Unlocking the Power of Power BI for Business Intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) platforms are designed to help organizations gather, store, and analyze data from a variety of sources in order to make informed business decisions. These platforms typically offer a range of tools such as dashboards, reports, and data visualization that allow users to explore and analyze data from various sources, including databases, spreadsheets, and the web. By using BI platforms, organizations can gain insights into their data and make informed decisions that can help drive business success.

What is Power BI

Power BI is one such software sold by Microsoft. Business Intelligence software helps people make sense of data. It allows you to connect to different data sources (like Excel spreadsheets or databases), create charts and graphs to visualize the data, and share your findings with others. It’s used by businesses to make better decisions, and by individuals to understand trends and patterns in data.

Microsoft defines Power BI as “…a business analytics solution that is more than just a simple tool for visualizing your data and sharing insights across your organization. It allows you to embed data or insights into an app, such as Teams, SharePoint, your website, or even outside your organization.”

Power BI allows you to connect to hundreds of data sources and bring that data to life with live dashboards and reports. For example, you can connect to a data source where you are holding your project data, like Jira, and financial data in Oracle, and use that to produce automated reports on how much you have spent on your project so far.

Power BI Suite of Products

Power BI Desktop App: The Power BI Desktop App is a free tool that allows users to create reports using Power BI. It is available for Windows PC, but not for Mac.

Power BI Service: The Power BI service is a website (app.powerbi.com) where users can view reports created with the Power BI Desktop App. To log in, users will need a user ID, which is usually their organization’s email address. The Power BI service is designed for organizations, so personal email accounts (such as Gmail or Hotmail) cannot be used to log in. Users can choose between a free version (Power BI Free) or a paid version (Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium). Power BI Pro allows users to share and view shared reports, while Power BI Premium is designed for large organizations with thousands of users. Premium includes additional capabilities such as large data volume support and dedicated capacity. There is also a licensing option called Power BI Premium per user, which allows organizations to purchase Power BI Premium capacity on a per-user basis.

Power BI Gateway: The Power BI Gateway is a piece of software that allows the Power BI service to retrieve data from on-premises systems like SQL Server or Jira. It is installed on a machine that is running Power BI, and provides a connection between the Power BI service and the on-premises system. To use the Power BI Gateway, users will need to have access to the report in Power BI. The Gateway enables the Power BI service to retrieve the data from the on-premises system and bring it back for everyone to see.

Power BI Suite Options
Power BI Suite – Credit : Ben Howard

Power BI Embedded: Power BI Embedded is a tool that is now included in Power BI Pro. It allows users to create multi-page reports, which was previously a premium feature.

Power BI Report Server: Power BI Report Server is a tool that allows users to host and manage Power BI reports on-premises. It includes the paginated report builder, which allows users to create multi-page reports.

Analyze in Excel: Analyze in Excel is a feature of Power BI that allows users to analyze Power BI reports in Excel. However, some users may not find this feature useful, as they may feel that the Power BI service is sufficient for reporting purposes.

Power BI Mobile : Power BI Mobile is a mobile version of Power BI that allows users to access and view reports on their mobile device. It is available for both Android and iOS devices. With Power BI Mobile, users can stay connected to their data and view reports anytime, anywhere.

Power BI Desktop Report Designer

The Power BI Desktop application is a report designer that allows users to create reports using data from various sources. To get started, users can download the app onto their Windows laptop and begin designing reports. The app can access data from on-premises sources, cloud-hosted data, databases, Excel or CSV files, and even Active Directory or Project Online.

In addition to these sources, the Power BI Desktop app also enables users to bring in data from third-party services and web pages. For example, users can retrieve today’s currency exchange rate and use it for currency conversion between US dollars and euros. They can also access webpages and use data from them to build reports, such as using European Eurostat data.

After creating a report using various datasets, users can publish it to the Power BI service, a secure workspace that requires a Power BI license and proper permissions to access. Once published, the report is stored in the cloud and can be accessed and viewed on different devices.

