Real case - A manager's challenge of using Power BI in her daily operations
Managers are often told how critical data is for evaluating and improving the operational effectiveness of processes. In addition, software publishers promote the power of their reporting tools, even in the hands of non-technical people. What about reality? See how an operations manager lived during the interactive training event “Dashboard in a Day” on February 17, 2022.
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A day at DIAD (Dashboard in a day)
EXIA has been hosting Dashboard in a Day events on behalf of Microsoft since 2016 and around 1,500 people have benefited. Although I used the tool to view our internal dashboard, I hadn't taken it any further. I was curious, of course, but this activity was not a priority and I therefore constantly postponed my participation. But, I finally decided to dedicate a full day to live the experience and better understand the pitfalls that our customers may encounter. I share with you my impressions and thoughts on the subject. To provide some context, I have worked in the field of analytics since 2000 (with a short 4-year outside jaunt) in operations-related positions. So I am not a technical person but I know what the words warehouse or data counter, ETL, data modeling, database, report and dashboard mean. I'm pretty resourceful with IT tools and I understand pretty quickly how it works, but don't ask me to read SQL code!
What is a DIAD?
A Dashboard In A Day (DIAD) is a full-day introductory session dedicated to Microsoft Power BI. This is free training which is sponsored by Microsoft and which is given regularly in Microsoft offices by EXIA (we have been in virtual mode since 2020, due to the pandemic). This interactive training introduces basic concepts and guides students with practical exercises towards creating a first dashboard.
Easy or difficult?
Expect a pretty busy day. Presenters must respect the content provided by Microsoft, the objective of which is to allow participants to use source data to develop a report. The day begins with an introduction to what an analytical ecosystem is. In my opinion, this part is important for users who are not technical and do not evolve in the field. This shows the complexity of implementing analytical solutions since it rarely involves developing a single report whose source is an Excel file which contains clean and reliable data.
There are 5 practical exercises (laboratories). The first 2 focus on data preparation, the 3rd on “editing” a report and the last 2 on publication, sharing and collaboration. For my part, I went to laboratory #4 and got stuck (at step 6) because I couldn't create my “workspace” (I was missing the rights). It was 3:50 p.m. and there were 10 minutes left before Thomas took the floor again for the question period. There are 3 presenters (Nicolas, Thomas and Danning). Their role is to present the content and answer questions during the laboratories and during two periods (end of morning and end of day).
The time passed really quickly. I was blocked twice (thanks to the EXIA team for their help in resolving my problems). The first in the modeling stage: joins between two fields were not done correctly (mea culpa, I had incorrectly carried out a step in the data preparation which caused this problem in the modeling). The second in the “editing” stage of the report: I confused the “slicers” with data visuals… I struggled a few times in the preparation of the data, notably because I could not to reproduce the steps indicated in the exercise. But I found some workarounds (which probably caused my problems in the modeling part). In the visualization part, I struggled a bit with the number formats but I ended up finding a solution on my own. The final result of my report resembled that of the exercise in every way. So I can say that I succeeded.
Did I enjoy doing it? Overall, yes because I had to rack my brains a few times and I like it. I think it's a very good way to get to know the tool and see its complexity. However, I conclude that to start mastering the tool for people who are non-technical like me, it is clear that you really have to invest time. For my part, I am lucky to have a team around me whose job is to answer all my questions on request. I would say that beyond the training, this is the element that is the most important to facilitate my progress and my understanding of the capabilities of the Power BI tool.
The good news is that you too can benefit from our team as a catalyst to accelerate your analytics maturity on Power BI. In addition to DIADs, we offer a variety of other options to help upskill Power BI in your organization.