Power BI 101, What Should I Learn?

This is the second part of my new series of Power BI posts named Power BI 101. In the previous post, I briefly discussed what Power BI is. In this post, I look into one of the most confusing parts for those who want to start learning Power BI. Many people jump straight online and look for Power BI training courses which there are plenty out there. But which one is the right training course for you? Let’s find out.

What do you want to gain from learning Power BI?

Regardless of attending paid training courses or being a self-learner, the above question is one of the most important questions you might ask yourself before going to the next steps. The answer to this question dictates the sort of training you must look for. Your answer to the preceding question can be one or none of the following:

  • I am a graduate/student looking at the job market
  • I am a business analyst and I want to know how Power BI can help you with my daily job
  • I am a database developer and I want to learn more about business intelligence and data and analytics space
  • I am a non-Microsoft Business Intelligence developer and I want to start learning more about Microsoft offerings
  • I am a system admin and I have to manage our Power BI tenant
  • I am a data scientist and I want to know how I can use Power BI
  • I am just ciourious to see what Power BI can do for me

As mentioned, your answer might not be any of the above, but, thinking about your reason(s) for learning Power BI can help you to find the best way to learn and use Power BI more efficiently. You can spend time and money taking some online courses and get even more confused. You don’t want that do you?

So, whatever reason(s) you have in mind to learn Power BI, most probably you fall into one of the following user categories:

Think about your goal(s) and what you want to achieve by learning Power BI then try to identify your user category. For instance, if you are a student thinking of joining an IT company as a data and analytics developer, then your user category is most probably a Power BI Developer or a Contributor.

To help you find out your user category let’s see what the above user categories mean.

Power BI Developers

The Power BI Developers are the beating hearts of any Power BI development project. Regardless of the project you will be involved with, you definitely require to have a certain level of knowledge of the following:

  • Data preparation/ETL processes
  • Data warehousing
  • Data modelling/Star schema
  • Data visualisation

To be a successful Power BI developer you must learn the following languages in Power BI:

  • Power Query
  • DAX

Depending on the types of projects you will be involved in, you may require to learn the following languages as well:

  • Microsoft Visual Basic (for Paginated Reports)
  • Python
  • R
  • T-SQL
  • PL/SQL

As a Power BI developer, you will write a lot of Power Query and DAX expressions. Most probably you require to learn T-SQL as well. The following resources can be pretty helpful:

If you are into reading books you will find the following books are beneficial:

I know, the preceding list might look scary, but in reality, you do not require to learn all of the above.

Business Analysts

Business Analysts (BAs in short), are those people who contribute to generating Power BI content. Generally speaking, the BAs have a more relaxed role when it comes to developing Power BI solutions. Don’t get me wrong; I am not underestimating the BAs’ role. The BAs are like a glue between the business and the developers. They understand the business language pretty well and they are also quite knowledgable in Power BI. There are indeed some BAs with very deep knowledge in Power BI development. What I am trying to emphasise is that the BAs usually do not require to learn all the concepts as deep as the developers do, but it is essential for them to have a good understanding of the basic concepts such as:

  • Data preparation
  • Data modelling/Star Schema
  • Data visualisation

In many cases, the BAs also require some level of knowledge around

  • T-SQL
  • PL/SQL

The BAs are good candidates to create Proof of Concepts (PoC) to get the approvals from the business. They can also create some reports and dashboards on top of the curated data available to them. In an enterprise-grade Power BI architecture, the BAs usually connect to the shared datasets to create reports.

The following resources are greatly recommended to the BAs:

If you would like to learn deeper and be a super technical BA/Developer, look at the list of resources for Power BI Developers.

Consumers

As the name resembles, Power BI consumers are the end-users of the reports and dashboards created by content creators (developers and BAs). This group of users do not require to know about all the magic happening behind the scene. But they need to know how to share a report or where to find a report that is shared with them.

I recommend the following resources for the consumers:

Data Scientists

If you are a data scientist working with Microsoft technologies then you probably already know about Power BI. But if you don’t then it is fair to say that Power BI supports R and Python. I am not a data scientist and I know very little about R and Python, but a quick search brought the following up for you:

Power BI Aministrators

Power BI grows pretty quickly and more organisations are adopting Power BI as their main analytical and reporting platform. Like any other platform, organisations require to meet certain security, privacy and governance requirements. So having a Power BI Administrator role become inevitable. You may already have some system or data platform administration experience you may already be familiar with some tools such as Performance Monitor (PerfMon) or PowerShell. From a Power BI administration perspective, you still can rely on some of those tools such as PowerShell or using some tools that are available to you with the Power BI Admin Portal. Sometimes you have to be creative to be a successful Power BI admin. You can automate many Power BI administration activities with Power BI REST APIs and PowerShell CmdLets. Here are some resources:

A big heads up

Did you know that Microsoft provides a full-day Power BI workshop named Dashboard in a Day or in short DIAD? The Dashboard in a Day public workshop is free of charge. Many organisations provide the DIAD course. So keep in mind, DO NOT PAY for a DIAD workshop unless you ask for a private session.

The DIAD workshop provides a very good starting point for beginners as well as building a foundation to understand what you should expect to know about Power BI. During a DIAD workshop, you learn how to build an end-to-end Power BI solution. In a full day DIAD workshop course you learn the following:

  • Introduction to Power BI and Power BI Demo
  • Accessing & Preparing the data
  • Data Modeling
  • Data Exploration
  • Data Visualisation
  • Introduction to Power BI Service
  • Publishing Reports to Power BI Service
  • Building Dashboards
  • Content Sharing

Learn more Dashboard in a Day workshop here.

As always, I am keen to know your thoughts and ideas. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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