Beginners Guide To Power BI

Mark Jones


You’ve heard the cliché – we’re living in the era of Big Data. And while this is certainly true for many large corporations, even small companies are swimming in data. This data could be in Excel files or saved to SharePoint lists; it could be in a SQL or an Access database – yet wherever it is, typically, it shares one thing in common: it’s unconnected and siloed.

That’s where Power BI (business intelligence) comes in. A Microsoft product that integrates into the Microsoft 365 range of apps, it brings together all your disparate data feeds into handy dashboards and reports.

Ultimately, it allows you to analyse your data while presenting it in a visual and meaningful way. And by connecting and visualising your data, organisations can get a great overview of their data and crucially, you don’t have to be a data scientist or a programmer to use Power BI.

While you don’t have to be a data scientist or a programmer to follow this eBook, it

would help if you had some Microsoft 365 experience, with the following:

  • Familiar with the way files are shared such as in OneDrive / SharePoint
  • As we will be exporting data to SharePoint online, knowledge of how to edit a SharePoint page would help
  • Have a basic understanding of how columns work in Excel in terms of how cells are structured with specific types of data such as number, currency etc. but don’t worry – you won’t see any code or come across any tricky Excel formulae!
  • Familiar with Microsoft 365 in general as the Power BI service sits neatly within this ecosystem

To get the most out of this eBook be sure to sign up for a trial version of the Power BI service and also to download the Power BI Desktop app.

How is Power BI Licensed?

There are three kinds of Power BI service per-user licenses: Free, Pro and Premium Per User.

License type Capabilities when the workspace is in shared capacity Additional capabilities when the workspace is in Premium capacity
Power BI (free) Access to content in My Workspace. Please note you cannot share content with this license Consume content shared with them
Power BI Pro Publish content to other workspaces, share dashboards, subscribe to dashboards and reports, share with users who have a Pro license Distribute content to users who have free licenses
Power BI Premium Per User Publish content to other workspaces, share dashboards, subscribe to dashboards and reports, share with Distribute content to users who have free and Pro licenses

Table source: features-license-type

And here are the differences between the Power BI Pro and Premium plans. Please note, according to Microsoft, a capacity ‘is a dedicated set of resources reserved for exclusive use. It enables you to publish dashboards, reports, and datasets to users, without having to purchase per-user licenses.’

Feature Power BI Pro Power BI Premium Per user Power BI Premium Per capacity
Collaboration and analytics
Mobile app access
Publish reports to share and collaborate  
Paginated (RDL) reports  
Consume content without a per-user license   
On-premises reporting with Power BI Report Server   
Data prep, modelling, and visualization
Model size limit 1 GB 100 GB 400 GB
Refresh rate 8/day 48/day 48/day
Connect to 100+ data sources
Create reports and visualizations with Power BI Desktop
Embed APIs and controls
Feature Power BI Pro Power BI Premium Per user Power BI Premium Per capacity
AI visuals
Advanced AI (text analytics, image detection, automated machine learning)   
XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity   
Dataflows (direct query, linked and computed entities, enhanced compute engine)  
Analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage   
Governance and administration
Data security and encryption
Metrics for content creation, consumption, and publishing
Application lifecycle management  
Multi-geo deployment management   
Bring your own key (BYOK)   
Autoscale add-on availability (preview)   
Maximum storage 10 GB/user 100 TB 100 TB

Table source:

The following are the prices on a per month basis.

Power BI Pro Power BI Premium
Per-user Per-user Per capacity
$9.99 Per-user/month

License individual users with modern, self-service analytics to visualize data with live dashboards and reports and share insights across your organization. Power BI Pro is included in Microsoft 365 E5.
$20 Per user/month 2

License individual users to accelerate access to insights with advanced AI, unlock self-service prep for big data, and simplify data management and access at enterprise scale.

