Power BI – what’s new and where to start


Power BI –  a cloud based Software-as-a-Service (Saas) key business analytics service for non-business users. IN a way Microsoft had a delayed start within this arena, but a good approach as A data culture for everyone has given a kick in this arena.

So for starters, here is the list of questions (with answers) that were raised during my recent speaking sessions (Power BI .. a toolbox that you need for your BI engine & Power BI – Deployment and Configuration best practices to deliver just in-time insights)  on Power BI topic:

  • What is Power BI?
    • List of tools mainly work with Microsoft Excel and Office 365 features, a self-service BI (SSBI) enabler which provides data collaboration and dashboard features to access data from anywhere. Greatly coupled with Microsoft Office 365 and on-premise Office based tools.
  • What are the components of Power BI?
    • A cloud based self-service BI with four components, 2 for data preparations and 2 for data visualizations.Altogether Excel is primary tool for this SSBI. If you know how to use Excel then it is a good start to kick-start learning on Power BI.
  • What are those four components and why they are required?
    • Power Pivot and Power Query are essential to design, develop and prepare data mashup as per the business need.
      • Power Pivot: data integrator and importer from various data sources for the purpose of data model within Excel. As a functional user you can combine various data sources to model few data based on few calculations and relations. This is ideal for data anlaytics & analysts as well to prototype situations based on certain requirement.
      • Power Query: previously code named as Data Explorer, that can enable use to search for data within your data sources. We can use certain functionalities such as data mashup, merging, replace values and data modifications based on certain conditions. Using within Excel or on its own from Power Designer you can manage data into Power Pivot model.
    • Power View and Power Map are good for data visualisations that givens an interactive way of handling data output.
      • Power View: can be used to highlight and filter data as similar to charts, graphs and table data, as in goes with Pivot tables way of working and truly stands out from traditional visualisation tools.
      • Power Map: as the name suggest a 3D based mapping tool for better visual effects on results that is good for Business and Marketing teams to showcase certain data elements. This was code named as GeoFlow previously and it is available to download from Microsoft downloads site.
  • What is on-premise and cloud based tool?
    • Using Office 365 capabilities you can use SSBI with SharePoint Online application from on-premise SharePoint site.This allows connectivity to external data sources.Using Office 365 Admin center you can manage ‘gateways’ to on-premise data sources and enable access to relevant users on cloud based data sources.
  • What is data management gateway?
    • As the name sounds it is a gateway connectivity for on-premise to cloud. A one-time defined protocol whereby a client application is available to use on many number of machines. See Data Management Gateway link and you can download from here as well. At the client side it will run as a Windows service by checking source to destinations connectivity to refresh data based on workbooks, shareable OData feeds, see supported data types within Power BI for information.

For more information on the list of tools and their usage I recommend my PowerPoint presentation from Power BI .. a toolbox that you need for your BI engine session.

If you are an App developer then you can download Power BI App as well. From Microsoft words Power BI offers:

  • Real-time and automated dashboard support
  • Natural language query for ad-hoc insight
  • Additional data sources, including Analysis Services, Dynamics, Salesforce, Marketo, Intuit QuickBooks, Sage, Sumo Logic, Visual Studio and several other SaaS offerings
  • Hybrid data connectivity to on-premises data, including SSAS (meaning you can realize the benefits of a cloud-based BI solution without having to move your data to the cloud)
  • New free desktop Power Designer (32-bit, 64-bit) for Power BI content authoring
  • Support for Microsoft Excel-created content for ad hoc data analysis and customizable layout, formatting and charting
  • Additional data visualization types, including combination charts, thematic maps, funnels and gauges
  • Native Mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows phones and tablets
  • Developer APIs for extending the platform

Not just with few Microsoft based tools Power BI can be used with other industry-famous technologies like Hadoop, SAP and Teradata.