By Cathy Dew
SharePoint Apps: Power BI
Metrics, statistics, and other types of analytics are vital to many different types of businesses. Unfortunately, seeing sets of numbers on a page is rarely the best way for company leaders or their teams to absorb the considerable information that strong analytics offers. It’s for this reason that data visualizations are so popular in the corporate world—and why Power BI has become one of the most popular apps among SharePoint experts since it was introduced back in September 2013.
For a deep dive into all that SharePoint has to offer and how we can assist you with any functions and capabilities, check out our topic page SharePoint Consulting: Experts reveal SharePoint mysteries, eliminate confusion.
What Is Power BI
In the simplest of terms, Power BI is a data analytics service that exists within the Office 365 environment. Using Power BI, teams can create data visualizations that are interactive and easy to read, analyze, and understand. The program automates the creation of graphs, charts, and other similar resources. There is no need for anyone to sit down, organize the data, and turn it into visualizations that your teams can understand. Power BI carries out all those steps for you.
When Power BI creates a new visualization, you can save it and publish it to a Power BI site right there on your SharePoint intranet. You can also configure the service so that it refreshes data at pre-set intervals—great for making sure that you always have the most up to date analytics from any live data sources.
Data Sources for Power BI
While Power BI does the work of pulling data together into dashboards and visualizations you can use, you still need to have a data source to feed into the service for it to provide any benefits. Luckily, Power BI is set up to accept data from an array of different services. Perhaps you have an Excel spreadsheet that you want to turn into a chart or a graph. You can feed the Excel spreadsheet into Power BI, and it will do the rest of the work for you.
Microsoft programs aren’t the only compatible data sources, either. Power BI also accepts data from third-party tools such as MailChimp. Say you have a MailChimp account that you use to send out your company newsletters. MailChimp keeps track of certain statistics about your campaign, such as the number of newsletter opens you get each day/week/month. If you wanted to create a graph showing these statistics, you could just pull the data from MailChimp into Power BI and let the app generate a visualization for you almost instantaneously.
Power BI also lets you browse data already on your SharePoint intranet. You can collect data that people within your organization have published and turn it into visualizations. It all starts with a click of Power BI’s “Get Data” button, which gives you the option to collect data from your organization as well as outside services, files, and databases. If you don’t see an option for the data source you have in mind, you can work with a SharePoint developer to build a custom solution.
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The Tools of Power BI
One of the factors that makes Power BI especially useful to entire teams is that it is available in multiple different configurations. Power BI tools are available on mobile, desktop, and online variations. These tools ensure that you have access to your data when you need it—regardless where you are or what you are doing. The desktop and online (or Software as a Service) versions of Power BI are terrific for creating or viewing department or company-wide data and using it to make key decisions in meetings.
The mobile version of Power BI, meanwhile, makes the service more accessible for individuals. For instance, individual members of your team might use the mobile version of Power BI to create visualizations of their monthly sales numbers. The different versions of Power BI make the service more versatile, simply by making it accessible to more members of your organization.
Power BI is also versatile simply because of the tools that come with the service itself. You can use the program to create your own data visualizations, to share reports with people on your team, and to interact with data visualization built by other members of your organization. You can pull visualizations into a report or dashboard, which combines multiple graphs, charts, or statistics into one comprehensive view of information. You can adjust the “tiles” (or individual visualizations) within a report or dashboard so that they appear in a specific order, or so that certain visualizations appear larger than others.
In short, Power BI provides you with the tools you need to have more control over your data. It accomplishes in a matter of minutes what you might have to spend hours compiling manually. Creating data reports for meetings, conferences, company memos, or other purposes has never been easier. And since data visualizations are interactive, it’s easy for members of your team delve into the individual
Work with SharePoint Experts to Get the Most out of Power BI
Do you need a little bit of help getting the hang of Power BI? Whether you want someone to train your team leaders on how to use the service or need a custom solution to pull data from a lesser known source, 2Plus2 can help. Our SharePoint experts have been using Power BI from the beginning, and know every nook and cranny of the program. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.