Wednesday, 5 April 2017

An intro to Power BI for the Office 365 developer – slide deck

I’ve been working with Power BI a bit recently, and it’s a really interesting world when you come at it from a dev perspective. You can accomplish things quickly that would take a LOT of code, and it’s pretty impressive that way. For a long time I felt somewhat guilty that I had a skills gap with Power BI (“call yourself an Office 365 architect, you can’t even configure a slicer!”), but happily I’ve now gained some knowledge and now sleep better on that front ;) I think it’s easy to overlook Power BI and assume that you need to do custom dev work to meet some client requirements around presenting data – but often it’s possible to flip things around and say “what if we gave you something like this, and it would have benefits X, Y and Z?”

The key highlights for me are:

  • A decent grid control, with sorting/filtering, mobile support etc. – with no code needed to fetch data and bind to the grid
  • Easy charts – and lots to choose from
  • Easy maps
  • Great mobile support
  • Can embed within a web page (e.g. via the SPFx Power BI web part)

To work out whether Power BI is a good fit for your requirements, I summarise it with this slide:


The lessons you learn – visuals, filters, slicers…and publishing to a SharePoint page

I felt like I learnt a few lessons as I got started. I even managed to burn 2 or 3 hours fiddling around with the wrong bits after downloading the wrong thing (hint – it’s Power BI desktop you need, not the app in the Windows store!) It also took me a while to get to grips with the basic process of adding visualizations to the report, and getting the controls to work with each other (e.g. selecting an item in a pie chart to filter rows from my data). I tried to capture some of these learnings for a “lunch and learn” chat with my team, but hopefully the slide deck might be useful to others starting out with Power BI.

It’s also particularly interesting now that it’s so easy to embed a Power BI report to a SharePoint page. In case you didn’t know, Microsoft have a new web part which supports this, although it can only be used on modern pages:


Just remember that all users need to be licensed appropriately to view the report (i.e. they need an E5 license or a Power BI Pro add-on license, as things currently stand). If that doesn’t work for you, there’s always the “publish to web” option if you’re OK with an anonymous access “everyone can see my data” approach:


The presentation

Anyway, here’s the slide deck in case it’s of use:

Happy data presenting!

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