Includes all the features available with Power BI Pro.
from $4,995 Per capacity/month

License your organization with the capacity to accelerate access to insights with advanced AI, unlock self-service prep for big data and simplify data management and access at enterprise scale— without per-user licenses for content consumers. Requires a Power BI Pro license for publishing content into Power BI Premium capacity. Enable auto-scale with your Azure subscription to automatically scale Power BI Premium capacity.

Table source: features-license-type

For information on pricing, see here

Power BI – the three parts

Power BI consists of three main products:

  • Power BI Desktop

A Microsoft Windows desktop application. Download it here

  • Power BI service
  • An online SaaS service which you use in the browser.
  • Power BI Mobile
  • Smartphone app (download it from the above link).

There are also other tools and apps – see below (this page is the above download link):

This eBook is only covering an introduction to the Power BI service (SaaS) and aspects of the Power BI Desktop. Furthermore, the data we are connecting to is an Excel file, a SharePoint list, a Microsoft Form, and data pulled from the web, in particular, a Wikipedia entry.

Difference between Power BI Desktop and Power BI service

Power BI Desktop is more powerful than the Power BI service. The below Venn diagram is a neat summary of the major differences.

For more information, see bi/fundamentals/service-service-vs-desktop

Image Source: desktop

Below is Power BI Desktop.

Below is the home of the Power BI service, which sits in a browser. As this is a browser-based product, it is connected to Microsoft 365 hence, the app launcher (9 dots) is on the top left-hand side.

The mobile app

Power BI has downloadable mobile apps which allows you to view content on your smartphone and other devices. The key distinction with Power BI’s mobile apps is that it allows you to consume content created on the platform without having to develop a separate mobile app. In many ways, the mobile app just renders pre-existing content.

Device Highlights
iPhone iPhones go everywhere, and the Power BI mobile app for the iPhone goes, too. Besides viewing your Power BI reports in a special mobile layout view, you can add Power BI to your Apple Watch, and ask questions with the Q&A virtual analyst. Get started with the Power BI mobile app for iOS.
iPad On the iPad, the Power BI mobile app displays dashboards and reports the way they were formatted for the Power BI service. Plus you can view your Power BI Report Server and Reporting Services KPIs and reports right on your iPad. You can set data alerts in the Power BI mobile app to notify you when data in a dashboard changes beyond the limits you set. Get started with the Power BI mobile app for iOS.
Android phone The Power BI mobile app for the Android phone brings Power BI to your pocket, with up-to-date, touch-enabled mobile access to your business information. You can filter a report by your geographic location. You can scan QR codes with your Android phone and go straight to a Power BI dashboard or report. Get started with the Power BI mobile app for Android.
Device Highlights
Android tablet This mobile app runs on a number of different Android tablets, bringing you up-to-date, touch-enabled mobile access to your business information. On the Android tablet, the Power BI mobile app displays dashboards and reports the way they were formatted for the Power BI service. You can mark your favourite dashboards and reports, so you can get to them quickly, along with your favourite Power BI Report Server and Reporting Services KPIs and reports. Get started with the Power BI mobile app for Android.
Windows The Power BI mobile app for Windows 10 runs on any Windows 10 device, including Windows 10 phones. Along with many of the features of the other mobile apps, the Power BI mobile app for Windows 10 offers special functionality. For example, you can pin a Power BI dashboard to the Windows 10 Start screen from the Power BI mobile app. Plus you can run Power BI in presentation mode on Surface Hub and in the Power BI mobile app for Windows 10. Get started with the Power BI mobile app for Windows 10 devices.
Table source: apps-for-mobile-devices

The image below is a screenshot of the Power BI Android app:

Key Power BI concepts

The following are some key concepts within Power BI.

