Let’s Talk Microsoft Power BI

What is Power BI? 

Everyone has data, and data is messy. Microsoft Power BI (Business Intelligence) allows for data transformation and visualization. Data is not helpful tucked away deep inside SQL tables or a data dump to CSV that no one ever looks at. When you take the time to transform the data and pair it with other disjointed data sources, suddenly it gains appeal. After making it “pretty” by applying company branding and color palates, suddenly you have something worth showing off that users can use as part of day-to-day operations. 

Education Example 

All businesses have data that likely isn’t being using to potential. For example, a school district may have an SIS (Student Information System) that keeps track of attendance and test scores. That data is stored in a database within the SIS. They may also have a POS (Point of Sale) system that manages the cafeteria lunch orders. When you bring the two data sources together into Power BI now you can form graphs that show trends over time. Are students scoring higher on tests when they order the pasta bar entrée or the cheeseburger? Will students ordering from the salad bar have less tardiness to their next class than if they had ordered the meatloaf? These are questions I know you pondered but now could answer!

Graphical user interface

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Source: Data: Candoris; Photo: Nadia Eimandoust 
State Education Dashboard Example: https://data.nysed.gov/  

Senior Living Example 

Another example could be a senior living center. Their EHR (Electronic Health Records) system may write things to a database like billing rates, bed capacity, etc. Management may have goals published to an internal intranet site or maybe an Excel spreadsheet living on a file server. By bringing these seemingly disparate data sources together in Power BI, we can now visualize percentages of Medicare residents during a specific month and see how close to goal that is. We could also pull in a spreadsheet from the facilities department that shows goals of how quickly rooms should be cleaned between residents. With that information we could write DAX (Data Analysis Expressions) calculations to determine the difference in days between one resident vacating a room and the next resident moving in. This could be displayed as a bar graph with a line chart overlay to show how close they arrived to goal.

Helpdesk Example 

See below for an IT Helpdesk Ticketing Dashboard Example: 

Source: Microsoft, Candoris

Why you should be using Power BI 

These examples are provided to show that the possibilities are endless. Businesses can utilize Power BI to visualize multiple KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in a variety of formats. Did you know that you can schedule a Power BI Report to be emailed on a regular basis?1 Did you know that you can utilize Power BI for paginated reports?2 While the data and KPIs are important, you want to make sure to take time and interview the target audience. What questions do they have? Are they performing calculations manually and on a regular basis? Leverage a Power BI report to provide answers to the questions your users have. If users are doing manual calculations repeatedly, start putting those into Power BI and allow your users to subscribe to them via email. End user adoption of the Power BI reports that you build is just as important as the data itself. Keep your users invested so they come back to the report often. Schedule automated refreshes of the data so it does not become stale. Use their feedback to make improvements. As companies continue to leverage Microsoft Teams as a communication platform within the organization, why not publish your Power BI reports directly inside of Teams? Create a one-stop-shop for your users to find the reports while they are interacting with their existing teams. 

The reports that are designed in Power BI do not have to be static. While some of our customers design a report to be displayed on a large wall-mounted display, most will interact with it from a device. Reports can be formatted to display in a web browser or mobile device. Simply clicking on a table row allows you to drill down into further data. Slicers can be provided, allowing the user to further customize and filter the data that the report is showing. The customizations that Microsoft makes available to you are ever-growing and offer a great result that looks and functions exactly as you envisioned. 

Licensing 

Microsoft Power BI Licensing can be complex, as many Microsoft licenses tend to be. The table below breaks it down: 

Product License Details 
Power BI Desktop App Free to use Desktop app can be used at an individual level to author the report. From there you can publish to “Power BI Service (Cloud)” or work with it locally.  
Power BI Service (Cloud) Free license available but reports can only be published to “My Workspace” and cannot be shared with others $9.99/user/month – Power BI Pro. Allows user to publish report into any workspace. Users must have this license to view & interact with reports in a non-premium capacity workspace. Report refreshes can be scheduled up to 8x/day. $20/user/month – Power BI Premium per user license. Allows for advanced features like paginated reports. Report refreshes can be scheduled up to 48x/day. Reports can be shared with users who also have a premium per user license. From $4,995/capacity/month – Power BI Premium per capacity. This license gets assigned to a single workspace. Any user that publishes reports into a premium workspace also needs the $9.99 license assigned. Users that are viewing and interacting with the report can use a free license. Various tiers offered as more processing power is needed. This offers dedicated capacity vs shared with Power BI Pro.  
Publish-to-web Microsoft allows you to publish a report from the Power BI Service to web. This is referred to as un-authenticated access. A random web URL is provided, and you could use this to embed a report into a public facing website. It is important to realize that the data in your report will be public facing and could be found via search engines. A good use of this would be publicly available COVID-19 data or education enrollment numbers. If the data is not able to be released to public this method should not be used.
Additional resources from Microsoft: 
https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/ https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/admin/service-admin-licensing-organization https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/collaborate-share/service-publish-to-web 

How Candoris can help 

Candoris is offering services in the Microsoft Power BI space. If you’re not yet using Power BI and you want some general training for your users on how to use it, our engineers can come on site or offer remote training. Maybe you already have some Power BI reports deployed but want assistance in further development? We can do that too! We can also help you unravel the complex licensing options and in some cases find that you may already have Power BI bundled with your existing licensing.3 Reach out today to have a discussion with our team and how we may be able to help you along your journey with Power BI. 

1 https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/consumer/end-user-subscribe 

2 Power BI Premium licensing required – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/paginated-reports/paginated-reports-report-builder-power-bi 

3 Power BI Pro is included with Office/Microsoft 365 A5/E5/G5 SKUs 

About the author

Sr. End User Compute Engineer

Ryan assists Candoris customers with strategy and solution implementations related to end-user computing. His experience with productivity solutions such as Microsoft 365, and device lifecycle management software like System Center Configuration Manager, enables him to help customers overcome the challenges of workforce transformation. Ryan’s main areas of expertise are Microsoft Technologies such as Exchange, Microsoft 365, System Center, and Power BI. He has various Microsoft associate and expert level certifications as well as VMware VCAP certification for Horizon. He holds a Computer Systems Specialist degree from YTI Career Institute.