What is Power BI

If you’re immersed in the world of business, you may have heard the term “Business Intelligence” or even “Power BI.” But what on Earth do these mean?

Simply put, Business Intelligence (BI) is pretty important in the corporate world. BI lets businesses exploit business opportunities, take advantage of trends, and review large amounts of information. This can give your business a competitive advantage — and make it more money.

But what exactly is business intelligence?

Simply put, business intelligence means using special strategies and technologies for data analysis of business information. This includes data discovery, data preparation, and data mining. BI technologies provide your company with a better understanding of business operations, suggest possible changes, and how to implement those changes.

If all of that leaves you asking, “So… what is Power BI?”, I understand. Because one thing Power BI is, is complicated. But before we can take a deeper dive and hopefully provide some clarity, we need to take a look at some of the key aspects of business intelligence.

What does Business Intelligence encompass?

Business intelligence is a general term which includes various different business practices. But what is the bottom line? Well, BI includes…

  • Reporting
  • Online analytical processing
  • Data mining
  • Process mining
  • Complex event processing
  • Business performance management
  • Benchmarking
  • Text mining
  • Predictive analytics
  • Advanced analytics
  • Prescriptive analytics

BI reporting

No, we’re not talking about the kind of reporting journalists do. Cloud-base BI reporting essentially involves data discovery from various sources. After the data has been found, it also involves analyzing and presenting it in an easy-to-understand way.

Online analytical processing

Rolls right off your tongue, right? Online analytical processing is actually pretty straightforward – it involves simultaneously analyzing information from more than one database. These can include SQL server data tools for Power BI and other sources. The upshot is that OAPA allows you to take advantage of business data from different sources and see several different pictures.

Data mining

Data mining is like real-life mining (but you get much less dirty doing it!). How it differs than conventional mining, might you ask? Well, instead of precious metals, it means extracting data you can use from large amounts of raw data. This involves, as you might expect, processing large batches of information and looking for patterns using one or more pieces of BI software.

Process mining

Another kind of mining in BI is process mining. This one also doesn’t involve coal or gold – instead it is all about performing business process analyses. The analyses are derived from factual data. This allows businesses to identify business practices that can be improved to maximize efficiency. And more efficiency means more profits.

Complex event processing

“Complex” is right. Simply put, complex event processing involves grouping together big batches of information and extracting cause-and-effect relationships between events. The method compares incoming events to a previous pattern and helps put current business events in context. Because this is quite computationally intensive, Cloud-base BI can help ease the computing workload.

Business performance management

Business performance management is exactly what it sounds to be. It involves businesses determining corporate goals and then monitoring their execution. Simple, huh? By collecting and analyzing BI data, managers can devise better ways for the goals to be achieved.


Benchmarking has become a standard term in many industries by now. It was originally a term in surveying, but has been used figuratively since 1884. You can probably guess what it means in the business context – comparing your business’ processes and performance to industry standards. This helps set targets you can achieve, and helps general performance and profitability. It is an integral part of the power BI ecosystem.

Text mining

Yet another mining, text mining is like data mining, but it involves text data. This is the art of processing large amounts of text data to find patterns and insights. Unlike data mining, the data analyzed is not structured.

Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics means looking for patterns by using data, statistical algorithms, and machine learning technologies. The goal is to “guess” future outcomes based on already present information. Once again, since this is computationally demanding, cloud-base BI can help.

Prescriptive analytics

Finally, we’ve reached the end! Prescriptive analytics essentially means using technology to analyze raw data and help businesses make decisions. It takes information about possible eventualities, available possibilities, and current performance. Then, it makes a suggestion regarding what to do.

What does BI stand for?

Now we’re into the meat of things. Because what BI does is, in short, leverage all of these processes and services, like data mining, to turn large amounts of raw data into information we can use. This helps your organization or business make more informed decisions.

The big benefit of BI technologies is that they can process large amounts of data, letting you identify new business opportunities. If you can utilize it correctly, it can give you a competitive market advantage and long-term stability for your business.

BI can be used to make a variety of business decisions. Operating decisions would include, for example, product positioning and pricing. Strategic decisions are things like long-term goals and priorities.

So how does all that wrap into BI? Why is all this important? Well, BI’s ability to combine market data with internal data (data specific to your company) make it especially valuable for any business. When you combine internal and external BI data, this allows your organization to decide what actions need to be taken in order to steer it in the right direction.

