Part 1 (introduction + data preparation)
You’ve just got a new project and they’re totally set on using Power BI. Good thing you haven’t looked into it over the past couple years, while its functionality has been steadily improving, right?
Once again, it’s time to enter that realm where you're at risk of making “rookie errors” as you learn a new tool. It's time to #embracethesuck (as they say), as we try to prove to ourselves that there's still a tiny bit of elasticity remaining in our brains.
With this post (and upcoming series of Youtube videos), I'm hoping to impart the key learnings I uncovered, while cramming for my Power BI certification (I passed hoorah!) and also more generally how Power BI compares with Tableau.
At the moment, Power BI is undeniably cheap. You can create dashboards and share the individual files around your organisation for free. If you want to use their online sharing platform (Power BI Service), (factoring in their 60 day trial) a full year's subscription will cost you about as much as 1.5 months of a Tableau Creator licence. But there is a reason for this price discrepancy.
Power BI is a fully-functional but complex platform. It includes a powerful data-wrangling stage (PowerQuery) as well as a visualisation aspect that allows for numerous common and simple visualisations to be made (and pieced together) quite quickly. However, when non-standard visualisations are required, achieving this with Power BI's DAX language is incredibly challenging. There are also lots of time-intelligence and data-modelling functionalities that are handled in such a complex way that exclusive-Tableau users would be surprised that these could ever be such an issue.
Browsing Youtube, you will not see the same focus on creating unique and innovative chart types, as there is with the Tableau community. There seems to be much excitement in just overcoming Power BI's inherent complexity, to be able to do something that Tableau has been doing, in an intuitive way, for ages.
As you can see, I'm totally not bitter about the amount of time it took me to come this far in learning Power BI.
There are also numerous, suspicious references to Azure Cloud and SQL Server solutions that give me the sense I'm being sold a database solution by way of a dashboarding program (whereas Tableau has no specific offerings in this area to push).
And yet, Power BI is getting better every day.
I decided it would probably be future-focused of me to cover off this hitherto "runner-up" in the dashbaording / data-visualisation space.
Additionally, I have decided to make some training videos to attempt to reduce the barrier to entry (that I experienced). To make understanding Power BI as a whole (and, in particular, how the DAX language works) that much easier.
I have taken the unusual step of showcasing Power BI, by way of answering the questions in the Tableau Certified Associate preparation quiz. This way I would be familiar with the content (and answers), as well as have a fair idea for some interesting visualisation options.
The introductory video (below) covers the essential steps in getting our data source set up:
- Turn off several default options
- Connecting to the data
- Arranging the data (relationship view)
- Creating a date table
- Creating a measures table + our first measure
- Creating a dynamic file reference to the data
- Connecting via url + swapping over the data source
This intro will be followed up (shortly), with a series of quick and to-the-point solutions to each of the quiz questions. You can get cracking ahead of time, with this prepared *.pbix file, with the data connected and "modelled" alongside all the typed-in questions.
One further, important point. As I mentioned earlier, Power BI's data-wrangling editor (PowerQuery) is incredibly powerful. I have used it numerous times in the past (for projects where I would have to hand over processes to Excel jockies -I say this with love).
In the intro video (above) I don't really showcase its full potential, so I have produced a speedy run-through of a complex data-wrangling operation (which I previously covered using Tableau Prep). I think this showcases a plethora of neat and essential PowerQuery tips.
If your company would like some customised Power BI training workshops, please feel free to get in touch.