How to Create and Use a KPI in Power BI (Step-by-Step)

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

Power BI has a basic KPI (Key Performance Indicator) visual that lets you show the progress of the actual vs the target.

This is great especially if you need to measure progress or the distance to a goal.

So how do you create and use one in Power BI? What are the requirements before you can make a KPI visual in Power BI?

In this article, we’ll give you a walkthrough on how to create and use a KPI visual in Power BI.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Let’s get started! 🎨

*This tutorial is for Power BI Online (also called "Power BI Service"). If you have Power BI Desktop, then click here and go to the online version.

Introduction to Power BI’s KPI Visual

A KPI visual is one of the best ways to communicate with your audience about the progress of your project.

At the same time, it also shows how far you are from the goal.

Since the purpose of KPI is to help you see the current standing of a metric against the target, Power BI’s KPI needs 3 values:

  • Actual (indicator)
  • Target (goal)
  • Trend (month or some sort of metric)

In Power BI, this is super easy to do.

As long as you have your data ready, you could be done in less than 30 seconds. For real!

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Creating a Power BI KPI Visual

For this tutorial, we’ll be using Microsoft’s free retail analysis sample dataset on Power BI Service.

If you would like to follow along closely, download or connect with the sample before getting started.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

To start, click the KPI icon on the visualizations pane:

A blank KPI visual will appear on the canvas.

It’s now time to fill the visual with information.

Let’s use the following fields from the retail analysis sample:

  • Actual: ‘This Year Sales > Value’
  • Target: ‘Last Year Sales’
  • Trend: ‘Fiscal Month’

Simply drag the fields to their respective buckets on the visualizations pane.

Congratulations! You just made your first KPI visual in Power BI.

Here’s how it should look now that it has details on it:

Cool! 👲

Formatting the Power BI KPI Visual

Power BI’s basic KPI visual also has formatting options.

To view them, go to the visual’s formatting section on the visualizations pane:

The most notable ones are:

  • Indicator
  • Trend axis
  • Goals
  • Color coding

Indicator lets you control how the indicator looks — text size, alignment, display units, decimal places, and a few others.

You can also turn off the trend axis, which will take away the trend graph at the back. You can also change its transparency.

When you set the goals to off, the goal and the distance off, you wouldn’t be able to see them on the chart anymore. Here, you can also change the label, font color and family, and others.

Lastly, and perhaps one of the most important setting of all, is the color-coding. This setting lets you change the direction, whether high is good or low is good. Naturally, you could change the colors.

Here’s an example:

Changing the direction from ‘High is good’ to ‘Low is good’ will turn the colors on the chart to green.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto
Changing the direction of the KPI to ‘Low is good’

Sweet! 😊

Wrapping things up…

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to create and use a KPI visual in Power BI. Try doing that again and you’ll be amazed at how it wouldn’t take you 30 seconds to make one.

Though a KPI visual is a great way to show your progress towards a goal, see to it that you only need a simple text and chart combination. If you need more, you might have to use a line chart or something more than that. 😊

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto