Learning Power BI

I’ve recently started trying to learn about Power BI, since it looks like we’ll be using it at my job soon. We first started talking about Power BI in 2016; at that time, I looked into it a bit, decided it probably wasn’t something that was going to work out for us, and didn’t really follow up on it. And my boss didn’t follow up with me on it, so I figured it was dead or on the back-burner. I guess it was the latter, since it’s come up again. This time, it sounds like maybe we’re a bit more serious about it than last time, so I’ve been spending a lot more time trying to figure it out than I did back in 2016.

I’ve never really done much BI work, though I’ve done plenty of work around the edges of BI, and have dipped my toes into more serious BI from time to time. I’ve done a lot of ETL work, and that seems to be a big aspect of BI.

To get myself up to speed, I first took a look at what was available on Pluralsight. I started with a course called Getting Started with Power BI, which was a pretty good intro course that just zoomed through a lot of stuff quickly. Then, I watched a course called Introduction to Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence, which helped me get some background info on the current state of BI and data warehousing. (I was already somewhat familiar with the general idea of cubes, but didn’t really know much about them.)

After that, I decided to dig more deeply into the Power BI Desktop tool. This is a free tool from Microsoft that’s actually pretty good, and could be useful as a standalone tool, even if you’re not plugged into the whole Power BI cloud thing. I’m currently reading a book titled Pro Power BI Desktop. It’s covering the product in a lot of detail. (Maybe too much detail. It feels a little like this book doesn’t really need to be 761 pages long. But it’s a pretty good book, overall.)

There’s also a free course on EdX about Power BI. I might give that a try, if I feel like I need to. The course is part of a Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science that’s all available on EdX, and which looks pretty interesting. I’d love to do it all, if I had a lot more spare time than I currently have, and if I wouldn’t miss the $990 it would cost to officially enroll in it and get the certificate from it. The path I’m on now is more about simple BI rather than fancy data science, but I’m really curious about that stuff. I was listening to an episode of Hanselminutes this morning on machine learning and data science, and it was really interesting. I wish I had the time to figure it all out.

Back on the subject of Power BI itself, I was leery about it back in 2016. Microsoft sometimes introduces products like this that don’t last long, or that are overly complicated or expensive, given what they do. Power BI looks like it might actually be a winner though. The Desktop tool is quite versatile and useful even without the cloud service. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not it’s worth buying into the whole ecosystem though. You can do a lot with it for free, but the cost could get pretty high if we start using it for a lot of enterprise-level stuff.

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