Microsoft has struck gold with Power BI. Not only has Gartner taken notice, so have many, many organizations. It makes sense. Power BI is an incredibly inexpensive option, a fantastic tool, and Microsoft’s heavy investment into the product has it positioned to remain in the lead for years to come.
This is great for organizations across the globe, but the shift to the tool has left a significant knowledge gap.
Two main things to learn about the knowledge gap:
1. Learning and experience are required to make this deep multi-layer tool effective.
2. Choosing the right training/guide/consultant is critical.
The Knowledge Gap
Most companies that have made or may make the jump to Microsoft Power BI often don’t have the IT personnel to implement Power BI without jarring bumps all along the way. This is true no matter how much skill and experience the organization's IT department has. Power BI is only five years old and broader adoption is a recent trend. This means that not only does your IT department lack experience in the tool, your company probably won’t be able to quickly hire someone to fill that gap. Furthermore, switching data tools is a hefty job—no matter the tools in question.
There’s also the reality that many of the people attempting to learn Microsoft Power BI right now have no experience with data analysis tools (other than Excel). I’ve talked with plenty of accountants who have been tasked with visualizing their financial data and then essentially pivot to become the new Power BI gurus of their company. This is no small task.
Power BI is a fantastic tool for democratizing data. Everyone in the organization needs access to data without bottlenecks at gateways. Many have caught this vision, which is incredible and hugely encouraging. However, sending individuals to implement Microsoft Power BI without formal training or the guidance of an experienced consultant is akin to sending an eager villager to fight the neighboring hydra. Microsoft Power BI is massive and complex, and using it without a more comprehensive knowledge may lead to severing some hydra heads but will often lead to more heads appearing, for example:
· unexplained data problems arising
· divvying up the work the new guru was previously doing
· adding new and different data sources
· answering executives’ calls for more complex reports
· and more…
An experienced guide is needed. But first, there is more about Microsoft Power BI you should know.
Closing the Gap
Power BI is the culmination and combination of many of the data-related tools Microsoft has been creating for decades. Because of that, Power BI covers a significant breadth of data needs and its depth is quite difficult to wrap the brain around. I work in Power BI every day, and every day I’m reminded just how vast and (almost) incomprehensible the tool is. There is so much to learn about the tool that careers have been made highlighting very specific niches within it.
Because of this, Microsoft Power BI is a unique tool:
1. It can basically provide the entire data stack (collection, storage, transformation, modeling, visualization) for smaller companies and cover so many of the bases for larger companies with more data.
2. This means Microsoft Power BI can potentially replace several software packages that companies have been employing for years.
3. With that multiple-replacement comes several learning curves (not just one!), for IT departments or individuals to tackle.
Each layer of the tool brings its own unique challenges that require a different mindset and knowledge base. Each layer of Power BI was originally a different tool that was manipulated to fit into the system whole. It's good because it puts so much power in the hands of Power BI users, but also frustrating considering each tool was developed as a separate entity and brings with it its own history and user experience.
Just one look at the tool captures this well:
· Every visual available by default in Power BI provides the user hundreds of customizations found in the Visualizations pane.
· DAX, the language used to write measures in Power BI, is a literal language.
· Press the Transform Data icon (or Query Editor icon for older versions) and immediately you are transported to a different world called Power Query.
· This creates and takes you to another page of the app— further showing the differences between Power Query and the default UI.
Power BI can be dizzying – at first. But, with training, users can come to successfully use a huge portion of the data-related technology Microsoft has been developing for an X-Gen lifetime!
Training in Microsoft Power BI
As a consultant, I’m often hired to implement Power BI. Sometimes my clients ask that I set everything up, but not give formal training sessions to those who will take over once I’m done. In these scenarios, I’m never fully comfortable with the final hand-off. I trust my work, no doubt; but I don’t trust that those taking over understand what I did, how I did it, or why—no matter how many times I tried to explain it.
Without understanding the larger context of the tool, tactical decisions will never be fully understood. The larger strategies originally employed will eventually be lost in the daily battle to meet deadlines and demands. At the very least this leads to unorganized workspaces. More often there are wrong or broken reports that no one but the builder (me) knows how to fix. Add onto that the frustration, time, and resources lost all around. This amazing tool needs to be learned well for everyone to be successful.
Through this experience and looking back on my own learning path—I’ve concluded that training in Power BI is essential. Admittedly, JourneyTEAM loves training organizations and their people. I'm confident anyone who honestly understands Power BI would agree that the training makes all the difference.
Any Power BI-related issue is resolved most quickly and most soundly using a solution from a deeper understanding of the tool. Google provides metaphorical band-aids and tape to fix just about any problem, but more often than not they fail. Without deeper knowledge, these bandaids are wrong without being obviously wrong—and the people who implemented the solutions have no idea why. The failure triggers another frantic search for a solution that is still not fully understood. It’s a miserable cycle. You don’t need to be stuck here.
Courses, Consultant, or Both?
A Microsoft Power BI partner and consultant helps you close the knowledge gap. JourneyTEAM consultants have extensive knowledge and guidance experience. Hire them.
Training takes time. It is also critical to your success.
JourneyTEAM is teaching a ten-week course. This is one course a week being taught to cover all the bases of Power BI. This means an attendee would need to participate at least 10 weeks to get all the parts covered. All of this knowledge is highly recommended.
These courses will soon be available online for self-paced learning—but a person can only digest so much at a time—self-paced or not. Participating in this course may be too long of a wait for your company. Often the best experience is training with a quality guide using your own data. Speaking from experience here–it makes the training come alive. That’s something that courses may not effectively provide.
When hiring a consultant, you can arrange so the guide is with you to ensure successful implementation. Your training and your internal requests sync. That kind of success leads to even more success and your company’s new Power BI guru(s) or champion(s) will be well on her way.
We Would Love to Help Bridge and Close the Knowledge Gap for You
JourneyTEAM teaches Microsoft Power BI Masterclass series that will get anyone up-to-speed in Power BI. This course goes a long way in bridging the knowledge gap that arises when a company switches to Power BI. The course is spread over 10 weeks. JourneyTEAM can also provide courses on-site or company-specific. If you are choosing between the two options, look at the number of people your organization needs to be trained. If you have many people in your organization that need the knowledge, direct training for your company may be the better option.
Whichever choice you make, supplementing the training with a consultation makes a lot of sense. Like hiring a tutor, you ensure the learning sinks in. The Masterclasses contain a lot of great hands-on labs. However, there’s nothing like working on your own data with someone who knows Power BI. Ask about a consultation for your organization.
I wish you all the best in your Microsoft Power BI journey.
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Article by: Josh James
Business Intelligence Developer | 801-876-4668
JourneyTEAM is an award-winning consulting firm with proven technology and measurable results. They take Microsoft products; Dynamics 365, SharePoint intranet, Office 365, Azure, CRM, GP, NAV, SL, AX, and modify them to work for you. The team has expert level, Microsoft Gold certified consultants that dive deep into the dynamics of your organization and solve complex issues. They have solutions for sales, marketing, productivity, collaboration, analytics, accounting, security and more. www.journeyteam.com