Regardless of what stage you are at in your Power BI/Power Pivot/Power Query journey, at some stage you are going to need some help. Believe me I am no different to you – even I have learnt that way. And over the last few years I have trained hundreds of candidates on Power BI/Power Pivot/Power Query and my teaching skills improved while I was interacting with the students.
There are basically 3 options that I want to talk about today
- Microsoft support
- PRO: It’s free if you have a software licence
- CON: It only applies to software bugs
- Free help via forums
- PRO: It’s free for everyone
- CON: You may not get a reply at all
- CON: The timeliness of any reply may not meet your needs
- CON: The effort to create desensitised data may not be practicable
There are good ways and not so good ways to ask for free help. I going to explain “How” you should go about getting help via forums in this article.
- Commercial help
- PRO: You can share sensitive information under an NDA
- PRO: It can be more timely
- PRO: You can talk live to someone
- CON: It is not free
Let me cover each of these along with some tips on how to get the best results.
This is really only an option if you have a bug (or something you think is a bug). Even if it is a bug, there is no guarantee that Microsoft can or will fix it quickly. But at least you will know one way or another what the problem is. I recently had unexpected behaviour in Power Pivot after an upgrade. I contacted support and the guy that helped me was excellent. He connected to my PC, analysed the problem as being caused by a failed upgrade and then helped me reinstall.
If you need to contact Microsoft Support, you can do so here
Power BI Support https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/support/
Power Pivot/Excel https://support.microsoft.com/en-us
First click on the Office link.
Then select “contact office support”.
Free Help via Forums
Forums are one of the best ways to get free help. I personally have helped thousands of people on forums over the years and I have to say I have probably learnt more myself as a result of that experience than via any other single class of learning. When you help others, you learn yourself.
If you are going to ask for help on a forum, I strongly recommend you take the following approach.
You should always …
You are asking someone to help you for free. With this in mind:
- Ask your question clearly and completely. You know your problem well, other people do not.
- Explain the root problem rather than ask for help to solve a small piece of the problem using the approach that you think you need. Sometimes (often) the reason you are stuck is because you are not going about the problem the right way. If you explain the root problem you are trying to solve, it makes it much easier for someone (probably with more experience than you) to determine if you are going about this the right way, and also to understand the big picture.
- Provide a small sample workbook containing realistic sample (non-sensitive) data.
- If the forum supports you attaching the workbook (like PowerPivotForum.com.au), then do that. If not, you should use a Dropbox link or something similar to attach the sample workbook.
- Do as much as you can to solve the problem in the sample workbook until the point you are stuck. Don’t expect the free helper to do the set up for you.
- Create a simulation of the output you are after using regular Excel – that way everyone can see what you are trying to achieve.
- Don’t get frustrated at the person that is trying to help you if they misunderstand or don’t solve the problem the first time.
- If your problem is solved, thank the person that helps you and make it clear that the problem is solved. Some forums (like community.powerbi.com) have a Kudos concept. If you have found someone else’s post to be helpful to you, give them Kudos by clicking the thumbs up to say thanks.
- Some forums allow you to mark a problem as solved. Doing this means helpers don’t waste their time reading posts that are already solved. In addition other people with a similar problem are more likely to read a post if it is solved. If the forum doesn’t have this, then you can often edit the post title with a [SOLVED] prepended so everyone knows this is fixed.
You should avoid …
- Do not post on multiple forums. Many of the helpers work on a number of forums. If you can’t get help on one forum, then post on another forum but make sure you add a cross link from the original post to the new post so that there is no duplication of effort.
- Do not post a question and then never come back to see if anyone has helped.
- Don’t ask “how do I write this formula” without providing full details of the data model. DAX formulas only make sense in the context of the tables in the data model. A formula without the table structure is completely meaningless. As an analogy, let me ask “is the temperature 35 degrees good or bad?”. Of course it is impossible to answer this question unless the context is clear. It is the same if you ask how to write a formula without providing information about the tables and relationships in your data model. Best option is to provide a sample (as mentioned above) or at least a picture of the table structure.
The Best Forums for Free Help
I personally frequent the following forums and in my experience they are the best places to go for help.
This is the only option out of the three I have discussed where you will need to pay, however there are lots of benefits of paying money for good quality training/coaching/support.
- It can be more timely than waiting for free online help. Delays, rework and mistakes cost you time and money too.
- You can share sensitive data (with a Non Disclosure Agreement in place) saving time in prepare sample workbooks etc.
- You can talk live to the person providing the support and have a deeper review and discussion about the problems. In my experience it is often that the “real problem” is something structural deeper beneath the surface and these issues may not be realised with free forum help.
- You can get coaching development at the same time as you fix your problem helping you learn and making you more sufficient over time.
However DAX (Data Analysis Expressions) that is formula language in Power BI and Power Pivot for Excel is not easy to learn on your own. If you need to kick-start your Power BI journey, take my word, better have guided learning.
While it is not the primary purpose of this blog article to promote my commercial training, coaching and support services, you can choose any of my following offerings.
- Read my books – Supercharge Power BI or Supercharge Excel. Both these books cover the same content and make you learn to write DAX with plenty of solved examples and practice exercises. The only difference between the two books is the UI used to explain the concepts. While Supercharge Power BI is written using Power BI Desktop, Supercharge Excel is written using Excel 2016.
- Enroll to my Supercharge Power BI Online training. I conduct this guided learning course semester wise with weekly Q&A sessions with me for 5 weeks.
- If you need to do a lot work on getting the data and cleaning it regularly, then Power Query makes the job easy for you without any repetitive tasks. You can enroll to my Power Query Online training to learn how to use Power Query and the many tips and tricks you can do with Power Query.
- If you are residing in Australia you can enroll to my live trainings that I conduct throughout the year in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
- If you are residing in any other place in Australia and/or if you have more members attending from your organisation, you can opt for Corporate Inhouse Training. In this case, it is also possible to provide you training tailored to your specific requirements. You can have a chat with me to discuss your requirements.
- If you want online support to solve your business problems, you can avail my services (for Power BI, Power Pivot and Power Query) and would be happy to chat with you whenever you need help.
In the last two cases we can sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) to safe guard your sensitive data.