Term Definition
Workspaces Workspaces are containers for dashboards, reports, datasets, and dataflows.
Datasets A dataset is a collection of data that you import or connect to. Power BI lets you connect to and import all sorts of datasets and bring all of it together in one place.
Reports A Power BI report is one or more pages of visualizations such as line charts, maps, and treemaps. Visualizations are also called visuals. You can create reports from scratch within Power BI, import them with dashboards that colleagues share with you, or Power BI can create them when you connect to datasets from Excel, Power BI Desktop, databases, and SaaS applications.
Table source: power-bi/2-what-power-bi

Preparing your data for Power BI

Before using Power BI to interact with your data, here are a few tips to ensure that your data is suitably prepared. While you don’t have to be a data scientist to use Power BI, the overall analysis of your data will only be as good as the data itself.

The tips below for the preparation of an Excel file but may be used for other data sources, too. While Power BI allows you to clean up your data once it has been imported (and this is necessary if you are bringing in data from, for example, the web and you have no control over the creation of the data), it’s a good idea to try to have the cleanest data as possible from the start.

  • All the data in each column should be of the same type of data, for example, it must be number, text, currency etc.
  • Think hard about what the purpose of your data is. Do you need all of the information? What columns can you remove? Or perhaps you want to add a column from elsewhere. In short, reduce your data to its absolute minimum before you use it. And remember – if you connect your Excel file to Power BI via OneDrive, if you update the OneDrive file, it will be updated in Power BI
  • Flatten all data which appears in a pivot table or matrix format
  • Don’t have any totals rows in your data source
  • If your data is not actually a ‘table’ turn it into a table by selecting Format as a table in Excel. This will put a header above each column which will, in turn, be understood as the column name in Power BI
  • Name your table and leave out spaces in the table name

Below is a good example of clean data which is copied from an Excel file. Each column is its own data type with simple, functional columns. You can cut and paste it into Excel to follow our example.

OrderDate Region Rep Item Units Unit Cost Total
1/6/19 East Jones Pencil 95 £ 1.99 £ 189.05
1/23/19 Central Kivell Binder 50 £ 19.99 £ 999.50
2/9/19 Central Jardine Pencil 36 £ 4.99 £ 179.64
2/26/19 Central Gill Pen 27 £ 19.99 £ 539.73
3/15/19 West Sorvino Pencil 56 £ 2.99 £ 167.44
4/1/19 East Jones Binder 60 £ 4.99 £ 299.40
4/18/19 Central Andrews Pencil 75 £ 1.99 £ 149.25
5/5/19 Central Jardine Pencil 90 £ 4.99 £ 449.10
5/22/19 West Thompson Pencil 32 £ 1.99 £ 63.68
6/8/19 East Jones Binder 60 £ 8.99 £ 539.40
6/25/19 Central Morgan Pencil 90 £ 4.99 £ 449.10
7/12/19 East Howard Binder 29 £ 1.99 £ 57.71
7/29/19 East Parent Binder 81 £ 19.99 £ 1,619.19
8/15/19 East Jones Pencil 35 £ 4.99 £ 174.65
9/1/19 Central Smith Desk 2 £ 125.00 £ 250.00
9/18/19 East Jones Pen Set 16 £ 15.99 £ 255.84
10/5/19 Central Morgan Binder 28 £ 8.99 £ 251.72
10/22/19 East Jones Pen 64 £ 8.99 £ 575.36
11/8/19 East Parent Pen 15 £ 19.99 £ 299.85
11/25/19 Central Kivell Pen Set 96 £ 4.99 £ 479.04
12/12/19 Central Smith Pencil 67 £ 1.29 £ 86.43
12/29/19 East Parent Pen Set 74 £ 15.99 £ 1,183.26
1/15/20 Central Gill Binder 46 £ 8.99 £ 413.54
2/1/20 Central Smith Binder 87 £ 15.00 £ 1,305.00
2/18/20 East Jones Binder 4 £ 4.99 £ 19.96
3/7/20 West Sorvino Binder 7 £ 19.99 £ 139.93
3/24/20 Central Jardine Pen Set 50 £ 4.99 £ 249.50
4/10/20 Central Andrews Pencil 66 £ 1.99 £ 131.34
4/27/20 East Howard Pen 96 £ 4.99 £ 479.04
5/14/20 Central Gill Pencil 53 £ 1.29 £ 68.37
5/31/20 Central Gill Binder 80 £ 8.99 £ 719.20
6/17/20 Central Kivell Desk 5

