What is Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is a top business intelligence tool developed for the visualization and analysis of raw data. This tool, which forms part of the Office 365 suite, is used for data-driven decision making in various industries and professions, including retail, agriculture, banking, and manufacturing.

Key Insights

  • Microsoft Power BI, originally named Project Crescent and launched in 2011, is a crucial tool for data visualization and analysis, currently used by over 13,000 companies.
  • Power BI's machine learning capabilities help in predicting future scenarios based on current data patterns, aiding businesses in robust decision-making processes.
  • Power BI offers different packages at various costs: Power BI Desktop is free, Power BI Pro costs $9.99/user/month, and Power BI Premium is available for $20/user/month.
  • Apart from data reporting, Power BI finds applications across sectors like retail for managing processes, in agriculture for forecasting, and in banking for tracking business performance.
  • Learning Power BI opens up considerable professional opportunities as the demand for this skill is on the rise. Noble Desktop offers comprehensive Power BI training through live online and in-person courses.
  • Power BI's major competitor is Tableau, which is faster and can handle larger volumes of data but is more expensive than Power BI.

Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence tool with a range of applications for visualizing and analyzing raw data to gather actionable insights that an organization can use to help make data-driven decisions. Power BI was originally created in 2011 and released under the name Project Crescent. In 2013 it was renamed Power BI as part of the Office 365 suite. As of 2021, more than 13,000 companies reported using Power BI, making it one of the most popular business intelligence solutions currently available. 

In this overview, you’ll learn more about what Power BI is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it to determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox. 

What Can You Do with Power BI?

Power BI is a valuable tool for illustrating what’s happening within an organization in the present. It also has applications for helping to anticipate what may transpire in the future. Because it relies on machine learning capabilities, Power BI can locate patterns in data, then draw from these patterns to predict various “what-if” scenarios. Based on these predictions, Power BI users can create forecasts and work to prepare for different demand patterns that may emerge. They can then communicate this information through data visualizations, which impart key data findings to stakeholders to make more educated business predictions.

Power BI is a go-to for those who work with data because it can be used to input huge stores of data that would be a struggle for other platforms to process. Because this intelligence suite is cloud-based, it provides users with regularly updated algorithms and intelligence capabilities. Those who use Power BI can personalize their experience by creating dashboards that allow them to quickly and easily access necessary data. In addition, it’s possible to create alerts in Power BI, which provide users with up-to-date measurements. Best of all, because this platform can integrate with other business management tools, such as Office 365, SharePoint, SAP, Google Analytics, and Hadoop, it remains a hugely popular tool for those working with data across platforms. 

How Do You Download Power BI? How Much Does it Cost?

If you want to purchase Power BI, different packages are available for different costs. Power BI Desktop is currently offered as a free download. Power BI Pro costs $9.99/user/month, and Power BI Premium is available for $20/user/month. If you aren’t ready to purchase Power BI at this time, Microsoft offers a free Power BI trial.

Those interested in downloading Power BI can do so directly from Microsoft. Before downloading, you will need to make sure that the version of Power BI Desktop you are downloading matches the architecture of your Windows operating system. The operating systems supported are Windows 10, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, and Windows 11. Then you simply run the EXE installer and follow the Windows installation steps.

What Are the Benefits of Learning Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI has over 115 million users and is considered the industry-leading BI platform. Companies worldwide rely on this data solution, and the demand is expected to grow as more organizations see the value in collecting data. This versatile tool is relied on by Developers, Administrators, Designers, Marketers, and Accountants, among others, to cut down on risk and errors and facilitate intelligent decision-making. Many professional benefits await those with a background in using Power BI, and knowledge of this suite of tools can open many professional doors.

Power BI’s drag-and-drop system can quickly and easily transform data into meaningful visualizations. Power BI users can create dashboards or reports that present their findings in mere minutes from inputting data. Professionals can easily share these reports with both internal and external stakeholders. In addition, Power BI provides a way for users to monitor and control data usage, providing access only to those who should have it. When using Power BI, users can view real-time data at any time and from any location, making it a popular tool for those on the go.

Read more about why you should learn Power BI

Power BI Careers

The various applications for Power BI span professions and industries. This tool’s accessible interface and flexibility make it valuable for small-scale use, such as for employees to use for data reporting. In addition, companies can also elect to use this business solution on a larger scale, such as by hiring Microsoft Power BI partners or BI experts who assist Engineers in optimizing the benefits of various Power BI solutions.

In the retail sector, Power BI is useful for streamlining data management processes and helping retailers more effectively analyze data points to unearth actionable insights into customer purchasing patterns. This tool also has applications for consolidating data so companies can use it to help streamline supply chain operations. In the agricultural sector, Power BI draws from predictive analytics to provide forecasting insights, such as weather forecasts, wind direction, and temperature. This information helps inform decisions about irrigation or crop protection.

Those working in the banking sector also rely on Power BI to keep track of business performance and customer needs. When Power BI is used to manage workflows, banks and financial institutions better understand their customers, monitor profits and losses, focus on innovative digital opportunities, and even integrate various services and applications. Power BI is also used in the manufacturing sector to help businesses improve customer engagement and the efficiency of production sites. This tool also helps those working in manufacturing to reduce the frequency of information bottlenecks, predict hardware issues, reduce product disruptions or downtime, and make more informed business decisions.

