Analyze This: Power BI 

With increasing computing power, decreasing storage costs, data sharing capabilities and the treasure trove of data available through social media, apps and Internet-enabled devices, the amount of data that organizations have access to has reached phenomenal proportions. Until recent years, few organizations have been able to successfully mine valuable insights out of the vast amounts of available data. However, there are some data analytics and visualization tools that have hit the market that are drawing increasing attention for being user-friendly and affordable. 

Regularly mining data for value is new territory for many organizations and their long-time employees. Thus, they often look toward new recruits to deliver this much needed skill.  As Southeast students plan to enter the job market, developing a data analytics skill set may help open doors and differentiate their resumes. 

Companies are looking to data analytics and visualization tools, such as Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI, to synthesize hundreds of thousands of records into an understandable visual dashboard format. Through a licensing agreement with Microsoft, Southeast students have access to Microsoft’s Power BI, a tool whose popularity is growing in the data visualization marketplace.   

Microsoft’s Power BI allows you to connect related data from multiple sources and develop interactive graphs and charts to provide real-time visualizations of what is happening in your organization. Because Microsoft programs’ screen interfaces and programming logic are similar across applications, students who are already familiar with Microsoft Excel should see some similarities with Power BI. Another data visualization tool marketplace favorite is called Tableau. There are significant similarities between the two programs. Thus, once you learn the data visualization skills for Power BI, you can easily apply those concepts to Tableau, as well as to other data visualization tools. 

Power BI has both a desktop and a cloud-based version that students can use to learn about the tool. Thus, if you do not want to download the entire Power BI program or go to one of the Southeast open computer labs, you can still try out the software on you own device through your browser. Microsoft has posted a series of short videos to help users get started with the Power BI, transfer data into the program, model and analyze the data, create visualizations of the data and share their results. These resources are directly available beneath the “Learn” option in the menu or you can go directly to their materials at is another resource for learning about Power BI through a free 10.5 hour video course entitled “Learn Power BI Basics for Free.”  

With Internet-enabled devices and the wealth of data available through social media, the popularity of data analytics and visualization tools will continue to rise. If you can find the time to start learning some new skills and programs on your own in preparation of the marketplace, Microsoft’s Power BI should be one of those programs at the top of your list. 



Author: Dana Schwieger, Ph.D.



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