Market advantage and long-term stability are great. But BI is even more powerful than that.

One of the most important advantages of BI tools is that they let you gain insights when it comes to measuring the competitiveness of your products or services, and identifying new markets. It also helps you find out the impact of your marketing and business development efforts.

Still having troubles understanding what BI stands for? Let me elaborate further.

BI products commonly use data warehouse (DW) or data mart extracted information. What the hell is that, you might ask? Well, a data warehouse is a treasure trove of data and insights from internal and external databases which helps you make decisions quicker.

Did that make it simpler? I hope so!

What is Power BI?

Now that we got what the BI in Power BI stands for, it’s only fair to discuss the *Power* as well, right? Simply put, Power BI is a BI software. Microsoft Power BI is a collection of software services, applications, and connectors. It changes unstructured data from cloud or on-premise data warehouse or even Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into interactive and visually stunning insights. It lets you easily connect all your data sources, process them to find out important metrics and insights, and share them with the rest of your team. In short — it’s quite something.

Microsoft Power BI is available for desktop, Power BI mobile suite, and online, and can be connected to on-prem data sources via the Power Bi gateways and the Power BI server.

Microsoft was recently named a Leader in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant category for Analytics and BI Platforms.

What is the use of Power BI application?

More than you might think. Applications or apps are a type of Power Business Intelligence content that have related interactive dashboards and reports.

Power BI apps let you easily share content with multiple parties. Reports and dashboards are created by the app designers and grouped together into an app. Then the newly created app is shared with the consumers who can access it and use it for reporting or analytical purposes.

Is Power BI a reporting tool?

Yes. One of the strengths of the Power BI cloud platform is its good integration with other Microsoft products and the easy-to-use user interface. Because of this, the Power BI report development tool is very powerful and requires very little training.

Want to know another great feature? Power BI can generate interactive reports through data visualization. If you’re a data analyst or business intelligence professional, you can use it to extrapolate data and create predictive modeling reports.

Power BI features several different apps. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Power Query: lets you connect, combine, and enhance data from various different sources
  • Power Pivot: a data modeling app for creating data models
  • Power View: used to generate interactive charts, graphs, maps, and other visuals
  • Power Map: data visualization tool that allows you to create great 3D visuals
  • Power Q&A: a question and answer AI-powered engine that lets you ask questions about your Power BI data in plain language

What is Power BI analytics?

Power BI analytics

So, you know what BI is, right? Great.

And what Power BI is as well? Awesome.

So, now that we are on the same page (I hope!), let’s answer yet another burning question together…

How exactly does this all work?

The analytical component uses Power BI data sources visualization and artificial intelligence. It can turn large quantities of unprocessed data into beautiful compelling visualizations that give a clearer picture of your current predicaments and future solutions.

The BI analytics tools help with several things:

  • They identify patterns and trends and turn them into Power BI data analytics visualizations
  • They gather and share insights in a comprehensive and simple manner
  • They gather and process large clusters of raw data simultaneously from different databases and different sources

Power BI helps you identify new business opportunities and predict potential risks before they negatively impact your business. The data visualization lets you display data entries in a single view via versatile live models and “What If” analyses. Thanks to its powerful AI algorithms, the platform can identify trends and follow them with statistical visual models. This lets your enterprise gain a better understanding of current and future situations.

Although there aren’t any other types of analytics platforms for PowerBI, you can connect it with other Microsoft offerings like Azure and Exchange.

How do you create a report in Power BI?

Creating reports is a good way to visualize the influx of raw data you have been siphoning through the platform. It gives you clear and structured reports detailing progressions, variables, shifts and other changes in your statistical model.

Here we will talk only about reports. Often, when we talk about Power BI reporting, people use reports and dashboards interchangeably, although they are different. A report works with a single dataset over many pages. A dashboard summarizes several datasets into a single page.

The platform gives you a multifaceted view of multiple datasets. The resulting visuals represent different results and insights from that dataset.

Now that we know what Power BI reports are, let’s make one. But before you do that, you need a dataset to import. Once you have your dataset ready, go to the “Datasets” section in your workspace and click the “Create report” icon.

After clicking on the “Create report,” the system will bring up the report editor, where the fun part begins.

Once you access the report builder, you will have to familiarize with the three main BI dashboard tools:

  1. Canvas
  2. Fields pane
  3. Visualizations pane


The canvas is your starting point. This is where you pour all your big, crazy numbers and you choose how to visualize them. Whether you want to see the progression of your sales operations or the average price by quantity in Power BI, you can do that with a few simple clicks.

