you have your data available, you need to start by creating measures. For our case, we used Total Cases, New Cases, Total Deaths, New Deaths, Total Recoveries and Active Cases for our measures. Once you have your dimensions and measures you can start building out the visualizations that will allow you to understand the data much more easily.

insights in power bi

6. Publish to the Service

For this step you will be uploading the development from your desktop to the web service. You will need to choose a workspace in which your report and dataset will reside.

Supporting Microsoft Documentation: Publish to web from Power BI


7. Create a Gateway and Schedule Refresh

Keeping data fresh is always a priority, creating a gateway gives Power BI the ability to query on-premise databases, files, and other sources. Once the gateway is built, schedules can be created.

Supporting Microsoft Documentation: Data refresh in Power BI


8. Share with Others

Now that your development is on the service, you can share your insights. Power BI has many ways to share. Some of them are:

  • Sharing through Power BI

  • Sharing through Teams

  • Embedding into a website

  • Embedding into SharePoint

  • Export to PowerPoint

  • Analyze with Excel

Microsoft Power BI Partner

Smartbridge is a Microsoft Power BI Partner

With Power BI, you’ll be able to create powerful models and visuals with data that you’ve collected for any situation. This will allow your organization to better analyze a situation and take the proper steps to mitigate risks, resolve issues, and make informed decisions to best fit the needs of the company.

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