Power BI Log Files

Kellyn Pot’vin-Gorman shows us how to access Power BI log and trace files:

We’ve now identified the process, the amount of memory allocated to perform a task captured in the log, start time and the duration.  The information in these log files can assist when diagnosing if Power BI desktop crashes, but the data collected is quite rudimentary.

If you shut down Power BI Desktop, the PBIDesktop* log file writes to the startup file, which was once empty and it then empties and saves off the timestamp of the exit of the program.

The Microsoft Mashup file has much of the same information, but includes deeper level processing work by Power BI, such as work done in the Query Editor or when we create a measure or new column/table.

In the three examples from the file below, you can see a compile, a save and then an evaluate task.

There’s some useful information here for debugging.

Power BI Helper 3.0

Reza Rad has a new version of Power BI Helper out:

It is a pleasure to announce the newest version of Power BI helper, version 3.0 July 2018 with the great feature of exporting model documentation. The documentation part of the insight from Power BI Helper has been always in our backlog, but haven’t had a chance to work on it. Gladly now you can export the document to an HTML file. The exported documentation at the moment, has information about all tables in the model, all measures, all columns and calculated columns in each table with possible expressions and descriptions. If you like to learn more about Power BI Helper, read this page.

Read on to see what Power BI Helper has in terms of documentation.

Relationships In Power BI

Teo Lachev shows us the importance of defining relationships in Power BI:

However, If there isn’t a direct relationship between ResellerSales and Employee, the moment you add an unsummarized field from the second table on the many side, such as Employee[FullName] after adding SalesTerritoryCountry and ResellerSales[SalesOrderNumber), you’ll get the error “Error: Can’t determine relationships between the fields”.

Solution: Interestingly, the report works fine if a summarized field, such as COUNT(Employee[EmployeeKey]) is used. In this case, the SalesTerritory dimension acts as a conformed dimension joined to two fact tables. The reason why it doesn’t work when Employee[FullName] is added is because there is no aggregation on the Employee table and the relationship between ResellerSales[SalesOrderNumber] and Employee[FullName] becomes Many:Many over SalesTerritory which is now a bridge table. One employee may be associated with multiple sales and a sale can be associated with multiple employees. How do we solve this horrible problem?

Good data modeling is important, and Power BI dashboards are no exception to the rule.

Calculating Future Revenue Streams With Phasing

Matt Allington walks us through a somewhat complicated scenario with income stream projections but inconsistent monthly payout rates:

The first thing I decided to do was work out which was the first month of the policy.  I used LOOKUPVALUE to do this because the Calendar table was not connected to the policy table.  Instead of returning the actual month name, I returned the unique MonthID from my calendar table.  I ALWAYS load a unique MonthID in my calendar tables as they are REALLY useful. In short this column is an integer, starting at 1 and incrementing by 1 for each month in the table.  So starting in Jan, after 3 full years the MonthID will be 36.

Pol First Month = LOOKUPVALUE ( 'Calendar'[Month Index], 'Calendar'[Date], MAX ( Policies[Pol Date] )
)

After writing this measure (and all subsequent measures), I placed the measure in the pivot table shown below.  This pivot table has the policy date from the policy table on rows and the YYMM from the Calendar table on columns.  I did this for a very important reason. I knew this would be the way I needed to see the final results and therefore I needed to make sure all measures returned the expected outcome once this layout was used.  And don’t think I wrote the all the formulas correctly to achieve this outcome the first time.  In fact I made plenty of mistakes.  But the point is I wouldn’t have known they were mistakes if I didn’t place the result in a pivot table like the one below.

It’s a good example of breaking apart a fairly complicated concept and rethinking equations as set operations in DAX.

Sorting When Your Measure Is Not In The Visual

Kasper de Jonge shows us different ways of sorting a visual by some unrelated measure:

So lets start with the simple one, I want to sort a chart on a measure not part of the visual. Let’s take this visual:

Now instead of sorting by OrderQuantity I want to sort by the ListPrice. The trick here is to make the measure part of the query, and one way you can do that is by adding it to the tooltip

Read on for examples for charts as well as matrices.

