Week 9 for DSAU16 is approaching which means our third client project is upon us, and it is now my turn to be leading the team. Since our project is focusing on Power BI, I thought I would write this blog as an opportunity to consolidate the fundamentals. In this blog, I will be providing a high-level overview on the following:

  • Brief intro to Power BI
  • How to import and transform data
  • Understanding the interface and layout
  • A basic dashboard


Power BI is a data analytics platform developed by Microsoft which allows users to transform and analyse their data. You can use this link to download and install Power BI Desktop for free.


Importing and Transforming Data

When Power BI is launched, a welcome screen will appear. To get started, click on Get data located on the top-left corner as shown below.

The Get Data window pops up which displays an exhaustive list of places to retrieve data from.

For this blog, I will be using the financials sample dataset which is already built into Power BI. This will be found by closing either window above.

A Navigator window displays a preview of the data and an option to “Transform Data” appears. Essentially, this allows you to clean and prepare the data like how we would in Alteryx or Tableau Prep.

Clicking on this will display the data as shown below:

Actions in cleaning and preparing are found at the top (which is known as the Ribbon). To demonstrate examples and Alteryx equivalents, here are the actions that can be performed from the HomeTransform and Add Column tabs.

Example 1: Merge Queries functions the same way as the Join tool in Alteryx.

Example 2: Split Column functions the same way as the Text to Columns tool in Alteryx.

Example 3: Custom Column functions the same way as the Formula tool (when adding a new column) in Alteryx.


Interface Breakdown

The Power BI layout can be broken down into 5 components:

  • At the very top (boxed in red) is the ribbon which offers various options for visualisations.
  • On the left (boxed in green) is the view type which can be switched between ReportData and Model.
  • The main white canvas is the report editor which represents the space where the dashboard production occurs.
  • On the right (boxed in blue) are the visualisations and fields pane. These display a collection of all the different types of visuals that can be built using the columns from the fields pane.
  • At the very bottom (boxed in yellow) is the page selector which allows you to navigate from one reporting page to another.



Using the fields pane, we can click on the fields to pull into our white canvas. The visualisation pane is then used to create and experiment other chart types which can be further configured.

And voila! Once you are happy with your visuals and formatting, a dashboard is born in Power BI.