SharePoint Tip of the Month

What Is Microsoft Power BI?

April 2015

Business Problem

The number of business intelligence (BI) tools and software to help you visualize your data on the market is mind-boggling. As a Microsoft partner, prospects and customers often ask us, “So what is Microsoft’s strategy related to BI? How can provide better BI and visualization to my data, whether it lives in SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, or other data sources (internally or externally), without having to assemble a team and launch an extensive BI project? What tools does Microsoft offer?”

Well, here is the surprise, and it’s not that big of a surprise…Excel! It’s estimated that over 1 billion people use Excel to make decisions, and Microsoft has been building advanced BI capabilities for Excel to make it the familiar place (“self-service business intelligence”) to create meaningful BI reports and to analyze data.

The Tools – Excel and Power BI

Excel, along with the following Excel plug-ins, provide the foundation for self-service BI:

  • Power Query – Data acquisition (i.e., connecting to data sources) and preparation (i.e., querying, filtering, sorting, etc.).
  • Power Pivot – Data modeling (i.e., creating relationships from multiple data sources).
  • Power View – Creation of presentation-ready reports, charts and graphs that are interactive and provide drill-down capability.
  • Power Map – Provides 3D geospatial visualization.

Microsoft SSBI

Power BI
So what is Power BI? Power BI is the newest member of the Microsoft BI family that provides many of the powerful visualization tools and ability to interact with your charts, graphs and reports. It also serves as the “portal” or site for publishing, managing and sharing your BI reports and dashboards. Power BI is offered by Microsoft through Office 365 (or O365), Microsoft’s cloud environment for hosted Exchange, Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), SharePoint and Lync. The following image from Microsoft depicts the logical relationship between Excel, Power BI, your data sources (too many to list on the image) and, of course, SharePoint, which serves as the place where all of this capability and functionality resides.

PowerBI Logical Architecture

Lastly, the new Power BI Dashboard Designer enables you to design and publish interactive dashboards based upon your data with an interface that most sophisticated users are now expecting and demanding. Dashboard Designer allows for drag-and-drop authoring as well as HTML5 optimization to be device-friendly (i.e., tablets and smart phones).

PowerBI Dashboard

Dashboard drill-down…

PowerBI Drilldown

Power BI Mobile app (yes, it’s on an iPhone!)…

PowerBI App on iPhone

More Information

Consistent with Microsoft’s “Cloud first” strategy, the most significant (and rapid) changes are happening with the O365 BI capabilities, namely Power BI, Dashboard Designer and mobile. On-premises functionality will certainly lag if not wane. For more information about Power BI and to stay abreast of updates and pricing, visit Microsoft’s Power BI site.

This month’s Tip contributed by Abel Solutions Vice President David Hammond.