4 Steps to Prepare Your Database for Power BI

March 1, 2021 Joe Little

Do you know what sort of data your business solutions are collecting, where that data is being stored, and how to retrieve it? Power BI offers incredible functionality to transform your data into actionable information. However, there is a starting point you have to prepare – your data. In order to gather, sort, and analyze your data, it has to be set up properly.


1. What are your data sources?

In reality, you probably don’t have just one database of information – most businesses have a variety of separate data sources scattered all over the place. The first step in prepping your data is to figure out where all those data sources are and what you want out of each of them. What sort of business apps and services do you use, and what sort of data is each one gathering? Is that data being stored on-premises or in the cloud? If you are using Power BI with Dynamics 365 Business Central, most or all of the data you need may be stored there.


2. What information do you want from the database, and where is it stored?

With any business analytics, it’s always critical to start with the end in mind. What do you want to better understand about your business? What information can help you gain that insight? For example, if you want to learn more about sales, what specific information will help you get the big picture? Perhaps you need to know what was sold, who your customers are, and when purchases are being made.

Once you know generally what you want, it’s time to figure out where that information is stored in your system. What is your database structure? What data is actually contained under a header such as “unit cost”? Is there one line per sales order or are there more?

This is an instance where it’s best to bring in a partner for help, like the data experts from Western Computer. We have the experience to help you establish your goals and identify what information you need, where it’s stored, and how to retrieve it.


3. What do you want the information to look like in Power BI?

This is the final step in transforming your data into meaningful analytics that can help your business. Once you’ve chosen your data, you’ll see it in Power BI as a simple table, similar to a spreadsheet, with rows and columns of data. These rows and columns will use database structures, so the next step is to turn this into a visual dashboard or report. Fully understanding your database structure is key to maximizing the value of Power BI in order to get what you truly need (and not get bogged down by data that is irrelevant or confusing). 


Situations that make things more complicated:

Although Power BI is designed to make it possible for ordinary users to analyze data, there are certain situations where you will benefit from professional help. For example, if the data you want to analyze includes:

  • Multiple countries/regulatory agencies
  • Multiple currencies
  • Inventory control or movement
  • Moving from system to system as part of a transaction stream

These are situations where the data sets are complicated enough that it would be to your advantage to bring in help from the beginning. That said, even for businesses with simpler scenarios, you can save a lot of time, money and issues by working with a professional before you begin. After all, anything is easier when you’ve done it before, and Western Computer has done this successfully numerous times!


4. Use Power BI content packs

All of this information about data sources might seem sort of overwhelming if you’re planning on starting from scratch with complex data sets. The great news is you don’t have to start from scratch.

Western Computer’s Power BI content pack provides everything you need to get started quickly with the most common set of reports for financials, sales, inventory, and more. These content packs include pre-built connectors that can push the data from your sources into Power BI, so you can start analyzing and using your data more quickly. We also offer customized support to help your business create analytics and reports for unique needs.


Need help preparing your database for Power BI?

Power BI streamlines a lot of the technical aspects of business intelligence, but setting up the right analytics still requires good planning. Western Computer can do the heavy lifting so all you have to do is enjoy the new insights Power BI can give you. Contact us today to speak with an expert or learn more about our Power BI Training Courses for Fundamental Skills or Advanced Skills.

About the Author

Joe Little

Joe Little is Technical Solution Architect with Western Computer. With over 30 years of software experience, Joe has performed many roles throughout his career in several functional areas including pre-sales, architecture, development, implementation, and support. Joe believes the Microsoft Power Platform is a powerful solution that allows users to make small changes that have a huge impact on a business’s bottom line, such as viewing their data in new ways and creating workflows that help further automate their processes.

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