Excel Graduates to a Complete and Powerful Self-Service BI Tool

Excel Graduates to a Complete and Powerful Self-Service BI Tool

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Today we have a guest post from Microsoft SQL Server MVP Dan English. Dan shares a walkthrough using Power View in Excel 2013. You can find him on twitter @denglishbi and follow his blog at http://denglishbi.wordpress.com/.

clip_image001It’s been an exciting year for Microsoft’s self-service reporting tool Power View – the feature officially released with SQL Server 2012 in March, and just this last month Power View was integrated into Excel 2013 through the Office 2013 Preview release. With the Excel integration, everyone that uses Excel will be able to create insightful and highly interactive reports that can easily be explored. Let’s take a quick walkthrough of this new capability included in Excel 2013 and explore new features along the way.

Getting Started

In order to take advantage of this new feature, download the Office Professional Plus Preview that can be found here. The only other item required is Silverlight, and if you don’t already have it installed, you will be prompted to do so once you try and use the new Power View report option.

clip_image002Before we start using Power View, we need some data to work with, so let’s go grab some. For this demonstration I am going to a set of data from the US government that is free to download and explore: A general raw data set, and since the school season is right around the corner, a school-related dataset titled National School Lunch Assistance Program Participation and Meals Served Data. The data is available in an Excel format and after a bit of manipulation and consolidation – basically unpivoting the data provided, cleaning up some blank records and formatting data values – I came up with a table of data that we can start to work with.



Creating Reports

Now without doing anything with my data, I first need to switch over to the Insert tab in the Ribbon and click on the Power View button in the Reports section.


As I mentioned previously, Power View does require Silverlight, so you will be prompted and provided an option to download and install Silverlight 5 if you haven’t already. After this is downloaded and installed, we can click the Reload button and see what we have to work with.


Now we can start exploring the data, look for anomalies, and see if there are any trends.

When we first add items from the Power View Fields area onto the canvas area they will start out in a table layout. You can alter the format of the numeric data and change the layout into other visualizations such as charts. After doing that we end up with a report that looks like this:


As you can see, the numbers have been steadily increasing since 2007 (the fiscal year starts in October). One thing that we spot when comparing the overall totals by state/territory is that Georgia has a fairly high meals served ranking versus the number of participants.

Performing Analysis

We can quickly create another report and filter down to see the data just for Georgia. After we create a new Power View report worksheet we can then add a filter for Georgia in the Filters area and then copy and paste items over from the first report.


Now we can see what was going on specific to Georgia – over the past few years the number of meals served is decreasing.

How about we take the data, map it out, and see what we have for last year?


We can see that California, Texas, and New York served the most meals last year. The east coast of the country seems to have more activity than the central, as well.


So far we have only scratched the surface as to what we could do with this data. We haven’t even gone into Power Pivot yet, but we have been working with a model (and yes, that model does reside in Power Pivot inside Excel). The data that we have been using could easily be related to other sources and we could go into Power Pivot and start to add additional measures or key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the Average Meals per Participant, Total Cost, or the Year-over-Year Growth values and percentages. The sky is the limit with what we can do with the data, and amazingly we are able to do all of this inside Microsoft Excel. Now we can perform analysis on our desktop and share this with others and it is only a few clicks away!


For more information about Power View and Microsoft Business Intelligence you can check out the following:

- Dan English, Microsoft SQL Server MVP, Principal BI Consultant at Superior Consulting Services, LLC.

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  • Looking forward to this hitting the market. Excel which is already an analyst friend will become his best friend with this adhoc capbility and rich visualization

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