A quick guide to Power BI: unlocking the power of your data

  • Microsoft

Microsoft Power Platform is a low code platform that enables users to build end to end business solutions through: Analyse, Act, Automate and Assist. Users can gain insights by analysing data through Power BI.

Transforming data into insights with Microsoft Power Platform 

Microsoft Power Platform is a low code platform that enables users to build end to end business solutions through: Analyse, Act, Automate and Assist. Users can gain insights by analysing data through Power BI, build solutions to business challenges with Power Apps, streamline process with no-code automation with Power Automatehandle routine enquiries at scale with conversational AI of Power Virtual Agents and create a window into content via portal or websites with Power Pages. 

Power BI is the first and the most mature ‘member’ of the Power Platform family as its existence came long before Power Platform. Power BI was first released to general public in September 2015 with Microsoft’s primary focus on business analytics. 


Power BI is an integrated suite of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights . The suite includes Power BI Desktop, Power BI Service, and Power BI Mobile, which work in concert to deliver powerful business analytics solutions. Over time, Microsoft has made significant enhancements to Power BI's capabilities, with the following being among the most noteworthy. 

Connection to a variety of data sources  

Power BI's ‘Get Data’ function allows you to connect to hundreds of data sources, both on-premises and through the cloud. Thanks to this, you can easily get a consolidated view of your data no matter where the data actually lives 


Transformation of data with Power Query 

Data is rarely in the right format for analysis and Power BI provides powerful capabilities to shape, transform and clean data before analysing and visualising it using Power Query. Users can easily merge, join, append queries in a few clicks from Power Query Editor in Power BI Desktop. It’s designed to be a low/no-code experience, therefore, even users without SQL knowledge can easily transform data from different sources 


Visualisation of data using drag and drop canvas 

Users can experiment different ways of visualising their data by selecting from a number of visualisation types and different chart types. You can also build your own custom visualisations using R or Python and add them to Power BI reports.

  

Sharing data and bringing data to life with ease 

Once the reports have been built in Power BI Desktop, you can publish your report to Power BI service and share it with a broader audience. Power BI service also allows users to create an app from your selected workspace and users within your organisation can install the app and access to Power BI reports and dashboards. This function, however, is only available with Power BI Pro or Premium licenses.  


Working with real-time data 

Real-time or near real-time data is vital to business decision making process and Power BI offers two options for real-time reporting. Introduced in October 2019, Automatic Page Refresh is a feature that allows Power BI Desktop to have data refreshed as frequently as one second. Also, using streaming data flow also helps users to connect to, transform and build reports based on streaming near real-tie data directly in the Power BI service. Additionally, if you connect to data using Direct Query, once the report is published to Power BI Service, your data is also in real-time.  


Asking questions about data 

The Q&A capability in Power BI offers users the fastest way to get data insights by using natural language to ask questions and get the answers in the form of charts and graphs. Q&A is only available with a Pro and Premium licenses. 

 

Integration with other Microsoft Power Platform ‘members’ 

Power BI provides capabilities to trigger a Power Automate flow or embed a Power Apps Canvas App as a visual in Power BI reports. By embedding a Canvas App in Power BI reports, users can interact and take actions with data right away without passing the ball around to another department or team for data update. Also, Power BI reports can also be easily embedded in a model-driven app to allows users to access data without getting out of their current app.  


Monthly updates and large community support 

Since its launch in July 2015, Microsoft has continued to invest massively in developing and improving Power BI by adding monthly feature updates. Microsoft also listens to feedback and suggestions from community to make sure new Power BI features come from end users’ needs and requirements. Users can vote for Power BI ideas here. 


With its powerful analytic capabilities of Power BI as well as widely use across organisations and businesses around the world Microsoft has been positioned furthest to the right for Completeness of Vision and highest in the Ability to Execute within the Leaders quadrant for the 4th consecutive year in the March 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platform.  

The list of features can go on and on, but Power BI has proven itself to be the top analytical tool for business around the world with Power BI having been used by 97% of Fortune 500 companies. Power BI has democratised Business intelligence and data insight for everyday workers. This continues to spark imagination and creativity of data enthusiasts around the world.  

 


 

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