“Visualization gives you answers to questions you didn’t know you had.”
– Ben Schneiderman
Data visualization has become a fundamental tool in modern data science. It helps communicate clarity of information using graphical representations that are easy to grasp and faster to understand. Data visuals close information gaps between trained and non-technical folks to convey precise information and generate better business outputs.
Microsoft Power BI is a world-class data visualization tool to help you map your data points in different ways. Power BI visuals can uncover hidden patterns, compare trends, communicate sense out of the trillions of rows of data generated every day, and assist you in tactful decision-making.
This ultimate guide brings you the best Power BI visuals to better your reports. Using Power BI visualization tools, you make data understandable for all – Finance, Marketing, Sales, Support, and so on. Remember, the better you convey your data, the easier it will be for people to follow, and they’ll thank you for that.
Table of Contents
What is Power BI?
The Gartner Magic Quadrant Report has rewarded Microsoft Power BI as the leader in the Business Intelligence industry for 14 consecutive years. Clearly, that explains a lot about Power BI.
Power BI is a Microsoft Business Intelligence suite to analyze data and share insights. It features capabilities such as:
- Dataset filtration,
- Visual-based data discovery,
- Interactive dashboards,
- Augmented analytics,
- Natural Language Q&A Question Box,
- Office 365 App Launcher, and many more.
Microsoft Power BI runs on desktop and mobile, on the cloud, which means your teams can collate, manage, and analyze data from anywhere. Power BI allows you to upload data from multiple sources like Excel, CSV, SQL Server, MySQL database, PDF, Access, XML, JSON, and a plethora more.
Microsoft Power BI collects, analyzes, and transforms your data into actionable insights. These insights are frequently provided using aesthetically appealing and simple-to-understand charts and graphs, which enables faster decision-making in your organization. When combined with Azure Cloud, Power BI can accelerate big data preparation and analysis and reduce your time for decision planning tremendously.
For more information on Power BI, do check out Understanding Microsoft Power BI: A Comprehensive Guide. If your organization uses the Microsoft Azure cloud to store, manage and access information, you can combine your Azure cloud with Power BI using this guide – Connect Azure to Power BI: A Comprehensive Guide.
Business Benefits of Using Power BI
- Interactive & Easy-to-Use Interface: Nothing can be more beneficial than a simple-to-use interface with drag-and-drop functionality that lets you create data visualizations using a few clicks. Microsoft Power BI enables everyone at every level of your organization to make confident decisions using up-to-the-minute analytics.
- Multiple Dataset Sources: Using Power BI, you can import data from a plethora of data sources, with support for both structured and unstructured data.
- Industry-leading AI: Microsoft’s strong base in artificial intelligence enables Power BI users to prepare data, build machine learning models, and find insights quickly from both structured and unstructured data.
- Exceptional Excel Integration: With Power BI, your users can easily collect, analyze, publish, and share Excel business data. Excel queries, data models, and reports can be readily connected to Power BI Dashboards by anybody who is acquainted with Office 365.
- Real-time Stream Analytics: Power BI fetches real-time data insights into your data visualizations to keep your teams up-to-date and ready to make the right decisions.
- Turn Insights to Action: Using Microsoft Power Platform, your teams can deliver actions quickly by combining Power BI with Power Apps and Power Automate. Using Microsoft’s strong integration, your users can easily build business applications and automate workflows.
What is a Power BI Visual?
Imagine a usual business scenario where you have to converse with a client speaking a foreign language. It’s hard to interpret and respond right. Despite the availability of language translation apps like Google Translate on your phone, this will be a difficult and time-consuming process. Moreover, both of you will be bored within the first few minutes of your conversation.
The same applies to big data. Companies of today receive tons of data, and data analysis is a common regular-day challenge. Power BI visuals act as translators of your regular data. They convert your information and data beyond organized rows and columns into appealing and easy-to-understand charts. Power BI visuals are effective tools for decision-making since they present information that is quick to understand and infer from.
Using Power BI visuals, decision-makers can, for example:
- Identify areas that need attention or improvement.
- Direct resources and time for low-performance areas before they enlarge.
- Understand customer preferences and product demands.
- Forecast sales columns or purchase rates for the upcoming years.
In this guide, we’ve amassed a chunk of Power BI visuals, that can transform your data from not-so-friendly spreadsheets or database tables to interactive reports and dashboards that are easy to comprehend and discuss in meetings.
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What are the Types of Power BI Visualizations?
Here’s our curated list of Power BI visuals that can be used for your data analytics reports and workflow.
