Power BI is one the most popular dashboard development tools but what is it? In this article, we will explore some of the fundamental concepts around this tool and business intelligence itself.
What is Business Intelligence?
It is a process of converting raw data into information that is used by businesses to make data-driven decisions.
For example, a report shows that you are low on dairy products stock and holidays are coming up. Now the business must make the decision of ordering dairy products before the proceeding date.
Technically speaking, it comprises of the following,
1. Data Warehousing
- Extracting, transforming, and loading data into an OLAP system from an OLTP system.
- Data validation and data cleaning.
2. Reporting and Dashboards
- Report, is a combination of Charts, graphs, and summaries catered towards a specific business scenario such as the total number of users present in a month.
- Dashboard, is an interactive reporting, meaning that it allows the end-user to explore data summaries. For example, I have all the summaries of attendance in the dashboard, now I only want to explore summaries for a very specific region.
So, in this short article, we will be exploring technologies that make up Power BI Desktop.
Data warehousing implies that users of the BI tools are pulling data from a single database, but initially, this wasn’t the case. 40 years prior to now, databases were just beginning to emerge and data came from different inventory and cash management systems etc. These systems would be designed so that they can communicate with one another. Then, view (meaning a temporary table), from the I.T team will pick the data to develop the reporting.
Now-a-days, we have ERP systems which are centralized databases and the data is pulled from these databases directly to the data warehouse. Once data has reach the warehouse, we use different reporting software such as Power BI to develop the dashboards and reports.
This is a cloud technology by Microsoft and is an instance of SSRS, meaning that it uses Analysis services under the hood. It is comprised of the following technologies .
Types of Power BI
- Power BI Desktop
- Power BI Paginated reports
There are other technologies that can be linked with Power BI such as data flows. Given the scope of the project, we will not cover them in this article.
What is Power BI Desktop?
Power BI Desktop is a business intelligence tool like QlikView and Tableau. It allows the user to connect to a variety of data sources and then load that data into the Power BI’s Vertipaq database engine using Power Query.
Some of the features this tool provides are:
- Data visualization such as charts, graphs and tables
- Data transformation and data cleaning
- Data modeling
Now that we have an understanding of what Power BI can do, let’s explore the technologies that go-around to make this magic happen.
- Power Query-Think of it as the main query language that is used to extract, transform and load the data in Power BI. Power Query is basically M language.
- DAX– Data Analysis Expression is the language used to filter and summarize tables to develop data visualization. There are three types of DAX:
- DAX expression-They return single row after using an aggregator such as COUNT,COUNTX and SUMX
- DAX query-They return tables meaning that they return rows such as SUMMARIZE
- DAX function-A function is a lot like a toolkit, so if you know which tool to use then you’re good to go. A function works as a single column or table because Power BI uses a column database. An example of this could be the Calendar function or the DAY function.
After going through this article, you now have an understanding of;
-What is BI.
-Where does Power BI fit into the picture.
-What are the tools that go together to make up Power BI Desktop.
If you are interested in getting started with this product, and being up and running within a week, then sign-up for CyberCode’s crash course with Power BI.