How to Connect Power BI with SharePoint

By CIOReview | Monday, August 8, 2016
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In a shift to devise new strategies and to mine new ways, business intelligence tools such as Microsoft Power BI are helping companies to refine their bottom line. Organizations can use Power BI to analyze all kind of data including sales, inventory and customer engagement. It has three different categories as per the user requirement: Power BI service (the Software as a Service version), Power BI Desktop (for Windows desktops) and Power BI for Mobile (for Windows, iOS and Android devices). 

Power BI offers a user-friendly intuitive interface to the line-of-work of employees for visualizing and sharing data insights with reports and dashboards. It is a strong integration of user-friendly analysis and reporting process. The business integration tool is cohesively integrated with a range of Microsoft collaboration tools including SharePoint to make data insights easy to share and distribute.

Connecting Power BI with SharePoint is just a few steps task. An organization looking for data analysis need to upload the data stored in SharePoint sheet on Power BI though uploading can be difficult at times when the size of the file is large. The recent update from Microsoft allows companies to export and analyze data more seamlessly without uploading the files on Power BI.  With the upgraded version, companies can use a URL to link Power BI with SharePoint website without uploading any file. In fact, Power BI doesn’t analyze SharePoint data but instead analyzes Excel spreadsheet data stored in SharePoint document library.

Recently, Microsoft has introduced a range of new features to Power BI. Quick Insights is one of the new features that enable users to create subsets of data and employ analytics to that information automatically. It has a list of analytical algorithms and can provide insights of discovery and visualization correlations, trends, outliers, seasonality, change points in trends and major factors within the data file. It can automatically generate interactive charts to visualize trends.

The business intelligence tool has Cortana integration (Microsoft’s virtual assistant) to allow users the access of Power BI analytics and results through verbal enquiry. The windows 10, Cortana, and Power BI users can get dynamically generated reports within seconds. It uses Cortana Analytics Suite to get the access of analytics and data management services including Azure Data Lake, Azure Data Factory, SQL Data Warehouse, Azure HDInsight, Stream Analytics and Azure Machine Learning. The tool has visual customization capability for the creative visuals.

The Power BI data visualization has two primary concepts: dashboards and reports. Both the concepts look quite similar and allow users to examine the data and apply visualization. But both dashboards and reports work differently as per the user requirement. Reports can work in any of the modalities such as web, mobile and desktop. The visualization added to a report can be easily linked with other visualization as well and allows IT administrators to create captivating views of structured data.

Dashboards are web-only interface and enables end user to design visualization for the data. The main difference between reports and dashboards is in the potential to examine the data. The visualization displayed can be refined, manipulated and added to a new or existing dashboard to offer instinctive way for IT administrators to develop insights and visualization without any specialization in BI or database query skills. Users can also identify the subset of data using the natural language questions to apply the right visualization based on the questions.

Power BI assists developers to integrate the platform with custom software and to embed the tool with other software through sample code and API integration. The tool empowers companies to stop relying on report writers and consultants with its ease of use and customization. It releases a new set of potential to take traditional reports and charts to a different level.

Organizations today are demonstrating a shift with a goal to allow customers to better analyze the data through Power BI. The tool allows users to choose between two options: import the data or connect to the data. Importing the data root to connect to the document stored within the SharePoint document library allows users to create Power BI reports and dashboards; and doesn’t require any schedule refresh for up-to-date SharePoint. Users can also import the Excel workbook to use Excel-level components including charts and pivot tables directly within Power BI, but it requires schedule refresh for up-to-date spreadsheet.