Business intelligence

What is Power BI?

11 November 2021

As we talk in our post about challenges encountered in implementing a Business Intelligence strategy, Power BI is one of the most versatile and complete BI tools on the market. In this post, we will better understand the possibilities of this platform.


Throughout this publication we will cover the following topics:

What is Microsoft Power BI
How does it work?
Power BI Usage Examples
Alternatives to Power BI

What is Microsoft Power BI


According to Microsoft Web site, Power BI enables “an incredible data experience, through the connection, modeling and visualization of different company data, creating reports that are easy to customize with unique KPI's and other customization possibilities”.

Generally speaking, it is a Business Intelligence and Data Visualization tool to convert information from various data sources into interactive dashboards and analysis reports. Power BI allows the configuration of interactive views with a simple interface for end users to create their own reports and dashboards.

In practice, the main function of Power BI is to unify the viewing data from multiple sources in a visual dashboard, intuitive and easy to understand, considering the BI premise, which is nothing more than the organization and use of data to make more effective business decisions.

It has great compatibility with other Microsoft tools, and, for everything to go well, it is important that the tool is configured correctly, requiring the efforts of a professional or a team specialized in BI.

We should keep in mind that it is offered in different versions like the PowerBi Desktop, a free application, installed locally on the user's computer; it's the Power BI Services, which is a paid, cloud-based product that offers more possibilities and is divided into pro and premium subcategories.

These different versions were made to better adapt to the needs of each business. There is also the mobile version, which is nothing more than the possibility of viewing data from a specific application for mobile devices.


Possibilities of views of Power BI dashboards. Image Credits: Microsoft.

How does it work?


Despite offering simplified views and insights, MS Power BI is complex and has a lot of functionality. To understand its functioning, we first need to understand the dynamics and possibilities related to it.

The main working logic of Power Bi is its ability to gather data from diverse sources. They can be imported into the tool from Excel, SQL, CRM or sales software, web analytics information, various databases, among others.

Alongside this, we have a robustness factor given to Power BI that does not exist in MS Office tools, for example. It is possible to import millions of rows of data from a CSV, for example (or other files) without any problems, something that would possibly crash some standard spreadsheet editor such as Excel.

The natural flow existing in Power BI focuses on three main steps, which are:

  • Input from sources (and data processing);
  • The relationship of these sources;
  • Viewing information in reports and dashboards.

It all starts with importing data into the tool. And in this step it is possible to import raw, or transform this data as needed. This second option will be used most of the time, after all, data from different sources have different logics, therefore, the more they are processed in the input phase, the less work will be done in a second moment, when relating them. This pre-treatment will be done by a platform feature called Power Query Editor.

Once the data has been loaded, treated and properly formatted, it's time to create the necessary relationships, rules and formulas (in a logic very similar to that of standard spreadsheet editors, such as Excel, but with more features, as well as with the conditional logics common to programming languages).

After that, you configure the views, graphics and panels you intend to use, which can even be shared externally, incorporated in other environments, etc.

Examples of use 


Due to its versatility, the solution can be used in different ways and for different functions. However, here we will cite three situations where the use of Power BI can make sense.


Sales Performance Dashboard


 This example, originally posted by Power BI community , helps in understanding the sales of a company in relation to the previous year. Alongside this, this dashboard provides insight into the performance of different product segments and which channels are generating revenue.

The dashboard allows you to view KPI's (key performance indicators) in relation to revenue and profit for the period. By clicking on the link above, you will see that you can access the dashboard interactively.


Human Resources Analysis Dashboard


The panel presented by the company Pine Date starts with an overview of headcount, monthly salary, and vacancies for the first quarter of the year, followed by hiring statistics, talent turnover rate, and percentage of people laid off.

In addition to purely numerical data, it is possible to see good insights, as in this example, where we can see that involuntary turnover is particularly high in the IT department, while, on the other hand, we can see that most talent is laid off during the first year.

Talent satisfaction on this HR analytics dashboard is measured using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and analyzed across different time periods across the enterprise. There is also a talent skill classification, represented by five main criteria so that you can quickly identify the effectiveness and strengths and weaknesses of the team.

Information such as this example is a valuable source for the HR department to map out strategies and make important decisions.


Social Media Monitoring Dashboard


This report, too published in the Microsoft community shows how powerful Power BI can be when companies use it as a social media monitoring and analytics tool to improve sales, product quality, crisis control, and understand public opinion about the product.

You can access the dashboard interactively by accessing the publication's original link.

Social media monitoring on custom dashboards makes a lot of sense for marketers and advertising agencies to effectively measure the return on digital marketing actions.

Alternatives to Power BI


desktop tableau

It is probably Power BI's main direct competitor. Tableau offers a good experience and usability when it comes to building dashboards using historical data. It has great possibilities for customizing dashboards and is an intuitive platform to help you understand really relevant metrics.



SAP Business Objects BI Suite

It is mainly used for operational reporting. Allows performance monitoring and the use of different KPI's. It comprises of various applications that help users find data, conduct analysis and generate reports.



IBM Cognos Analytics

Cognos Analytics is a business intelligence platform powered by IBM's AI that supports the entire analytics cycle, from discovery to operationalization.

In it, you can view, analyze and share insights in a shared way with teams with different options for privacy s visualization.



Qlik Sense

A data visualization and discovery platform that allows you to create flexible and interactive visualizations.

Qlik Sense does not have predefined and static reports and has a simple and intuitive administration panel, which adapts to the needs of each user. 


There are other tools available that are definitely worth exploring to understand which one best suits your organization's needs. However, Power BI is probably one of the most complete, given the full extent of its possibilities.

A VFR Tech is an expert in Power BI. We have extensive experience in implementing and sustaining Power BI projects, of all sizes and in various operating segments, not only in Portugal, but in several countries around the world.

Want to know how we can help you? Send a message to us or contact via WhatsApp. It will be a pleasure to work together!



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