A chart is a simple graphical representation of your data. It can be made in profound ways like bars, lines, scattered data points, circular plots, doughnut forms, areas on a plane, etc. Charts make vast information easy to understand and infer from. They compile all your data points into a simple two-dimensional figure that is concise, plain, lucid, and sharable.
Power BI charts come in different shapes and sizes, like:
Area charts are modifications of line graphs with colored regions between your lines and axes. They represent a subset of a plane that illustrates changes in your variables over time. The lines using which area charts are made are nothing but a collection of your data points.
Area charts are precious for drawing and observing trends over time. They present current trends along with better clarity on previously observed trends. Taking our above example, the month of May saw Sales at $307k, but profits were seen at a record high at $67k. This information can be easily compared with previous years’ by simply importing previous years’ data points, and comparing them.
Bar and Column Chart
A bar chart or column chart is a routinely used chart that features rectangular bars or columns to represent numerical data. The length of bars is made in proportion to the values they represent, with the width remaining constant.
These charts are helpful in comparing different sets of data among different groups, like the number of products manufactured (with multiple subcategories) in different months of the year or profits and discounts offered on your products across different regions.
Power BI offers a ton of customization options that can conceptualize your data in the best bar graphs and column charts possible, as shown in the images below.
A line chart or line graph represents a collection of data points as one continuous line. These are useful for tracking variations or trends over time, like monthly sales in a year, gross profit margin over a course of five years, or the number of units delivered with their profit and discount spread across a year.
Pie charts are pictorial representations of data in the form of circular charts or pies. These are usually employed when you want to represent the relationship of parts to a whole.
Pie charts, for example, can be used to represent the distribution of your monthly expenditure across Sales, Marketing, Support, and other departments, or total revenue and average sales total for different products.
Doughnut charts are similar to pie charts, but with a center cut-out. Just like pie charts, they also represent the relationship of parts to a whole. The empty space at their center allows for better labeling and visualization, and they are better to use than pie charts if you have a large group of items to display.
A scatter plot or scattergram is a collection of discrete data points on a Cartesian plane. When you have an exhaustive relationship between two variables, scatter plots are the best way to represent your data. Examples of scatter plots include plotting the average profit vs the average of purchases for different regions.
Funnel charts help outline a process that has multiple connected stages. As an example, here’s a depiction of a business recruitment process in three cities-Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, along with the number of applicants shortlisted at each stage of the process.
Using these Power BI custom visuals, you can streamline your Sales and Marketing processes, like campaign drives, customer reach-out, promotional sales, and many more.
Waterfall charts are fantastic Power BI visuals to display running totals. The representation of waterfall charts changes as values gets added or subtracted. Bars in waterfall charts are color-coded to highlight increments or decrements in values across time.
In waterfall charts, the start and end value columns often start on the horizontal axis, while the intermediate values are shown as floating columns. Because of this look, waterfall charts are also known as bridge charts.
Power BI charts aren’t just limited to single predetermined views of bars and circles, rather you can intermix different charts to combine and display more information from your Power BI visuals.
A combo chart combines two graphs like a bar graph and a line graph to help make:
- Quick comparison.
- Illustrate correlation.
- Compare and check different value ranges.
- Save space.
Power BI comes with two combo charts for users: Line and stacked column and Line and clustered column. Both of these options can be accessed from the Visualizations pane.
Key Influencers Chart
The key influencers chart displays parameters and their percentage contribution to a cause. As an example, if you would like to chart out what affects a customer review, there will be multiple factors to consider like support quality, service quality, response rate, etc. Key influencers chart finds all associated factors and lists them in the form of a coherent single view Power BI visual.
Ribbon charts are wavy representations similar to stacked bar charts. They order elements and data groups based on which element has the majority of that measure in that particular axis value. These are generally used for quick identification of the highest rank (large values) variables.
Power BI maps are geographical maps that represent continents, countries, states, or cities where your business operates. Using this Power BI visualization, you can track your business performance across demographics, check for any bottlenecks and identify high-yielding areas that your business is missing out on.
You can for instance use Power BI maps to determine how much sales income is generated by each state in the United States, use filters to pore over important details and make apt decisions on time.
This is one of the many Power BI visual examples for Maps. In Power BI, you can further explore more options like
Filled maps are choropleth maps that use colors to indicate areas in geographical space. The map shades areas in proportion to the values of displayed measurements.
Filled maps make distinctions between your low-performance and high-performance locations, providing you with a quick view using light shades for less-frequent/lower values to dark shades for more-frequent/more values. They can also be used for comparing multiple groups, like knowing the flagship product of the many categories in a certain area.
