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Microsoft Power BI

Vangie Beal
Last Updated March 8, 2022 9:48 am

Microsoft Power BI is Microsoft‘s cloud-based business intelligence (BI) solution. While Power BI functions as a standalone solution, it also offers deep integration with Microsoft’s Excel and Office 365 to analyze and visualize data from the desktop.

What does Power BI do?

Microsoft Power BI is a business analytical platform with a focus on business intelligence (BI) that collects data from different sources and analyzes and visualizes them, allowing teams to infer deeper business insights.

What are Power BI’s main components?

Microsoft Power BI consists of six primary and some secondary components that can be used individually or in combination based on users’ needs.

  • Power Query: Power Query can be used as a part of Power BI Desktop or as an add-on to Microsoft Excel to extract and combine data from a range of databases, like SQL Server, Oracle, and more, and records like Excel files, CSV files, etc. It uses the powerful Power Query M Formula language that enables users to build data mashups and transformations.
  • Power Map: Power Map is a 3D-based data visualization tool that works with Bing Maps to provide geospatial data visualization, particularly based on either latitude and longitude or country, state, and city.
  • Power Pivot: As a data modeling component, Power Pivot allows users to create data models from simple and complex data, find out relationships between tables and calculate their values. Power Pivot uses Data Analysis Expressions (DAE), a highly functional language, to get done with all calculations and data modeling.
  • Power View: Power View is a data visualization tool used to create interactive visualization models of data like diagrams, charts, maps, and more. It can filter data from a wide range of data sources to visualize the required data. 
  • Power BI Desktop: As an integrated development tool for the Microsoft Power BI components—Power Query, Power View, and Power Pivot—Power BI Desktop provides BI and data analysis solutions for businesses by building meaningful data queries, data models, and more.
  • Power Q&A: Power Q&A facilitates users to ask questions on particular data models and get appropriate answers to their queries. It works mainly with the combination of other components such as Power View or Power Map. 

Power BI Service, Data Management Gateway, Data Catalog, Power BI Website, and Power BI Mobile App extend Power BI’s fuctionality. These components allow Microsoft Power BI users to make result-driven business decisions through advanced data analysis, visualization, and reporting features.

How does it work?

By using Microsoft Power BI, users can extract data from different sources then clean and transform it according to user requirements using tools like Power Query and Power BI Desktop. Once the data is processed, it’s ready to generate reports using a variety of visualization tools, including Power View, Power Pivot, and Power Maps.

Users can then publish these generated reports either on Power BI Service (cloud-based) or Power BI Report Server (on-premises) by creating and sharing dashboards on Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server with other users of the company or outside users. 

Features and benefits of Microsoft Power BI 

Power BI is a feature-rich data visualization and analysis platform based on business intelligence. Here are some of the significant features and benefits of the Microsoft Power BI platform:

  • Power BI can access a large volume of data from different types of on-premises and in-cloud data sources.
  • Power BI’s interactive UI/UX features enable users to create interactive and multidimensional reports and to track the correlation between data tables. 
  • Power BI is easy to integrate with Microsoft products and languages like Python and R coding to create the best data models and data visualizations.
  • Power BI uses a range of visualization features such as charts, maps, diagrams, etc. to represent the data attractively.
  • It helps users fetch real-time and streamlined analytics from a variety of social media and data sources. 
  • Microsoft Power BI enables users to share the analytical reports and data visualizations on the Power BI service, which reduces the risks of sharing large files through email.

What alternatives are available?

Although Microsoft Power BI is a powerful option for most businesses. and scales to meet the needs of enterprise settings, it may not be the best option depending on a business’s needs and budget. Therefore, here are some alternatives to Microsoft Power BI:

Zoho Analytics

Zoho Analytics is solid option for BI users, as it’s easy to learn and deploy, and offers deep integration with Zoho’s Office suite. With Zoho Analytics, users can generate unlimited reports and a variety of data visualization charts, pivot tables, summary views, and more. The basic plan starts at $24 per month.


Sisense, a business intelligence tool, helps businesses to collect, analyze, and visualize complicated datasets quickly and build relevant market trends to make insightful business decisions. Contact their sales team for information on pricing.

Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio is a cloud-based data visualization tool that lets users without technical knowledge generate reports with the help of an intuitive interface and interactive dashboards. Google Data Studio is available free of cost for Google account holders.


Metabase is an easy-to-deploy business intelligence data analytics platform that allows users to learn and make meaningful decisions based on the company data. Like Google Data Studio, non-technical persons can also easily use Metabase, and its plan starts with $85 per month.

How does Power BI integrate with Microsoft Office 365 and Excel?

Power BI’s Microsoft DNA enables native integrations with Microsoft’s Office 365 business suite and Excel that make it possible for teams and individuals to work with large data sets with four key tools.

Power Query enables customers to easily search and access public data and their organization’s data, all within Excel (formerly known as “Data Explorer”).

Power Map is a 3D data visualization tool for mapping, exploring and interacting with geographic and temporal data (formerly known as product codename “Geoflow”).

Power Pivot creates and customizes flexible data models within Excel.

Power View creates interactive charts, graphs, and other visual representations of data.

Learn more about Power BI resources

Go deeper with TechnologyAdvice.com’s complete review of Power BI.

eWeek’s Drew Robb puts Power BI up against Tableau in Power BI vs. Tableau: 2022 Software Comparison.

Unlock Power BI’s power with TechRepublic’s handy Cheat Sheet.


This article was reviewed and updated in March 2022 by Siji Roy.