What is Power BI?


In today’s competitive marketplace, data is very important for any organization, and it is more important than ever to “know your numbers.” If data is represented in an effective manner, it will help organizations make more appropriate decisions in a timely manner.

Power BI is a powerful business intelligence tool that allows users to drill into the key data metrics within your business. Organizations use this tool, to generate BI visualizations from specified datasets, to gain key business insights.

When users start working with Power BI, a lot of questionsarise about the various licensing options available and the features associated with each version. Selecting the optimal license is paramount to ensuring success with Power BI adoption.

If you need assistance with Power BI implementations consider choosing a good Power BI Consulting partner who has expert Power BI Consultants on staff to guide you through the implementation and change management process.


Business intelligence data provides a wider scope for gathering and analyzing data. In this section you will explore what BI is and see a real-world scenario that outlines its possibilities in a general sense. Then you’ll get a general overview of Power BI and the different features it offers to users according to their needs.

What is business intelligence?

BI technology allows us to drive meaningful insights from data that can be viewed at various levels of the organization, and to use these insights to drive optimal results. BI consists of theories and methodologies that users can study and apply to make meaningful decisions.

Platforms associated with BI, including Power BI, allows users to easily transform raw unstructured data into more meaningful charts and graphs, making it a popular tool for transforming business. For example, consider a large organization in which historical data is stored and represented in a form that is difficult for decision-makers to understand. With BI, this data can be converted into a more meaningful form, providing answers to critical questions across the organization.

Real-world scenario

Suppose you work for a popular watch manufacturing company, and you want to view your watches historical growth data over the last 30 years. Without BI, the following tasks associated with this effort would have proved difficult:

  • Reviewing performance data for each year
  • Finding and reviewing the available data to match the customer trend analysis
  • Creating interactive visualizations to convey customer-centric goals

With the growth of tools like Power BI, the organization could present the available data into a powerful dashboard with graphs, visualizations, and sales charts, making it easy for executive teams to study and deeply examine the data. This makes Power BI extremely useful in this critical era of analytics.

Leveraging a Microsoft Power BI Consulting firm with the kind of expertise to help you generate these types of graphs, visualizations and sales charts would be beneficial. You can also use their Power BI Consultants for coaching and user adoption to ensure that your company can take the baton and run with it.


What is Power BI?

Power BI is a Business Intelligence tool developed by Microsoft to present data in a more meaningful way, such as a dashboard, graph, visualization, or report. These are then used to analyze the data to better understand the vital needs of the organization.

  • Capabilities:
  • The capability to capture data from large databases even the ones that can read 1 million rows per hour per user
  • Dashboards, related visualizations, and reports to present data in a meaningful way for analysis by the end user
  • The capability to readily connect faults and errors to provide a corrected methodology and approach for the end user

There are many real-world examples explaining the use of Power BI to spur business growth and transformation. Dashboards and reports generated in Power BI provide actionable analysis to improve the decision-making process and reduce costs.

Who utilizesthis Power BI tool?

Different kinds of people use Power BI in different ways. For example, one user who studies BI reports might prefer a more enhanced representation of data—for example, with color contrasts and features that affect its look and feel. Another user—for example, a data analyst who studies analytics more often as part of their day-to-day activities—might prefer things the other way around, focusing on the underlying numbers rather than how it is presented in dashboards and related reports.

Leveraging Power BI to streamline organizational growth

One way for an organization to gain insights for better understanding and collective decision-making is to collect relevant data and streamline it into reports. Consider an engineering firm with expertise in manufacturing precise metal products. A live data update for higher-level staff will provide insight into several aspects of the manufacturing process. The detection of defects in the metal, the percentage of processes that produce these defects, the number of corrections applied to rectify the defects, and so on are just some of the parameters considered for analysis. This dataset can be fed live into the Power BI server to generate meaningful dashboards and reports based upon regular refreshes.


Power BI offers several features and this section reviews these services and discusses how they are used.

Power BI dashboards

Power BI dashboards provide powerful, insightful visualizations of datasets in the form of graphs and charts. These can be analyzed in real-time from a live data feed, making them more interactive for users, and enabling them to surface relevant insights quickly.

Power BI dashboards include links, or tiles, to related reports, which helps users navigate from one report to another. These tiles are easily customized according to user preference. In addition to adding images to these tiles, users can modify how they are laid out on the dashboard.


A dataset gathers data from various data sources. Generally, there are two types of datasets in Power BI:

  • Dynamic These datasets refresh automatically according to a set schedule.
  • Static These datasets do not refresh automatically.

Query processing

Power BI users can use a special Question and Answer box in the dashboard to enter a query in plain English. Power BI will then filter, sort, and group data to return a list of visualizations that match the query. For example, suppose a user wants to analyze sales data for their organization. In this case the user could enter queries like, “How many leads have been converted to sales?” and “How many leads have gone cold?” Power BI can quickly provide useful visualizations to answer the user’s questions.

