Creating Impactful Dashboards with Microsoft Power BI
It wasn’t that long ago that many companies heavily relied on software such as Microsoft Excel to help provide reporting and analytics to manage their business.
Working through tabs, filtering data sets and looking at brightly coloured graphs was part of many Monday sales meetings.
That’s if you had colour toner; otherwise, you looked at monochrome reporting that all looked the same.
Thankfully, those reporting days are behind us.
Today you can communicate complex information with powerful tools like data visualisation. It can present complex information in a simple, easily understandable format. However, creating a graph or chart to communicate that data is not enough in modern workplaces.
For the information to be beneficial and create meaningful insights, you need reporting that effectively shares the story behind the data.
Insightful reports help decision-makers understand critical trends and patterns. As well as identify areas of opportunity and make informed decisions. When your present data as only analytics graphs and bar charts, it will only tell part of the story, leading people to make wrong decisions.
You must use several data points to create holistic and insightful reports. And one tool that can help your business is Microsoft Power BI.
Microsoft Power BI: Explained
Power BI by Microsoft is a comprehensive business intelligence tool that connects various data sources to a centralised dashboard. With over 500 data connectors, including Salesforce, Excel, and Azure, users can effortlessly access and visualise data holistically. The platform offers pre-built report templates, saving time in creating data-rich reports. Teams can collaborate and share dashboards virtually, fostering a collaborative environment. Power BI empowers companies to consolidate and analyse data, gain valuable insights, and make informed business decisions. It’s a powerful tool for streamlining data management and enhancing data-driven decision-making.
To get started with Microsoft Power BI, you need to:
- Sign up and register for the software
- Connect your data sources
- Use the tools to create report visualisations
However, to maximise Microsoft Power BI and create valuable reports, here are our tips to get the most out of it.
Think about your audience
When designing reporting dashboards, you must consider who is the end user. Ask yourself, ‘What would my audience or stakeholders want to see in this report?’. Is your target audience looking for bottom-line sales results? Or do they need to make informed decisions about insights that show target productivity gaps?
For compelling visualisations, ensure you use clear and concise language. In doing so, you help your audience to understand critical takeaways from the data. Customise the reports to the audience’s technical expertise and business goals.
Less is more: don’t overcomplicate your dashboard
Pay particular attention to how your dashboard looks. Often, too many reports will cause your dashboard to look crowded, adding a layer of complexity to reading and understanding the data. Keep only the essential information to improve readability and engagement so your audience can identify insights and key takeaways.
Identify ways to include different data sets in a single report, such as using stacked bar charts. It’s considered best practice to show only essential data in your dashboard at first glance, avoiding the need to scroll.
Experiment with presenting your data in different ways
Learn to alternate how you present the data in the dashboard. Giving the data in different ways helps stakeholders digest the information. For example, rotating the data between a bar, pie, or other charts can tell a distinctly different story. When building a new dashboard for your company, seek input by asking those who will review the reports which chart type works best for them.
How Power Query can help
You can save time by leveraging the data preparation engine Power Query. It can help you develop insightful reports. Microsoft uses this engine in tools like Power BI and Excel.
By taking the time to learn how to use Power Query, you can get help doing the following:
- Connect various data sources to the dashboard
- Previewing data queries
- Create intuitive queries over numerous data sources
- Defining data size, velocity and variety
Improve map geo-coding and hint to Bing
Integrating Bing and Power BI enables you to harness default map coordinates and optimise the mapping capabilities of Bing for improved geo-coding. By following best practices, such as naming your columns according to geographic designations, you can effectively plot cities on a map and provide Bing with precise information about your desired locations. This synergy empowers you to maximise Bing’s mapping power and enhance your geo-coding experience.
Educate and explain the report to your audience
When presenting a new report to executives, you may find comments such as, “What am I looking at?” or “What is the data telling us?”. To help guide your audience around what the data means, including features like tooltips and text boxes to add context can be helpful.
Including one or two sentences to provide context around the data can save your audience five to ten minutes trying to interpret why you gave them the report.
That way, the target audience can make faster decisions and helps avoid any misunderstandings or confusion about the data.
Lean on emphasis tricks to show critical data
Studies have shown that most people read from left to right, then top to bottom. With that in mind, ensure you put the most important chart in the top left corner. Then lay out the remaining charts in order of importance.
To highlight key numbers you want to draw attention to, increase the font size or bold the text – ensuring you communicate the takeaways from the data to your audience.
You can also use colours to emphasise things like a “High, Mid, Low.” to provide more visual context around the data. For example, a low level of workplace accidents could be green, a mid-level in orange, and a high-coloured red.
Need help implementing Microsoft Power BI?
About the author
Yener is the founder and Managing Director of Intuitive IT. Prior to running his own business Yener worked for a number of corporate organisations where he gained invaluable experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how IT can complement and improve business outcomes.