When working with clients on their data management and analytics projects, Align 1st will explain things in terms of “phases and stages, layers and levels”. Data Management and Business Intelligence take place over a series of processes that happen in various stages and phases of business activity and at different layers and levels of your technology stack. The initial stage is the creation of raw data for transactional and daily operational use. That data is then moved (via ETL) in a stage of data processing to a layer in your technology stack where raw data is stored (staged) before it is picked up for analytical processing. Organizations vary in their sophistication of data management and processes, and Power BI can work with any level of complexity or sophistication, which makes it an ideal Data Management and Analytics tool – it has the flexibility and power to perform lots of critical functions that are required for Business Intelligence, Reporting and Analytics.
Example Data Management Eco-system Workflow
Ingest: M Query – Power Query
The first phase of Business Intelligence with Power BI is the ingestion phase where users connect to their data sources, shape and structure their data, and import it into their model for further processing and analysis. Power Query using the M Query language is a self-service data connection and preparation tool that allows users to rapidly connect to almost any data source natively, and transform, cleanse and structure their data in an easy to use query development environment. Power Query is a business user friendly tool that can also be used by technical resources to design, develop, and deploy very powerful, yet easy to use queries that can be recycled and reused by the entire organization. The purpose of structuring the data is to crate tables that can be joined together into a Dimensional Data Model that can drive the complex analytics that Power BI is designed to deliver. Power BI does allow for direct connections to highly performant data sources.
Model: DAX and Data Modeling
Data modeling is the second phase of the Business Intelligence Process using Power BI. Once you have ingested your data and structured it correctly for your use case, you can begin to Model your data. In this phase you will define relationships between tables, specifying the cardinality and direction of the join. You will also perform further processing on the data if needed, by updating data types, field names, adding additional columns and performing custom calculations in DAX (Data Analysis eXpressions). This additional processing and modeling allows you to create whatever you need to on top of your original data set to create the analytics you need to understand your business. This phase is where you perform the final preparation, manipulation and calculation on your data set and model to prepare it to be visualized by consumers.
Visualize: Graphs, Charts and Tables
The third phase of Business Intelligence with Power BI is the data visualization and exploration phase. This is where you visually render your data using tables, charts, and graphs to see and explore your data to better understand and comprehend what is happening in your organization. You can create dashboards and reports that display KPIs and Metrics, trends and anomalies, SLAs, targets and goals, by using many different visualization methods and tools. In this phase you can customize visualizations by dragging and dropping data elements onto a canvass that is interactive and flexible. You can create any composition you like, update formatting, using themes, and designing the perfect dashboard to tell your data story. This is where the majority of your users will come to get information and understand the business.
Share: Power BI Services
The fourth stage of Business Intelligence is Sharing and Collaboration on Power BI services. This is the online, cloud-enabled portal that your business users can use to view and collaborate with your Power BI Dashboards and Reports. This is where users can access information, share comments, ask questions, and connect with other users. Power BI services has a rich eco-system for administrative control and enablement. Users can be added to workspaces and given permissions based on defined roles and needs. Data refresh, security, performance tuning, user engagement and so much more enterprise BI management can be performed inside of the Power BI Services portal for your organization. This is modern Business Intelligence power by the Microsoft Azure Cloud.