Dan English's BI Blog

Welcome to my random thoughts in regards to Business Intelligence, databases, and other technologies

PASS Business Analytics VC Feb Meeting–Building Business Recommenders with Azure ML

Posted by denglishbi on February 5, 2016

The next PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter meeting is coming up on Thursday, February 11.  This month we welcome Professor Giuseppe MascarellaPASS_BAVC_Logo_New_201502 from Florida Atlantic University, College of Business.


February 11 – Building Business Recommenders with Microsoft Azure Machine Learning


Netflix knows if you are going to like a movie before you watch it, so do many other leading companies in what they sell. How do you build capabilities like this for your business? A cost effective way is by using a Matchbox (Large Scale Bayesian) Recommendations algorithm in Microsoft Azure Machine Learning. In this session we will go step-by-step in what is required to build one for any opportunity you might have.

Bio –

Prof. Giuseppe Mascarella is a former Microsoft consulting manager and has won WW awards on leading cloud and business intelligence programs at a global level. He works as an Adjunct Prof. of Social Media Analytics and Data security at FAU and is a Principal at Value Amplify where he works on Machine Learning and IoT solutions.


If you are planning on attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference use the following discount code and save $100

Save $100 right now using discount code BAVCBA

If you are interested in speaking at an upcoming PASS BA Virtual Chapter meeting we are always looking for speakers, please leave a comment or send us an email at PASSBAVC@SQLPASS.ORG

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PASS BA Webinar Marathon–Dec 10

Posted by denglishbi on December 4, 2015

Don’t miss out on the upcoming PASS BA Webinar Marathon coming up next week on Dec 10. There are 7 sessions to attend:)

This is to get you excited and ready for the upcoming PASS Business Analytics Conference!


And it was just announced that if you register by Dec 23 that you will be entered into a drawing for an XBox.


PASS BA Webinar Marathon Register Now!


Here are the sessions that are set for next week and I will be hosting the 2nd and 4th sessions:

Chris Webb

Create Amazing 3D Topographic Maps In Excel With Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power Map

Chris Webb | Director, Crossjoin Consulting Limited

15:00 GMT, 07:00 PST

Mark Wilcock

Tools For Exploratory Data Analysis

Mark Wilcock | Business Analytics Consultant, Zomalex Ltd.

16:00 GMT, 08:00 PST

Jordan Goldmeier

Creating Outstanding Spreadsheet Models

Jordan Goldmeier | Dashboards and Data Visualization Expert, Cambia Factor

17:00 GMT, 09:00 PST

Ginger Grant

Implementing Data-Based Decision Making

Ginger Grant | Business Intelligence Consultant, Pragmatic Works

18:00 GMT, 10:00 PST

Ken Raetz

Modular Data Extraction and Integration Patterns

Ken Raetz | Principal, Think Data Insights, LLC

19:00 GMT, 11:00 PST

Matt Allington

Moving From Excel to PowerBI.com, A Business Analyst’s Perspective

Matt Allington | BI Professional , Excelerator BI

20:00 GMT, 12:00 PST

Rick Grantham

Making Informed Decisions: Guidelines for Creating an Effective Dashboard

Rick Grantham | Analytics Expert, EPI-USE America / Excel.TV

21:00 GMT, 13:00 PST

PASS BA Webinar Marathon Register Now!

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MN PASS Microsoft BI User Group Q4 2015 Meeting – Dec 16

Posted by denglishbi on November 25, 2015

We are pleased to announced the next MN Microsoft BI User Group on Wednesday, December 16.  We have two presentations this quarter, one on HDInsight and Power BI and the other on Azure Machine Learning. Please register ahead of time and make sure to bring a photo id to get into the meeting. We are also pleased to announce that we are one of the initial user groups to also be recognized as an official Microsoft Power BI user group!

