Tech Tuesday: 5 Things We Learned Using Microsoft PowerBI

At mLevel, not only do we analyze our client’s success with an in depth analytics suite; we analyze our own success based on established KPIs. These KPIs provide a reference point that shows us how our business is evolving day to day. To tease out these nuggets of information, mLevel has leveraged Microsoft’s PowerBI to create a dashboard that allows every employee the opportunity explore our data. These dashboards are accessible 24/7 and are served up through an internal SharePoint site. Standing up this dashboard has taught us a lot about PowerBI and the following are our 5 Biggest Learning Takeaways.

1. Gateway Connection – Having an always on and available machine is essential to any PowerBI dashboard. This allows your dashboard to be refreshed on a regular basis. At mLevel, we’ve leveraged a VM that allows our dashboard to refresh every morning with the latest and greatest data. After all, what’s the point of having a dashboard if the data isn’t up to date.

2. Data Pre-Processing –  After loading a huge amount of data into our dashboard we found that PowerBI was a bit sluggish while trying to aggregate data across our three different environments. An easily applied solution was creating an ETL that pre-aggregated as much of our data as possible. This allowed us to bring in a much smaller set of data while still maintaining the level of detail needed for our reports.

3. One Day Prototypes – PowerBI is Excel on steroids. Data is displayed in the very familiar table view that all Excel users will recognize. This familiarity allows an inexperienced user to quickly set up a beautiful UI that visualizes every facet of the back end data. At mLevel, we were able to stand up a basic dashboard in a day and then iterate on it until it met our needs.

4. SharePoint Integration – Arguably one of the best features of PowerBI is its seamless integration into your existing SharePoint site. With a few clicks, your PowerBI dashboard can be hosted so everyone in your organization has access to the data they need to perform their jobs.

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5. Multiple Data Sources – Let’s face it, data usually doesn’t all reside in the same place. PowerBI lets you bring data in from multiple sources and tie it all together on a common key. At mLevel, our data warehouse exists across three regions so PowerBI is essential for bringing that data together to provide a holistic view of mLevel’s success.

Overall, we have found PowerBI a worthy tool for visualizing and exploring all the data that we create here at mLevel. While we would like to see a bit more flexibility in customizing front end objects, their out of the box options are more than adequate. As our platform continues to grow we feel that PowerBI will be a key component into exploring all of that new data.

So, what have you used PowerBI for at your companies? What do you think of it? What are your favorite features? What’s missing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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