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This document outlines steps for installing Power BI Desktop and getting it hooked up to the data warehouse.


Product Details 

Power BI Desktop is one of Microsoft's general-purpose reporting tools.  The team that maintains and develops it apparently broke off from the Excel team, because Excel was changing too slowly for the Power BI team's tastes, and they wanted to go in a different direction.

In general, Excel is the better tool for the average user.  Power BI Desktop has some interesting features and integrates well with Power BI in the cloud, but it lacks a lot of charting, conditional formatting, and other data display and manipulation features that Excel users love, and so it can be frustrating using Power BI in its place.

Licensing Information

Anyone can install Power BI Desktop anywhere, although publishing content to the cloud requires additional licensing, and falls outside the scope of this document.  If you need to publish Power BI content to other users over the web, contact the ITS Helpdesk.

Installation Instructions

Installation of Power BI Desktop is trivial, and is outlined here:

Who To Call

If you have trouble using Power BI Desktop, call the ITS Helpdesk and submit a data warehouse ticket, even if you are using it against a different data source.

Connecting to Carleton College's Data Warehouse

Connecting to Carleton's data warehouse (hearafter, DW) requires that you have access to the data warehouse.  Some offices will have it, by policy.  That is, some employees will have access by virtue of their position.  This is true, for example, of the Business Office, Institutional Research and Assessment, HR, and ITS.  If you need DW access, or aren't sure if you already have it, contact the ITS Helpdesk and ask them to write up a DW access request.

Connecting to the DW will also require presence on Carleton's internal network (or a VPN connection thereto).

If you have DW access, you can connect Power BI Desktop to it as follows.

First, find and click the Analysis Services "get data" option:

Then type in one of two data warehouse server addresses (\production or\production).  The former is shown below.  The two servers differ somewhat in what data the offer:

Once you've selected a server, you may then select a specific subset of the available data (the term for this is a "cube").  The cube list will show up in the next menu, after you click the yellow OK button above.

Once you've selected a specific cube, you will be connected to that cube, and Power BI Desktop will function pretty much like an Excel pivot table.

If you are using Power BI Desktop as a stand-alone pivot table tool, it's recommended that you consider using Excel instead, because Excel files are more easily shared with colleagues, and Excel is, as noted, richer in features desired by most users.

Richard Goerwitz
Originally published:  October, 2018