What, How, When and Why on Power BI Dataflows [Hill Sprint]

Let’s do a hill sprint on Power BI Dataflows: The What, How, When and Why of Power BI Dataflows!

I am having a series called hill sprints (since we are climbing mountains – hehe) that will provide a to the point introduction on a topic covering the What, How, When and Why.

Why hill sprints?

Hill sprints are essentially a form of interval training – probably one of the more intense (but engaging) options. They are quick, brutal and to the point. Let me know if you have another fun analogy towards climbing mountains that would make sense for a series name! (Having way to much fun with this)

First Hill Sprint Series will be on Power BI Service. In this series we will go through some of the main components in Power BI Service, explaining what is it, how can you set it up, when should you use it, and why should you use it.

Hopefully, this can provide some quick insights and knowledge on the components and help decide if this is the tool for you with your current setup or challenge.

  1. What are Power BI Dataflows
  2. How can you set up Power BI Dataflows?
  3. When should you use Power BI Dataflows?
  4. Why should you use Power BI Dataflows?

What are Power BI Dataflows

Power BI Dataflows are essentially Power Query Online that provide a self-servie data integration tool.

This way you can create reusable transformation logic and build tables that multiple reports can take advantage of.

How can you set up Power BI Dataflows?

You set up a Power BI Dataflow in Power BI Service. This is done through the workspace you want to hold the dataflow and by clicking “New”.

Here you can choose if you want to create a new dataflow or build on top of an existing one.

For more information on how to set this up you can follow the Microsoft documentation here.

When should you use Power BI Dataflows?

Dataflows are particularly great if you are dealing with tables that you know will be reused a lot in your organization, e.g. dimension tables, master data tables or reference tables.

If you want to take advantage of Azure Machine Learning and Azure Cognitive Services in Power BI this is available to you through Power BI Dataflows. Power BI Dataflows integrates with these services and offers an easy self-service drag-and-drop solution for non-technical users. You do not need an Azure subscription to use this but requires a Premium license. Read more about ML and Cognitive Services in Power BI Dataflows here.

In addition, Power BI Dataflows provides the possibility to incrementally refresh your data based on parameters to specify a date range. This is great if you are working with large datasets that are consuming all your memory – but you need a premium licence to use this feature.

Why should you use Power BI Dataflows?

Power BI Dataflows can help us solve a range of challenges with self-service BI.

  • Improved access control
  • One source of truth for business logic and definitions
  • Provides a tool for standardization on the ETL process
  • Enables self-service BI for non-technical users
  • Enables reusability

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