4 Easy Steps to Building Your First Power BI Dashboard
Updated: Jan 28
Have you decided to use Power BI for your business's reporting needs? Or are you just exploring what Power BI can do? In this article, I'll go over how easy it is to set up your first Power BI dashboard.
There are basically 4 Steps for making a Power BI Dashboard:
Determine the goal.
Use Power Query to connect to your data sources.
Insert visuals on the dashboard canvas.
Publish your dashboard to the service PowerBI.com.
Looking at MicroStrategy as well? Check out my comparison article: MicroStrategy vs PowerBI
1) Determine the Goal
This is the most important step. You need to carefully consider what things (metrics/KPIs) you want to include in your dashboard, and what things you want to exclude - in other words, what is the scope of the project. Skipping this step (while it may be okay for just exploring data), will ultimately result in wasted time down the line when stakeholders are requesting changes to the dashboard.
For example, if you are requested to make a dashboard on company operational expenses, you may not need to include detailed views on employee hire dates and turn over.
ALIEN TIP: Typically one dashboard will focus on one business area. You can also subdivide the dashboard into several pages as well.
2) Use Power Query to Connect to Your Data Sources
Power Query is a tool housed within Power BI (it's also in Excel!). This tool makes it very easy to connect to almost any data source like Excel, SQL Databases, OData, Web pages, and much more. Power Query is also used to "prepare" your data - as in ETL processes (Extract, Transform, Load). Here you can filter your data, remove columns, apply custom functions, group your data, and assign data types (plus much much more).
From Power BI, you just need to click "Get Data" then select your source.
ALIEN TIP: If you don't do anything in Power Query besides importing data, just make sure the data types are correct! We never want ABC123's!
3) Insert Visuals on the Dashboard Canvas
Once you load in the data from Power Query, you will be able to add visuals to your dashboard. Power BI offers a number of standard visuals like bar charts, line graphs, pie charts, waterfall graphs, etc., pretty much covering all your basic needs. If you need something more specific, you can import a custom visual from the Power BI store (most are free and it's a really quick process).
To add a visual, simply click (or click and drag onto the canvas) the icon for the visual you want. From there, you can add dimensions to the visual's axis and values.
Although the visuals will automatically aggregate values (i.e. it will sum/average/min/etc. a 'cost' column), you can create custom metrics using DAX. For example, if you wanted to filter out certain products from a summation calculation, you can create a metric for that like the following:
Costs Without B = CALCULATE(SUM(data[Cost]), data[productname]<>"B")
Read more about DAX here! Learning DAX
ALIEN TIP: Keep in mind you can also apply filter's in the second step above with Power Query. There are some strategic differences here so be sure to consider which one to use.
4) Publish You Dashboard to the Service PowerBI.com
After you've got a perfectly designed dashboard, you may want to share it with your peers (or want to be able to access it from the web). Simply click the "Publish" button in Power BI Desktop and you're done. Easy! You will now be able to access the dashboard from PowerBi.com. Note that anyone you share it with will need a Power BI Pro license. Although, if you're okay with absolutely anyone seeing your dashboard, you can use an option called "Publish to Web". This will allow anyone with the link to see your dashboard, so if it contains sensitive data do not use this option.
This was a very brief introduction to Power BI, but hopefully it gives you some direction on how to use it. Cheers!