What is Microsoft Power BI?

Simply put Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence software that gives users the ability to pull in massive amounts of data from a variety of sources –  in order to organize, analyze, visualize and share it in a user-friendly way.

User-friendly being the operative word.

Gone are the days where data analysis was limited to the most tech savvy IT experts in an organization – Power BI was built especially for the end user in mind (more on this later).

Power BI connects dissimilar data sets, cleans it up and transforms it into a cohesive data model.

These data sets can then be displayed using the Power BI “dashboard.” The dashboard is a single snapshot (or “canvas”) of the most important metrics to a business – which can be displayed in the following ways:

  • Area Charts
  • Bar Charts
  • Clustered Column Charts
  • Combo Charts
  • Doughnut Charts
  • Funnel Charts
  • Gauge Charts
  • Line Charts
  • Pie Charts
  • Scatter Charts
  • Waterfall Charts

Imagine having a birds-eye view of a business’s key drivers – from sales and revenue to productivity and kpi’s – in the form of interactive, custom visuals that are shareable and accessible by anyone in the business (with the right permissions, of course).

These interactive visuals can even be integrated with API’s that give real time updates.

What is Power BI Used For – Key Features and Benefits

1. Cloud Integration For Complete Data Management

Business users can pull in data from many different places such as Excel, on-prem data sources and SQL databases – as well as cloud services like Azure, SalesForce, Google Analytics, Oracle and many more.

Having all of this data under one (cloud) roof allows for improved security and accessibility, as well as additional measures for backup – all this while being cheaper to maintain than on-premise servers.

2. Key Business Drivers

Power BI users don’t have to worry about blind spots in key business metrics. Gathering insights and keeping the most important data front and center is easy through the drag-and-drop features of the dashboard.

Even more powerful is BI’s predictive forecasting that helps data analysts and business users visualize future performance such as risk factors and revenue forecast – this allows for the opportunity to make better data-driven decisions.

3. Power BI Report Flexibility

Different from the dashboard “canvas” BI can generate multi-page reports from a single data set, with many different ways to filter, highlight and slice the information. The user can also see the tables, fields and values depending on their permission levels.

Power BI is accessible on desktop, web services and mobile devices.

4. Security and Permissions

Power BI uses oAuth 2.0 protocol and row-level security to restrict access within the dashboard – including datasets, individual tiles and reports. 

Users with admin level access can set the parameters for access to every report, in order to ensure security best practices. Once these have been set the reports can be freely shared between departments or with external parties like investors and shareholders.

5. Natural Language Q&A

Sifting through data and fleshing out the right information has never been easier. Power BI lets the user perform searches through all datasets using a Q&A function – this can also help identify interesting paths to look into as new visualizations are discovered.

For example some commands could be:

  • What type of sale has the highest revenue?
  • Show me the top 10 products by sales in the last 12 months
  • What are sales in California vs New York?
  • Show me sales by product as a bar chart

While there are still some issues with navigating this feature, Microsoft is constantly updating the system based on direct user experience and feedback.

Is Power BI The Right Choice?

We get it, there’s a lot to consider here – so let’s break down some of the more common questions that people have before pulling the trigger on BI software.

How Much Does Power BI Cost?

When it comes to licensing the product, users have a few options. To start, Power BI desktop and Power BI mobile app are free and included at all price points. Here is a breakdown of those options and main features.:

Power BI Pro – Licensed at $9.99/month per user, this is primarily for small to medium-sized businesses. 

It includes cloud integration, report publishing, team collaboration, file sharing and full analysis. Cloud management is also fully done by Microsoft.

Power BI Premium – Licensed at $4,995/month per dedicated cloud compute, this is primarily for medium to large enterprises. 

It includes advanced analytics, support for big data, as well as cloud and on-prem reporting (through Power BI Report Server).

Getting access to the advantages of power bi data is not just a paid service – a free option for Power BI desktop is also available for users testing the waters. This is available to single users and includes data scrubbing, data organization, customized visuals and publishing to Power BI Service. 

How Long Does it Take to Learn Power BI?

While there is no hard and fast rule for how long it will take to learn Power BI, Microsoft does have a mission with its user experience – to create a BI software that appeals to technical and non-technical users.

Tech savvy users will appreciate that Excel is fully compatible, as Power BI was originally built off of Excel platform. This means that if a user is familiar with Excel formulas and equations they can carry that knowledge over to BI.

However if a user is less technical its okay – BI was also meant to allow any employee in an organization to interact with the software in order to make more informed decisions.

Plus, access to Microsoft Power BI guide online and a ton of forums and BI communities where users leave feedback is always a solid backup.

Navigating Power BI, Big Data and Office 365 Integration

Figuring out how to maximize Power BI for big data, predictive analytics can still be a massive challenge for most users. Despite Microsoft’s best efforts to create an absolutely user-friendly experience, there is still a steep learning curve for some.

The right Power BI consulting company can give you the tools necessary to make sense of it all – with tailor-made solutions to help spot lucrative trends and mitigate risk. 

Still Not Sure If Power BI Is Right For You?