How to Create Reports with Power BI Service

Micheál Clesham
By | Updated November 17, 2023 | 15 min read
Microsoft Power BI

Key Take Aways

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to create a report in Power BI service, a cloud-based solution. You’ll see how to import data, create and edit reports, and build dashboards with your Power BI reports.

Power BI,  a business intelligence solution from Microsoft, enables end-users to create insightful reports and dashboards with little effort.

Using Power BI, anyone in your organization can uncover actionable, hidden insights in any data source.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to create a report in Power BI service, a cloud-based solution. You’ll see how to import data, create and edit reports, and build dashboards with your Power BI reports..

Power BI is aimed at users, rather than report designers. However, it’s a very useful way to build reports and dashboards for project reporting.

We’ll also take a brief tour of Power BI Desktop, the primary authoring tool for Power BI reports.

A full exploration of Power BI Desktop is beyond the scope of this article! As such, you’ll find additional training resources and videos listed at the end of the article if you’d like to learn more.

The examples in this article are based on Microsoft samples and project reports in the BrightWork Power BI Pack.



Project management on Microsoft 365

Watch a demo of BrightWork 365 project and portfolio management templates for Microsoft 365, Power Platform, and Teams.

Key Elements of Power BI Reporting

Microsoft Power BI is a ‘’collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights.’’

BrightWork Power BI Pack

BrightWork Power BI Pack for SharePoint


Before creating your first Power BI report, it’s helpful to understand the services you’ll use to import and transform data and create visualizations.

Certain services are limited to Desktop and are noted as such below.


Power BI Visualizations

Visualizing your data in creative ways is where Power BI comes to life. By making your data easier to consume, you can tell data driven stories that inform your business decisions.

Power BI comes with a range of visualizations including area charts, bar and column charts, and cards.

You can also find many more amazing visualizations on Microsoft AppSource. Some recently added visualizations include

  • Valq Plan – No code solution for building complex business plans, scenarios and simulations.
  • Date Picker by Powerviz – Modern calendar view.
  • Drill Down Network PRO – effortlessly visualize categorical data and automatically detects relationships based on category structure.
  • TMap 2.1 – for drilling down chart maps by georegion names.


TMap 2.1 Donut Chart Symbol Map


Power Query – Desktop

Power Query is the engine for importing data and transforming (cleaning) data.

Data is imported through a simple interface and transformed using the ‘Power Query’ editor before loading into the report area.

Power BI Desktop Query Editor Window


Options include:

  • Add or remove rows and columns
  • Separate rows or columns
  • Remove null values
  • Remove rows with blank values.


Changes applied in the Power Query editor do not impact the underlying dataset.

Power Query uses connectors as data sources. Some recently updated connectors include Snowflake, Planview OKR, BitSight Security Ratings and Starburst Enterprise.

You can view a full list of all the connectors and data sources, including SQL databases (Azure SQL, MySQL etc.), Excel spreadsheets, and cloud services.


Power Pivot – Desktop

Power Pivot is used for creating data models, the relationships between tables, and performing calculations.

Calculations use DAX, Data Analysis Expressions, to interrogate data. DAX statements are similar to Excel functions.

Power BI includes over 600 DAX functions such as sum, average, max, and count. Users can also create custom functions.


OneDrive and SharePoint Integration – Desktop


Viewing Power BI Files directly within OneDrive for Business and SharePoint allows users to streamline collaboration.

The public view is now turned on by default but can be disabled by Power BI admins.

Once you’ve clicked on the Power BI file, it opens immeditately in your browser without any need to download.


Power BI Reports – Desktop and Service

A Power BI report refers to a collection of visuals and can span multiple pages.

Reports connect to one dataset, or data model, only.  Power BI can combine multiple data sources into a single report.

Power BI Service Sample Report


Unlike an Excel spreadsheet, Power BI reports are interactive, with options to filter, slice, and drill down.

Automatic refresh updates all visuals in a report based on a fixed interval, for example, every hour or based on changes in the data.


Power BI Dashboards – Service

A Power BI dashboard is a one-page summary of your data, with visualizations or tiles.

Power BI Service Sample Dashboard


Each tile links to an underlying report, making it easy to drill down for more detail as needed.

A dashboard can contain links to multiple reports, providing a quick overview of your data in one place.

As you’ll see below, the ability to create dashboards is available in Power BI Service only.

Data Model Editing – Service

As of August 2023, it is now possible to modify your data model within the Power BI Service.

This negates the tedious task of opening Power BI Desktop to make changes and republish. It also allows users to collaborate on the same data model simultanesously.

This feature pairs quite nicely with the Model Explorer within the model view. You can see and navigate through all dataset semantic objects in location!


Power BI Reports: Desktop v Service

At this point, you may be wondering if you should build your project reports in Power BI Desktop or Power BI Service?

The simple answer is Power BI Desktop! Using this application to import and transform data, create models, and generate rich reports will generate new insights about your projects.

Power Bi Desktop also includes features such as On-page interaction with allows users to build and format a visual directly within the interface. This preview functionality makes building reports much more interactive. 

Another unique feature is Power BI Home in Desktop, a centralized interface to keep track of all your activities within the desktop application. 

