Goodbye PowerPoint – Create Dynamic Visualizations with Power BI

Kevin KellyThu, 06/25/2020 - 16:58

After creating numerous PowerPoint presentations, the thrill wears off. Rarely does management ask for the numerous backup slides you have created just in case. You have mastered all the action and slide transition tricks, but you know there has to be more. Afterall, Cherie Kerr’s book “Death by PowerPoint” did sell quite a few copies.

Welcome to the world of Microsoft Power BI. In 2015, Power BI was a little-known secret that Microsoft slowly launched into the marketplace. Over the years it has picked up popularity as a must-have data visualization tool. With the plethora of emails from Excel, PowerPoint, and Access users, somebody back in the brain trust of their cubicles finally put all the pieces together…data in real time with real graphics!

Data visualization COVIDNow, the majority of us are looking to the latest Johns Hopkins dashboard to see how COVID-19 is affecting the world. However, even with their extensive data feeds, theirs is still 2 days in arrears. But what if you could pull data from anywhere, both internally and externally, in real time? To add onto that, what if the data pulling, copying, sorting, and placing into PowerPoint was a thing of the past? Would not that be cool! Well, it is here… With Power BI!

Microsoft softly launched this awesome product finally meeting the needs of both top management and the data analyst. Afterall, how many ad hoc requests do we get in a day? Analysis and data crunching does not move mountains, but the answers from it does! Gaining insight into the nuances of opportunities just lurking in the shadows would do amazing things for the company and your career.

There are so many things that Power BI does that it is hard to just pick one to write about. However, let us jump in. Are you tired of interrogating your ERP system and pulling mounds of data? After which, you get to clean in with the Excel macros you have made. The next steps are listed on your yellow sticky notes on how to proceed. Then you get to check with your supervisor on how the Board would like the PowerPoint presentation this month. Ah! The lonesome, thankless world of the data scientist.

Get Data Power BIBut wait! What if you could embed all those VBAs into Power BI? Well you can! Click “Get Data”. Power BI can retrieve data from anywhere! The cloud, Oracle, Access, a website, OData Feeds, and the list goes on. Now once the data is within PowerBI, there is a secret door to walk into the world of Access. Ugh! I have tried learning Access a few times. The result being my computer and the book being tossed across the room. My brain is just not wired for that! However, VBA and Excel, I love!

Now that we are in the room of Access within Power BI, we can start manipulating the data. Deleting rows, trimming items, filtering, data typing, and combining columns just to name a few. It is great because Power BI is recording all the steps you are making! This is through the world of Power Query. The recording is simple and neat, not like the craziness of VBA recordings! After you get the data all cleaned up, that is it! Presto!

CloseandApply Power BIThe code is written, and you never have to do that again! Exit back out into the real world through the “Close & Apply” button and you are back. Back onto the stage of Power BI’ s design pallet. This is where the pretty pictures happen with all the data that you have cleaned up. However, making pretty pictures will be in another post.

Refresh Power BIThe very cool thing though is that Power BI has an awesome button, just like Excel’s Pivot Table’s “Refresh.” It is called REFRESH, as well (How original?!) So, if there is any new data records that have arrived or Accounting adjusts some figures, no worries. With just a click of a button, your data is up to date. What’s even cooler is that there is a timer that you can set. I know! The manual click of the UPDATE button can even be automated. This program is the bomb!

So, say goodbye to all those backup PowerPoint slides and say hello to Power BI. Your future salary will thank you!

If you are interested in learning more about Power BI, our Microsoft Power BI Boot Camp teaches you how to use the entire Power BI and Power BI Desktop toolset as your business intelligence platform. You'll learn how to implement solutions using the Power Query, PowerPivot, PowerView, Power Map, Power BI, Power BI Desktop, and Excel Services for SharePoint. Find a session that fits your schedule today!