£ 125.00

£ 625.00
7/4/20 East Jones Pen Set 62 £ 4.99 £ 309.38
7/21/20 Central Morgan Pen Set 55 £ 12.49 £ 686.95
8/7/20 Central Kivell Pen Set 42 £ 23.95 £ 1,005.90
8/24/20 West Sorvino Desk 3 £ 275.00 £ 825.00
9/10/20 Central GillPencil7


£ 9.03
9/27/20 West Sorvino Pen 76 £ 1.99 £ 151.24
10/14/20 West Thompson Binder 57 £ 19.99 £ 1,139.43
10/31/20 Central Andrews Pencil 14 £ 1.29 £ 18.06

Creating a workspace and report in Power BI

When you think about a Power BI workspace, think of a container that houses dashboards, reports, datasets, and dataflows. There are two types of workspaces: My workspace and workspaces.

My workspace is a personal workspace where you can work on your own content whereas workspaces are collaborative spaces that are used to work on Power BI content.

Getting data from Excel

For our first workspace and report, we are going to use the above data which is in an Excel file.

We’re going to upload it to the Power BI service and present the data in a visually

appealing way. Furthermore, we’ll export the data to Teams and SharePoint online.

  • Select Workspaces → Create a workspace. You have the option to upload an image, give it a name and a description. We’re going to upload an image of stationary and call it Stationary review.
  • When our workspace is created, it will be empty. We’re going to select New and

Dataset, Create a dataset to use in a report.

  • On the Get Data page, select Create new content and Files.
  • You have the option of selecting Local File, OneDrive-Business, SharePoint-Team Sites, and also Learn about importing files. Choose the first option – Local file. We’re selecting an Excel file called Sales Data.
  • You have two options – Upload your Excel file to Power BI. It now appears in the Stationary review workspace.
  • Next, we’re going to use Sales Data to create a report by selecting +New → Report and Pick a published dataset → SampleData and Create. The following page appears:
  • First, let’s look at Fields which is on the right hand-side of the screen. Here you will see the data as referenced in the original Excel file:
  • If we select Region, Rep and Total, we see the raw data:
  • However, we can make this more interesting by using the many options that appear in Visualizations.
  • Below we have used a Stacked bar chart and have enlarged the chart in order to see all the reps. To make any chart bigger, just stretch it from the bottom corner.
  • It’s always wise to save your report by selecting File → Save this report.
  • The next visualization we’ll do is a Clustered bar chart and we’re selecting the

following fields: Item and Total.

  • Once you save your report, you can then export it. When it is saved, it looks like this:
  • When you select Home, we can see it has a Favourites and frequents, and also is where we select Workspaces.

Sharing data from Power BI

Now that we have created our first report based on our Excel file, we can export it or share it. It can be exported to PowerPoint, as PDF or back to Excel.

Under Share, there are familiar sharing options from other Microsoft 365 products such as OneDrive and SharePoint. However, the settings include the following option: Allow recipients to build content with the data associated with this report (by default it is deselected).

Please note the following conditions when it comes to sharing:

  • You can share with people who are inside and outside of your organisation
  • When you share a report, generally they can view it, they can hover over the visualisations to glean more data, but they cannot edit it
  • You can allow people in your organisation to share with other people in your organisation
  • You can share from Favourites, Recent, My Workspace and from other workspaces if you have the permission
  • When you share you must have a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User license. Also, the people that you share with also need the same license, too
    • To see your report, they must sign into Power BI
    • External people can’t edit content

For more about sharing, see here bi/collaborate-share/service-share-dashboards

Sharing data in Teams

You can share your report with your colleagues within Teams.

