Microsoft Power BI

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence (BI) platform that provides nontechnical business users with tools for aggregating, analyzing, visualizing and sharing data. Power BI’s user interface is fairly intuitive for users familiar with Excel, and its deep integration with other Microsoft products makes it a versatile self-service tool that requires little upfront training.

Users can download Power BI for Windows 10 or Windows 11, called Power BI Desktop, and native mobile apps for Windows, Android and Apple iOS devices. There is also Power BI Report Server for companies that must maintain their data and reports on premises. That version of Power BI requires a special version of the desktop app — aptly called Power BI Desktop for Power BI Report Server.

Why is Microsoft Power BI popular?

A few factors make Power BI stand out as an option for businesses requiring BI capabilities. Power BI provides compelling and customizable visuals and requires little in the way of prior analytics or software experience. Many, if not all departments in an organization can use its capabilities, which include these popular ones:

  • Usability. Power BI’s user-friendly interface and navigation mean it has a simple learning curve for nontechnical business users, who are empowered to create data visuals with a few clicks and no programming experience.
  • Affordability. Power BI is offered through different pricing plans so companies of all sizes can take advantage of its capabilities without worrying too much about budgetary constraints.
  • Visualizations. Business leaders make use of data storytelling and visually enticing displays that help them communicate with clients, employees and other stakeholders.
  • Customization and interactivity. Power BI lets users customize and interact with graphs, charts and other visualizations displaying their data. These features are useful in a number of ways to many different users.

What is Power BI used for?

Microsoft Power BI is used to find insights within an organization’s data. It can help connect disparate data sets, transform and clean the data into a data model and create charts or graphs to provide visuals of the data. All of this can be shared with other Power BI users within the organization.

Data models created from Power BI can be used in several ways, including the following:

  • Telling stories through charts and data visualizations.
  • Examining what-if scenarios within the data.
  • Creating reports that answer questions in real time and help with forecasting to make sure departments meet business metrics.

Power BI also provides executive dashboards for administrators and managers, giving management more insight into how departments are doing.

What are the advantages of Power BI?

Multiple advantages make Power BI an attractive option for businesses looking to explore their data through BI visualizations, patterns and insights. These include the following:

  • Accessibility. Both nontechnical and technical audiences can easily use Power BI. Its range of pricing options makes it available to businesses with smaller budgets as well as larger enterprises.
  • Integrations. Power BI’s ability to integrate with software such as Excel and other Microsoft applications means it can work with data from various sources.
  • Customer support. Microsoft offers customer support for those in need of troubleshooting and assistance.
  • Customization. The ability to create custom visuals adds value for businesses looking to capture and visualize important relationships or patterns found in complex data sets.
  • Collaboration. Power BI is built to facilitate collaboration, for example, among different teams within an organization.
  • Scalability. Power BI can support large-scale data sets, making it suitable for enterprises as well as small businesses.

What are key features of Power BI?

Microsoft has added several data analytics features to Power BI since its inception and continues to do so. Some of the most important features include the following:

  • Artificial intelligence. Users can access AI-powered image recognition and text analytics in Power BI. They can also create machine learning models using automated capabilities and integrate with Azure Machine Learning. Power BI’s Q&A functionality allows users to ask questions and receive responses about data through natural language processing, a branch of AI associated with chatbots. Also, Microsoft is in the process of integrating Copilot, its AI-powered chatbot, into Power BI, giving users the ability to ask questions about data and create custom reports.
  • Hybrid deployment support. This feature provides built-in connectors that allow Power BI tools to connect with a number of different data sources from Microsoft, Salesforce and other vendors.
  • Quick Insights. This feature allows users to create subsets of data and automatically apply analytics to that information.
  • Common data model support. Support for the common data model lets Power BI use a standardized and extensible collection of data schemas, including entities, attributes and relationships.
  • Customization. This feature allows developers to change the appearance of default visualization and reporting tools and import new tools into the platform.
  • APIs for integration. Developers use sample code and APIs to embed the Power BI dashboard in other software products.
  • Self-service data prep. Using Power Query, business analysts can ingest, transform, integrate and enrich big data into the Power BI web service. Ingested data can be shared across multiple Power BI models, reports and dashboards.
  • Modeling view. Users can divide complex data models by subject area into separate diagrams, select multiple objects, set common properties, view and modify properties in the properties pane, and set display folders for simpler consumption of complex data models.

How to use Power BI

Power BI Desktop is where analysts and other users can create data connections, data models and reports. The Power BI service is where those reports can be shared, so other users can view and interact with them.

To build a Power BI report, users must take the following steps:

  • Connect their data sources.
  • Query the data to create reports based on user needs.
  • Publish the report to the Power BI service.
  • Share the report, so cloud and mobile users can see and interact with it.
  • Add permissions to give or limit colleagues’ ability to edit reports and create dashboards.

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