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)

MN Microsoft BI User Group 2015 Q4 Meeting

Sponsored by:


Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Check In: 2:45 PM Event Time: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Location: Microsoft Technology Center – 3601 76th St W, Suite 600 Edina MN 55435 (in LOW 1, 2, and 3)

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)

  • 2:45-3:00 : Check-In
  • 3:00-3:15 : Microsoft BI User Group Updates and Announcements
  • 3:15-4:15 : Powering Up HDInsight with Power BI
  • 4:15-4:30 : Break
  • 4:30-5:30 : Rise of the Machine (Learning)
  • 5:30-6:00 : Networking and Pizza
Session 1: Powering Up HDInsight with Power BI

Join Steve Hughes as he walks through two techniques for working with data in HDInsight. In the first example, he will use Power Query to interact with the files in HDInsight. In the second example, he will use Power BI Desktop and Hive to work with the same data. Throughout the session, he will highlight some of the features within Power BI that can be used to explore data stored using Hadoop on HDInsight.

Speaker: Steve Hughes

Steve is a Principal Consultant at Pragmatic Works. He is currently responsible for guiding the Principal Consultant team and working with other areas in the organization to build out their data and analytics offerings. His area of expertise is in data and business intelligence architecture on the Microsoft SQL Server platform. He was also the data architect for a SaaS company which delivered a transportation management solution for fleets across the United States. Steve has co-authored three books and delivered many presentations on SQL Server and data architecture over the past six years. He also provides insights from the field on his blog at http://www.dataonwheels.com.

Session 2: Rise of the Machine (Learning) – Azure ML in BI, in Apps, and as a product in Azure Marketplace

Machine Learning no longer requires expensive infrastructures and knowledge of specialized statistical coding languages. Azure ML lowers the barriers of entry for predictive analytics using Machine Learning.

In this session, review the similarities and differences of Machine Learning compared to traditional Predictive Analytics, Data Mining, Data Science, and Artificial Intelligence. Learn how to integrate predictive analytics into your existing analytics and reporting strategy and infrastructure. Greg will demonstrate how a BI solution using only Excel with Power Pivot can connect to an Azure ML Model in the cloud for predictions and perform analysis with Power BI.

Learn how Azure ML can be used to add value to Apps. Also, review ways to turn your Azure ML Model into a source of revenue using Azure Marketplace. Machine Learning is now quietly rising all around us as it integrates with technology, improves processes and workflows, and transforms how data drives business. Empower your organization with new competitive advantages using Azure ML.

Speaker: Greg Beaumont

Greg is currently the Data Science Practice Lead at GNet Group, where he provides consulting services using Microsoft technologies. His industry vertical experience includes healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, retail and public/government data. Greg has been working in Analytics since 2007, and enjoys designing and building specialized solutions using tools and methodologies such as Six Sigma, Healthcare Performance Measures, Price Analytics and Predictive Analytics. He frequently writes blogs on use of analytics and visualizations http://blog.gnetgroup.com

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Getting Started with SQL Server 2016 CTP3 in Azure

Posted by denglishbi on November 11, 2015

If you have an Azure account (possibly through your MSDN subscription) here is the easiest way to get up and running with SQL Server 2016.

First go to the Azure Portal – http://portal.azure.com

Search and find the SQL Server 2016 CTP3 in the Data and Analytics Marketplace in Azure.


Create the Virtual Machine.


Start the Virtual Machine once it is created and then once it is running Connect with RDP.

Once it is started up you can search and add items to Start as well as Taskbar such as SQL Server Management Studio, SQL Server Configuration Manager, SQL Server Reporting Services Configuration Manager, etc.


Turn off the IE Enhanced Security for Administrators.


Download and install the latest version of SSDT for SQL Server – http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt204009.aspx


SSDT for Visual Studio 2015 for SQL Server 2016 now includes the database projects as well as the BI project templates, so you no longer need to download and install two separate installs.  If you already have Visual Studio 2015 installed then a smaller download (install) will be used to add in the additional template projects.


The installer will download and then install the components. This will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes on the Virtual Machine.

Then add SQL Server Data Tools 2015 to the Start and/or Taskbar for easy access.


Review the SQL Server Components installed.


Based on this as well as reviewing the summary setup log located here – C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\130\Setup Bootstrap\Log\ – we can see that the Database Engine was installed along with Data Quality Services, Analysis Services (multidimensional), Reporting Services (Native), Integration Services, Management Tools, and Master Data Services.

