About Power BI
Microsoft is “all-in” on Power BI, and that is huge for a couple of reasons. Number one, the adoption of Power BI and the growth of this product in just the last year has been incredible. It is now arguably the most widely used BI software in the world. Secondly, with Microsoft’s backing, you know that Power BI will continue to grow and to be the dominant BI software out there. You could summarize the power and the effectiveness of Power BI in these three terms: any data, anywhere, and anytime. We will illustrate that as we go through this demonstration.
The first part of our demonstration will focus on the Power BI desktop application, which can be downloaded from Microsoft for free. Power BI desktop allows users to attach to their data and create incredible visualizations and interactive reports. The next step is to look at PowerBI.com, which is the cloud-based application that allows companies to publish from Power BI desktop their visualizations and interactive reports to a dashboard, one or multiple dashboards, in the cloud; and then to share those visualizations with other users or members of their company. This gives people the ability to access those dashboards, really anytime and anywhere, if they have an internet connection. We will also review briefly the Power BI mobile app, which can be downloaded to any mobile device, and allows users to see the same results from their mobile application. Finally, we’ll look at how the new Dynamics AX allows users to embed these visualizations that are created in powerbi.com, from their dashboards, into the workspaces of Dynamics AX.
Power BI Desktop Application
Let’s start by opening the Power BI Desktop application. Once I open Power BI Desktop and load my most recent work space, you will see here I have a collection of reports and analytics that I’ve organized into tabs. My first have sales analysis, and each of these is interactive showing me values as I hover over the appropriate space. I have a tab for sales by geography that allows the user to see some region where the sales are happening, a gross margin analysis tab, which includes a plot graph of average sales price versus average quantity ordered and includes animation so the user can see how that is changing over time for each of the different product families. I have a ‘Product Performance’ tab which includes a summary of forecasts and sales by product category and has slicers. So I can now go over to the left and I can click on the slicers and you’ll see that it updates the values on the each of the product categories based upon the slicers I select. Here, I have a customer sales trend graph, which includes slicers on the right hand side, the customer account, product category, or product. And finally, I have a metrics tab that includes some metrics or KPIs that we want to display on my dashboard.
The Power BI Desktop application came pull data from virtually anywhere. Just to illustrate that, let me show you the complete list of data sources that can be used, including all the typical ones, Excel, CSV, it can pull from Sequel Server databases, Oracle databases, IBM DB2, My Sequel Sybase, any variety of the Azure cloud based databases and others. Once I have created these reports and visualizations in the desktop application I can then publish those to PowerBI.com.
PowerBI.com is the cloud-based application that receives my data and analysis from the Power BI Desktop application. Once I receive these up here, I can create multiple dashboards that organize and display that information. For example, I have several dashboards here that allow me to see inventory metrics, financial performance and then my sales analysis. Each of these visualizations include the features that were designed into them by the desktop application, including slicers. Now I can take this analysis one step further.
The PowerBI.com cloud application includes some powerful analysis tools, the Azure Machine Learning algorithms, and I can apply these to my data. So I’m going to go to my dataset, I’m going to ask it to give you some insights, and it will analyze my data and return to me some flyers or some trends that I may not have noticed. I’m going to take one of these and pin it to my dashboard. Now if I go back home to my dashboard, you’ll see that includes that additional insight that I’ve added.
Finally I have created dashboards that I want to share with colleagues. So I can go to my PowerBI.com site, I can share the dashboard and access to colleagues by email. I can even determine whether they are going to be allowed to pass on those dashboards to other recipients, or if I wanted to keep it private to just them.
Power BI Mobile
Now, I may have colleagues that want to be able to access that valuable information that was created on PowerBI.com from mobile devices. To illustrate what that looks like, I’m going to show you my mobile device, which is a Samsung Galaxy, and you can see I’m using a Samsung application called ‘SideSync,’ that allows me to display the desktop of my phone on my workstation desktop. From here I would click on the Power BI app, which I’ve downloaded to my Samsung. It will connect with the dashboard that I have published up there on PowerBI.com, and it allows me to bring those visualizations down to my mobile device anytime, anywhere.
So to summarize we have applications in the cloud called PowerBI.com where we can publish the graphs and analysis we’ve done upon our data. Anyone can access that, if I shared with them, via an internet connection; and I can even allow people access from their mobile device using the PowerBI.com application to see those anytime, anywhere.
Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics AX
Finally I have some great visualizations up there in PowerBI.com that I’d like to pull into my enterprise system. In the new Dynamics AX, starting from my home page, I can click on ‘Category and Product Management Workspace.’ I can add Power BI graphs from my dashboard. Since I’m looking at category and product management here, it would be helpful to understand the percentage of each of the business units, and perhaps it would help me to understand something about the regions in which they’re sold. Answer ‘OK’ to that. Now both of those have now been pinned to my workspace, so that as a user, I can refer to them while doing work within the new Dynamics AX.
We have seen how powerful the Power BI application is, the ability to create visualizations and analysis in the Power BI Desktop Application, the ability to publish those to PowerBI.com and to share those visualizations with users within our company.
If you have any questions or comments about this topic, or about Sikich, please feel free to email me at the address below. Thanks and have a great day!