What is Power BI used for?

What is Power BI for?

Power BI is …

… an Analytics and Business Intelligence Platform.

If that’s all gobbledegook to you then you’re not alone.

In more normal speak, Power BI is a piece of software from Microsoft that lets you create graphs and interactive dashboards with your data.

It’s a bit like Excel but only 10 times better at doing bar charts and scatter plots.

Microsoft explains that you can use Power BI to “Find clarity when you need it most” and “Empower team members to discover insights hidden in your data with Microsoft Power BI.”

Uninspiringly vague as that may be for you, we’ve unpacked what it all means.

Create an amazing data visualisation experience

Power BI has been designed with the end user in mind.  The most impressive feature is that every graph and dashboard automatically allows the user to interact with it and slice and dice the underlying data with a few mouse clicks.

It’s real pretty too.

You won’t find any of the standard Microsoft colours palettes here!  Ok, the colours aren’t eye wateringly beautiful, but they are quite nice and easy on the eye.

Most importantly, every Power BI dashboard automatically works on a screen of any size.  Yup, you can build a dashboard on a massive monitor and it will look just fine on your mobile and also your big screen TV.

Build cutting edge business dashboards

What’s a business dashboard?

Glad you asked.

A business dashboard is a collection of graphs and/or tables that all have a similar context.  For example, you may have a graph plotting your company expenditure over a few years as a line chart and another graph showing the split of company expenditure across different expenditure categories.

By dragging these two graphs onto one dashboard in Power BI, you are connecting them together to show a more comprehensive picture of your companies expenditure.

The result is a more complete picture of your data that gives the audience much more than just a single graph.    Couple that with the built in interactivity and you have a truly interactive business dashboard that’s destined for fame and fortune.

Automate all of your data consolidation and data cleansing

Every dashboard needs data.

Getting data into the dashboard is possibly the hardest part of building any business dashboard.  It’s possible that you have data in all sorts of places ranging from Excel files, corporate databases, folders and so on.  So how do you get all your data into one place so you can build a dashboard on top of it?

Fortunately, Power BI comes with an amazing set of tools that help you gather all of your data and organise it to suit what you need.  Technically called an ETL tool, Power BI comes with possibly one of the best user experiences for data wranglers.  There is virtually no limit to the types of data you can connect to:

  • CSV and text files
  • Excel workbooks
  • SQL databases
  • no-SQL databases
  • Blob storage
  • PDFs (Yes, you heard me!)

Share your data analytics with those who need it.

There’s no point creating a visualisation masterpiece if you can’t show it off.

Power BI gives you a few different ways to share your dashboards with other people.  Each option comes with a price tag and also a few pros and cons.

The easiest but least compelling is to send them a Power BI file.  But sending them the file means you lose so many benefits of true data analytics.  You could export a PDF or PowerPoint file but then you’d have to consider why you need interactive dashboards if a static dashboard does the job.

Best of all you can publish online.  There are two options here.  Firstly you can publish one-off dashboards and share with individuals.   Secondly, you can create a completely secure workspace for collaboration and visualisation sharing for your whole team.

Are you ready to get started?

Power BI is free to download and use.  (Bear in mind that it’s not built for Macs)

You can use the free version to do virtually everything you need, except if you want to share your work with others.

We’ve even got some helpful guides to get you started