Overall, the Power BI Desktop app is a useful tool for creating reports using data from a wide range of sources. It allows users to retrieve data from third-party services and web pages, and then publish their reports to the Power BI service for easy access and viewing on different devices.

The ability to view and access a report allows us to take various actions, such as :

  • Alert: Set up alerts for important updates or changes related to the report.
  • Collaborate: Collaborate and share images with others using the report as a platform for discussion.
  • Subscribe: Subscribe to receive daily reports, such as a list of tasks due for the day, at a specific time each morning to stay organized and on track with our work.

Power BI Mobile Apps

Power BI Mobile apps are available for both Apple and Android devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets. These mobile apps offer the same features and functionality as the desktop version, but on a portable device. This makes it convenient for users to access and view their reports on the go, to easily stay up to date with their work. Additionally, other devices, such as Windows phones, may also be supported. Overall, Power BI Mobile apps provide a useful tool for managing and accessing reports while on the move.

Viewing Reports Using the Power BI Mobile App

Power BI allows users to view reports on a variety of devices, including mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers. The process of viewing a report on a mobile app on a phone begins by publishing the report to app.powerbi.com, where the data and report are made available. In order to ensure that the data is up to date, the report can be set to refresh on a weekly or daily basis.

Illustration of the different views in Power BI
Viewing Reports in the Mobile App – Credit: Ben Howard

When viewing the report on a tablet device, it is typically best to view it in portrait mode, as the device is wide enough to display all the information on one screen. However, when using a smaller handheld device, such as a phone, it may be necessary to view the report in landscape mode, in order to see all the information as it was intended when the report was created. If the phone is turned to portrait mode, an optimized view may be displayed, allowing for a mobile-optimized version of the report. If a mobile-optimized version is not available, the standard report view may be displayed, but it may be narrow and difficult to read on a small screen. Overall, Power BI provides a convenient way to access and view reports on a variety of devices.

Image of the Power Bi MObile options views
Power BI Mobile Options – Credit: Ben Howard

It is important to consider the mobile-optimized view when giving out reports that will be accessed on mobile devices, as it ensures that the report is displayed correctly on any device. The mobile app automatically adjusts the width and height of the report to display the data appropriately, making it a convenient and easy way to access and view reports on the go.

The image below illustrates how as a report developer, you can use Power BI Desktop to develop reports with data from a variety of sources. You can then publish these reports to the service, where other people can view them on different devices. This is essentially what we’ve covered in this section.

Illustration of Power BI Desktop Application Report Designer – Credit: Ben Howard

Some Terminologies Defined

Workspaces, datasets, reports, dashboards, and apps are important terms to understand when it comes to organizing and sharing data.


A workspace is a unit of security that acts as a container for datasets, reports, and dashboards. It is typically used for testing purposes and can be shared with others, but only if they also have a Pro license. You cannot share reports from your own workspace, but you can share reports from a shared workspace with others who have a Pro license. For example, you might have a PMO workspace, and give access to it to everyone in the PMO, so they can see all the reports in the workspace.


A report is a set of visualizations that show data from a data set

You might also have some reports in the workspace, like a monthly portfolio management report, which you might share with the senior leadership team, or the project or program director. A workspace can contain multiple datasets, and a dataset can support or provide multiple reports. You are not limited to one report per dataset, and you can have many datasets and many reports within a workspace

I recently worked with a client who had one dataset driving about 5 reports. They needed to transition from one system to another, and wanted to ensure a smooth transition, including making sure the datasets would all work. All I had to do was change one dataset and all 5 reports worked well on the first of January.


A dataset can support or provide multiple reports. While it’s most common to have one dataset per report, this is not a requirement. A report is a set of visualizations that display data from the dataset. A visualization can be an image, graphic, or text. A report can contain multiple pages, but it’s not best practice to limit a report to 3 or 5 pages. Instead, you can navigate through many tabs in an Excel workbook. In addition to reports, we have dashboards which are often used with reports.