  • In Power BI, select Chat in Teams and when you start writing the name of your Team, it will appear. We’ve created a team called Stationary review in Teams, which we select, and then Share.
  • It appears in the Team as a conversation on the General channel. Once clicked, you have a similar interface as the Power BI service. Also, you will be prompted to add Power BI as an app to Teams.

Sharing data in SharePoint

Go to the SharePoint site where you want to publish the report. Create a page and then add the Power BI web part option:

On this SharePoint page, you will be prompted to add a report by inserting a link.

Back in Power BI, you will get the link by selecting File → Embed in SharePoint Online.

The Details pane in SharePoint will appear and this is where you paste your link.

Please note, according to Microsoft, ‘Embedding a report in SharePoint Online doesn’t automatically give users permission to view the report – you need to set view permissions in Power BI.’

Also, ‘Users viewing a report in SharePoint need either a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User (PPU) license or the content needs to be in a workspace that’s in a Power BI Premium capacity (EM or P SKU).’

For more information, see here share/service-embed-report-spo

Getting data from OneDrive for Business

For this example, we’ve downloaded a sample file from Microsoft ( which has a lot of dummy data. It’s a great file to use as it’s from a trusted source and has lots of data in it.

On our Stationary review workspace, we’re uploading it by selecting + New → Upload a file.

This time we’re going to select a file that sits in your OneDrive or you have the permission to access in another user’s OneDrive. This has the advantage over uploaded from your PC as Power BI will check the file periodically to see if there are any changes; and if there are, the changes will be updated to Power BI.

As the Power BI service is part of Microsoft 365, it automatically signs in has access to your OneDrive files.

Select Import Excel data into Power BI.

Once it’s in our workspace, there are a number of options when we select More options:

Get quick insights.

Promptly, quick insights bring back just under 40 different visualizations. It’s a great place to start as long as you have enough data in your file to generate all the visualizations.

If you click on any of the visualizations, it will be enlarged thus giving a more detailed and interactive view. Below is the full-screen version of the visualisation.

Turning your data into a map

In the next example, we’re going to create a map to detail our sales.

  • Select + New → Create report:
  • Select Map:
  • Stretch out the map so it fits nicely on your screen. As you can see, it’s still a blank map as have yet to select the Country field. Once we do, our map comes alive and we see where our units are being proportionately sold; they appear as blue circles over Canada, US, Mexico, France, and Germany.
  • Next, we’re going to add a legend which gives our countries a different colour.
  • Once you have it saved, it can be shared in the same way as our previous example i.e. to Teams, SharePoint Online, or exported as a PDF, Excel file, or a PowerPoint presentation.

Getting data from a SharePoint list

Although SharePoint lists are an ideal place to store data, within SharePoint itself it’s not a particularly visual medium. For example, below is a screenshot of a SharePoint list containing financial data, and while the data is structured and easy to update, if we bring it into Power BI we can present it in a more appealing way.

  • Open Power BI Desktop and select Get data → More → Online Services. The first option is a SharePoint Online List. Enter the root URL of the SharePoint site for the SharePoint list and select OK.
  • If prompted to use you Microsoft account, sign in. Select the table which is – in effect – the SharePoint list.
  • Make sure you have selected Report – see below:
  • Select your visual. The below example is a Stacked bar chart – a nice visual which details the Count of Gross Sales by Country and Product.

Getting data from Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms is another product that collects exportable data. In the below example, we have a short survey of 10 responses.

In order to get the data into Power BI, we have two options. Export the data to Excel and then import it to Power BI or create a SharePoint list based on the Excel file, and then import or link it to Power BI.

We’re going to use option one, export to Excel.

  • Select Open in Excel. The data comes in structured in columns with column headers – this makes it easy to organise the data once in Power BI.
  • In Power BI Desktop, select Import data from Excel and choose your Excel file. Select the required table → Load.
  • Below, we’re using a Line and stacked column chart to detail the results of our survey.

