How to create simple Power BI reports

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Written by Laura Tennyson

Dec 13, 2019

Creating Power BI reports

Power BI is Microsoft’s cloud-based data analytics and reporting service. It allows you to build models and visualizations to share insights from advanced datasets. Power BI reports differ slightly from dashboards, but you can create both with this software.

Report or dashboard?

A dashboard is a single page (or canvas) used to present the most important metrics from various reports or datasets. They are usually designed to be viewed passively. In contrast, reports can contain multiple pages and they’re based on a single dataset. They’re interactive, so the person viewing the report can filter, highlight and slice the information and take a closer look at the data by inspecting the tables, fields and values.

Bring your data to life with Power BI

There has recently been a huge growth in demand for data visualization and reporting, as organizations have realized that it’s essential for business intelligence and data-driven decision making. Transforming the way data looks (and making sure it’s accessible and understandable) is one of the biggest challenges for business operations and marketing in the 21st century. Here we’ll outline how you can transform raw data into engaging insights in Power BI reports.

Step 1: Get the data

In this example, we’ve used a Power BI sales and marketing file (PBIX)  from Microsoft’s homepage.

From inside the Power BI home screen, click on Get Data.

Choose from the list or click on More.

You can use many data sources for your Power BI reports including Excel and CSV files, online services like Facebook and Adobe, or databases such as SQL, Azure and Oracle.

Step 2: Graphs and visualization in Power BI

Once Power BI is running, two menus appear: Visualizations and Fields. For a top-notch, professional-looking report, both of these are important.

For our first visualization, we will create a simple Time Series Chart by clicking on Sales Fact and selecting Sum of Revenues from the dropdown menu.

This, or any other KPI, can be moved by drag and drop to Values under the visualizations side menu.

In addition, dates must be added under Axis. Go to Date and then, from the dropdown menu, move the date field to Axis.

The chart can now be resized and moved.

Under the visualizations submenu, you can choose from different diagram styles. Note that, when the original data file is updated, it will be automatically updated in Power BI — there’s no need to connect the data source again.

Step 3: Add a map to your Power BI report

Click on an area of blank space on the report page so that none of your graphs are selected. Under visualizations, click on Map. Under Geo, select State and drag and drop it to Location.

From SalesFact, select a KPI. Here we’ve added Sales $. Drag and drop it to Tooltips.

Go to Format and then go to Heat map and slide it to On.

Step 4: Add data in the form of cards and tables

One of the strengths of Power BI is that complex data can be boiled down to simple visualizations. Cards and advanced tables are great tools to help you do this.

Here we’ve created a multi-row card that shows sales, the amount of products sold and the total revenue for each product category.

Search for Sales $, Sum of Revenue and Total Units under SalesFact. Tick all of them or drag and drop them to Fields.

In the Product submenu, search for Category and move it to Fields.

Step 5: Format the style of your visualization

Move to the format pane and change the colors and format. For the multi-row card, we’ve added a simple background to highlight each product category.

Under Format you can customize the design to match your company branding by changing the color, font and spacing.

If you prefer a bar chart to simple line chart, just click on the preferred graph/diagram style.

In the example here, we’ve chose a Line and stacked column chart and added another field under Line values.

Step 6: Export reports

If you want to share PBIX files with colleagues or clients, they need to have Power BI installed (get it free from the Microsoft Store). If that’s not the case, just go to File and select Export to. Here you can publish the report in PDF or another format.

Want to create reports with other software?

Working with Excel spreadsheets but want to use another visualization and reporting tool such as Google Data Studio? Check out our post on how to connect Excel to Google Data Studio. Although they’re not usually directly compatible, we’ll show you how to create an automated system linking the two.

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