What is Power BI? Here’s everything you need to know!

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

Power BI is a business analytics platform built on the foundation of Microsoft Excel.

Primarily, it’s made with business intelligence (BI) in mind to help managers, executives, and others make better business decisions.

However, only a few people know about Power BI and what it can do.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to Power BI, its components, uses, and everything you need to know. Let’s get started!
Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

*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.

What is Power BI?

Microsoft itself describes Power BI as a…

“…business analytics solution that lets you visualize your data and share insights across your organization, or embed them in your app or website.”

Simply enough, it’s a business intelligence tool perfect for non-technical users in managing, analyzing, visualizing, and sharing data with others.

In more ways than one, it’s closely related to Excel with great integration between the two.

With Power BI, you can take data from different sources and process them into insights. Unlike Excel, though, you don’t just stare into hundreds of rows and columns by default.

Instead, you’ll have a better understanding of the data through different visually compelling and easily understood charts and graphs.

Power BI isn’t merely a single app or software. You can think of it like a group or an umbrella of cloud-based apps and services.

The reason for this is that power BI has different versions — a desktop application, an online service or app (SaaS), and a separate app for phones and tablets.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

What can you use Power BI for?

There are 3 areas where Power BI shines the most:

  • Connecting data sets
  • Running reports and insights
  • Sharing with others

With Power BI, you can connect different data sets and turn them into a digestible data model. These data models can then be used to better understand the past, present, and possible future of the said data.

As mentioned earlier, Power BI is more about visuals. The data gathered can then be translated into stories with the use of charts and graphs.

Store Sales Overview in Power BI

These visualizations can then be shared with other Power BI users within your organization. You can also export them to PowerPoint and turn the pages into slides. Of course, you can print each page whenever you like.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Why use Power BI?

Power BI offers lots of benefits that your regular Microsoft Excel usually can’t. Some of these advantages include:

  • Memory and speed: Data can be quickly collected and analyzed. You can input large data sets that other solutions would probably choke.
  • Seamless integration: Power BI can easily integrate with lots of existing analytics and reporting apps. A few examples include Office 365, SharePoint, Google Analytics, Salesforce, Mailchimp, and others.
  • Technical know-how not required: Power BI’s user interface is quite similar to other Microsoft Office apps. Just touch a button and see what it does.
  • Personalized dashboards: Power BI offers a rich and power personalization options by enabling you to create your own dashboards.
  • Data security: Power BI lets you publish reports securely. Power BI also lets you control your data’s accessibility freely.

What are the components of Power BI?

Power BI is composed of different components — apps and services — for users to create, analyze, and share business intelligence insights however they like.

Create a data-driven culture using Power BI

Here’s a list of the components that make up Power BI:

  • Power Query: A data connection tool for transforming and combining data from different sources.
  • Power Pivot: A data modeling tool for creating memory tabular data.
  • Power View: A data visualization tool that lets you create charts, graphs, and maps from your data.
  • Power Map: Another data visualization tool that lets you create immersive 3D geospatial maps.
  • Power Q&A: A question and answer engine where you can ask questions regarding your data in natural language.

How much does Power BI cost?

There are 3 types of Power BI that you can get — Power BI Desktop, Power BI Pro, and Power BI Premium.

In addition, there are Power BI apps you can use: the desktop version, the online version, or the mobile version.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto
Power BI: Create data dashboards and visualizations in minutes

Power BI basically has 3 pricing plans:

  • Free
  • Power BI Pro
  • Power BI Premium
Power BI: Create data dashboards and visualizations in minutes

You can use the desktop version for free. The online service is also available for free (minus the sharing capabilities) as long as you are using a company email.

Power BI Pro is the next tier where you can share your reports and dashboards. It costs $9.99 monthly per user.

Power BI Premium is the highest tier intended for large businesses. Power BI Pro is a paid per-user license while this premium plan covers everyone within the organization as long as the use is within the dedicated cloud compute and storage resources.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

As of now, the Power BI Premium stands at a $4,995 price tag per month. To see a comparison chart between Pro and Premium, Microsoft laid out a nice features comparison table you can check out.

What you should use depends on your needs and the number of people in your organization who would use Power BI.

If you need more details about the different pricing plans of Power BI, we went through all of them and documented them in this article: Power BI Pricing: How much does it (actually) cost?

Where can you get Power BI?

If you’re interested in using Power BI, you can download their apps on Microsoft’s Power BI download page:

By the way, finding the link to the Power BI online service may be a bit of a hassle. If you would like to opt-in and use it, you can access it here: https://app.powerbi.com/

Please note that you need a company email (one that’s not provided by email platforms like Google or Yahoo or even Outlook) that usually ends with @yourcompany.com to use the online service version.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Conclusion

If you’re a business analyst, data scientist, BI professional, or someone that needs to compile data, make a visual representation of it easily and maybe even share it with others, Power BI is a great addition to your tools.

As of now, only large businesses use Power BI as it’s a bit new to the market. Most small to medium-sized businesses are using Excel for this. However, you might find Power BI a simpler and easier-to-use alternative to Microsoft Excel.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto