Power BI 2.0 – Day 1: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Power BI: Zero to hero

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Power BI: Zero to Hero series
Day 1: introduction

Today we’ll look at what Power BI was, is and can be thanks to users everywhere.


In this blog series, together we’ll go from beginner to expert in Power BI as fast as humanly possible.
On our path, we’ll use Microsoft and non-Microsoft resources and we’ll try to explore what Power BI can add to an enterprise BI stack.

We’ll be using datasets like the old AdventureWorks database and any useful databases we can get from opendata initiatives.
But we’ll also explore the new data source possibilities included with Power BI.
These include web pages, OData feeds, On-Premise Tabular models and much more.

This series will be split into “days”. With each day representing a bitesize and mostly self-contained “module”.
You can either go through all the content at once or pace it 1 day at a time.
As busy as everyone is these days, it is my suggestion to go through each “day” during a lunch, a quiet evening or even in a short group session at work.

This way, together we’ll go step by step through the desktop application and the web service.
Along the way we’ll learn to work with Power BI and discover in which way, different parts can be fitted into an existing Enterprise Business Intelligence solution.

Read on to get started!


What is Power BI (2.0)?

Power BI is Microsoft’s, recently repolished, dashboarding tool for the cloud, hence the (2.0) designation.
Except, it’s not only for the cloud anymore, it now has a sibling that lives on your desktop!
And it’s not purely cloud anymore either, it can now also use your on-premise Analysis Services Tabular models.

But keep in mind that the online version is more of a service instead of a tool.
This fits nicely into Microsoft’s new business model.
Loosely translating this new business model…
Microsoft has been undergoing a slow transformation from Windows OS and Office Software provider to a model which puts itself in the center of the world.
The new Microsoft is about enabling the customer to do what it needs to do.
This means that instead of pushing everyone out of the market, the new Microsoft has opened it’s doors.
This means not only letting everyone in, sharing code via GitHub for example, but it also means ensuring that a lot of popular software now gets integrated as perfect as possible with it’s own software.
Some examples of this grew out of partnerships with companies nobody could have imagined Microsoft would partner up with.

  • Docker (the Linux software container company)
  • SalesForce (the cloudbased CRM company)
  • Pyramid Analytics (the next generation business intelligence platform for the enterprise)

The old Power BI

We know Power BI used to be intertwined with an Office 365 subscription.
And if we’re being honest, back in those days it had quite a few shortcomings.
Integration with other applications was nearly non-existent in this version.
Even worse, it also was a bit more expensive compared to both the current free and $9.99 versions.
This “old” version, will still stay available for a while to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.

To everyone asking my opinion about the old Power BI, I’ll always keep stating that “it wasn’t great, but luckily the new version is!”

The Excel Power* Tools

Most of us know the Excel Power* tools from the plugins in Office 2010.
They still exist today in Office 2013 and it doesn’t seem like they’re going away.

  • Power Pivot
  • Power Query
  • Power View
  • Power Map

That sure is a lot of power in those names… But as anyone who’s used them can tell you, they deserve it (mostly…).

These tools basically live in a separate ecosystem from Power BI.
They are used in Excel and are most likely to be deployed to SharePoint or SSAS Tabular

All the good stuff that you know and love about these tools got integrated in a, mostly, great and inconspicuous way into the new Power BI.

But we’ll get to all that in a later post.

The new Power BI

The new Power BI, version 2.0 if you will, has been over half a year in the making.
During this period it was available as a public preview version with updates being released weekly.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that this short release cycle gave a LOT more opportunity for Microsoft to use people’s feedback.

For a list of all the newly added functionality, 
check out my previous blog post: Power BI 2.0 General Availability

One great example of this short feedback loop is someone requesting a connector for UserVoice.
UserVoice is a piece of software, which Microsoft also uses, that helps you manage customer feedback and helps you give support.
In this case Microsoft went above and beyond the call of duty, even creating a Content Pack for UserVoice.

Content packs are an easy all-in-one way to
 - Connect to a custom data source
 - Have ready-made dashboards and reports
 - Have ready-made data-sets

As you read in my Power BI 2.0 General Availability post, the new features go way beyond just these content packs for existing applications.
There’s the ability to create your own organizational content packs, connectors for a LOT of sources, and there are even custom visualizations using the D3.js library coming our way!

What about support for x/y/z ; Can I do x/y/z?

As I previously said, perhaps the single greatest thing about Power BI is the pace at which it is being developed.
It seems that even after General Availability, Microsoft is keeping it’s past weekly update pace (for the online service) and monthly update pace (for the desktop application).

So if there is ever something wrong or missing in your opinion than jump onto Power BI UserVoice.

  • Feedback Forum: Search and vote for an existing feature or request your own
  • Knowledge Base: Search the extensive library of articles for tips, tricks and a guide for troubleshooting

But let’s not forget the community!

  • The Power BI community is the one place to ask questions, discuss whatever you want and get opinions from experts.

And lastly, there’s


Today we learned

The tool

  • Power BI is no longer comparable to it’s previous version
  • Microsoft has put the old Power tools to a good use in the new Power BI version but you will hardly notice it
  • We know the high level overview of what’s new in Power BI 2.0

The Support

  • We now know where to get help for most of our questions and troubles during our journey
  • We can now submit our own feature requests to the Power BI team

Got questions, remarks or just want to discuss this blog?
Let me hear about it in the comment section, via Twitter or LinkedIn

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