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Welcome To The New Power BI

Power BI is changing! It still has the same underlying components, such as Power Query and Power View, but has been enhanced and repackaged, and many additional data sources added. Excel is still present, but there is more emphasis on apps such as Power BI Desktop and apps for Windows, Apple and Android devices. The Power BI portal has also had some significant enhancements.

For a review of the original Power BI release, which is now referred to as “Power BI for Office 365” please refer to my earlier blog Power BI: Self Service Business Intelligence in the Cloud.

Previously, Excel spreadsheets contained the reports and data, and data connections resided in a SharePoint online library. They now reside in workspaces inside Power BI, and can be imported from OneDrive or published from the Power BI desktop app. For notes on how to migrate content from “Power BI for Office 365” to “Power BI” see here.

Power BI Desktop for PC is a free download. Once you have it, you fire it up and start designing your reports. When complete you publish them to Power BI for use by others.

To demonstrate I am going to develop a simple report, using the Power BI Desktop for PC, showing information from a single data source.

Adding a data source

To keep things simple I will use a data source that is freely available on the Internet and contains a subset of Microsoft’s AdventureWorks sample database. An OData feed is available here:

Once Power BI Desktop is started, close the splash screen and from the toolbar select Get Data > OData Feed, enter the above URL, select CompanySales as source and click Load. This creates a query in Power Query. Click Edit Queries to open the new query in Power Query:

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We are only interested in Bikes and so click the ProductCategory column and select Bikes. Then select Remove Columns and remove the ProductCategory column as it is no longer needed. Finally click Close and Apply to complete the query. For some additional details on Power Query see the earlier blog: Microsoft Power Query: Empowering the End User.

Designing a Report

Next is to design a report from the given data using the updated version of Power View. This consists of dragging the Sales field onto the design surface and selecting a Visualization, such as a pie chart, then dragging the ProductSubCategory onto the chart to group the data. The same data can be shown in card format by dragging the Sales field again and then using the Multi Row Card visualisation. Selecting any section of the pie chart will refresh the screen showing just that section in the pie chart and in the Multi Row Card. You can also add filters to reduce the amount of data displayed. The end result looks like this:

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Publishing to Power BI

The next step is to publish the report to Power BI where it can be shared and viewed by others. Just click the Publish button (the last one on the toolbar) and login to publish the report. It then appears on Power BI as a Report and a Dataset.

Click the + next to Dashboards to create a new dashboard, then return to the report and click the pin icon, in the top right of each visualisation tile in the report, to add the tile to the dashboard. The resulting report and the dashboard are shown below:

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Sharing with others

Clicking the “…” next to the ProductSales dashboard and selecting Share will share the dashboard with selected Power BI users. The other users will receive an invitation email and will thereafter be able to view the dashboard and associated reports.

Working as a Group

As well as sharing you can work as a team using Group Workspaces, each of which can have any number of members who can edit, publish and view reports and dashboards. To create and manage workspace groups select My Workspace (your default group workspace) and click the + to create a new workspace group such as Sales Group in the example below.

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When you create a workspace group in this way, a group is created in Office 365 and this group also has an Office 365 group calendar and email. In this case, the group email is [email protected].

The next step is to package up some content and import it into the group (other users can also import the package if you give them permission). To do this click Get Data, on the bottom left of the screen, click Get in the My Organisation section of Content Pack Library and click Create Content Pack. Give the pack a name, i.e. Sales Pack, select the group to share with by entering its email address, and the dashboards and reports you wish to share.

Then any member of the group can login, select Get Data and import the pack by clicking on it:

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I have imported the Sales Pack and hence the associated reports into the Sales Group in my Power BI. Any member of the group can then view the reports. If I choose to edit a report I am asked to “Personalise this Content Pack” and I can then edit it online. The edited version will be visible to all members of the Sales Group. In the example below I have edited the version of the report in Sales Group to include the Total Sales:

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Displaying on a Tablet Device

If you want to view dashboards and reports offline using an iPad or Android tablet, then go to the relevant app store, download the Power BI app, which is free, login to Power BI and the app will download the dashboards and reports and allow you to view them.

In summary, Power BI has been through some radical changes. The underlying components are similar to the old Power BI (Power Query, Power View, etc) but the capabilities are considerably extended through the new desktop tools, tablet apps and the new the Power BI website. It is well worth a look.

By Geoff Ballard, Chief Technical Officer

Geoff Ballard

Geoff Ballard is the co-founder of and Chief Technical Officer at Ballard Chalmers. With an MSc in Database Management Systems and a Chartered Engineer, he is also a certified SQL Server Development and Administration MCITP and MCTS. Geoff has been a SQL Server consultant since the very first Microsoft beta release and is a trainer and author in Microsoft technology, including the courses ‘Transact-SQL Programming’, ‘Microsoft BizTalk Server’ and ‘Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Administration’ which are delivered throughout the world.

Have a comment? Let us know below, or send an email to [email protected]

About the Author

As Co-Founder of Ballard Chalmers, Geoff is the company’s CTO, directing technical strategy, overseeing technical consultants, managing larger development projects and ensuring technical delivery quality standards.

Education, Membership & Awards

Geoff graduated from the University of London with a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics and computing and a Masters degree in Database Management Systems. Additionally, he is a certified SQL Server Development, Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS).

His professional memberships include Charted Engineer (Software), Member of the British Computer Society (MBCS), Member of European Federation of Engineers (FEANI) and Fellow of the Institute of Analysts and Programmers (FIAP).


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