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Posted April 21, 2014

Getting Started with Microsoft Power BI for Office 365

By Arshad Ali

Introduction

Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used tools across the globe. Microsoft empowers Excel users to create Business Intelligence reports quickly in Excel itself with Power BI. Power BI is a familiar, intuitive and cloud based self-service BI (Business Intelligence) solution for all your data needs in your very own Excel, which users have been using for decades. It includes different tools for data discovery, analysis and visualization. Furthermore, Power BI integrates with Office 365 to share, collaborate and much more.

In my last article, I talked in brief about all the products and their purpose in creating self-service reporting in Excel; in this article I am going to talk in detail about how Power BI works for Office 365 and what features they provide.

Getting Started with Microsoft Power BI for Office 365

Office 365 is cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering built on a scalable, manageable, trusted platform and offers access to various services and software built around the Microsoft Office.

Power BI integrates with Office 365 to better provide self-service analytics in the cloud, better collaboration capabilities as users can now share reports they have created with other folks in the organization with the help of Office 365 online services and use Mobile BI to view reports on any mobile devices supporting HTML5.

To start with, you need to visit http://powerbi.com/, click on “Free Trial” (if you want to try it out or click on “Buy Now” to buy it). This will take you to a sign up page for setting up your subscription, fill up the information and click on “create my account” to get start with your subscription.

Purchase and pricing details for Power BI for Office 365 is available here.

Start your free trial
Start your free trial

The Office 365 admin center page will display the progress of the provisioning as it takes 10-15 minutes time to provision Power BI for Office 365. Once completed you can see “No issues” as shown below:

Office 365
Office 365

Once Power BI for the Office 365 site is created, you can click on Power BI under the Admin menu on the top right corner of the Office 365 admin center page as shown below.

Power BI
Power BI

You might face an issue as shown below. As you can see the logging account, under which I have logged in, does not have a user subscription assigned and hence I need to do that first before I can administer it:

No Power BI for Office 365 License
No Power BI for Office 365 License

Click on Users and Groups link on the Office 365 admin page available on the left or click on Assign user licenses available under admin shortcuts on the right as shown below:

 

Admin Shortcuts
Admin Shortcuts

On the next screen, you need to first choose the user to whom you want to assign a user license and then on the subsequent page assign Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 as shown below:

Assign Microsoft Power BI for Office 365
Assign Microsoft Power BI for Office 365

Now if you go back again and click on Power BI under Admin on the Office 365 admin center page, it will take you to the Power BI admin center page. From here you can administer and manager Power BI for your subscription; for example you can manage security, data management gateway – which allows you to make data available to user while searching in Power Query, – etc.

Power BI admin center
Power BI admin center

By default a site collection gets created with the domain name you specify when registering (though you can even create more site collection or site after registration apart from the default one which was created during registration); for example, in my case I provided learnpowerbi as the domain name and hence this site was created for me: https://learnpowerbi.sharepoint.com/

AdventureWorks Technologies Team Site
AdventureWorks Technologies Team Site

To add the Power BI capability to your site, click on the Site Contents on the right and then hit Power BI as shown below:

AdventureWorks Technologies Team Site: Site Contents
AdventureWorks Technologies Team Site: Site Contents

 

This will start adding Power BI capability to your site and will ask if you want to add some sample files (Excel files with Power Pivot models and Power View reports) to play around. If you are new to Power BI, I would highly recommend you add them so that you can quickly start working on it and understand it quickly. Later on, if not required you can delete them:

Add Power BI Sample Data
Add Power BI Sample Data

This is how your Power BI site should look; you can see sample files added under the Documents section. You can make any of the reports or questions to be featured and it should start appearing in the top section of the screen for quick access.

Power BI Site
Power BI Site

You can click on Add link to upload your own Excel documents with Power Pivot models and Power View reports:

Upload Your Own Excel Documents
Upload Your Own Excel Documents

If you click on any of the uploaded Excel documents, it should start showing reports as shown below. Notice on the bottom, you can click on any of the tabs to view different reports embedded in the Excel document. You can find Filters of the report on the right side, which can be collapsed or expanded as per your need.

Reports
Reports

Power BI Q&A

With Power BI Q&A you can ask questions in natural language and get back answers promptly, presented to you in a different visualization options. This feature allows users to discover, explore, and visualize their own enterprise data using natural language; answers to questions are shown in the form of visualization that changes dynamically as you modify the question, creating a truly interactive experience for your data. On the right side of the Power BI site, you can click on “Search with Power BI Q&A” as shown below:

Search with Power BI Q&A
Search with Power BI Q&A

Now you or your business users can type questions in natural language (no need to be a technology expert anymore to analyze the data) and get answer promptly.

Please note, currently Power BI Q&A works on the models you have deployed on the Power BI site as Excel documents (Power Pivot or Power View) and there might be changes in the future for broader support.

For example, as part of the sample file deployed, there is one file containing a model with population information and hence if I type “show population” as shown below, I can see the total population:

Population Information Model
Population Information Model

Next if I extend my question to “show population of India”, this is what it looks like:

Population Information Model Drilled Down
Population Information Model Drilled Down

Further, if I extend my question to “show population of India by year vs china”, this is how the report looks. One the right side of the report, you can see different visualization options to choose from:

Population Information Model Drilled Down
Population Information Model Drilled Down

 

Power BI Mobile App

Power BI for Office 365 introduces a mobile BI app that supports HTML 5 and allows you to view your Power View reports on any device supporting HTML5 hosted on Office 365 sites. This allows you to stay connected to your reports deployed on Power BI for Office 365 from wherever you go. You can explore reports (filtering, sorting and highlighting can be done in an interactive manner) with the touch optimized experience, and quickly share insights with colleagues, and quickly tag reports as favorites to access them later with one tap. You can download this Windows BI app from here.

Once downloaded the mobile app should look like this (this has sample reports to help you understand the app better):

Mobile App
Mobile App

When you right click on the mobile app, you will get an option to browse your own Power view reports deployed on Power BI for Office 365:

Browse Your Own Power View Reports
Browse Your Own Power View Reports

On the Browse screen, specify the location for Power BI for Office 365 site and credential to connect to it as shown below:

Power BI Authentication
Power BI Authentication

Now you can browse all your Power View reports (as part of an Excel workbook) deployed on the Power BI site (for which you have access rights) and select the one that you would like to view in the mobile app:

Shared Documents
Shared Documents

Once you are connected to the Excel document that contains the Power View reports, you can view all the “Views” of the report. You need to right click on the report and all the “Views” will start appearing on top as you can see below (for example, there are six views for the selected Power View report) and you can select any one of them or use the touch screen to move left or right to view different views.

Views
Views

Please note, the HTML5 version of Power View is a work in progress, so some visualizations may not yet work.

As the world of technology is changing quite rapidly, especially cloud computing, some of the options or features demonstrated in this article might change in the future. I would highly encourage you to refer to Power BI official documentation for the latest update.

Conclusion

Microsoft Power BI is familiar, intuitive and a cloud based self-service BI solution for all your data need in your very own Excel. It includes different tool for data discovery, analysis and visualization. In this article, I talked about how Power BI works with Office 365, how to get started with it and what features they provide. I also talked about mobile app to access Power BI reports on the go.

Resources

Power BI demo video

Power BI for office 365

Power BI Blog

Power BI Solution Example

See all articles by Arshad Ali



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