What Is Power BI? Definition, Features And Benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 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 information people hope to monitor, knowing what this tool is and how to use it can significantly improve the accuracy of business reporting. Learning about this can help you decide if this analytical software can help you with your data reporting. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is Power BI?', explain what you might use it for, explore its features and benefits and provide steps on how to use it.

What Is Power BI?

The answer to 'What is Power BI?' is that it is a collective name for a multitude of software services, apps and connectors that analyse 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 organisations to collect, manage and analyse 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 licence, 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.

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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 do not specialise in data analysis.

The reports it generates greatly depend on the type of data it receives, making it useful for many departments within organisations, 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 organisations typically employ business intelligence professionals to use Power BI to generate large-scale reports and insights that management can then share throughout the organisation.

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Power BI Features

This application suite has several features that you can use or ignore depending on your business needs. Here are some of the individual features you might explore in the software:

  • Power Query: Power Query is a feature that allows you to transform data. You can include this as an add-in feature to spreadsheets to help you connect and combine data for your analysis.

  • Power Pivot: Power Pivot is a feature that allows you to organise and model different pieces of data. Using an expression language, you can create relationships and model simple or complex data.

  • Power View: Power View is a visualisation tool that allows you to create charts and graphs based on your data. It can connect to several applications that allow filtering and updating of different visuals.

  • Power Q&A: Power Q&A is a feature that allows you to simply ask questions to retrieve data. Rather than identifying complex data points, you can retrieve answers to your queries quickly.

  • Power Map: Power Map is a visualisation tool that allows you to map large amounts of data on a chart or graph. It can create three-dimensional visualisations to let you see different perspectives on data.

  • Power BI Desktop: Power BI Desktop is a tool that enables other features, like Power Query and Power Pivot. Developers use this to configure the other features.

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Benefits Of Using Power BI

This tool can have several benefits for both leadership teams and employees working with large amounts of data. Some of the most important benefits of using Power BI include:

Simplicity

This tool can be easy and quick to use for many people. It often helps you collect and organise data quickly with little technical knowledge. With your data, you can also create clear visualisations that can help you communicate different pieces of information with others quickly.

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Data integrity

This tool can help you preserve the integrity of your data. It has live updates, so you know when you work with data is the most recent and updated information stored. With its ability to pull data from several sources, you can also ensure that each source has unique information to avoid any duplication. You can also have automated updates for generating reports as information changes in different systems.

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Customisable solutions

You can explore several customisable solutions with this business intelligence tool. This includes using or ignoring several of the features depending on your business needs. The tool also has customisable interfaces and interactive elements that can help you design an analytical tool that best fits your data. One of the key interactive features includes drag-and-drop functionality to quickly arrange data. You can also customise the different graphs and charts using the visualisation tools.

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Integration

This tool also allows you to integrate with several other software programs. One common program people use is Excel, as this typically has linear data that you can import directly into the system. As people update the data on a spreadsheet, you can automatically update the data and dashboard in the application to ensure accurate information.

How To Use Power BI

Consider following these steps when using Power BI Desktop:

1. Install and run Power BI

To install Power BI on your device, you can access the free download from the Microsoft website. If you need to download it in a different language, you can select 'Set download or language options.' Once the download completes, you can open any setup files to begin your configuration. You might also add your different features, like Power Pivot, to start.

2. Introduce the data you want to analyse

With the application installed, you can start to access and organise your data. By clicking on the 'Get Data' tab, you can select the source or sources where you want to gather your data. These can be proprietary databases for your company, or open-source databases to gather information. If you want, you can also pull data from one source or file and work with it in the application. People often use spreadsheets to import linear data from the cells to help create simple visualisations.

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3. Make a dashboard

With your data sources, you can now create a customisable dashboard that can help you easily access and organise your information. In the application, you can click the '+' sign next to the 'Dashboards' tab. This prompts you to name your new dashboard and connect to the data with which you work. The application creates several visualisations of the data you include, so you can further customise it and add data as needed.

For example, you might see several charts that organise your data in tables. You can then drag and drop elements into the table, rename components or resize it depending on your preferences.

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4. Share the dashboard

Sharing the dashboard helps you send updated data and visualisations to other team members. You can invite people by their email address and send your message to as many people as you want. They can then see the view you set up to easily review the information. Consider ensuring that others have an account with the tool to verify that they can access the dashboards you share.

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

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