Using DAX With Reporting Services

David Stelfox gives us an example of using DAX when connecting SQL Server Reporting Services to a SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular model:

Tools like Power BI have changed reporting allowing power users to leverage tabular cubes to present information quicker and without the (perceived) need for developers. However, experience tells us many users still want data in tables with a myriad of formatting and display rules. Power BI is not quite there yet in terms of providing all this functionality in the same way that SSRS is. For me, SSRS’s great value and, at the same time its curse, is the sheer amount of customisation a developer can do. I have found that almost anything a business user demands in terms of formatting and display is possible.

But you have invested your time and money in a tabular SSAS model which plays nicely with Power BI but your users want SSRS reports so how to get to your data – using DAX, of course. Using EVALUATE, SUMMARIZECOLUMNS and SELECTCOLUMNS you can return data from a tabular model in a tabular format ready to be read as a dataset in SSRS.

It’s a good post and a good example.  The only quibble I have is in the motivating paragraph; Power BI and SQL Server Reporting Services have different end goals—Power BI isn’t (and I think never will be) a pixel-perfect report building product; it’s meant to be a dashboarding technology.  That quibble aside, the example is well worth checking out.

When To Use SQL, DAX, Or M In Power BI Models

Paul Turley offers up some guidance on when to use which language when building Power BI models:

As a general rule of thumb, in formal SSAS projects built on a relational data mart or data warehouse that is managed by the same project team as the BI data model, I typically recommend that every table in the model import data from a corresponding view or UDF stored and managed in the relational database. Keep in mind that is the way we’ve been designing Microsoft BI projects for several years. Performing simple tasks like renaming columns in the SSAS data model designer was slow and cumbersome. Performing this part of the data prep in T-SQL was much easier than in SSDT. With the recent advent of Power Query in SQL Server Data Tools, there is a good argument to be made for managing those transformations but the tool is still new and frankly I’m still testing the water. Again, keep changes in one place for future maintenance.

Do your absolute best to avoid writing complex SQL query logic that cannot be traced back to the sources. Complicated queries can become a black box – and a Pandora’s box if they aren’t documented, annotated and easy to decipher.

But do read Paul’s closing grafs on the importance of not being hidebound.

Using DAX To Calculate Dates Between Transactions

Matt Allington needs a haircut:

I got my haircut today (pretty spiffy one too, even if I do say so myself).  While I was chatting I asked my hair dresser “on average, how often should I get my hair cut”?  She told me (for men) around 4-6 weeks.  Then I got thinking (as I do), I wonder if I could data-mine my credit card data using Power BI and find out how often I actually get my own hair cut.  It turns out I was able to do this, and this article explains the hardest part of that task – find the number of days between two transaction dates using DAX.

I’d probably end up doing this in SQL with the LAG function, but it’s good to know several ways to solve date difference problems.

Power BI Helper Version 2.0 Released

Reza Rad has a new version of Power BI Helper:

I started Power BI Helper with the intention to help to find issues in Power BI reports faster and easier. This tool over time became better and better. I’m excited now to let you know that the version 2.0 of this product is now available for everyone to use and enjoy. This version comes with these features:

  • Connecting to more than one Power BI model. Selection option for the model.

  • Showing the connection mode of the Power BI file.

  • Showing list of tables that are NOT used in any visualization, and can be hidden from the report.

  • Modeling advises

    • List of both directional relationships
    • List of inactive relationships
  • Some minor bug fixes

It looks like quite the useful tool.

Flattening JSON In Power BI

Imke Feldmann shows how to flatten JSON data imported into Power BI:

If you work with JSON documents that are new to you, it can be very helpful to fully expand JSON to see at a glance what’s in there. The following function has you covered for this task. It returns a table with all values in column “Value” and additional columns describing where that value came from in a hierarchical form, no matter how deep the nesting goes:

Click through for a script which shows that the process is a lot more complicated than I had expected.

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