Posted on: April 5, 2017

You’ve finally signed up for Microsoft Power BI. Perhaps you’ve even inputted a little bit of data. So… now what? Learning how to use any new tool can be confusing and complicated at first, but taking the time to really get to know the ins and outs of Power BI will make a huge difference in your ability to glean maximum intelligence for improving your business. Of course, we can’t tell you everything there is to know about Power BI in a single blog post, so we’ve broken the information up into three digestible pieces, each of which will help you get better acquainted with this incredible suite of analytics tools.

Part 1 – Power BI Basics

Before you can accomplish anything else, you need to have a general overview of what Power BI really looks like and how it works. Although there are many components and tools to be found within Power BI, there’s no need for you to become overwhelmed by all of it. All you really need to know are the three key building blocks of Power BI, which are Dashboards, Reports, and Datasets. All three of these go hand in hand, and all are extremely important, but we’ll begin with datasets. After all, you couldn’t very well have reports and dashboards without data.


As you know, a dataset simply consists of a collection of data that can be imported or connected to. Power BI makes it possible for you to import and connect to all types of datasets, bringing them all together in one place. You’ll notice that in the navigation bar, any datasets that you’ve imported or connected to will be listed under the Datasets heading (easy enough!). There are tons of data sources that are supported by BI, and new ones are being added all the time, so BI will continue to grow with you. You’ll also enjoy the fact that a single dataset can be used again and again – even in different reports – while the visualizations from that singular dataset can be viewed on multiple dashboards. In order to import/connect to a dataset, you’ll simply select “Get Data” from the navigation bar, or click on the “plus” icon next to the Datasets heading. From there, you’ll just follow the instructions, and new datasets will be listed in the left navigation bar, easily identified by a hello asterisk. Whenever you’re working as a part of a group, datasets that are added by one group member are available to all. It couldn’t be simpler!


Power BI reports are what allow you to dig deeper and really start exploring your datasets. These reports consist of one or more pages of visualizations, in the form of charts and graphs, that come from a singular dataset. This allows you to spot trends and glean valuable insights about certain sets of information. BI reports can be generated from scratch from within Power BI itself, and they can also be imported from dashboards shared by colleagues. Furthermore, you can also create reports when you connect to datasets from Excel, Power BI Desktop, databases, SaaS applications, or even content packs. Keep in mind that while reports can be viewed and shared, they can only be edited by the creator, co-owners of the report, and those who have specifically been given permission. To access reports, you’ll simply click on the Reports heading of the navigation pane. Reports will open in read mode, but you can edit reports (wherever permission is granted) by selecting “Edit”.


Finally, we come to dashboards. BI dashboards can be created and shared in order to share tiles and widgets that display visual representations from a given dataset. Pinning or adding tiles to your dashboard will give you a “big picture” look at a single set of data, providing insights from all sides, so that you can make better, more informed decisions.

While these three components are the building blocks of what makes Power BI work, there’s still a whole lot more to know. Be sure to check out our next Power BI post in two weeks, which will cover how you can get fast, accurate information about your data with the Power BI Q&A box. In the meantime, talk to the pros at Uncommon Solutions to learn more about Power BI.