We still need to install Analysis Services (Tabular), Advanced Analytics Extensions, and also complete the configuration of Reporting Services.

So to complete the install components we will access the setup in the following location – C:\SQLServer_13.0_Full\.  First we will install the Advanced Analytics Extensions. This is part of the process so that we can use SQL Server R Services.



Additional steps are required to complete and start using the Advanced Analytics Extensions in SQL Server.


Use the link provided in the Warning to access the complete steps to getting R services completed on the server so that you can start utilizing R code with SQL Server.

Rule Check Result
Rule "Post-installation steps are required for Advanced Analytics Extensions" generated a warning.

The feature Advanced Analytics Extensions requires some post-installation steps after completing SQL Server setup. Please follow the steps outlined in the link http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=626645 (Ctrl-C to copy)

This installation for the extensions will also install the SQL Server Launchpad.

Next we will run the installer again and get an Analysis Services Tabular instance installed. For this we will need to install a named instance since multidimensional SSAS was used for the default.





Once that is done then run the Reporting Services Configuration Manager to complete the SSRS Native setup.


Once connected go to the Web Services URL and click Apply button. Then go to the Database page and use the Change Database option to create a new report server database. Next go to the Report Manager URL and click Apply.

Other items that you might want to do are setup Execution Account, backup Encryption Keys, setup Subscription Settings for file share access, and lastly Power BI Integration!


We will setup the Power BI integration so that we can use the new Pin to Power BI capabilities when we create our Reporting Services reports so that we can pin and share content in our Power BI dashboards!

The last item that we have to do is go to Report Manager and we can install the new Report Builder.


You will see that Report Builder has a new theme as well as the new Chart Types – Treemap and Sunburst which are great for displaying hierarchical data.


There you go, up and running and ready to explore some of the new SQL Server 2016 CTP3 capabilities.

More resources on new features in SQL Server 2016 CTP3:


Posted in SQL Server | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

SQLSaturday 453 Minnesota Follow Up

Posted by denglishbi on October 29, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking again at SQLSaturday Minnesota. This year it was at a new location in downtown Minneapolis at the St. Thomas Graduate Campus. Once again SQSaturday MN 453the planning team and volunteers did a wonderful job of organizing the event and having everything ready. Awesome job!

The session that I did this year was What’s new in Excel 2016 for Business Intelligence.  There were over 40 people in attendance at the session (first one of the morning) and everything went as planned, no demo issues:) I covered the new features in both Excel 2013 as well as 2016. No one in the room was using 2016 yet (not sure if anyone new it was even released yet – was released on Sept 22) and everyone was using 2013 (majority were not aware of the new features in 2013, so good thing I had that material readily available).

The new features I highlighted in Excel 2016 were the following:

  • Tell Me – search for features (probably my favorite addition to Office – provides instant access to the feature as well)
  • Sharing – much simpler
  • Version History – needs to be in SharePoint or OneDrive
  • One Click Forecasting – okay, takes more than one click, but very niceExcel Logo
  • 6 new chart types – treemap, sunburst, waterfall, histogram, pareto, box and whisker
  • PivotTable enhancements
  • Multi-select Slicers
  • Get & Transform Data (native Power Query in Data tab)
  • 3D Map (native Power Map on Insert tab)
  • Publish to Power BI
  • Power View works with Multidimensional (but Power View is a hidden item because of Silverlight and a bit of a challenge to add back into Ribbon – wouldn’t recommend, use Power BI Desktop instead)

If you would like to check out my full presentation that also includes the new 2013 features download the material here – [Demo] – SQLSat453MN_Excel2016BI_denglishbi_20151010.zip

Thanks to everyone that attended and look forward to the next event!

