What Is Power BI? A Definitive Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Power BI is a business analytics service that helps end users make their own reports and dashboards. Regardless of the type of business you want to monitor, knowing what Power BI is and how to use it can significantly improve the accuracy of your business reporting. Being able to use it to your advantage can therefore be a valuable skill. In this article, we discuss what Power BI is, explain what it's generally used for, explore its features and benefits and provide steps on how to use it.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is a collective name for a multitude of software services, apps and connectors that analyze data sources and provide relevant insights and conclusions. It was developed by Microsoft as part of its Power Platform and is generally a user-friendly solution for business organizations to collect, manage and analyze large amounts of data. Power BI pulls data from the sources and automatically processes it, returning relevant insights to users, usually in the form of charts and graphs.

There are several Power BI versions available, depending on individual needs and resources:

  • Power BI Desktop: This is a free Windows-based application for PCs and laptops, which small and medium-sized businesses typically use.

  • Power BI Service Pro: This is an enhanced version with paid per-user license, additional features and the option to share reports.

  • Power BI Service Premium: This version of the Power BI Service Pro is scalable to fit the needs of major businesses and enterprises.

  • Power BI Mobile: This is a device-based version for smartphones and tablets.

  • Power BI Embedded: Software publishers can embed this version in their apps as an alternative to building their own analytical tools.

  • Power BI Report Server: This version allows businesses to keep their data and reports on their own servers.

Related: How To Write a Power BI Developer Resume (With Tips, Template and Example)

What is Power BI used for?

Unlike most business intelligence products, which are usually only accessible to data scientists and business analysts, Power BI can also be easy to use by managers and employees who don't specialize in data analysis.

The reports it generates greatly depend on the type of data it receives, making it useful for many departments within organizations, such as marketing, sales, finance and human resources. They can input their own gathered data and receive relevant insights regarding their performance over a certain period. Large organizations typically employ business intelligence professionals to use Power BI to generate large-scale reports and insights that management can then share throughout the organization.

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Power BI features

Power BI consists of several apps with individual features, such as:

  • Power Query: This feature allows users to use and edit data from several sources to generate reports and insights.

  • Power Pivot: This tool helps users create data models.

  • Power View: This is a data visualization feature that generates interacted charts, graphs, maps and other visual representations of data.

  • Power Q&A: This question-and-answer engine allows users to directly ask questions about their data and receive comprehensive answers.

Related: 40 Power BI Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Benefits of using Power BI

Some of the most important benefits of using Power BI include:

  • It's quick and easy to use. Power BI is easy to set up and requires no specialized training for using it. This means that even employees who don't specialize in processing and analyzing data can quickly generate relevant conclusions and insights from large data sets.

  • It can provide real-time information. The dashboards that users generate in Power BI update in real time, based on newly added data from various sources. This allows users to quickly identify challenges and opportunities as they add new data.

  • Sharing reports and visualizations are easy and effective. Power BI doesn't only generate a static report or a visual representation of data. Analyses and reports uploaded into the Power BI service can update in real time based on new information, meaning that you don't have to generate and send a new file every time you update the dataset.

  • It's highly customizable. The Power BI app allows users to customize navigation paths for viewers, enabling them to create intuitive ways to help them quickly access the information they need.

  • It supports Cortana integration. You can link Power BI to Microsoft's digital assistant service, Cortana. This allows users to verbally ask questions in order to access various graphs and charts, which can be especially useful when using Power BI from a mobile device.

  • It has highly customizable security features. Those who create reports can create customized filters to make sure that viewers only see the data that's relevant to them.

Related: 10 Business Alignment Techniques for Organizational Success

How to use Power BI

Consider following these steps when using Power BI Desktop:

1. Install and run Power BI

The first step is to access Microsoft's Power BI download page and select the "Download Free" tab. If you need to download it in a different language, you can select "Set download or language options." After downloading and installing Power BI Desktop, you can run it and get the "Welcome" screen.

2. Introduce the data you want to analyze

Once the Power BI Desktop application is running, you can select the "Get Data" tab on the upper-right part of your screen. You can then choose from a multitude of data sources, such as databases, content packs, samples and various other files. You can also use cloud services and other types of online databases to collect your data.

3. Make a dashboard

After you input relevant data, you can use Power BI to generate meaningful insights within a dashboard. To do so, click in the "+" sign next to the "Dashboards" tab, enter a name for your new dashboard and connect it to a dataset. Power BI then generates a multitude of tiles, with each of them displaying a different visualization created from the datasets it analyzed. You can then delete, move, resize or rename each tile, making sure they only display relevant information.

4. Share the dashboard

Once the dashboard is complete, you can share it with whoever you think may require the generated insights. To be able to receive real-time information in the form of a Power BI dashboard, any interested party has to first sign up for Power BI on its website. To share your dashboard with someone who already has an account, you can select "Invite," type their email address, decide whether you allow them to share the dashboard further and click "Share."

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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