User-friendly reports with data visualization

You can use Power BI to generate reports that contain detailed data in eye-catching visual form, along with easy-to-understand analysis of that data. Visualizations in Power BI reports make it easier to comprehend the analysis and arrive at a specific conclusion or decision. Users generate these reports by pinning different parameters to a Power BI dashboard and applying different filters to those parameters to drill down for deeper insights.

A Power BI report might include visuals such as charts with geographical information, bubble charts (which focus on relationships), comparison charts (including bar charts, line charts, waterfall charts, and so on), and many others. You can also consider adding comparison charts and other visuals—for example, to generate tree maps and pie charts.


All data, reports, and visualizations created by a specific user remain private unless that user decides to share it. Sharing within Power BI is easy. For example, to share a Power BI dashboard with other Power BI users, simply select the sharing option under the Actions category on the dashboard page. Or, to share a report, choose the Share with Others option. Then enter the email address(es) of the desired recipient(s) and specify what permissions they should be granted.

Users can share reports with annotated text and highlights to help end users in the decision-making process. Also, any changes made to a shared report are simultaneously reflected on the dashboard of each person granted access to the report. Users with read-only access can apply different filters for different scenarios to a report but they cannot alter the report or apply different formatting to it.

Power BI Report Server

Power BI Report Server is an on-premises enterprise reporting and self-service BI feature that provides accurate reporting across organization levels. Users can directly publish Power BI reports on Report Server, thereby enabling other members of the organization to view, manage, edit, or update the reports.

Power BI Report Server offers editing tools enable users to create reports with a modern look and feel. It also Report Server generates cloud-ready solutions that are compatible with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

Power BI Embedded

Power BI Embedded is a useful feature that enables you to embed Power BI reports into materials generated by third-party apps or in emails to share them with non‒Power BI users. In addition, data in the form of graphs or other visuals can be rendered in any browser, irrespective of the dataset chosen. End users receive up-to-date analysis of data developed and/or stored within the Microsoft Azure framework. Microsoft suggests that soon to come, Power BI Embedded will become a preferred method for users using a Premium license.


The Power BI mobile app enables you to access Power BI dashboards and reports using a mobile device such as an Android or iOS device. In some scenario’s analysts can use the mobile app to address minute changes while tracking data in real-time and notify users of a possible solution.

It can be difficult to view BI reports on smaller screens; fortunately, Power BI allows for optimal display at correct resolutions. You can also zoom in and out and drill down to see relevant information feeds within the charts and graphs.


  • Power BI enables users to choose from various platforms depending on their needs:
  • Power BI service
  • Power BI Desktop
  • Power BI Premium

Power BI service

Power BI service is a free, cloud-based platform that works on Microsoft Azure. This version of Power BI is not available on a private cloud or as an internal service.

  • Power BI service includes the following capabilities:
  • The ability to connect with hundreds of data sources
  • An online dashboard with analytics information including graphs and reports
  • Customizable dashboards
  • Customizable reports
  • The capability to edit reports online
  • The capability share reports
  • Navigation controls that allow easy access to datasets
  • Workspaces to collaborate with others on dashboards, reports, and datasets to create apps
  • Home, Help, and Feedback buttons
  • Help and feedback buttons
  • Office 365 app launcher
  • A Question and Answer box that enables users to search for data using plain English

Power BI Desktop

Power BI Desktop is like Power BI service except that it lives on the user’s desktop and not in the cloud. This free tool integrates seamlessly with queries, data modelling, and visualizations for effective and accurate reporting of data, and offers a wide range of features to enable users to create appealing visualizations and detailed reports that can be published directly to other apps, to the web, or for mobile view. Note, however, that Desktop users cannot share reports.

  • Advantages of using Power BI Desktop include the following:
  • Power BI Desktop supports various data sources, which is helpful in adapting to complex business requirements.
  • Power BI Desktop includes an auto-detect relationship option for loaded datasets to help users gain understanding and insights.
  • A user-friendly interface facilitates the creation and editing of custom visuals.
  • Users can save reports for easy access. Reports that are saved have a PBIX extension.
  • Users can create and publish reports from a single Power BI Desktop dashboard.

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium provides greater capabilities and performance by increasing capacity-based offerings to end users. These act as dedicated resources to run the Power BI service for any organization. This dedicated capacity provides better support and stability.

Power BI Premium enables widespread distribution of data across the enterprise—without requiring additional licenses for users within the organization. A Premium workspace is a dedicated workspace allocated within the organization. It works on dedicated hardware handled by Microsoft for bulk data interaction per hour. The workload and number of users and change based on specific factors and dictate how many users that can access and edit data for reports. In this way, the capacity-based resources work in coordination to handle reports, graphs, and visualizations across the entire enterprise level.

Embedded analytics can be accessed from the Azure API, which offers the flexibility to obtain live data. The Power BI Report Server helps in maintaining BI assets on-premises. The Power BI Premium Report Server supports compatibility with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to provide interactive visualizations and paginated reports that can be analyzed on-premises. Report Server, which is a part of Power BI Premium, continuously deploys data from the dataset for better graphical analysis of reports, which can later be moved to the cloud.

