Tutorial: Build a Machine Learning model in Power BI

In this tutorial article, you use Automated Machine Learning to create and apply a binary prediction model in Power BI. The tutorial includes guidance for creating a Power BI dataflow, and using the entities defined in the dataflow to train and validate a machine learning model directly in Power BI. We then use that model for scoring new data to generate predictions.

First, you'll create a Binary Prediction machine learning model, to predict the purchase intent of online shoppers based on a set of their online session attributes. A benchmark machine learning dataset is used for this exercise. Once a model is trained, Power BI will automatically generate a validation report explaining the model results. You can then review the validation report and apply the model to your data for scoring.

This tutorial consists of following steps:

  • Create a dataflow with the input data
  • Create and train a machine learning model
  • Review the model validation report
  • Apply the model to a dataflow entity
  • Using the scored output from the model in a Power BI report

Create a dataflow with the input data

The first part of this tutorial is to create a dataflow with input data. That process takes a few steps, as shown in the following sections, beginning with getting data.

Get data

The first step in creating a dataflow is to have your data sources ready. In our case, we use a machine learning dataset from a set of online sessions, some of which culminated in a purchase. The dataset contains a set of attributes about these sessions, which we'll use for training our model.

You can download the dataset from the UC Irvine website. We also have this available, for the purpose of this tutorial, from the following link: online_shoppers_intention.csv.

Create the entities

To create the entities in your dataflow, sign into the Power BI service and navigate to a workspace on your dedicated capacity that has AI enabled.

If you don't already have a workspace, you can create one by selecting Workspaces in the nav pane menu in the Power BI service, and select Create workspace at the bottom of the panel that appears. This opens a panel on the right to enter the workspace details. Enter a workspace name and select Advanced. Confirm that the workspace uses Dedicated Capacity using the radio button, and that it's assigned to a dedicated capacity instance that has the AI preview turned on. Then select Save.

Create a workspace

Once the workspace is created, you can select Skip in the bottom right of the Welcome screen, as shown in the following image.

Skip if you have a workspace

Select the Create button at the top right of the workspace, and then select Dataflow.

Create dataflow

Select Add new entities. This launches a Power Query editor in the browser.

Add new entity

Select Text/CSV File as a data source, shown in the following image.

Text/CSF file selected

In the Connect to a data source page that appears next, paste the following link to the online_shoppers_intention.csv into the File path or URL box, and then select Next.


File path

The Power Query Editor shows a preview of the data from the CSV file. You can rename the query to a friendlier name by changing the value in the Name box found in the right pane. For example, you could change the Query name to Online Visitors.

Change to a friendly name

Power Query automatically infers the type of columns. You can change the column type by clicking on the attribute type icon at the top of the column header. In this example, we change the type of the Revenue column to True/False.

Change data type

Select the Save & close button to close Power Query Editor. Provide a name for the dataflow, and then select Save on the dialog, as shown in the following image.

Save the dataflow

Create and train a machine learning model

To add a machine learning model, Select the Apply ML model button in the Actions list for the base entity that contains your training data and label information, and then select Add a machine learning model.

Add a machine learning model

The first step for creating our machine learning model is to identify the historical data including the outcome field that you want to predict. The model will be created by learning from this data.

In the case of the dataset we're using, this is the Revenue field. Select Revenue as the 'Outcome field' value and then select Next.

Select historical data

Next, we must select the type of machine learning model to create. Power BI analyzes the values in the outcome field that you've identified and suggests the types of machine learning models that can be created to predict that field.

In this case since we're predicting a binary outcome of whether a user will make a purchase or not, Binary Prediction is recommended. Since we are interested in predicting users who will make a purchase, select True as the Revenue outcome that you're most interested in. Additionally, you can provide friendly labels for the outcomes to be used in the automatically generated report that will summarize the results of the model validation. Then select Next.

Binary prediction selected

Next, Power BI does a preliminary scan of a sample of your data and suggests the inputs that may produce more accurate predictions. If Power BI doesn't recommend a field, an explanation would be provided next to it. You have the option to change the selections to include only the fields you want the model to study, or you can select all the fields by selecting the checkbox next to the entity name. Select Next to accept the inputs.

Select the Next checkbox

In the final step, we must provide a name for our model. Name the model Purchase Intent Prediction. You can choose to reduce the training time to see quick results or increase the amount of time spent in training to get the best model. Then select Save and train to start training the model.

Save the model

The training process will begin by sampling and normalizing your historical data and splitting your dataset into two new entities Purchase Intent Prediction Training Data and Purchase Intent Prediction Testing Data.

Depending on the size of the dataset, the training process can take anywhere from a few minutes to the training time selected at the previous screen. At this point, you can see the model in the Machine learning models tab of the dataflow. The Ready status indicates that the model has been queued for training or is under training.

You can confirm that the model is being trained and validated through the status of the dataflow. This appears as a data refresh in progress in the Dataflows tab of the workspace.

Ready for training

Once the model training is completed, the dataflow displays an updated refresh time. You can confirm that the model is trained, by navigating to the Machine learning models tab in the dataflow. The model you created should show status as Trained and the Last Trained time should now be updated.

Last trained on

Review the model validation report

To review the model validation report, in the Machine learning models tab, select the View training report button in the Actions column for the model. This report describes how your machine learning model is likely to perform.

In the Model Performance page of the report, select See top predictors to view the top predictors for your model. You can select one of the predictors to see how the outcome distribution is associated with that predictor.

Model performance

You can use the Probability Threshold slicer on the Model Performance page to examine its influence on the Precision and Recall for the model.

Probability threshold

The other pages of the report describe the statistical performance metrics for the model.

The report also includes a Training Details page that describes the different iterations that were run, how features were extracted from the inputs, and the hyperparameters for the final model used.

Apply the model to a dataflow entity

Select the Apply model button at the top of the report to invoke this model. In the Apply dialog, you can specify the target entity that has the source data to which the model should be applied.

Apply the model

When prompted, you must Refresh the dataflow to preview the results of your model.

Applying the model will create two new entities, with the suffix enriched <model_name> and enriched <model_name> explanations. In our case, applying the model to the Online Visitors entity will create Online Visitors enriched Purchase Intent Prediction which includes the predicted output from the model, and Online Visitors enriched Purchase Intent Prediction explanations which contains top record-specific influencers for the prediction.

Applying a Binary Prediction model adds four columns with predicted outcome, probability score, the top record-specific influencers for the prediction, and explanation index each prefixed with the column name specified.

Three columns of outcome

Once the dataflow refresh is completed, you can select the Online Visitors enriched Purchase Intent Prediction entity to view the results.

View the results

Using the scored output from the model in a Power BI report

To use the scored output from your machine learning model you can connect to your dataflow from the Power BI desktop, using the Dataflows connector. The Online Visitors enriched Purchase Intent Prediction entity can now be used to incorporate the predictions from your model in Power BI reports.

Next steps

In this tutorial, you created and applied a binary prediction model in Power BI using these steps:

  • Create a dataflow with the input data
  • Create and train a machine learning model
  • Review the model validation report
  • Apply the model to a dataflow entity
  • Using the scored output from the model in a Power BI report

For more information about Machine Learning automation in Power BI, see Automated Machine Learning in Power BI.