How to Learn Power BI

One of the most effective and interactive ways to learn Power BI is by enrolling in an in-person or live online course. Live online Power BI classes, as well as Power BI classes in-person are currently offered by top educational providers. Courses are available for those new to Power BI, as well as intermediate and advanced learners interested in mastering more complex topics, such as Microsoft Power Query and DAX functions. In addition to courses that specifically focus on Power BI, instruction options are available in classes that include Microsoft Excel, data analytics, and data visualization, among others. You can also search through a complete listing of live online and in-person Power BI classes for a breakdown of each Power BI course's price, length, and learning format.

If you aren’t quite ready to commit to a class that meets at regularly scheduled times, another learning option to consider is self-paced Power BI courses. Asynchronous study allows learners to begin learning Power BI with the help of pre-recorded videos, pre-loaded tutorials, and instructional content. These classes allow learners to balance learning around other life commitments, such as family or work. You can pause videos or watch them multiple times when studying asynchronously, which can help you balance studying Power BI with other personal or professional commitments.

Another way to learn more about how to work with big data is to watch Noble Desktop’s Getting Started in Python: Data Science free webinar. This 80-minute video covers many relevant data science topics, such as how to use data science in the business sector, which have applications for those interested in pursuing business intelligence. You can also learn more about Power BI by visiting Noble’s Data Analytics Blog & Learning Resources page, which has over 150 articles on relevant data topics, such as how to use Power BI, working with Tableau, and the various types of data analytics.

Read the full guide on how to learn Power BI

A Brief History of Power BI

IN 2010, Power BI was invented by Amir Nerz and Thierry D’Hers, who were part of Microsoft’s SQL Server Reporting Services Team. Ron George was involved with the design aspects of what at this time was called Project Crescent. In 2011, Project Crescent was available for public download and was bundled with SQL Server Codename Denali. In 2013, this product was renamed Power BI and released by Microsoft as part of the Office 365 suite.

Power BI’s initial release was based on Microsoft Excel add-ins, such as Power Pivot, Power View, and Power Query. Over the years, Microsoft continued incorporating additional features, such as Power BI Gateways security options, enterprise-quality data connectivity, and Questions and Answers. When Power BI was released to the general public in 2015, several versions were available, such as Desktop, Mobile App, and Web. Later in 2015, Microsoft acquired Datazen, a Canadian company, to complement Power BI and to provide mobile BI capabilities for on-premises and tailored to SQL Server. In 2019, due to the widespread use of Power BI, Gartner declared Microsoft the leading vendor in the Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms. This was the 12th consecutive year Microsoft was honored for this category.

Comparable Applications

One of Power BI’s main competitors is Tableau, a popular tool for data analysis and visualization. Tableau is currently the industry-standard platform for business intelligence. It allows users to explore data, manage it, and quickly discover insights within it. This tool also makes it simple to share data findings with others who work within an organization, as well as external stakeholders. Like Power BI, Tableau provides users with drag-and-drop functionality for analyzing data. It also helps them connect to data with just a few mouse clicks. 

In terms of price, Power BI comes out as a cheaper option. Whereas Tableau Creator costs $70/user/month, Power BI Desktop is free, and Power BI Pro is available for less than $10/user/month. However, Power BI lags behind Tableau when comparing the speed of use. It performs better and faster with limited volumes of data but drags and slows down when working with bulk data. On the other hand, Tableau can quickly handle large data volumes. It also doesn’t limit the number of data points in visualization or require row size limitations. 

Concerning the user interface, Power BI is intuitive to use and integrates seamlessly with different Microsoft products. In addition, it doesn’t take long to learn the interface. Power BI Desktop’s interface includes three views: data view, report view, and model view, which help users further customize their experience. Tableau’s intelligent interface was designed to help users design and customize dashboards based on their requirements. The workspace includes various shelves and cards, a sidebar, a toolbar, a status bar, sheet tabs, and a data source page. Power BI comes out ahead for ease of use because it’s based on Microsoft Office 365’s UI, which means most users are already familiar with it. 

Learn Power BI with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Noble Desktop's Power BI Bootcamp is an excellent option if you want to learn more about using Power BI. This project-based course prepares students to use Power Query for data querying, Power BI’s data model for connecting to datasets, and its report view for designing interactive data visualizations and dashboards. Students work with different case studies to learn how to work with various Power BI capabilities and this tool’s DAX language for creating visualizations based on their data. All students have the option of a free retake for up to one year to revisit the material and gain additional practice.

Another excellent learning option for individuals who are interested in working with Power BI is Noble Desktop’s Data Analytics Certificate. This intensive course is offered in the in-person and live online format and provides participants with hands-on instruction with core data analytics and business intelligence tools and programs. Those enrolled complete real-world projects using Microsoft Excel, Python, SQL, and Tableau and have the option of also taking the Power BI Bootcamp free of charge. All students receive instruction from an expert instructor and one-on-one mentoring.

Key Insights

  • Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence solution for data analysis and visualization.
  • Power BI was created in 2011 and released as Project Crescent. It wasn’t until 2013 that it took its current name of Power BI and was included as part of Office 365.
  • Power BI Desktop is offered for free; Pro costs $9.99/month, and Premium is available for $20/month. A free Power BI trial is also currently offered by Microsoft.
  • Noble Desktop provides comprehensive Power BI training through their live online and in-person courses. 

How to Learn Power BI

Master Power BI with hands-on training. Power BI is a business intelligence tool made by Microsoft that is used to create dashboards and other data visualizations.

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