What is a Power BI Dashboard [Power BI Dashboard Tutorial]

What is a Power BI Dashboard [Power BI Dashboard Tutorial]

In our new age where information technology and business management have become intrinsic, it is not surprising that people have found ways to become data-driven and manage their businesses with the help of technology.

Power BI (Business Intelligence) is a business analytics service provided by Microsoft to support end-users with interactive visualizations to better monitor how well their business is doing.

One of Power BI’s highlighted features is Dashboard.

What is a Power BI Dashboard?

A Power BI Dashboard is often called the “canvas” since it visualizes the data in a comprehensive, well-designed, and easy-to-understand form.

As a single-page interface, a well-made dashboard is filled with the most important and critical data immediately available in a single glance.

The visualization of data on the dashboard is called tiles. They can be easily organized to represent different datasets and create a coherent whole. The dashboard also gives you an overview of the story that you are trying to create from the detailed BI reports.

Dashboards are great at making sure you can check your most important metrics at a glance. It helps you monitor how your business is doing based on the data that you have pinned on it. Looking for solutions by checking critical data will become much easier with a well-designed dashboard.

Being highly interactive and extremely customizable is one of the many great things that you will really appreciate about Power BI Dashboards. The tiles in the dashboard update when the underlying data used on the reports also change.

Power BI allows several platforms that collect and collate data, such as (but not limited to) Microsoft Excel or MySQL, to interpret and transform it into colorful and meaningful charts and graphs that are easy for end-users to understand even without the help of data scientists or IT professionals.

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    How does a Power BI Dashboard differ from a Power BI Report?

    If you’ve seen a Power BI Report and a Power BI Dashboard, you might wonder to yourself how one differs from the other. A simple way of understanding the difference is that a Power BI Dashboard makes use of Power BI Reports.

    Power BI Reports are made using a single dataset where they visualize and make sense of the data contained in the dataset. Dashboards, on the other hand, can be thought of as a means to access the reports that are included in them. You can also think of it as an entryway to check the multiple reports that are pinned on the dashboard.

    To give you a quick look at the differences of Power BI Dashboard from a Power BI Report, you can check the table below:

    CapabilityDashboardReports
    PagesOne pageOne or more pages
    Data SourcesOne or more reports and data sets per dashboardA single dataset per report
    Drilling down in visualsOnly if you pin an entire report page to a dashboardYes
    Available in Power BI DesktopNoYes, reports can be viewed and created using Power BI Desktop
    PinningCan pin existing visualization (tiles) only from the current dashboard to your other dashboardsCan pin visualizations (as tiles) to any of your dashboards. Can pin entire report pages to any of your dashboards.
    FeaturedEnables you to set ONLY ONE dashboard as your featured dashboardNo option to create a featured dashboard
    Filtering or SlicingNo. Can’t filter or slice a dashboard. Can filter a dashboard tile in focus mode, but the filter cannot be saved.Yes., Many different ways to filter, highlight, and slice
    Set AlertsYes. Available for dashboard tiles in certain circumstances.No
    Modify/Change visualization typeNo. If the owner of the report used in the dashboard changes the visualization type in the report, the pinned visualization on the dashboard does not update.Yes
    Access to dataset tables and fieldsNo. Can export data but can’t see tables and fields in the dashboard itself.Yes. An option to view dataset tables and fields is available

    It is also worth knowing that a Power BI Report is a multi-perspective view into a dataset, which may contain more than one page of visualizations, all to provide you with an in-depth and thorough understanding of the data from that dataset.

    Visualization of reports can be pinned on your dashboards. Once it appears on the dashboard, the pinned visualization can be clicked to open and access the report from where it was pinned.

    How to Create a Power BI Dashboard

    To start creating your Power BI Dashboard, there are a few things that you need to prepare including:

    1. Microsoft Account
    2. Power BI Desktop
    3. Reports and datasets

    The Microsoft account is essential in creating your Power BI Dashboard as you will need your account to download the Power BI Desktop software. Power BI Desktop is becoming the users’ most favorite Business Intelligence tool since it offers a lot of advantages over other BI tools available.

    Having the software also helps a lot when creating reports and importing datasets to create visually stunning reports. You can also enjoy the option of the simplified data visualization capabilities available on the Cloud.

    That way, you can do it even when your Operating System is not from Microsoft. Make sure to also have your datasets ready and available — I mean, it’s the main content of your dashboard after all.

    With that, here are the specific steps you need to follow:

    Step 1: Download and Install Power BI Desktop

    Power BI Desktop is free software provided by Microsoft. You can visit the official website of Power BI so you can download the desktop application from the Microsoft Store.

    Download Power BI Desktop on Microsoft Store

    Once the download has finished, complete the installation process and click on Launch to start the software. The startup might take a while but it will take you to the start page where you can log in with a free account or opt to get a paid account.

    Step 2: Import Data to Power BI Dashboard

    Now that you have Power BI Desktop ready, the first task you should start with is fetching data to use for your report.

    Click on the Get Data option on the Power BI Desktop start page to select from a list of data sources available. You can find that option on the dialog box just after opening Power BI Desktop.