When you want relative comparisons without the distractions of text or labels, shape maps should be your preference. Being one of the Power BI visual examples in the map category, shape maps show relative comparisons of states, provinces, and regions on a map using different colors.
Heatmaps & Visual 3D Maps
You can model 3D graphs for your sales or marketing metrics using Mapbox visual. The Mapbox visual can be imported and accessed as a visualization plugin inside Power BI, using which you can create customizable heatmaps, point cluster maps, and graduated circle maps.
There’s another way to make heatmaps in Power BI, using ArcGIS. ArcGIS maps are highly useful for spatial analytics and they provide a much better understanding of your data.
Obtaining information on a single data point might sometimes take precedence over what is required of others. Using cards Power BI visual, you can surface only the necessary and important information, without the blend of associated information.
Cards in Tableau can be used to display your key KPIs—total sales, market share over the year, gross profit margin per quarter, total opportunities gathered in the previous month, and so on.
Power BI offers two types of cards: Single numbers and Multi-row. Single number cards display a single data point or metric, like your sales in the previous quarter, leads acquired this week, and revenue generated in the last month. Multi-row cards display one or more data points in separate rows.
To set up and create your own card Power BI visualizations, you can simply visit the Visualizations pane > Cards from your Power BI dashboard. You can then select the desired field(s) that need to be displayed in cards from the Fields pane (rightmost pane).
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) provide a quantitative measure of your business performance. Using KPI Power BI visuals, your teams can get a quick overview of your progress, with precise information about lagging factors and leading factors.
Using these Power BI custom visuals, you can improve operational efficiency, quality, timeliness, governance, compliance, project performance, personnel performance, resource utilization, and much more with ease.
The matrix Power BI visual is similar to a table, but with deeper visualization options. Compared to tables, matrix visualization allows you to declare multiple variables in rows and columns. It also allows you to make use of Power BI’s drill-down features.
The matrix in Power BI offers the cross-highlighting of elements with other visuals on that report page. This aids in a better understanding of your data and quick operations like copy-paste of data to other applications.
Power Apps Visual
With Power Apps, anyone can create and use apps that connect to your business data. Power Apps visuals allow you to pass context-sensitive data to a canvas app that updates in real time as you make changes to your report.
You can connect to external data stored in services such as SharePoint, Dropbox, and Mailchimp, and either do Power BI visuals download or bring in forms and data in Power BI to visualize your data.
Q&A visual is an indispensable tool for quick search. Using a Q&A visual, you can type in questions and get answers in the form of a visual.
Q&A visuals use natural language processing capabilities to return answers in a jiffy. Your employees can use Q&A visuals to seek answers without having to sift through reports. Your report designers can leverage Q&A visuals to create appealing reports quickly.
R Script Visuals
R script visuals are data visualizations created using R in Power BI. Employing R script visuals requires you to download R on your local machine and enable R scripting options from the Options and Settings menu. You can then select R visual icon from the Visualization pane to add your R visual.
Power BI slicers are simple filters that work on your visuals. They help you sort information and design customized charts on the go. Slicers enable data analysts to compare comparable reports quickly and easily by displaying commonly used filters on the report canvas.
Slicers work on an object level. They allow for customization and can be programmed to create different filters for different objects. Moreover, by using slicers, you
- Create more focused reports with slicers next to important visuals.
- Filter information without having to open a drop-down list.
- Access frequently used or significant filters on the report canvas.
Once you’ve configured the Power BI slicer, you can quickly access your visual-level filters by using a checkbox list or a dropdown list beside your visual.
For more information on Power BI slicers and filters, do check out the following guide – A 101 Guide to Understand Power BI Filters.
Smart Narrative, a custom Power BI visual, brings a brief summary to your Power BI visuals and reports. When presenting additional details about an image, the smart narrative can be used to provide additional clues and insightful details.
The smart narrative feature is of great value to readers and those who need to interpret the data but don’t have a helping hand. You can provide them with key takeaways and highlights of trends, and help save them time.
This brings us to the end of this blog. With this, we hope now you are more confident in creating and using your own Power BI visuals. Eventually, you can use the Power BI visuals download to save graphs on your local system.
Discover more information about Microsoft Power BI and its features in some of our other helpful blogs:
Power BI visualizations are valuable tools to interpret data, visualize and compare your data trends. They help prepare meaningful reports that are as straight as an arrow. Using meaningful Power BI custom visuals and Power BI visual examples of various categories- Charts, Maps, Scripts, you are all set to capture everyone’s attention, head straight on what’s supposed to be done, and make decisions fast.
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Have more ideas or Power BI features you would like us to cover? Drop a comment below to let us know.