Another option worth mentioning if you want this to be automated, is to create a Power Automate flow that triggers each time a survey response is received, which then copies

the response into a SharePoint list. Then you base your Power BI reports on that SharePoint list data.

Getting data from the web

You can import data from the web by selecting Get data → Web and importing it into Power BI Desktop.

For this example, we’re going to use a Wiki page entry on the bestselling automobiles:

When prompted, insert the URL. Next, it brings up many tables that we can import.

However, we’re sticking to just one – Brand bestsellers[Edit].

However, once we bring in the data, we must ensure that the columns are correctly labelled.

  • We’re going to rename and/or remove columns in order to showcase the following


  • Brand
  • Automobile
  • Production
  • Units Sold

We’re going to remove the column for Notes.

  • Under fields, select each column and rename it in line with the original column name in Wikipedia.
  • Once arranged, our data looks like the following.
  • As the data in the Units Sold column is unstructured – it contains numbers and words

– we’re going to clean it up by selecting Transforming data and Replace Values for some of the items in that column. Basically, we want to remove references to footnotes and other miscellaneous text.

  • Next, make sure that your values are in the order that you want them to appear. You don’t have to number them, but we have; what’s important is that they appear in the order that you want them to appear in.
  • Once we have our data saved, we’re going to publish it to a workspace in the Power BI service by selecting Publish and choosing a workspace that we’ve created called Car Sales.
  • Next, we’re going to turn our data in a Treemap. When we select the Treemap visualization, our data is displayed in boxes.
  • When we hover over a box, we get the data relating to each car brand.

Getting data from the Dataverse

As Microsoft’s Dataverse stores and manages data in tables, it’s ideal to connect to Power BI.

For more information, see platform/data-platform-powerbi-connector

Please note, as the above link states, you’ll need the following items:

  • Download and install Power BI Desktop. Download Power BI desktop here.
  • Dataverse environment with maker permissions to access the portal and read permissions to access data within tables.
  • You must have the appropriate Power BI license to build and share Power BI reports.
  • To use the Dataverse connector, the Enable TDS endpoint setting must be enabled in your environment. More information: Manage feature settings

Getting data from other sources

There are many different data sources that you can connect to and you can connect to multiple data sources at the same time.

Here is a list of file sources that you can connect to:

  • Excel
  • Text/CSV
  • XML
  • JSON
  • Folder
  • PDF
  • Parquet
  • SharePoint folder

Here is a list of all databases that you can connect to:


SQL Server database Access database

SQL Server Analysis Services database
Amazon Redshift Impala

Google BigQuery Vertica Snowflake Essbase

Action (Beta) AtScale cubes BI Connector

Data Virtuality LDW (Beta) Denodo

Dremio Exasol Indexima

InterSystems IRIS (Beta) Jethro (Beta)


Linkar PICK Style / MultiValue Databases (Beta)

MariaDB (Beta)
Oracle database MarkLogic
IBM Db2 database  
IBM Informix database (Beta)  
IBM Netezza  
MySQL database  
PostgreSQL database  
Sybase database  
Teradata database  
SAP HANA database  
SAP Business Warehouse Application Server  
SAP Business Warehouse Message Server  
Table source and more information, see here: us/power-bi/connect-data/desktop-data-sources

Data refresh

Depending on how you connect your data, it will refresh differently. According to Microsoft, ‘A Power BI refresh operation can consist of multiple refresh types, including data refresh, OneDrive refresh, refresh of query caches, tile refresh, and refresh of report visuals.’

Here is a quick guide:

Storage mode Data refresh OneDrive refresh Query caches Tile refresh Report visuals
Import Scheduled and on-demand Yes, for connected datasets If enabled on Premium capacity Automatically and on-demand No
DirectQuery Not applicable Yes, for connected datasets If enabled on Premium capacity Automatically and on-demand No
LiveConnect Not applicable Yes, for connected datasets If enabled on Premium capacity Automatically and on-demand Yes
Push Not applicable Not applicable Not practical Automatically and on-demand No
Table source and more information, see here us/power-bi/connect-data/refresh-data

The top ten visualizations

There are many visualizations that come out of the box with Power BI. Also, there are many being created by third parties, too.

