Learning Power BI and Free Stuff


I decided to use some of my time off over the holiday break to catch up on training (check out MS Ignite on-demand).  In particular, I’ve been working on a Power BI dashboard for a customer, and while I get the basics, wanted to start to learn some more advanced skills.  I took some Power BI courses through Lynda (check out my playlist) but wanted some more depth.

I typically like to read books to learn new things, especially ones that have a lot of hands on examples you can follow.  Then I stumbled on Reza Rad’s website.  He is a MVP that focuses on Power BI and related technologies.  What blew me away was that Reza is offering his book (Power BI: From Rookie to Rock Star).  To start, the book looks like it’s a compilation of various blog entries and some additional content (over 1,000 pages, and kept up to date).  Its broken in to topics that you can follow along fairly easily.  I did have to install SQL express and figure out a few things with a newer data set, but was impressed how much actually worked as-is.  Occasionally, I do wish he would go deeper or it seems like a few steps were skipped, but figuring out how to do things is what really makes you learn it. 

The fact that he gives it away is equally interesting.  Why free? He writes

I never write book for money, I write because I like to get a wider audience in front of me, and tell them about the great product, and best practices of doing things with that and so on. With famous publishers I would definitely get more audience. However when the content be available for free, and online then everyone would read it, search engines would direct audience to this content, and audience range will expand.

If you read his book, you will have no doubts on his experience and subject matter expertise. I do think this marketing strategy is a good way to get your audience hooked and builds credibility quickly – and may lead to spending more for his videos or live training. So, thanks Reza for sharing so much quality info to the Power BI community, this really helps those of us getting started!


Ever since I can remember, I’ve had challenges with organzation..and I’ve tried a lot of ‘gimmicks’ to figure out something that would help.  I tried paper calendars, sticky notes, virtual sticky notes, OneNote, Evernote, WunderList, Planner..nothing really worked for me.  I needed something that was easy and accessible.  Wunderlist came very close since it has a mobile client and a fairly simple model for tracking tasks. But, I mainly work in Outlook and it just felt very disconnected.

I decided to write a modern plug-in for it only to find out that Wunderlist was getting an official add-in.  This was better, but it still didn’t feel very integrated and it was slow.

Enter Microsoft To-Do

todoMicrosoft To-Do is the eventual replacement for Wunderlist (brought to you by the same team).  What makes it special is that it fully integrates with Office 365 Exchange Online – tasks. This means I can manage my tasks in Outlook and they will surface in To-Do, and vice-versa.  I can use the ‘Quick Step’ feature in Outlook to create a task from an email, or simply drag an email to the task icon.  If I’m mobile, then the Android To-Do app makes it easy to quickly add a new task as well. My routine still needs some work, but I set aside the first hour of my day to use To-Do to plan my day.  “My Day” lets you prioritize tasks with intelligent suggestions based on a smart algorithm.  The best part is when you complete a task you get a rewarding ‘ding’ sound.

Note that this is still in preview and must be enabled on your Office 365 tenant.  The instructions can be found here. There is some fine print to be aware of before enabling the feature. Once enabled, you can control who can use it through licenses at the user object level.

I encourage you to check it out – let me know what you think in the comments.




One of the greatest benefits (in my humble opinion) of Office 365 is having all your data in the cloud unlocks new capabilities. Easier sharing and data insights are a couple of examples.  One of the early features that took advantage of this centralized information storage is called ‘Delve’.  ‘Delve’ – the application let you know what others were working on (documents) and feeds.  Delve also provided some analytics, Delve Analytics, and the feature has evolved over time and is now ‘MyAnalytics’.


On a weekly basis I get an email with highlights of my week (real example shown below) and it also is surfaced in my Outlook client.  At first, my reaction was like a lot of my customers – turn this off.  However, as the feature has matured and I spent some time reviewing it and understanding its value, I completely changed my mind.


“If it can be measured, it can be fixed”

-Lots of people

While there is a lot of data here are the top two things that jumped out at me. First, is rethinking how I do things. One challenge is understanding and drawing conclusions from the raw data.


Working during meetings probably means I’m not really paying attention to the meeting. I’m guilty on more than one occasion not paying attention, someone calls on me, and I have to ask them repeat their question. Maybe I’m not really required to be in the meeting and use this as an oppourtunity rethink which meetings I actually accept.

A second example, which probably hits home for many of you, is email overload. I do a lot of email.  This graphic is one snip from my data.  There is a great new feature that breaks this down by people, but to protect the innocent I won’t show it here.


This may look like a familiar pattern to some of you.  Once the family goes to bed, work can begin.  The system also give you some strategies for changing your behavior: