What powers Power BI in Office 365?

Ari Schorr and Seayoung Rhee are product marketing managers in the Microsoft Office Division focused on Excel and Business Intelligence, respectively.

Power BI for Office 365 is a new self-service business intelligence (BI) offering enabling businesses to gain insights from their data in powerful new ways within Excel and Office 365. Customers now have the ability to easily search, discover and access data inside and outside of their organization and, with just a few clicks, shape and transform that data. They can also analyze and create stunning interactive visualizations that uncover hidden insights to share and collaborate from virtually anywhere, on nearly any device.

Key features are:

Powerful Self-Service BI in Excel 2013: We are taking our most powerful BI solutions and building them directly into Excel. These solutions package the data discovery, analysis and visualization process into one self-service BI solution, which is essential for business customers who are looking to get bigger returns on their data. Features include:

  • For data search and discovery, we’re introducing Power Query, formerly “Data Explorer.” We’ve created a data search engine so customers can query data from within their business and from external data sources on the Internet, all within Excel. We’re also working with partners to provide an internal version of this search engine so businesses can customize the engine and index the data sources they commonly access. Power Query also cleans and merges data sets from multiple sources, enabling IT and BI customers to focus on data insights rather than data management.
  • For analyzing and modeling data we will continue to offer Power Pivot. Power Pivot enables customers to create flexible models within Excel that can process large data sets quickly using SQL Server’s in-memory database. Customers can customize the model as needed all within Excel – no extra coding needed.
  • For visualizing and exploring data we’re introducing Power View and Power Map, formerly project codename “GeoFlow.” Using Power View, customers can manipulate data and compile it into charts, graphs and other visual means – great for presentations and reports. Power Map is a 3D data visualization tool for mapping, exploring and interacting with geographic and temporal data. Customers can visually plot up to one million rows of data in 3D on Bing Maps, view data in a geographic space, and share findings through screenshot slides and cinematic, guided video tours. 

Collaborate and stay connected with Office 365: While all of these tools enable great self-service BI, asking business customers to work within a BI silo significantly decreases the potential value of their data to the entire organization. That’s why we’ve made all of these Excel capabilities available in the cloud with Office 365, so customers can share and access their BI reports and models across the desktop, Web and devices, all in a trusted, managed environment.

  • To share insights and help customers get answers quickly, we’ve created BI Sites. Within their organization’s trusted environment, BI customers can quickly create workspaces in Office 365 to share worksheets with colleagues, collaborate over insights and results, and quickly find data and reports. A couple key features of the BI Sites include a natural language query engine and a Data Management Gateway. We’ve incorporated a natural language query engine that IT can customize to help their users search for specific datasets quickly and easily. Additionally, we’ve created a Data Management Gateway, which allows IT to build connections to internal data sources so reports that are published to BI Sites in Office 365 will refresh either on-demand or on a scheduled basis, ensuring that customers are always looking at the latest view of their data.
  • To better manage data, Power BI for Office 365 empowers a business’s IT organization to help its users become their own data stewards. This means that customers can grant access to their published data sets based on their colleague’s credentials. In addition, customers can then track who’s accessing their data sets and how often to better understand what data is of most value to others. 
  •  To enable customers to stay connected to their data from virtually anywhere they are, we’ve created a connected BI experience. BI users can access and receive live updates on their reports through their browser with HTML5 or through a mobile application designed for their tablet or touch-enabled device, either Microsoft Power BI for Windows or Microsoft Power BI for iPad1.

Business that can rapidly gain insights from their data will lead their peers in the industry in the next decade. The ability to easily access any kind of data, extend existing IT systems, empower users customers with familiar tools to gain insights and quickly deploy powerful self-service BI solutions will become a key enabler for these businesses to differentiate themselves from their peers. Microsoft is uniquely positioned to help the enterprise through this transition, and only Microsoft is able to offer these features together in one complete cloud-based offering. 

To learn more about Power BI for Office 365 see below for some Frequently Asked Questions and go here to register for the preview, coming later this summer! 

Frequently asked questions

Q: What benefits will this service bring to customers?

Power BI for Office 365 empowers customers with a powerful platform to address several business needs, including, delivering self-service BI solutions to everyday business users natively within the environment they’re already familiar with – Excel and enabling collaboration and accessibility by putting BI in the cloud through Office 365. Not only will business customers be able to easily publish data sets and models to share with their colleagues, but their data will be accessible from virtually anywhere – on their desktop at work, over the Web at home, and on their mobile device while traveling. We will also be equipping IT with a set of management tools that enables them to safely leverage on-premise and external data sources within their organization’s trusted environment and monitor employee collaboration around this data. This is a crucial step for organizations looking to take their data insights to the next level and will enable IT to open up new doors for business users.

Q: What business intelligence features will be available in Excel?

Microsoft is taking our most powerful business intelligence tools and building them directly into Excel. These solutions package the data discovery and presentation process into one self-service BI solution, which is essential for business customers who are looking to get bigger returns on their data.

Q: How does the connection to Office 365 work? What features are available?

Power BI for Office 365 enables customers to collaborate and stay connected virtually anytime/anywhere through the cloud. The connection to Office 365 allows customers to share and access their BI models across the desktop, Web and devices, all in a trusted, managed environment.

Q: Can you talk more about the mobile BI offering? What is it and what devices are compatible? Will this work across non-Microsoft devices and platforms (including Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.)?

Power BI will provide touch optimized access to BI reports and models stored in Office 365 through the browser with HTML5 or through the Windows or iPad mobile app. Within the application, customers can find Excel and Power View content, interact and present that content on their device, and then share that content via email. We will offer support for other widely adopted platforms at a later date.

Q: How does Power BI for Office 365 differentiate from other offerings currently in market?

Power BI for Office 365 is the first cloud-based business intelligence service that brings together Microsoft’s full suite of self-service BI solutions and essential IT management tools that allow businesses to leverage on-premise and external data in a singular, secured environment. Our goal is to provide technology that enables employees to practice the art of analytics wherever they are, while providing IT with management technologies that increase collaboration in a trusted environment.

Q: Will on-premise Office customers be able to access these features?

Customers using the Excel 2013 application can create BI reports with features like PowerPivot and Power View. We provide the option to either utilize their on premise SharePoint and SQL Server BI infrastructure, or they may choose the Power BI for Office 365 service for publishing and sharing their reports.

Q: When will Power BI for Office 365 be available? How do I get it?

Customer can go here (http://www.office.com/powerbi) to register for the preview, coming out later this summer. Regarding general availability, we have no further information to share at this time. 

Q: How much will Power BI for Office 365 cost?

We have no further information to share at this time. We’ll communicate pricing information at a later date.

— Ari Schorr & Seayoung Rhee
1Microsoft Power BI for iPad will be released after general availability of the offer