Business users often depend on reports to make business decisions in a timely manner. However, as the volume and variety of business data that is used to make those decisions grows, relying on the IT department or business intelligence (BI) specialists to create reports introduces a bottleneck into ongoing business processes that can frustrate business users and prevent business agility. As a result, many organizations seek to empower their business users to create the reports they need for themselves in a self-service fashion.

As a BI professional, you will often be required to create reports for business users. Increasingly however, organizations are empowering users to create their own reports, and you must be able to support these self-service reporting scenarios by ensuring that users can access appropriate report authoring tools.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is a cloud-based service that works together with Excel to provide a complete self-service analytics solution. With both Excel to author reports and Power BI for Office 365 to share them, you can give everyone in your organization a powerful new way to work with data.

In Excel, you can now discover, combine, model, analyze, and visualize data like never before.

With Power BI for Office 365 you can easily setup an online gallery for users to share insights, collaborate and access reports created in Excel, from anywhere on any device while asking questions in natural language to get live interactive answers through data visualizations.

Who will use Power BI?

Any Excel user, who has a need for self-service BI capabilities, will find Power BI very useful. With its seamless interaction with Excel, Power BI is immediately accessible and intuitively connected to the software and services already used by report creators and Excel power users alike.

While the focus of this guide is the user, or report creator, other people in different roles also benefit from the features of Power BI. These roles tend to fall into three categories: report creator/user, data stewards and IT professionals, and report consumers. Let’s look at each in turn.

If you’re a report creator – such as a data analyst, data or BI consultant, or a mainstream Excel user – you’ll likely use Power BI’s sharing, collaboration, and search features often, and extensively. Online services that support collaboration, such as distributing interactive reports and sharing workbooks, are an important central workspace and information hub.

If you’re a data steward – such as a data scientist, a data administrator, or an IT professional – the online service features of Power BI enable you to provide specific and secure access to data resources. You can also certify a data feeds or query, and thereby identify – and differentiate – those items by granting them your stamp of approval. Online service-related elements of certain self-service BI tools – such as enabling the identification, selection, and secure distribution of on-premise and public data feeds – are also significant. If you’re in this category, check out the Power BI Provisioning Guide, which shows how to get Power BI running in your organization.

And if you’re a report consumer – anyone from an aspiring students to a CEO – you can collaborate, share securely, and interact with reports using Power BI for smarter, insightful, and more nimble decisions. This includes using an online hub, built right into Office 365, specifically tailored for collaborative BI.

What is Power BI Components?

These features are part of the familiar Excel environment, and extend its functionality to all sorts of cool data-specific capabilities. Excel enables you to create content (such as workbooks, data models, and visualizations) that can be published and shared in Power BI for Office 365; Excel is a separate offering, and is not part of Power BI for Office 365. Some of these BI features in Excel have been available before, some are new, but each is now integrated into Excel. These client tools are:

  • Power Query– easily discover and connect to data from public and corporate data sources. This includes new data search capabilities, as well as capabilities to easily transform and merge data from multiple data sources so that you can continue to analyze it in Excel.
  • Power Pivot – continue to create sophisticated data models with that data in Excel by creating relationships, custom measures, hierarchies, and KPI’s. Power Pivot models run in-memory so that users can analyze 100’s of millions of rows of data with lightning fast performance.
  • Power View– easily create reports and analytical views through interactive charts and graphs that help you explore and present your data visually in Excel.
  • Power Map– explore and navigate geospatial data on a 3D map experience in Excel.


Businesses today have access to increasing volumes of data, which business users must use to make ever-faster decisions in day-to-day business operations. In addition, business users are increasingly familiar with technology and adept at using it to perform their jobs. Although complex report authoring and delivery is a task that is best suited to IT and BI professionals, many organizations are adopting self-service reporting solutions that take advantage of the available business data and IT sophistication of users. This self-service reporting approach is of significant benefit in scenarios where businesses need to:

  • Empower information workers to get the information that they need to make informed decisions without waiting for an IT professional to create a report.
  • Supplement standard reports that the IT department create with custom reports for specific job roles or scenarios. 
  • Reduce IT workload by minimizing requests for custom reports, enabling IT professionals to focus on more strategic and operational tasks.

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