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What Are the Most Common Power BI Data Shaping Techniques?

Raw data is raw potential. It holds the key to a lot of insight, but until you shape that data and report it, it can’t communicate much. 

What Are the Most Common Power BI Data Shaping Techniques

This is where Power BI comes in. Microsoft created Power BI for data shaping and report creation. This way, organizations like yours can turn their raw data into something that’s powerful and helpful. 

So how do you shape that data? What are some of the most common ways to make your data work for you? Read on to learn more. In this post, we’ll cover some of the basics of data, the most common shaping techniques you can use, and other useful information that can help you as a report creator. 

Data Shaping in Power BI 

When you use Power BI, you can shape your data in the Power Query Editor window. In this space, virtually all of your data shaping techniques will involve either the “Transform” ribbon or right-clicking on specific data presentations. 

What is Data Shaping? 

“Data shaping” is the term for transforming data into usable queries. You can shape your data by choosing names for your columns and rows, converting text to numerals, and more. 

Basically, data shaping is what you use to change how you present your data. These techniques give you more control over what your data says to your readers. 

Note that the data shaping process will not impact your original data source. It only impacts the presentation. 


The Most Common Data Shaping Techniques 

As you work with your data in Power BI, you’ll notice lots of data shaping options, including the following possibilities: 

  • Removing columns and rows from a table 
  • Adding an index column to a table
  • Implementing a sort order 
  • Grouping rows 
  • Pivoting columns 
  • Creating custom columns 

The first three options are the most common data shaping techniques in Power BI, so let’s take a closer look at how you can use them. 

Removing Columns and Rows 

If you combine data (more on that later), you may find that some columns and rows provide redundant information or just don’t serve your purposes. In that case, you can get rid of the columns or rows that you don’t need. You can remove columns and rows with these steps: 

  • Select the column or row that you want to delete. 
  • Click on the “Home” tab. 
  • Click on “Remove Columns.” 

Adding Index Columns 

An index column lets you see your data in numerical order. Much like the index at the back of a book, an index in Power BI makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. Use the following steps to add an index column to a table: 

  • Click “Home.” 
  • Click “Edit Queries,” which will open up the Queries panel. 
  • Select the table that you would like to index. 
  • Click “Add Column.” 
  • Click “Index Column.” 
  • Click “File.” 
  • Click “Close and Apply.” 

Implementing a Sort Order 

By customizing a table’s sort order, you can draw attention to the pieces of data that matter most for your purposes. Here’s how you implement a particular sort order: 

  • Open the visual that you want to sort. 
  • Select the “More Options” (ellipsis) button. 
  • Select “Sort By.” 
  • Choose your preferred sorting order. 


Data Shaping vs. Data Modeling and Combining Data 

Now, as you get more and more familiar with data shaping, you’ll probably run into similar terms like “data modeling” and “data combining.” These similar terms often cause confusion among Power BI users. What are their differences? 

Data shaping is about how you present the data itself. Data modeling, on the other hand, is how you show the relationships between data tables. For example, the “Sales” category from one table will likely impact the “Inventory” category in the next. 

Meanwhile, combining data means consolidating two or more data sources. You can combine these sources by merging them or by appending a row from one data source onto another data source’s table. 


Schedule Your Reports with ChristianSteven Software 

Let’s say that you’ve shaped your data, modeled it, and even combined some data sets. Your data isn’t just raw potential anymore. You’ve emphasized the points that you want to emphasize. What happens next?

The next step is to communicate those points with your team so that you can start planning for actionable change. Unfortunately, for a lot of report creators, this is where the real challenge begins. Once you’ve turned your data into a report, you’ll want to distribute that report. You do have the option to share reports with other Power BI users. However, it’s unlikely that everyone in your organization who needs the report has a Power BI license. 

This problem leaves you with two options: 

  1. Buy a Power BI license for everyone in the organization. This option is highly expensive. Plus, if your team members only use Power BI sporadically and don’t create reports of their own, then it’s not a cost-effective option at all. 
  2. Distribute your reports manually. This option will keep you from spending unnecessary money, but it’ll cost you a lot of time that you could be spending on more productive tasks. 

At ChristianSteven Software, we have a simpler solution: our Power BI Report Scheduler software. PBRS lets you distribute your Power BI reports to anyone who needs them. You can automate your reports based on your schedule or particular triggers. Best of all, you can do all these actions with a single Power BI license. There’s no need to waste money on extra licenses or to waste time on manual report distribution. 


Start Your Free Trial of PBRS  

Ready to maximize your time by maximizing your Power BI capabilities? Then try PBRS for yourself. Start your free trial now or schedule a live demo so that one of our team members can walk you through the software. 

Have questions about PBRS or any of our other software options? We’re here to help. Visit our contact page to tell us about your software needs. The ChristianSteven team is ready to help you take your business intelligence efforts to the next level. 

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