Power BI is a cloud based Business Intelligence service offered by Microsoft. Although primarily cloud and browser based there’s also a Power BI Desktop tool available for download from the Power BI website; this brings powerful BI capabilities right to our desktops…..and it’s currently free!
We can use Power BI to create highly attractive and interactive Reports and Dashboards. We can also use it to develop the entire end to end BI solution including the data extraction, data cleansing and data modelling.
Power BI gives us access to Microsoft’s Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View technologies outside of Excel (see the link above for more information on these Excel add-ins). However the Power BI versions of these are much more advanced and powerful.
The other great news is that Microsoft releases updates and enhancements for Power BI every month, giving us access to more data sources and more features with each release.
A full end to end BI solution would consist of a:
- Data Set which connects to and imports data into Power BI, transforms the data where required and then presents it in the form of a data model ready for reporting. Calculated columns and Measures are added to the data model using a formula language called DAX. These are a key part of the solution as they allow users to perform further analysis on the data
- One or more Reports which can present data in many different visualisations including; column charts, bar charts, pie charts, funnels, tree maps, waterfall charts and 2-D maps…..to name a few.
- One or more Dashboards which can display data visualisations from multiple reports. The dashboard present us with a summary of the reports, and allows us to click through to a report by clicking on a visualisation.
What Power BI doesn’t give us us spreadsheet and pivot table functionality – which we use fore more ad-hoc and deep dive analytics. We would use Excel alongside Power BI for to meet these requirements.
Power BI report produced in Power BI desktop