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PASS Business Analytics VC October Meeting–Spatial Data Looking Outside the Map

Posted by denglishbi on September 30, 2015

The next PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter meeting is coming up next week on Thursday, October 8.  We welcome Microsoft SQL Server MVP Hope Foley (b|t).PASS_BAVC_Logo_New_201502


October 8 – Spatial Data – Looking Outside the Map


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, spatial data doesn’t get much love in SQL Server. It is a feature worthy of much appreciation and will become more vital as more location data is collected. In this session we will explore spatial data and discover many ways it can be used for incredible analytics. You will learn some new ways to visualize your data outside of the typical plots on a Bing map layer. Come and learn how powerful spatial data can be even though it lacks a snazzy "power" title.

Speaker Bio –

Hope Foley, a SQL Server MVP with over 16 years of experience in the IT world, has worked across many industries including insurance, health organization, and federal government. She now works for the team at BlueGranite as a Business Intelligence consultant. She has been a consultant in SQL Server technologies for over 9 years focusing on database administration and architecture, more recently in business intelligence. Hope is an active member in the SQL Server and PASS communities speaking at events and organizes the SQLSaturday event in Indianapolis.


If you are planning on attending the PASS Summit 2015 Conference use the following discount code and save $150

Save $150 right now using discount code VC15BKR3

If you are interested in speaking at an upcoming PASS BA Virtual Chapter meeting we are always looking for speakers, please leave a comment or send me an email at denglishbi@gmail.com

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MN PASS Microsoft BI User Group Q3 2015 Meeting – Sept 18

Posted by denglishbi on September 8, 2015

We are pleased to announced the next MN Microsoft BI User Group on Friday, September 18.  We are honored to have Kamal Hathi, the Director of Program Management of Business Intelligence at Microsoft, travel to MN to do a keynote presentation on Power BI. Please register ahead of time and make sure to bring a photo id to get into the meeting.

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)

MN Microsoft BI User Group 2015 Q3 Meeting

Sponsored by:


Date: Friday, September 18, 2015

Check In: 8:30 AM Event Time: 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Location: Microsoft Technology Center – 3601 76th St W, Suite 600 Edina MN 55435 (in LOW 1, 2, and 3)

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)


  • 8:30-9:00 : Registration and Welcome Reception
  • 9:00-10:30 : Power BI Keynote Presentation
  • 10:30-11:00 : Q & A
  • 11:00-11:30 : Prize drawing and Networking


Session: Power BI Keynote Presentation

With Microsoft Power BI generally available, we are excited to bring it to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re already familiar or new with Power BI. Kamal will share how powerful and simple it is to connect to and visualize your data.

Connect to fellow data professionals, hear first-hand from Power BI product team about what you can do with Power BI and where it’s headed. It doesn’t matter if your data is in the cloud or on-premises: Power BI can help you make sense of it.

Speaker: Kamal Hathi

Kamal is the Director of Program Management, Business Intelligence at Microsoft. Kamal manages the overall strategy, design and delivery of Microsoft business intelligence technologies. Microsoft delivers an innovative set of tools and services for data visualization and analytics that help organizations worldwide gain insights on data at all scales.

Since joining Microsoft in 1996, Hathi has served in engineering management roles in various product groups. He has 20 years of experience in data analysis and visualization and was one of the founding members of Microsoft’s business intelligence efforts. Before working with Microsoft, Hathi’s diverse work history included experience in research and consulting. He has a graduate degree in engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

PASS Summit Conference 2015 Discount Code – save $150 – LC15FML4

Members of the PASS Chapter, Minnesota Microsoft BI User Group can save $150 off their

PASS Summit 2015 registration by using the unique Chapter discount code: LC15FML4


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How to: Build a SQL Server Dashboard with Power BI Desktop

Posted by denglishbi on August 25, 2015

Just last month Microsoft released the new Power BI which included a new self-service BI application called Power BI Desktop. I introduced this when it was first launched in the following blog posts – Power BI Desktop Install Experience & Publish Feature! and Ready, Set, and Go! PowerBI.com, Power BI Desktop, and Pyramid Analytics Alliance. A few weeks ago I was exploring some new uses for this application and the first one I tried out was to create a SQL Server Dashboard that would provide some information about my local SQL Server instance running on my laptop. Let’s take a look at the final result –


Here we can see that I included the SQL Server logo, the name of my machine, the version and build number of SQL Server I am running, and then some information about the databases – the count, sizes, types, last backup, recovery model, and file information.

