SP Fest NYC: Sharegate’s Benjamin Niaulin Makes Data Look AWESOME

I’m pretty sick of sitting in on Office 365 and social sessions. There, I said it. So you can imagine how excited I was to peruse the SharePoint Fest New York agenda and see that one of the most gregarious people in the SharePoint community, Sharegate’s Benjamin Niaulin, was doing a session on visualizations. In Cool Dashboards, Charts, and Visualizations You Can Build, Benjamin was able to accomplish something almost impossible – he made Excel and PowerPivot exciting!

So how was he able to accomplish such a mighty feat? He began his presentation by first listing off what we did before – conditional formatting, InfoPath forms, custom development, etc. – and then listing what we can do now to maximize Business Intelligence (BI). Specifically, he looked at Self Service BI and Power BI. When it comes to Self Service BI, there are four primary functions to take advantage of:

  • Power Query;
  • PowerPivot;
  • Power View; and
  • Power Map.

Riddle me this reader, how are we supposed to make dashboards without retrieving data from a source? With Power Query, we can do this and more. As its name suggests, Power Query is a powerful tool that makes it easy to search and find data from multiple sources.  Better yet, Power Query allows you to access queries from other users on your network, which means a larger aggregation of data. Although your everyday permissions are still going to be in place and may prevent you from accessing certain pockets of data, the amount of data that Power Query opens up is quite staggering.

Once you have gathered your data via a Power Query, you can leverage PowerPivot to analyze the content, as well as build a solid relationship with your data sources. Additionally, you can take advantage of Power View to visualize the data that you have collected and analyzed. In his presentation, Benjamin made use of Excel and data he pulled from an online source to build a dynamic report that was highly interactive and visual. By taking advantage of Power View, he was able to show us how to create, explore, and interact with graphs, charts, and other things that we have built, thus allowing us to work smarter, not harder.

To bring his data visualization circus full circle, Benjamin closed out his presentation with a demonstration of Power Map. Perhaps one of the most AWESOME ways you’ll ever see data manipulated, Power Map allows you to create cool 3D map visuals with your data. These maps allow you to quickly view data in a dynamic way that is truly mind-blowing. In his demo, Benjamin showed how data from an Excel spreadsheet related to electricity usage in Texas could be plotted on a map and tracked using heat maps. Trust me, this was definitely NOT your everyday pie chart visualization. Rather, using Power Map, Benjamin was able to tell a fascinating story using what would otherwise seem like boring data.

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