Here are our top ten.

  • Bar charts

Call us old fashioned, but there’s something elegant and straightforward about a

simple bar chart.

  • Doughnut charts

Another classic, and for a very good reason – it gives you a clear, unambiguous view of who is devouring most of the data.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-doughnut-charts

  • Scatter charts

Dots floating around in clear, clean space presents data in an original and simple way.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-scatter

  • Waterfall chart

Although the waterfall may at times look like something out of Minecraft, it has a certain charm – and solid data presentation.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-waterfall-charts

  • Maps

It’s hard to get a better way of reporting country-by-country data than a map.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/desktop-shape-map

  • Tree maps

What could be nice than an interactive wall of beautifully colour data bricks?

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-treemaps

  • Q&A

Driven by AI, this does exactly what it’s called – query your data as if it’s your very

own data analyst.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-q-and-a

  • Funnel chart

Another simple and effective way of presenting data – check what’s in your linear funnel.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-funnel-charts

  • Gauge

What’s more visual than a rev-counter data visual that displays your data against a targeted goal?

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-radial-gauge-charts

  • Key influencers

Last, but not least, this is one of the finest AI-driven visualizations on the market today that allows you to Q&A your data – more on this in the next chapter of this eBook.

For more about visualizations, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-types-for-reports-and-q-and-a

Furthermore, for other Microsoft visualizations and those which have been created by third parties, see here US/marketplace/apps?product=power-bi-visuals

Key influencers visualizations

A key influencer is an AI-driven visualization that tries to drill down into your data in order to figure out the key reasons that are influencing aspects of your data. In summary, it tries to understand the reasons why your KPIs are moving in one direction or another.

Please note: Key influencers can be used for both the Power BI service and the Power BI

Desktop. In this example, we’re using Power BI Desktop for a better experience.

  • In Power BI Desktop, select Get data and choose a file. We’re selecting our Financial

Sample Excel file and one specific sheet.

  • Once loaded, you can see the columns from the Excel sheet.
  • Select the Key influencers visualization.

When you select the Key influencers visualization, you must input fields in the Analyse section and then add more fields to the Explain by section. In our example, we have added Profit to the Analyse section; and we have put every other field in the Explain by section.

The above settings return the following:

  • Key influencers show us the top contributing factors to the selected item.
  • Top segment shows the top segments that contribute to the selected item.
  • In our example, the dropdown box is a binary choice between Increase and Decrease.
  • On the right hand-side we see a graphic which is a visual interpretation.
  • The left pane contains the actual list of key influencers.
  • We can also filter the data by selecting Filters. In the below example, we have filtered our data to only include references to Canada and France, and the visualizations adjusts accordingly.
  • Now that we have our key influencers report in Power BI Desktop, let’s save it to the Power BI service. We have created a workspace called Key influencers; this is going to be the destination for the above report.
  • On the Home section of the ribbon, select Publish. We’re given a choice as to where we’ll publish to. In our case, we’re selecting Key influencers.
  • Once published to the Power Bi service, you have the option to get quick insights or to further share within others as a link or in in Teams.

For more information, see here bi/visuals/power-bi-visualization-influencers


A Power BI dashboard is a single page that contains a number of visualizations. When used well, they give the viewer a high-level summary of an organisation’s activity.

A dashboard is based on data that comes from reports. In essence, a dashboard can contain multiple visualizations of data from many reports.

While a dashboard may sound similar to a report, there are differences.