    Click on the get data option found on the start page of Power BI Desktop

    Or under the Home tab on the top-left corner of the Power BI Desktop window.

    The same function is available on the home tab

    Select More.. to open up a window with more data source options. Once you’ve selected the data source, click Connect. A window will pop up where you can choose the data you will import.

    Click the more button to open up more sources to connect your data with

    Once you are connected to a data source, a Navigator window will open where you can immediately load or transform and clean your data. Power BI provides a built-in Power Query Editor that you can use by clicking Transform Data.

    In the navigator window, you can load or transform and clean the data to use on your dashboards and reports

    In the Power Query Editor, you can rename the table, add or remove columns and rows, apply filters, combine data from multiple sources, and even change the data in the table.

    Power BI has a Power Query Editor that you can use to do various things on your data

    Any changes made are recorded and shown under the Applied Steps section found on the right side of the window.

    You can set up additional query settings on the right side of the window

    Once you are done cleaning up the data, click on Close & Apply found at the top-left corner of the Power Query Editor window.

    Close to apply the changes on the data made from the Power Query Editor

    You will find the data you have added to your report under the Fields section.

    Build visuals with your data by selecting or dragging fields from the Fields pane into the report canvas

    Repeat Step 2 as often as you have data to add to your report. You might need a few more to make a correlation between different sets of data. If you look at the image below, you will notice that additional data can be found under the Fields section.

    Find additional fields on the Fields pane found on the right pane

    The interesting thing about Power BI Desktop is that it automatically creates relationships between data you have added into the report. That information can be found by clicking on the Model icon found at the vertical bar on the left side of the window.

    The model icon can be found in the left pane of the Power BI Desktop window

    Step 3: Creating and Publishing Reports

    Now that you have successfully added your dataset, it is time to create the visuals of your report.

    Visualizations are the graphical representation of your data. You can find it under the Visualizations section where you can also find icons of different graphs, charts, and even maps that you can use to add to your canvas.

    The visualizations pane is found on the right pane of the Power BI Desktop window

    To add a Visualization, click on any of the icons and it will immediately create an instance of the selected visualization on your canvas. You can move and resize it as much as you want. In the example below, you can see a Stacked Bar Chart added to the canvas.

    Example of a canvas with a stacked bar chart added

    Once you’ve added a visualization type, you can drag and drop from the Fields section to the spaces provided for the data. You can also click the boxes next to the field you want to include in your visualization.

    To add data to the graphic, drag and drop from the fields section to the fields available on the chart

    You can also check and change the formatting of your visualization by clicking on the Format tab under the Visualizations section.

    Check and change the formatting of your visualization within the format tab

    Add a few more visualizations to complete your report. Adjust and resize your visualizations to create a more appealing yet informative report. Explore some of the tools such as themes, page size, background, etc.

    Sales and performance dashboard filled with sample data

    Now that you are done with your report, make sure to save the file as a Power BI file (*.pbix).

    Finish your report and dashboard by saving it as a power bi file

    After you have saved the report, you can share it with others by clicking on Publish. You can find it at the top part of the Power BI Desktop window. Take note that publishing a report to Power BI Service requires a Power BI license.

    The publish button is found in the Home tab of Power BI Desktop

    Step 4: Pin Reports to Dashboard

    Once you have successfully published your report and added it to your workspace, you can now pin it to the dashboard.

    Go to app.PowerBI.com and log in using your Microsoft Account.

    Visit app.powerbi.com and log in with your Microsoft account to be able to pin reports to the dashboard

    You should be able to find the file you published once you expand “My workspace” and once you do, click on it and the report will be shown on the main window.

    Your published reports are on your my workspace, which you open to be able to create a dashboard

    Click the visualization that you want to add to the dashboard and you will see a pin icon.

    To be able to pin a visualization to the dashboard, click on the visualization and a pin icon will show up

    Clicking on the pin icon will open a dialog box where you can choose between pinning to an already existing dashboard or pin the visual to a new dashboard.

    Once you click on the pin icon, you can then choose where to pin the visualization, either in an existing dashboard or in a new one

    If you choose to pin to a new dashboard, you will need to give a name to the new dashboard on the space provided.

    Click Pin one you have decided.

    When you pin on a new dashboard, you have to name the dashboard

    Once you have pinned it to the new dashboard, you can click on the newly created dashboard found under the My workspace section and under Dashboards.

    To check the dashboard, click on the newly created dashboard within your my workspace to view it

    You can also pin entire reports to your dashboard by opening the report, clicking on the Ellipses (…) button, and clicking on Pin to a dashboard.

    Pin entire report to the dashboard by clicking on the ellipses button and selecting the option for it

    You will get a dialog box where you will choose between pinning to an existing dashboard or to pin to a new dashboard. Once you’ve decided, click on Pin live to pin an entire report to a dashboard.

    When pinning entire report, choose which exact dashboard to pin your report

    These are the steps you need to take to create a Power BI Dashboard. If you still have questions (or problems while doing it), feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly through the contact page.

    About Ryan Clark

    As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments. I am also a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for Office Apps & Services.

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