A dashboard sits above a set of reports and can display a collection of visualizations from different reports. For example, you might have 5 PMO reports, but one PMO dashboard containing key visualizations from those reports. When you click on a visualization on the dashboard, it will take you directly to the report where it originated. Finally, we have apps, which are pre-packaged collections of a dashboard (optional), a report, and a dataset. You can package an app and make it available to the entire organization. For example, if you’re in the PMO and want to provide a report for anyone in your organization to use, you can package it into an app and users can search for it.

illustration that shows the relationships between Workspaces, datasets, reports, dashboards, and apps
Relationships between Workspaces, datasets, reports, dashboards, and apps

The image above illustrates how these things relate to each other. On the left, you have some data sources, you have some data coming from the CIA Guff Library, which I use to give me a list of flags around the world for demo purposes. I have two data sources here, coming into a dataset called World Cup, which drives the report called World Pop. I also have a data feed coming from Project Online, which goes into a dataset called Projects Online, which drives the report called Projects Online. This report feeds into a dashboard called Portfolio Dashboard. That’s how it all fits together.

Real-world Examples

This is a webpage from Wikipedia that lists countries by population, including the United States. The webpage includes a table of data with HTML formatting. The data includes information about each country, such as the UN Continental region and the United Nations Statistical Region. The population is estimated as of a certain year, and the data can change over time.

I thought about what I could do with this data from Wikipedia if I brought it into Power BI Services.

Wikipedia page list of countries by population
Wikipedia page list of countries by population

In this demonstration, I will show you a bit of navigation and some other things. Essentially, I took all the data points for the countries and put them on a map. The map is interactive, so you can scroll through it. I colored the map to show different regions. For example, China is orange because it is in the Asia region. India is also in the Asia region.

I set the size of the bubbles representing each country to be proportional to the size of the population. For example, Hong Kong has a smaller bubble because it has a smaller population of seven million people, compared to China, which has a populadtion of one billion people. This is very easy to do with Power BI.

Power BI is good at recognizing the locations of different countries. For example, it is able to identify UK on the map, which has a population of a certain number. I used the same method to display the data on the tree map (right of the map).

Map visualizations can be a powerful tool for understanding and interpreting data. In Power BI, it is easy to create static map visualizations to get started. To begin, simply select the map visualization option and input your data.

Once you have a basic map set up, there are several ways you can analyze and display the data. For example, you can focus on the largest countries or the fastest growing countries in terms of population. You can also examine the slowest countries, which are those with the most net migration.

To add more context to your visualizations, you can include tooltips that provide additional information when a user hovers over a specific country. You can also display the data in different formats, such as numbers or percentages. For instance, you might show the population of a country as a percentage of the world’s total population.

In summary, Power BI provides a variety of options for visualizing and analyzing map data. By using the tools and techniques discussed in this article, you can create clear and informative visualizations that help others understand and interpret map data.


Power BI is a powerful business intelligence platform offered by Microsoft that helps organizations gather, store, and analyze data from a variety of sources in order to make informed business decisions. It offers a range of tools, including dashboards, reports, and data visualization, that allow users to explore and analyze data from various sources. Power BI has a suite of products, including the Power BI Desktop App, Power BI Service, Power BI Gateway, Power BI Embedded, Power BI Report Server, Analyze in Excel, and Power BI Mobile, which offer different capabilities and cater to different needs. By using Power BI, organizations can gain insights into their data and make informed decisions that can help drive business success.

Written by Ben Howard
Ben Howard – Awarded Community Leader for his very popular and comprehensive UK web training series and has over 30 years of experience of implementing enterprise solutions for customers worldwide.  During that time, he’s worked for IBM, DELL, and Microsoft, as well as several smaller organisations. He now runs his own consultancy (Applepark Ltd), providing Project, Project Online and Power BI implementation and training services. He has been awarded the Microsoft Most Value Professional award for Project for the last 13 years, blogs semi-frequently at www.applepark.co.uk, produces video training for Pluralsight and his own YouTube channel, and finally was responsible for producing P2O, an application that exports tasks from Microsoft Project into Outlook.  You can catch him at ben@applepark.co.uk  
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