Capability Dashboards Reports
Pages One page One or more pages
Data sources One or more reports and one or more datasets per dashboard. A single dataset per report
Drilling down in visuals Only if you pin an entire report page to a dashboard. Yes
Available in Power BI Desktop No Yes. Can build and view reports in Power BI Desktop.


No. Can’t filter or slice a dashboard. Can filter a dashboard Yes. Many different ways to filter, highlight, and slice.
Capability Dashboards Reports
 tile in focus mode, but can’t save the filter.  
Featured Yes. Can set one dashboard as your featured dashboard. No
Favourite Yes. Can set multiple dashboards as favourites. Yes. Can set multiple reports as favourites.
Natural language queries (Q&A) Yes Yes, provided you have edit permissions for the report and underlying dataset.
Set alerts Yes. Available for dashboard tiles in certain circumstances. No
Subscribe Yes. Can subscribe to a dashboard. Yes. Can subscribe to a report page.
Can see underlying dataset tables and fields No. Can export data but can’t see tables and fields in the dashboard itself. Yes
Table source: dashboards

Creating a dashboard

  • While in your workspace (in our example, our workspace is Stationary review) select

+New and Dashboard. We’re going to name it World View.

  • Next, we’re going to add a tile be selecting Edit → Add a tile.

We are given the following choices:

  • Web content
  • Image
  • Text box
  • Video
  • Read-Time Data

Let’s select Text box. We’re going to title our dashboard ACME Corporation – Global Sales. Within the pane, you can resize and change the font too.

  • Next, we’re going to bring in the data map from our previous example. Open up the

data map and select the Pin to a dashboard icon.

  • When prompted, choose Existing dashboard and in our example, we’re pinning it to

World Sales.

  • We now have two tiles on our dashboard.
  • Let’s add some tiles based on the Excel file Financial Sample and quick insights.

We’ve added:

  • Average of Sale Price
  • Discounts
  • Units Sold
  • Average of manufacturing price
  • Lastly, if we select Chat in Teams, a link will be posted to a conversation.

Ask a question about your data

At the top of our dashboard – and also on other visualizations too – you will be prompted to Ask a question about your data.

It helps if you have some knowledge of how your data is structured in terms of what columns exist as basically, when you ask a question – and hope to get an answer – you are really comparing data in one column to another or asking binary questions such as what the highest or lowest price of data in another column is.

If we start asking the following question What is the… we get these options:

If we select What is the highest sale price, the answer appears:

Furthermore, there are predefined questions that act as a starting point. By default, our predefined questions cover the average sale, count segments, maximum sale price and many more.

Creating an App

Power BI allows you to create apps. When you think of a Power BI app, think of it as being made up of reports and dashboards. The purpose of creating an app is to share it with a broad audience within your organisation. When you share an app, users can:

  • Look but cannot modify its content
  • View it in the Power BI service a mobile app
  • Get updated automatically or whenever you decide to update them

For more information on apps and how the licencing works, see here distribute-apps

So let’s create our first app.

  • As apps are created in workspaces, let’s open our Stationary workspace. You’ll see on the right hand-side of the below screenshot, there’s the option to Include in app, and at the top of the page, Create app.

What we are doing is adding the parts below to your app – we’re adding everything

on offer to give our app as much content as possible.

  • Give your app a name and a description. You can give the app a colour, too.
  • When you create your app, you’ll get a link to it.
  • Below is our app.

Once your app has been published, you can share it in Teams, post a comment (with the @ you can mention somebody in your organisation), and see related content, among other options. There’s also a full-screen mode which is ideal if you want to highlight KPIs in your physical office setting, such as a reception.

Next steps

In this eBook, we have touched on some of the most powerful features that Power BI has to offer. However, as it’s a very powerful tool, the examples which we have covered are only a starting point for your Power BI journey.

For example, you can learn more about:

Apps: There are many third-party apps that can connect to your version of Power BI. These apps simply plug into Power BI in a similar way that apps plug into Teams. For more information, see here us/blog/distribute-to-large-audiences-with-power-bi-apps/

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