Licensing models

  • Microsoft offers three types of licenses for Power BI:
  • Power BI Free
  • Power BI Pro
  • Power BI Premium

The features of eachlicense vary. The one you choose depends on your business requirements, including how much storage you need and the total number of users. The following sections consider the various Power BI licensing models.

Power BI Free

Power BI Free enables usersto create any number dashboards and reports. However, they cannot share these with others.

Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro offers features that are not available in the free version platform. Most notably, Power BI Pro allows users to share dashboards, enabling multiple users to them at the same time. Users can also collaborate to create any number of graphs and reports.

  • Other advantages of using Power BI Pro include the following:
  • Users can connect to more than 70 data sources.
  • Users can analyze data in the Power BI dashboard or in an Excel file.
  • Users can synchronize content across Office 365 teams.
  • Users can customize views according to their preferences.
  • Users can develop personal dashboards, which they can save and even pin to their Power BI home page.
  • Users can access dashboards shared by other members of the Office 365 community (assuming they have appropriate permissions) for collaboration purposes.
  • Users can share workspaces.
  • Users can subscribe to email alerts to notify them of changes to shared content
  • Users can embed APIs into Power BI visuals and reports.
  • Users can publish reports and visuals to a web platform.
  • Example scenarios that require a Power BI Pro license:
  • To publish content in Power BI Premium
  • To share and receive content from other users
  • To collaborate with other users on a dashboard or report
  • To publish reports on Power BI Report Server

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium is similar to Power BI Pro but can be scaled for larger organizations to accommodate more users or to provide users with more storage or a higher stream rate.

  • Power BI Premium offers the following advantages:
  • Power BI Premium unlocks larger data limits and higher capacity offerings to accommodate large-scale deployments.
  • Power BI Premium allows you to embed reports in other applications. (Note that for REST APIs to work with embedded graphs and reports, they will use a service account, which is available in Power BI Premium.)
  • The Power BI Premium Report Server allows for the publication of reports on-premises.
  • Dedicated servers allow for enhanced performance, with data refreshing 48 times per day.

Power BI Consulting Services

The results that our Power BI Consultants produce for businesses is incredibly beneficial. Microsoft has done an excellent l job of building an intuitive and powerful tool allowing it to compare to other robust BI software platforms and hold its own. Not only will it enable powerful visualizations and integration with the desktop and online versions, but it’s also a key part of the Microsoft family so it works well and integrates with other Microsoft products like SharePoint and Dynamics 365. If you have multiple inputs and data warehouses that is no problem since Power BI was built to easily plug in sources of data and tie them together to create sophisticated, useful management reports, dashboards and decision making tools that just work.

What elements are important to you?

Our Power BI Consultants will conduct multiple meetings with you in-order to understand your specific needs and provide the building blocks for your Business Intelligence rollout:

  • What is the critical information for you to input?
  • Where and how should the data be displayed to create the story?
  • What are the correct permissions to apply to viewing and reviewing this data?
  • When do you need the workflows run enabling you to provide the appropriate updates?

Are we correctly implementing Power BI

Our Power BI Consulting Experts work within the Power BI foundation in our environment and fully test before deploying in your live environment. Having the ability to see what our current status is with a live screenshare. We can guarantee there will be no interruptions to your live environments.


Future Planning

Our team Power BI Consultants will leave room for growth for future implementations as needed. Sometimes, we are able to provide a structure that administrators are able to update on their own so no additional expense is necessary.

User Adoption / Change Management

Our expert staff of Power BI Consulting team members will train your staff whether it be one administrator or Power Users or end users. We want to enable your organization to fully embrace the functionality of Power BI provides.



Power BI is an easy tool to use that helps propel organizations into a data driven environment. With powerful self-service abilities businesses are no longer dependent on IT for gathering and analyzing data. Automation of dataset integration, ease of expansion into new data sources, unique, insightful visualizations, and easily deployable Row Level Security are amongst the many reasons Power BI is highly adopted.


Through dashboards, Power BI provides a 360-degree view of your most important metrics in one place, updated in real time, and available on all of your devices. Power BI allows you to dig deep into your data, while being productive and creative with what you build. With more than 20 built-in visuals and a gallery of vibrant custom visualizations, Power BI makes it easy to use advanced analytics to effectively communicate your message and address organizational challenges.


Furthermore, a cloud-based collaboration environment with features like Natural Language Query makes the process of data governance easier. In the age of analytics, it’s vital for organizations to intelligently leverage the data they collect to rapidly evolve with changing business and consumer habits.


The future is bright for analytics as companies are anxious to incorporate data visualization and do away with tabular reports.


About the Author: Errin is the Founder and Chief Architect for EPC Group and the author of four Microsoft Press books covering Power BI, SharePoint and Office 365. Errin focuses his efforts on implementing Microsoft Technologies in organizations throughout the country and around the globe. 

Errin’s latest book “Microsoft Power BI Dashboards Step by Step” by Microsoft Press guides you through creating world-class business analysis dashboards that integrate today’s most widely-used data sources, using any of Microsoft’s Power BI platforms, including the new Power BI Premium.