Monthly Archives

July 2018

An Automated BI Solution: Microsoft Flow

By | Data Visualisation | No Comments

Simple automation can often deliver big improvements in the context of BI solutions. A great example of this is when using Microsoft Flow, OneDrive for Business and Power BI. As part of a broader Data & AI strategy, the combination of these applications can deliver an impressive automated result, dramatically increasing the value of deploying simple BI solutions.

Opportunities for automation in simple BI solutions are often overlooked, as the perceived cost of such a project would outweigh the benefits. However, good data platform delivery involving rigorous assessment of business processes can help identify instances where automation will deliver scalable value. As a real-world example, a client had a set of Excel files that were sent each week from their ERP system via email. And someone would take those Excel attachments and manually perform some transformations in the files, before importing to Power BI and hoping that the reports would turn out ok. Such a process was not only time consuming, but also riddled with potential manual error, ultimately failing to deliver the insights and value that they were after in a BI solution.

How to Setup the Flow

Enter Microsoft Flow and OneDrive for Business. Flow is an application that helps automate tasks by integrating workflow between different applications. In our case, implementing Flow was clear:

  1. Create a Flow that automatically saves the Excel attachments from those emails into OneDrive for Business (whilst performing some renaming and archiving along the way for good measure)
  2. Connect Power BI to those files in OneDrive

Designing the flow was simple, requiring only basic information such as:

  • Where the email was being sent from
  • The subject of the email
  • What to name the Excel file
  • Where to save the file

The Flow would then take this information into its ‘trigger’ and ‘action’ steps, forming a logical and repeatable workflow.

Once the flow was set-up and Power BI connected to OneDrive for Business, the previously manual process to deliver key business reporting was transformed into an entirely automated one. Time lost to handle-and-wrangle data was now able to be spent on core value activities and enhancing data visualization.  Higher quality reporting was now delivered, granting previously unseen insights into the business.

 

Understanding where automation can provide value in BI solutions is crucial, particularly in simple BI projects. As evidenced above, a simple combination of Microsoft Flow, OneDrive for Business and Power BI can be the difference between success and failure for a BI solution.

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Power BI Custom Visuals Series: Table Heatmap

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In this series, we take a look at some of the Power BI custom visuals available on the Office store, and shed a light on what the visualisation is, how the Table Heatmap works and the impact it can have in a Microsoft Power BI report.

For the most part, data visualisation delivery is less of a science, and more of an art. If given a set of data, it is up to the artist to determine in what way that data will be presented, such that its appeal to the reader is so strong that it can influence decision making within an organization.

For that reason, Power BI has an expanded list of custom visuals to help data artists craft the masterpiece. It turns complex and unengaging data into an impactful and effective source of information that decision-makers can rely on.

Power BI Custom Visual – Table Heatmap

Good Data Strategy dictates that an effective endpoint for data analysis is the point at which insights can be actioned as part of an informed decision.  What ignites those insights are strong visualisations that tell clear narratives. One such visualisation is the Table Heatmap:

Table data can be easy to understand, but difficult to read. Rows of numbers appear the same, differences between figures are not obvious, and the overall message that the table intends to tell has become altogether unclear. By adding a colour-schemed heat map, however, users can see behind the numbers and quickly identify differing levels of relative performance without having to perform mental gymnastics. This ability to visually discriminate numbers is increasingly becoming crucial in making prompt and effective business decisions.

The Table Heatmap takes a simple table and turns it into a visually compelling and dynamic source of information for decision making. Combining the intuitive format of a table with the instinctive nature of a colour gradient, this visualisation makes for a far more effective representation of information without overwhelming or misinforming users.

Use Cases

Typical use cases include:

  • Sales figures per product, across time
  • Incident counts per incident type, across employees
  • Revenue growth per month, across financial years
  • Budget variances per account, across months

Additional Functionality

As a bonus, the colour scheme can be customized to match corporate colours, adding unique and impactful personalization to the visual.

Summary

By adding a heat map to a table, users can expect to instantly identify areas of interest or concern, empowering them to make informed decisions about their business. By harnessing the power of colour gradient perception, the Table Heatmap will prove useful in analysing operations, determining where resources need to be allocated and understanding performance patterns.’