However, Power BI Desktop does require practice and knowledge of data modeling.  It’s essential to use the Query Editor and Model tool correctly before creating any visualizations.

If you are using a clean dataset and need to create reports and dashboards to share reports with your team, Power BI Service is the right tool.

Below is a brief comparison between Power BI Desktop and Service.

Power BI Reports: Desktop v Service

  Desktop Service
Cost Free A free license to create reports.
A paid license to share reports.
Data Sources Import data from a wide range of sources. Import data from a wide range of sources.
Data Sources One data set per report One or more reports and data sets per dashboard.
Data editing Transform (clean) data for usage. Use original data.
Analysis Analyze data using models and DAX functions. Generated by Power BI
Visualizations Build and edit visualizations with on-object interactions. Build and edit visualizations
Dashboards No Create and share
Workspaces  No Yes
Commenting No Yes
Sharing Publish to Power BI Service to share. Can share with internal/external users.


In the next section, you’ll see how to create a report in Power BI and dashboard in Power BI Service. The example is based on the free Supplier Quality Analysis sample from Microsoft.​


How to Create a Report in Power BI Service

  1. The first step in creating power bi reports is getting your data. There are a number of ways to import data from within your organization, file directories, and databases. You can also copy and paste data from an existing dataset. In this instance, we’ll select Samples and import a pre-configured dataset. The data is imported as-is with no editing options.

Power BI Service Get Data All


  1. The dataset will appear in your workspace in Power BI Service. An easy way to start analyzing the data is to select ‘Get Quick Insights’ from the menu. A dashboard is generated whilst you work on the data. Your workspace is also where you can assign roles and permissions (Viewer, Contributor, Member and Admin)

Power BI Service Quick Insight Dashboard

  1. Next, select ‘Create Report’ to open the report builder. There are three elements in this area:
  • Canvas. This area is blank until visuals are added
  • Visualizations pane: Use to add and edit charts.
  • Fields pane. A list of the fields in your dataset, based on the columns in your dataset.

Power BI Service Report Builder Overview

  1. To start creating reports in power bi, you can either select the relevant fields from your data or pick a visualization. The visualization is displayed on the blank canvas.
  2. To add a field to your report, simply click the relevant field. Power BI will automatically add the field to the right area in your chart. You can also drag and drop fields into the axis, legend, and values area.

Power BI Services Build Chart


Power BI Service Building a Report

  1. As you add fields, the chart will start to take shape. If needed, change the chart by selecting another option in the Visualizations pane.
  2. Once you are happy with the data visualization, it’s time to format the chart. Click the ‘format’ icon to access a range of options, including the size and colors of the chart, borders, and tooltips. If you’d like to add a title or details to the report, click the ‘Text box’ option in the top menu.
  3. Use the ‘Reading View’ to check how the report will appear to others.

Power BI Service Preview a Report

  1. Add more visualizations as needed.
  2. Remember to save your work.
  3. Next, create a dashboard by selecting ‘Pin to a live page’. You can add the report to an existing dashboard or build a new dashboard.

Power BI Service Create Dashboard

  1. Dashboards offer numerous editing options, including the ability to add more tiles and different content types.
  2. When you’ve finished your work, there are a few ways to use your reports under ‘File:
  • Export reports to PowerPoint or as PDF
  • Embed in a SharePoint site.
  1. At any time, personalize your display settings using ‘View’. Change the size of the report and colors for improved readability.



That’s it – you’ve taken you first step in creating reports in Power Bi Services.

To share your report, select ‘Share’ from the top navigation, complete the form, and share it with your team. Reports and dashboards may be shared with internal and external users.

Power BI Service Sharing a Report


There are a few caveats to note about report sharing:

  • Recipients can view and interact with the report or dashboard but can’t edit it.
  • Depending on permissions, recipients can share the reports with others.
  • You will need a Power BI Pro license to share your reports. Recipients will also need a license to view the content.


Further details on sharing, including permissions and limitations, are available from Microsoft.

BrightWork 365 and Power BI

BrightWork 365 is built on Power Apps and leverages Power BI and Power Automate as follows:  

  • Dataverse is the underlying data platform and is also used to manage business processes, for example, a stage-gate approach to the project lifecycle.  
  • Power BI gives senior executives and PMO Leads visibility into portfolios, programs, and projects. Using connectors and content packs, data can be pulled from hundreds of on-premises and cloud sources into a single reporting engine. 
  • Power Automate drives workflows and automation.  

Project teams generate more data than ever but by using Power BI dashboards, senior execs can easily access, analyze, and action this data.

See how BrightWork 365 combines the best of Microsoft 365 with proven project and portfolio management processes.

Watch the BrightWork 365 Video Tour.

Power BI Desktop: Resources and Videos


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


Image credit 

Project management on Microsoft 365

Watch a demo of BrightWork 365 project and portfolio management templates for Microsoft 365, Power Platform, and Teams.

Micheál Clesham
Micheál Clesham

Micheál is a SaaS product marketing specialist with BrightWork. For the better part of the decade, our in-house host has created engaging webinars and content with insights from Project Management Gurus and thought leaders. His go-to theme is Project Management best practices including project communication, collaboration and agile ways of working. Outside of work, Micheál likes to find new stories through podcasts, movies, sports, and travel.

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