Fields pane

The fields pane gives you different fields to use to structure your dataset.

Visualizations pane

The visualizations pane lets you edit and change your Power BI visualizations. It gives you different types of visualization, formats, and additional options for value input.

Next, select the type of report you want to create. Choose the category, insert values and, if needed, add more filters. After you fill out all required fields and input various field values, you get to choose the type of visualization you prefer, the legend, the labels, and the title.

To edit an existing report, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the report from within your BI dashboard.
  2. Click the text ‘Edit Report.’
  3. A set of visualizations and fields will appear. Select the ones that appeal the most to you.
  4. Once you’ve selected the filters you’d like to compare data for, click the ‘Reading View’ button.

Reports can be embedded to be used internally on Microsoft Power BI Desktop, via Power BI for iPad, or by independent software vendors (ISV) via the Power BI Embedded REST API.

Power BI Reporting

How long does it take to learn Power BI?

The simple answer — not very long. The Microsoft business intelligence platform has a pretty intuitive interface. With that being said, you will still need some time before you learn the Power BI basics.

“But I want to create comprehensive and visually appealing reports, NOW!”

Easy there. How quickly you’re going to get proficient in this Microsoft BI solution depends entirely on you. Your learning curve and technical skills will determine how fast you will get accustomed to the platform. Even if you’re completely new to this type of SaaS application, it will not take you forever to learn how to use it.

However, be sure that you need to arm yourself with patience. People say that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your BI knowledge. Learning the basics will take you roughly around thirty days. This is not a given number, as some people learn more quickly, and others more slowly.

However, after a month, you should have an idea how to use the platform to enhance workflow, increase profits, and rationalize operations. You’ll be an active part of the Power BI ecosystem.

And you’ll want to learn more.

What’s not to like?

Can Power BI connect to SAP?

Of course it can connect to SAP! However, it really depends on your business needs. There are several ways to connect the platform with SAP:

  1. Using SAP HANA connector. You need to have the SAP HANA ODBC driver installed first. You can also connect to SAP HANA using DirectQuery.
  2. Using SAP BW connector via Power BI Desktop. You need to install the SAP NetWeaver library first.
  3. Using a custom built API connector (ie. JSON with OAUTH2 security). With the right governance and implementation, it might prove a viable solution if you’re looking for a wider set of customizations.

At this point, Microsoft does not provide connectors for SAP ECC. There are no viable custom solutions for connecting the platform with SAP ECC that are commercially available. If that is something you’re looking for, the only way would be for your IT department to build the connector.

How difficult is Power BI certification?

It depends. If you’re not new to business intelligence, then chances are that you won’t find the exam too difficult. Still, do not underestimate it, as even experienced BI professionals can fail on the first try. MS BI is so useful that I recommend doing your homework beforehand.

A large chunk of the exam revolves around data analysis expressions (DAX). If you understand syntax, parameters and sample implementations, this will help you get through the test more easily.

Data transformation is another area that you need to have a good understanding of. Data transformation is quite relevant in practical scenarios because many BI scenarios rely on clean data.

Key Takeaways

This article aims to do one thing: give you a comprehensive Microsoft Power BI overview. This powerful Business intelligence platform easily turns large sets of raw data into easily digestible and visually appealing reports. It lets you see the whole picture when analyzing different pieces of information. It gives you metrics and key performance indicators. And to top it all off, it lets your business gain a better understanding of current and past situations and lets you predict any fluctuations in its business performance.


Q: What is Power BI used for?

A: Microsoft Power BI is a data visualization software that is used for business analytics and business intelligence.

Q: What is Power BI and how does it work?

A; MS Power BI offers business analytics and business intelligence functionality through interactive data visualization and business intelligence reporting. It also has an intuitive interface. It helps you identify new business opportunities and predict potential risks before they negatively impact your business.

Q: What is Power BI Desktop?

A: As the name suggests, Power BI Desktop is the desktop version of Power Bi. When it comes to Power BI cost, it is free for desktop users and lets you create and distribute visual reports.

Q: Is Microsoft Power BI free?

A: Microsoft’s Power BI pricing plans include three options: Desktop, Microsoft Power BI Pro and Premium. Of the three, only Desktop is free. The desktop version of Power BI grants a free license to a single user, unlike Power BI Premium. The free version also allows you to publish any reports on the Power BI service.

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