Microsoft BI

Microsoft Power BI is a self-service business analytics tool. It is designed for use in a number of specific use cases in which Imperial College Analytics (ICA) is not the best option. ICA remains the main reporting system and the system of choice for most analytics.

What is a self-service business analytics tool?

A self-service tool, as opposed to an enterprise tool like ICA, allows the user to implement a set of dashboards without needing to code. This means the end user can connect to data, process it and then turn it into reports. Tableau is another example you might be familiar with.

Why is Microsoft Power BI supported, as opposed to another tool?

Information Insight, with super-users across the College, undertook a detailed evaluation of the top self-service BI tools and selected Microsoft Power BI. It was a better strategic fit and a stronger tool in terms of functionality. It also compliments ICA particularly well.

There will be niche cases where another tool remains a better option – no one tool was able to meet all of the needs we identified.

Can I get access to Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI can be made available to staff on a case-by-case basis. The increased analytic power of the tool comes with increased responsibility for the way it is used. Therefore, Power BI is not being enabled for all staff.

If you wish to access content already in Microsoft Power BI, you should contact the ICT Service Desk. All users accessing Power BI analytics tools, either as end users via Office 365 dashboards or super-users (producers of analytics) via the Desktop tool, are required to do the following:

If you want to use Power BI for an analytics project, contact Information Insight for initial advice. They will be able to help you assess if Power BI is a good fit for your needs.

There are then separate training offers for different users. For end users accessing the dashboards via Office 365, training will be delivered in relation to the specific data you are accessing. This will normally be via your department or a nominated individual. For super-users who will be producing and maintaining analytics, training is available from Information Insight.

Why would I use Power BI?

To prototype for ICA

ICA requires the building of a data model up front, before any analytics can be produced. It is ideal if that data model is as accurate as possible. Power BI enables to you to iteratively build the model and verify it will provide data to meet requirements before you build in ICA.

To mash up ‘dirty’ data

ICA requires a static pre-set data model. If you have data that does not match well, or is likely to be ‘patchy’, Power BI gives you the tools to build and maintain the data model more easily.

To report in small silos

ICA development is time consuming and code heavy. If you only have a couple of pages of reporting and five users in a single department, this level of work is excessive. Power BI allows these needs to be met quickly and efficiently.

To investigate and iterate

Before you even go forward with prototyping reporting, you might just want to take a look at some data to see what’s there and what can be done with it. Sometimes Excel is adequate for this, but sometimes it is not (due to the size/complexity/relational nature of data).

For users who do a lot of ad hoc reporting

Dashboards and reporting are ideal for reports that need to be accessed multiple times. However, many super-users will be asked to produce ad hoc reporting, often at short notice. Power BI can allow you to build these more efficiently and to produce analytics Excel cannot manage.

What are the best ways to access the Power BI Service?


The recommended browsers for Power BI are either Internet Explorer 11 or Microsoft Edge. It will work in other browsers, but you may experience issues.

Power BI is a part of the Office 365 suite and you can log in to this and navigate to the Power BI tab.


Power BI will work in mobile or tablet browsers. There is an app that can be downloaded to view Microsoft Power BI content. You do not require the VPN to use these.

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