Power BI - Overview and Learning

Microsoft Power BI is a collection of online services and features that enables you to find and visualize data, share discoveries, and collaborate in intuitive new ways. There are two experiences now available for Power BI: the current experience, generally referred to as Power BI for Office 365, and a new experience for Power BI, currently offered as a Public Preview.

Power BI new experience

The new experience is centered on PowerBI.com, an online service where you can quickly create dashboards, share reports, and directly connect to (and incorporate) all the data that’s important to you. The new experience also introduces the Power BI Designer, a dedicated report authoring tool that enables you to transform data, create powerful reports and visualizations, and easily publish to the PowerBI.com service. The new experience extends to all your mobile devices, too.

The current experience is enabled using Office 365, with Power BI Sites that reside in your organization’s SharePoint deployment. It includes many features that let you share your findings and your reports with others inside your organization.

Both experiences help you make extensive use of Microsoft’s powerful data tools, such as Power Query and Q&A, and others.

Note   As the new experience for Power BI becomes generally available, an automated process will be provided to facilitate the transition from the current experience to the new experience. More information about the transition process will be provided prior to the general availability release.

The following sections provide an overview of each experience, along with introductions and links to learn more about the details and capabilities of each offering. We start with the new experience, and then continue to the current experience.

Power BI - the new experience

In the new experience, Power BI displays dashboards on PowerBI.com that are interactive, and can be created and updated from many different data sources. Three elements are primary to the new experience on PowerBI.com:

  • Dashboards

  • Reports

  • Datasets

In the new experience, you create dashboards that keep you informed about what’s most important about your business. Just like a dashboard in your car displays important information about your vehicle, such as its speed, its fuel level, or how healthy the engine is, dashboard in Power BI display important information about your business.

Power BI dashboards

In Power BI, dashboards display tiles that represent important information about your business. Tiles are based on reports (just like gauges are based on vehicle data from the engine, the fuel tank, or the battery). You can select a tile to explore more information from the underlying report.

Power BI - tiles

The new experience also introduces a dedicated report authoring tool:

  • Power BI Designer

With the Power BI Designer, you get a powerful and dedicated report authoring tool that enables you to connect to and combine data from lots of different sources, using Power Query (simply called Query in the Power BI Designer). From there, you can create rich reports and visualization within the Power BI Designer (similar to Power View, but with many more visualizations). And when you’re done, publishing to PowerBI.com is easy.

Power BI Designer

There’s a lot more to learn about the new experience, and lots of content to help you learn. The following links provide information about each of the following elements of the new experience:

Getting Started - the new experience

Looking for guidance on how to get started with the new experience in Power BI? Take a look at these two resources:

And if you want to learn about the Power BI Designer, take a look at these guides:

Try it for yourself – visit PowerBI.com and see what’s there, or Get the Power BI Designer Preview and play around with it. And as always, We want your feedback.

Power BI for Office 365 – the current experience

Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 provides an organization-wide self-service business intelligence (BI) infrastructure, and brings Excel workbook sharing, online collaboration, and IT infrastructure together into a holistic offering.

Features and Services

Power BI for Office 365 (the current experience) consists of many features and services, and works seamlessly with Excel. Use Excel to create compelling content, data models, and visualizations, and then use Power BI to share, collaborate, and extend those insights (Excel is not part of Power BI for Office 365). More learning content is available for each of these features, by selecting the feature name in the following lists.

Self-Service BI Features in Excel – these features extend the data-specific features and capabilities of Excel 2013. Some of these have been available before, some are new.

  • Power Query– easily discover and connect to data from public and corporate data sources

  • Power Pivot – create a sophisticated Data Model directly in Excel

  • Power View– create reports and analytical views with interactive data visualizations

  • Power Map– explore and navigate geospatial data on a 3D map experience in Excel

Power BI for Office 365 – these features amplify the self-service BI capabilities created in Excel by making them available in a collaborative online environment.

IT Infrastructure Services for Power BI – these features get Power BI running in your organization, and enable IT professionals to provide, manage, and secure Power BI services.

Getting Started Guides

Two guides are available to get you up running with Power BI for Office 365 (the current experience):

Power BI Provisioning Guide – learn how provision and secure a Power BI tenant, how to assign user licenses for Power BI, and how the Admin Center enables IT professionals manage the services. This guide is designed for IT Professionals. Download the Provisioning Guide as a Word document.

Power BI Getting Started Guide – learn the self-service BI features in Excel, in a visual guide that walks through creating a workbook with multiple reports. Also learn how to navigate Power BI sites, manage your data, and get a tour of the Power BI app for Windows. This guide is designed for Excel users, report creators, and report consumers.

Links to forums, blogs, and more information

The following links provide additional information and engagement opportunities for Power BI:

  • We’re constantly updating Power BI features – check out What’s New in Power BI this month

  • Visit Power BI forums – find out what others are doing, saying, discovering

  • Read the Power BI blog – read the Power BI blog to hear directly from the product team

  • Power BI Site on Microsoft.com – visit the Power BI web site

  • Visit the Power BI Wiki page, which contains links to additional Power BI content

  • For frequently asked questions, and answers, see the Power BI for Office 365 FAQ

  • See this page for known issues with Office 2013 and Office 365

  • Take a look at this paper, Using Power BI in a Hybrid Environment, that describes best practices for security, networking, and component architecture for combining Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Azure, and on-premises data sources.

Some features of Excel 2013 may need to be enabled or downloaded.

There are certain software requirements and other considerations you should know about for Power BI. Please look through the Service Description for Power BI for Office 365.

Applies To: Power BI, Power BI Designer



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