Thursday, November 24, 2016

Power BI Glossary - Terms & Defintions

Power BI
Power BI is a business analytics platform which is built using a collection of tools and services. Primarily, Power BI is a stack of two “companion” applications – Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service.

       Power BI Desktop is a freely downloadable, stand-alone, self-service BI application used to create data models, explore, slice and dice data, create interactive reports & visualizations, and share with other users in the organization by publishing the content to Power BI Service.

      Power BI Service is a cloud application hosted and maintained by Microsoft. Power BI Service provides a platform for business users to share, collaborate and interact with the content created using Power BI Desktop. Not only that, we can also create new reports and visitations using this service. Users would typically interact with the service using a web browser or a mobile device (there are native mobile applications available for windows, iOS, and android devices).

A dataset is the data model that is published to the Power Service. Using Power BI Desktop, I can create a data model by extracting data from my data sources (both cloud as well as on-premises), create reports, and publish the document to Power BI Service. The data model from the document shows up under Datasets in Power BI Service. Reports will show up under the Reports section

A visual is a chart used to represent data in a graphical fashion. As of this writing, Power BI has a total of 27 visuals (and the number is expected to grow).

A tile is a snapshot of the data (it can be a single visual, or an entire page from a report) which is added (“pinned”) to a dashboard. A tile is added to a dashboard by “pinning” the tile to the dashboard (on each visual, there is a “pin” icon). Tiles are set to auto-refresh every 15 minutes but can be refreshed manually as well. On the dashboard page, if you click the ellipsis (…) on the top right-hand corner, there is an option to “refresh dashboard tiles”.

A Power BI report consists of one or more pages (tabs) with each page containing visualizations, text boxes, images, etc.

A dashboard is created from one or more reports. Let’s suppose I have a report with a few tabs with several visuals on each tab. I can create a dashboard by selecting the visuals I like from each tab and “pinning” those visuals on the dashboard.

I can also create a dashboard by selecting visuals from different reports — this is the beauty of a Power BI dashboard  for example, if I have a report built off of my CRM dataset, and another report built off of my ERP dataset, I can pick visuals from these two reports and have them on a single dashboard. In other words, a dashboard can be created from visuals that belong to different reports and these reports can be from different datasets.

Trivia notes –
1. Visuals in the dashboards can’t be modified; those visuals need to be modified in the report and the changes would automatically reflect in the dashboard.
2.  Also, dashboards don’t have drill-down capabilities (as of this writing). If you think providing drill-down capabilities in a dashboard will be helpful, please vote this idea here

Power BI Gateway is an application that connects your on-premises data sources to Power BI Service so you can refresh your reports that are published to Power BI Service. For more information on Power BI Gateway, check out this post  Power BI Gateway

Analyze in Excel
The data sets we publish to Power BI Service can be explored and analyzed using Excel. This feature of Power BI is called Analyze in Excel. If I click on the ellipsis next to the dataset, and click on the option ‘Analyze In Excel’, Power BI will open up the dataset in an Excel pivot table, exposing all the data points in the data model. I can slice and dice by pretty much any field in the data model. Fore more information on this, check out this blog post - Power BI Analyze in Excel

Content Packs
For popular SaaS applications like SalesForce, Dynamics CRM Online, Google Analytics, etc., Microsoft has built a collection of data models, dashboards, and reports and made them available for Power BI users to consume. This pre-packaged collection of data models, dashboards, and reports is called Content Pack. Simply put, Content Packs provide out-of-the-box connectors to popular SaaS applications with prebuilt data model, reports, and dashboards; these dashboards and reports can be customized (“personalized”) if required to fit our own requirements.
For more information on content packs, check this blog post out  Power BI Content Packs

Quick Insights
Quick Insights is a unique feature of Power BI that uses Machine Learning Algorithms to search for patterns in data and provides a list of insights. These insights (visuals) can be saved by pinning them to a dashboard.
To know more about this feature, check this blog post out  Quick Insights In Power BI

Natural Language Query (Power BI Q&A)
Natural Language Query or Q&A is another unique feature of Power BI that lets users ask questions in simple language, and Power BI responds to the questions in the form of a visual. For example, I can ask a question by typing in ‘Show me sales this year vs. last year by product category’. I can also specify filters and visual type in my question. For example, I can type ‘show me sales by customer for the current quarter on a column chart’. These answers (which are visuals) can be saved to a dashboard if needed.

Of course, for this feature to work properly, we’ll need to use the terms and phrases that we have used in our data model. For example, if I ask Power BI ‘show me sales by customer’ but in my data model, customers are named/labeled as accounts, then Power BI Q&A may not provide the expected answer.

Power BI Free vs. Power BI Pro
There are two license types available in Power BI – Power BI Free and Power BI Pro.
·         Power BI Free is free but it lacks some advanced Enterprise features
·         Power BI Pro is $9.99 per user per month and is subscription based
For more information on Power BI pricing and licensing, check this post  Power BI Pricing and Licensing


  1. Thanks for sharing this post. Your post is really very helpful its students.
    Power BI Online Course Bangalore

  2. Each of the application involves the working with a specific set of data - The choice of one of them depends on the goals and needs of the user.