Salesforce to Power BI

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Salesforce and analyze it in Power BI. (If the mechanics of extracting data from Salesforce seem too complex or difficult to maintain, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Salesforce?

Salesforce, a cloud-based software-as-a-service platform, is the most popular CRM application in use today. Salesforce is amazingly customizable, has tons of integration functionality, and includes almost too many bells and whistles to count. Companies can use it to do everything from managing account planning to time management and team collaboration.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is Microsoft’s business intelligence offering. It's a powerful platform that includes capabilities for data modeling, visualization, dashboarding, and collaboration. Many enterprises that use Microsoft's other products can get easy access to Power BI and choose it for its convenience, security, and power.

With high-value use cases across analysts, IT, business users, and developers, Power BI offers a comprehensive set of functionality that has consistently landed Microsoft in Gartner's "Leaders" quadrant for Business Intelligence.

Getting data out of Salesforce

Step one is to get all of that data out of Salesforce. Salesforce provides many APIs for its products that can deliver data on accounts, leads, tasks, and more. You can find a list of APIs on one of the company's helpdesk posts with some direction on when and how to use each API. By looking through that post, you can get an idea of which API makes the most sense for your use case.

For our purposes, we'll use the REST API with SOQL (Salesforce Object Query Language), but the same data is available using other protocols, including streaming for real-time receipt of data.

Sample Salesforce data

The Salesforce Rest API can return JSON- or XML-formatted data depending on your preference. Here's what a sample response might look like in JSON format:

{
    "done" : true,
    "totalSize" : 14,
    "records" : 
    [ 
        {  
            "attributes" : 
            {    
                "type" : "Account",    
                "url" : "/services/data/v20.0/sobjects/Account/001D000000IRFmaIAH"  
            },  
            "Name" : "Test 1"
        }, 
        {  
            "attributes" : 
            {    
                "type" : "Account",    
                "url" : "/services/data/v20.0/sobjects/Account/001D000000IomazIAB"  
            },  
            "Name" : "Test 2"
        }, 

        ...

    ]
}

Loading data into Power BI

You can analyze any data in Power BI, as long as that data exists in a data warehouse that's connected to your Power BI account. The most common data warehouses include Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Snowflake. Microsoft also has its own data warehousing platform called Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

Connecting these data warehouses to Power BI is relatively simple. The Get Data menu in the Power BI interface allows you to import data from a number of sources, including static files and data warehouses. You'll find each of the warehouses mentioned above among the options in the Database list. The Power BI documentation provides more details on each.

Analyzing data in Power BI

In Power BI, each table in the data warehouse you connect is known as a dataset, and the analyses conducted on these datasets are known as reports. To create a report, use Power BI’s report editor, a visual interface for building and editing reports.

The report editor guides you through several selections in the course of building a report: the visualization type, fields being used in the report, filters being applied, any formatting you wish to apply, and additional analytics you may wish to layer onto your report, such as trendlines or averages. You can explore all of the features related to analyzing and tracking data in the Power BI documentation.

Once you've created a report, Power BI lets you share it with report "consumers" in your organization.

Keeping Salesforce data up to date

At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.

Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Salesforce.

And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Salesforce modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.

From Salesforce to your data warehouse: An easier solution

As mentioned earlier, the best practice for analyzing Salesforce data in Power BI is to store that data inside a data warehousing platform alongside data from your other databases and third-party sources. You can find instructions for doing these extractions for leading warehouses on our sister sites Salesforce to Redshift, Salesforce to BigQuery, and Salesforce to Snowflake.

Easier yet, however, is using a solution that does all that work for you. Products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Salesforce data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into a data warehouse that can be easily accessed and analyzed by Power BI.