Introducing Power BI

Jason Neville | April 20, 2017

What is Power BI?

 

Power BI is essentially a data analytics visualisation tool.

What that means is it's a system that allows for the creation of graphs, reports, pie charts, and any manner of visualisations for an organisation to use to make decisions from.

It brings together data from a range of sources in real time to give you critical insight into the current position and performance of your organisation.

Data sources you can automatically feed into Power BI include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Salesforce
  • SQL Server
  • Mailchimp
  • SharePoint
  • Xero
  • And many more…

Power BI is cloud based, so Microsoft hosts Power BI alongside their Office 365 series of products, which means you don’t require servers or other infrastructure to get started. Less barriers to get started, gets you up and running faster.

Power BI is not going to give you access to data you aren’t already collecting though, or you don’t have in place. Unless you already have a CRM, a case management system, an ERP, an accounting solution, a learning management system, a HR system, or another relevant system, Power BI is not going to solve anything for you.

Power BI is about enabling you to visualise the data you already have in a more intelligent way, and being able to cross reference data from multiple different places.

 

Why would a not-for-profit need Power BI?

The main reason for not-for-profits to use Power BI is ease of use and the range of data sources it can connect to.

Not-for-profits can connect Power BI to multiple sources of data, whether it is an accounting system, a CRM, or some sort of operational system, and pull that data together and into a single dashboard with one or more reports.

Organisations can set Power BI up as they need to, with the reports and data they need for critical decision making.

 

How can my not-for-profit implement Power BI?

Power BI needs some configuration to get started, which depends on the exact data sources you want to use with the system. It requires some technical skills to setup, but fortunately it doesn’t take a lot of time.

Setup would be conducted by a trained consultant or engineer, who will help get the data from where it is to where it needs to be, and can train the Power BI system to understand your data.

The great news is once this process is complete, and Power BI has been setup, it’s quite easy to use, and managers and staff will be able to create their own reports and dashboards as required. You’ll only need a consultant or engineer if you have a new data source to link.

 

What are the running costs of Power BI?

There are two different versions of Power BI: Power BI Free and Power BI Pro. 

The main distinction between the two have got to do with how real time the data is.

If you are happy with a 24 hour delay in your data being refreshed, or your data sources are fairly static, then for the most part Power BI Free will meet your needs.

Power BI Pro really steps into play if you need to be able to visualise data in realtime. If you wanted to be able to update throughout the day in direct correlation with different data sources, Power BI Pro would be essential.

 

What’s an example of a not-for-profit using Power BI?

R & G Technologies completed a project fairly recently for a social services organisation, implementing Power BI to enable more people to see their data than had access previously.

Many organisations have some level of reporting going to management, but the time it takes for them to create the reports differs.

By implementing Power BI for this organisation, it is web based so there was flexibility in reporting and it meant that information could be published more readily to the staff. This allowed the organisation to really integrate data and reporting into their culture.

In this instance, we integrated Power BI into the organisation’s SharePoint site, so that when users visited their SharePoint intranet page, they could see some key metrics and statistics, which were intertwined within their culture and their communication. This helped all members of staff in the organisation be clearer on what their organisation was there to do, and show the impact they were having.

This organisation implemented several screens and TVs around their various offices and published reports to them as well, making it ever present that there is a key focus on these metrics.

For this organisation, their core focus is around job placements, and they had several metrics around the number of placements they’ve made, and updates on how they were tracking against their KPIs, making this information more transparent and accessible to all levels of the organisation.

 

Dos and don’ts of Power BI

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when moving towards implementing Power BI, and to get the most out of the system.

 

DO
  • Engage with a professional to help you setup Power BI properly, to create the integration between your data and Power BI.
  • Start with the systems you need, your CRM, your case management system, and where it’s data lives before moving to Power BI. Once you have a system like that in place and working, then Power BI can help you understand the data better.

 

DON’T

  • Dive into Power BI thinking it’ll solve all your data collection issues – it can only pull data from sources you already have.

 

Launching into Power BI 

Often, we find that when we start work with clients, investigating Power BI becomes a catalyst for organisations to implement data collection systems like CRMs, case management systems, and the like.

Particularly with disability organisations, initiatives like the NDIS are really changing the way that these organisations work. Some of these organisations are going through significant shifts in the way they function because of NDIS and the way that it's going to make their work different.

It’s also shining a light that these organisations now need to be a little more accountable and transparent with how they function.

Where organisations may either had non-existent systems or inefficient system, there needs to be focus placed there first. Power BI then allows you to look at that data and derive the reports from it separately.

 

What should I do to get started with Power BI?

1. Make a list of the systems you have

Identify any systems, databases or other data sources that you have. Are they supported by anyone? What reporting is already available to it?

Maybe you’ll need to implement new systems to collect the data you need, and talk to other systems? Now is the time to identify it and

 

2. Are they supported by anyone?

Are your current platforms well supported? If so they may already have Power BI integration enabled.

It’s important not to reinvent the wheel, so if the system you already have has some integration with Power BI, or you have someone who already understands that data intimately, that’s a great place to start from.

 

3. What information do you want to see?

From here, it’s just about understanding what information you want to see.

What information, if you had it, would improve the way you work or change the way you work?

One thing to bear in mind is that being able to see more data doesn't necessarily improve things. It's important to understand what is your most important data and start from there. Understanding what you're trying to achieve first.

If you need help with Power BI, R&G Technologies can assist you with an ICT or business systems review. Our engineers and business intelligence consultants can help you get the best value from Power BI.

Interested in learning more? I recommend these other articles: