7 Tips on Power BI

According to Microsoft, Power BI  “is a business analytics service. It provides interactive visualizations with self-service business intelligence capabilities, where end users can create reports and dashboards by themselves, without having to depend on information technology staff or database administrators.”

Understand the importance of managers role in the long chain of actions to provide quality products/services and how we implement it at Intraway with the OPSP by reading our blog: The managers’ role in quality customer service.

Power BI is a complete tool, quite flexible in doing graphs and getting data from different sources.

Before using Power BI, you have to learn something about it. Perhaps you could take a course, or, like most people, you look for some videos on YouTube.

Most people will be eager to start working with the application without any previous insight. Indeed, watching the videos seems to be so easy that you might say “I‘ll learn faster by just making my first report.” Well, the reality is that most of the things you have to do are a piece of cake, but in your rush perhaps you didn’t pay attention to some details. Here you will find some comments that could save you some initial confusion.

“Edit Queries” environment vs. “Edit Report” environment

You are starting your first report, and you don’t remember where  some bar option is, then you go to the YouTube video but, to your surprise,  the menu bars options differ from those on the screen, or you remember some choice but looking for it in all the  menu bar options, you cannot find it.

If this is the case, perhaps is because you didn’t notice that there are two different environments in Power BI, the Edit Queries environment and the Edit Report environment.

You access the Edit Queries environment using the Edit Queries option in the Home menu of the Edit Report environment. Also, you can access by right-clicking a table name and choosing the Edit Query option.

In the Edit Queries environment you can see and modify the tables, but you can also do that in the Edit Report Environment, you may ask, what’s the difference, then?  The difference is that what you do in the Edit Queries environment goes directly to the Power BI  file and what you do in the Edit Report environment is like a view table.  I usually go to the Query environment to change the Data type, erase columns, split columns, filter the tables by a column and especially do merges and appends of tables.  I perform any other actions in the Edit Report Environment.

Dax vs. M

Dax is the name of the language that Power BI uses. Its functions are very similar to those of the Excel Spreadsheet.  But, somewhere, I read that Power BI uses the language M. What is the truth?

The truth is that there are two languages: Dax for Edit Report environment and M for the Edit Queries environment. After working with Power BI for a few months, I haven’t needed M, and I’ve used a lot of Dax. I think it is better for you to start learning Dax before M.

New Column vs. New Measure

Going fast through the videos could mean that you cannot be sure which is the difference between the options “New Column” and “New Measure.” Both,  new column and a new measure, appear in the fields list; this situation could make you think that both are fields. 

“New column”, as its name indicates, creates a new column in the table, and that column will have a value for each record of the table. A “New column” is a column calculated with data from each record of other fields and, as I said before, the newly created column will have a value for each record in the original table. Because you are in the Edit Report Environment, this column is “virtual,” and you will not see it in the Edit Queries environment.

New Measure is not a column. It is just a formula which is usually based on more than one record of the table (and perhaps fields of the related tables).  It is like a formula that uses the table fields and, eventually, other related table fields.

Desktop Power BI and Power BI Service (Web Power BI)

If you haven’t noticed yet, there is a Desktop version of Power BI (free of charge) and a Web version, called Power BI Service. You have to have a Power BI license for using this last one.

That I know of, you cannot share or publish your reports/dashboards if you don’t have a Power BI license and use it in the web environment (please, check the item 6 for distribution matters).

Take care of the relationships

Power BI creates tables relationships matching the fields names. This could be very useful or not.

You should review all the active relationships not to have problems in the future.

Regarding the inactive relationships (the dotted lines in the table-relationship view), they don’t do anything. You can use them with the function USERELATIONSHIP(), but it seems not to be very usual. On the other hand, inactive relationships could give you some trouble.  If they are wrong, and the cardinality of your table changes when new data are added to the table, there will be a problem hard to detect in the Web Power BI. If you have a problem with your data, it could be a good idea to look for it in the Desktop version since it could provide you with more and better information about the issue. Then, it is better to erase all the inactive relationships, which are not right to prevent future problems.

Distributing your work

When you are ready to share or distribute your work, you may have some issues to realize what you can or cannot do.

First of all, if you want to subscribe some of your colleagues for receiving your report by mail, you’d better forget it, you cannot do that. The good news is that there are a lot of people asking for this feature and, at the moment I’m writing this blog, Power BI representative says “We’ve started working on adding this capability to email subscriptions. Stay tuned.”

Anyway, if you have the fantasy that you will be able to subscribe any of your colleagues, I would say that it is not likely. You probably only could subscribe the colleagues that have a Power BI license (except if you are using the Premium license).

There are some other ways to share your work. One of them is working with the application (Apps). You may share the applications with additional Power BI licenses (they have to use the “Get apps” control to receive the apps you shared).

Another way of “sharing” is sending your colleagues a link that Power BI creates and that leads them to the dashboard (you have to be logged in). You can get the link by using the Share option and copy it from the bottom of the dialogue box.

But, in my opinion, the best option you have for distribution is the link that you get through the options “File” – “Publish to web.”  Through this option, Power BI generates a link that shows your report directly, without the need of being connected to Power BI. The report will have all the features that it has in the Web Power BI, and it is dynamic, that is,  data and layout change according to the changes in the original report. Also Power BI will give you a portion of HTML code for you to embed the report in a website. This is very powerful, but you have to know that anyone that has that link will be able to use the report, you should use the link with the same discretion as you would use a password.

Google Drive is everywhere, or not

The big offer of available data sources that Power BI has makes you think that Google Drive is one of them. Well, don’t look for a “get data from Google Drive” option.  Instead, you can get Google Drive data through the option Get Data – From Web.

The problem is to get the link that you have to use in the URL field of the “From Web Option” (Basic option).

Of course, the URL of your Google Drive Sheet is no use for that.

To get a proper URL you have to use the File – Publish to Web options.

There is more than one way of doing that. The one that I use is:

In the “Entire Document” option, I choose the sheet I want to use. In the “Web page” option, I choose “comma separated values (.csv), then I press “Publish”. Google Drive gives you an URL that you may use for getting the data in Power BI.

Sometimes you may have some issues with the “credentials” in Power BI. If you use the Google Drive SHARE option “Anyone with the link”, your problems will disappear (but pay attention because your URL is public).

Understand the importance of managers role in the long chain of actions to provide quality products/services and how we implement it at Intraway with the OPSP by reading our blog: The managers’ role in quality customer service.

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