Power BI and R – Part 1 (Intro)

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Power BI and R

First we got Get Data through R Script in beta.
Not much later, we got Custom Visuals through R Script as well.

Everyone was happy…
Twitter went crazy with happiness…
No blogs followed…

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the integration of R in Power BI, when no living creature can speak ill of R, a Question of how to use it will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered.”

SilenceWillFall

Read on to learn why R is included in Power BI and if it is something you should even care about. (hint: of course! 😉 )


Let’s play pretend for a second.
Let’s pretend that you and I know almost nothing about R. I don’t think that’s very difficult to do.
Most, if not all, SQL Server / Business Intelligence people that I know aren’t fluent in R.
We might know the concepts because a while ago we successfully followed a R programming course through EdX, Coursera or even DataCamp.

But let’s be honest, that was quite a while ago.
And your employer or customer wasn’t crazy about that idea to completely replace their current BI environment with R.
So that’s why you haven’t really used R in a while.

But fret not, here’s a quick introduction.

R is this Kiwi programming language that has been mainly used by statisticians since the start of the 1990’s.
It actually only takes a couple of minutes to learn, the basics are really that easy!
Learning all the possibilities and packages will probably take you a lifetime to master.

But no worries, to use R in Power BI you can just redo one of those R programming courses to refresh your memory.

Why learn R?

To summarize, lately R has been incredibly popular thanks to the rise of “Data Science” and all related concepts.

primary-analytics-language-2015-r-python[1]

Source: KDNuggets.com

Keep in mind that this poll only had a limited number of responses, as in only 512 responses in 2015 and a whopping 719 responses in 2014.
So is R really becoming more popular?
The graph below comes close enough to answering that question and it uses a larger source for it’s poll: Google scholar documents.
But it doesn’t include the much more popular SPSS for example. Click the source link for the full graph.

fig_2c_scholarlyimpactbig6[1]

Source: R4Stats.com

Fact is, R is here to stay. Even Microsoft has integrated R with SQL Server 2016 and it has made R scripting possible in it’s great Azure Machine Learning service.
So it was only a matter of time before we were going to see R integrated in Power BI.

And it’s a good thing, just look at all the beautiful visualizations possible with R packages. This post on the Revolution Analytics blog has just a couple of examples and links to even more.

10-filled-contour-colors[1]

The 2.0 version of the ggplot2 package and the new ggplot2 cheat sheet are just another example of the crazy things that are possible in R and the enormous community around R.

unnamed-chunk-10-2[1]


Advantage of R in Power BI

As we’re all aware, there are different types of users for Power BI.

  • The regular users
    • Report Creators & Consumers
      • AKA, Mary the receptionist
    • Report Consumers
      • AKA, Steve the CEO
  • The data analysts
    • AKA, Eli the analyst
  • The developers
    • AKA, Bill the programmer

R integration clearly is a feature that only the smartest of data analysts will use to develop reports. And I am convinced that the inclusion of R visuals is something good.
It opens up the creation of custom visualizations to not only developers but also to data analysts.
Even if it’s on a whole different level, the end result is the same: a better user experience.
Mary and Steve will be able to pin that cool R visual to their dashboard.

And who knows, perhaps a simplified cheat sheet might let Mary create R visualizations as well!


Conclusion

For now, we – the Power BI community – will first have to build some pretty cool things with R and Power BI. This same level of building cool things worked out great for custom visualizations.

if-you-build-it-they-will-come-1[1]

What are your thoughts on R integration in Power BI?
Have you used it yet?

Leave a comment or respond on Twitter or LinkedIn!

Check out part 2 over here

Series NavigationPower BI and R – Part 2 (Remarks and errors) >>

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