Gaining an in-depth understanding of your business is challenging when you’re only using simple spreadsheets to create reports. Microsoft’s top-notch visualisation software, Power BI, transforms your raw data into actionable insights and lets you create custom dashboards that display your most important metrics.

When used correctly, Power BI will give you complete visibility over your business and help you make informed decisions. However, if it’s your first time creating custom dashboards on Power BI, make sure to follow these steps.

1. Import data

The first step is to connect or import data into Power BI. To do this, click on the Get Data button at the bottom of the lower left corner of the screen, and choose whether you want to import data from a local Excel file, SharePoint site, OneDrive for Business, or Azure SQL Database.

After importing your data, Power BI generates a blank canvas with a menu to the right that lets you select visuals to best represent your metrics on the dashboard.  

2. Select the right visuals

Certain charts and visuals are more suitable than others depending on the data and reports you want to highlight. Choose poorly, and you run the risk of misleading your colleagues. Here are some general rules for the most common Power BI data visualisations.

  • Bar charts are ideal for comparing between categories of data such as sales product performance and monthly expenses.
  • Stacked charts allow you to represent multiple types of data within a single bar, making them a great option for highlighting monthly budget breakdowns.  
  • Pie charts are best for showing the composition of a whole in percentages. Marketing dashboards, for instance, can use pie charts to analyse customer demographics.
  • Line graphs should be used for tracking changes over time like annual revenue.   
  • Scatter plots show the relationship between two variables such as how weather affects sales.  
  • Choropleth maps are great for comparing the differences within locations. This is commonly used to identify where most of your customers are.
  • Card visuals display important figures (e.g., employee retention rate or KPIs) in big bold text.

3. Arrange your dashboard

Customising Power BI dashboards to display the most relevant charts to your role is incredibly easy. Just click Add tile, Create a visual, and select the Pin icon to attach it to your new dashboard. From there, you’ll be able to drag and drop tiles to arrange them however you like.

4. Use different dashboard themes

To give your dashboards a new look, select the three dots to the right side of your dashboard and choose Dashboard theme. You can then select any of the basic themes that come with every Power BI subscription or download more custom themes from the Microsoft Themes Gallery.

Setting unique themes can be useful for reflecting your company’s colours, differentiating dashboards based on season, project, or brand, or simply adding a stylish flair to your visualisations.

5. Know your audience

Effective dashboards must be relevant to specific users. For example, if you have an accounting dashboard, make sure it contains charts that highlight monthly expenses, revenue, product performance, and so on.  

The layout of your dashboard is also vital for engaging your audience’s attention. Since Power BI enables users to drill into reports by clicking and expanding charts, it’s not wise to clutter up your dashboard with overwhelming amounts of information.

What’s more, if the text and visualisations are the same, users will have a hard time identifying patterns and actionable insights. To avoid this, space out charts and vary up your dashboard visuals.

6. Save and share your dashboard

When you’re happy with the layout, you can save and share your dashboard with your colleagues. The great thing about Power BI is that its charts and visuals will automatically update when you add or modify the imported databases.

Getting started with Power BI is fairly straightforward, but customising it to gain truly meaningful insights into your business can be challenging. That’s where we come in.

Empower IT Solutions has a team of Microsoft certified consultants in Australia who specialise in Power BI and can help you make sense of your raw data. We optimise visuals and dashboards for a wide range of companies, including those in sales, finance, field services, and manufacturing. Call us today to get the insights you need to make informed business decisions.

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