Now let’s take a quick look at how this was built. First thing you will need to download and install the Power BI Desktop application. It appears that since the initial release the application has already been updated a few times, latest build version is 2.26.4128.403 and it was released on August 20, 2015. The application is available in both 32 and 64-bit versions.

Once you have the application downloaded, installed, and started up, the first thing we will want to do is get some data. You can either click on the Get Data on the Getting Started screen when you open the application or in the Ribbon you can click on Get Data and then SQL Server.


Then enter in your server name and provide the query to get the information. In this case the query will be running against the master database and the query will be the following:

SELECT @@servername ServerName,
@@version SQLVersion,
sdb.NAME DatabaseName,
sdb.create_date CreateDateTime,
sdb.compatibility_level CompatibilityLevel,
sdb.collation_name CollationName,
sdb.recovery_model_desc RecoveryModel,
Max(bus.backup_finish_date) AS LastBackUpTime,
size.sizeinmb DatabaseSize,
WHEN sdb.database_id < 5 THEN ‘System’
ELSE ‘User’
END DatabaseType
FROM sys.databases sdb
LEFT OUTER JOIN msdb.dbo.backupset bus
ON bus.database_name = sdb.NAME
INNER JOIN (SELECT [DatabaseName] = Db_name(database_id),
[Type] = CASE
WHEN type_desc = ‘ROWS’ THEN ‘Data File(s)’
WHEN type_desc = ‘LOG’ THEN ‘Log File(s)’
ELSE type_desc
[SizeinMB] = Cast(( ( Sum(size) * 8 ) / 1024.0 ) AS
DECIMAL(18, 2))
FROM sys.master_files
GROUP BY grouping sets ( ( Db_name(database_id), type_desc )
, ( Db_name(database_id) ) )) size
ON sdb.NAME = size.databasename
AND size.type IS NULL

Once the query has been populated to create the data we clean it up a little bit by splitting some columns, changing data types, renaming the columns to be more user friendly, and provide a name for the data query.


We can then close this query and add more, in this case we have another query that will provide the information about the files associated with each database. The query we are going to use was actually used in the first query and was from the following post located here:

SELECT [DatabaseName] = Db_name(database_id),

[Type] = CASE

WHEN type_desc = ‘ROWS’ THEN ‘Data File(s)’

WHEN type_desc = ‘LOG’ THEN ‘Log File(s)’

ELSE type_desc


[SizeinMB] = Cast(( ( Sum(size) * 8 ) / 1024.0 ) AS DECIMAL(18, 2))

FROM sys.master_files

GROUP BY grouping sets ( ( Db_name(database_id), type_desc ),

( Db_name(database_id) ) )

Once this data set is added we apply a filter, pivot the data, rename the columns, and then provide a name for the query and close and load the data.


Now that we have the two data queries, we can establish a relationship between the two (you could also merge them together if you would prefer).


And then you can create reports and add text boxes, images, slicers, and visualizations.


Now we could stop here at this point, but what fun would that be. What if I wanted to be able to monitor and report on my databases while I am out on the road or having a conversation with a colleague? Hmmm, there must be a solution for that…and ‘Yes’ there is!

Microsoft provides the online PowerBI.com service that allows you to upload (or Publish) your Power BI Desktop creations. I already have an account, so I can click on the Publish button in the Ribbon and then I will be prompted to save the file and if I have already published this before an option to Replace the existing dataset (or Cancel).


The solution will then be published and you will be provided a link to access the item directly.


Once published I can create a dashboard in the online service and pin the items I want to my dashboard from the reports I included (see the initial image in the blog post for the final result). You can also enhance the reports and edit them if needed, just be careful though, if you publish from the desktop you could override changes in the online version of the reports.

Now, are we done yet? No way, what about refreshing the data? But how can I do that, the data is running on my laptop… No worries, download and install the Power BI Personal Gateway. Once this is downloaded, installed, and configured (Power BI Personal Gateway online knowledge base article) you will have the ability to refresh the dataset that is loaded in the online PowerBI.com service.


How cool is that! And you can see in the below screenshot that is exactly what I did, if you compare this to the initial dashboard at the top of the post you will see that there are two additional databases (flashback goodies – Northwind and pubs return!).


And I can view this on the mobile application on my phone as well:)


There are lots of possibilities for expanding on this set of reports – analyzing database and table statistics, usage, queries, and more.

I would really love to hear what you think of the “new” Power BI and the ideas and creations you are building, leave a comment and let me know, thanks!

Posted in Power BI | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

PASS Business Analytics VC August Meeting–Power BI, Mission Possible!

Posted by denglishbi on August 24, 2015

The next PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter meeting is coming up on Wednesday, August 26.  This month we welcome Microsoft SQL Server MVP, author, and trainer Reza Rad (b|t).PASS_BAVC_Logo_New_201502


August 26 – Power BI, Mission Possible!


Power Query, Power View, and Power Pivot has been in the BI market for a while. Microsoft combined these three products into a single product and service with a new designer called Power BI Desktop (Power BI Designer). Power BI gathered features of these three products all in one, so building dashboards and effective visualization items with this tool is much easier nowadays.

In this session you will learn all new and great features of Power BI. You will learn how to work with different data source, and apply Power Query transformation on them. You will learn tricks and tips of modelling with Power BI Desktop, and then how to visualize effectively with this tool. You will also learn how to build dashboards on Power BI website.

At the end of this session you will be able to use Power BI for your everyday data analysis as well as organizational data mash up and visualization. So expect lots of demos in this session.

Bio – Reza Rad is an Author, Trainer, Speaker and DW/BI Consultant. He has a BSc in Computer engineering; he has more than 15 years’ experience in databases, programming and development mostly on Microsoft technologies. He is a Microsoft MVP in SQL Server for five continues years (from 2011 till now) for his dedication in Microsoft BI. His articles on different aspects of technologies, especially on MS BI, can be found on his blog: http://www.radacad.com/blog (previously was http://www.rad.pasfu.com) . He wrote some books on MS SQL BI and also is writing some others, He is also an active member on online technical forums such as MSDN and Experts-Exchange, and is a moderator of MSDN SQL Server forums, and is a MCP, MCSE and MCITP of BI. He is the leader of New Zealand Business Intelligence users group. He is a International Speaker in SQL Saturday and SQL users groups and Conferences like TechEd and PASS Summit. He is a Microsoft Certified Trainer.


If you are planning on attending the PASS Summit 2015 Conference use the following discount code and save $150

Save $150 right now using discount code VC15BKR3

If you are interested in speaking at an upcoming PASS BA Virtual Chapter meeting we are always looking for speakers, please leave a comment or send me an email at denglishbi@gmail.com

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Power BI Desktop Install Experience & Publish Feature!

Posted by denglishbi on July 23, 2015

Tomorrow is the official Power BI GA release for the “new” 2.0 version of Power BI.  With the new release there will be a new version of Power BI Desktop application (formerly known as Power BI Designer).  This application is already available to download and here is the quick walkthrough of the install as well as some sample pics of a file that gets published to the PowerBI.com site!

Install Experience







Are you ready?


Awesome! Game on:)


Version: 2.25.4095.554


With the new release of the application you can publish to PowerBI.com in the cloud and soon to on-premise Pyramid Analytics Server (not available yet, but hopefully very soon, maybe next month).  Just announced today was the strategic allegiance and collaboration of Pyramid Analytics along with Microsoft.


Power BI Desktop file created from IMDb data.


File published to PowerBI.com


Very cool.  There are a ton of new features and functionality in the new application.  Way too many to cover here, so check out the Power BI team blog.

Here are some good articles and resources to check out:

Announcing Power BI general availability coming July 24th

Power BI team blog (great content, examples, articles, announcements)

Power BI Community site

Microsoft Power BI Support

Training Resources (provided by Jen Underwood)

Enjoy and I would love to hear your feedback!

Posted in Power BI | Tagged: | 4 Comments »


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