Introduction to Power BI Q&A (and cloud modeling)

Discover. Visualize. Explore. Interact.

Use natural language queries to find answers in your own data. Start with a question, and have fun traveling through your data refining or expanding your question, uncovering trust-worthy new information, zeroing in on details and zooming out for a broader view. You’ll be delighted by the insights and discoveries you make.

Power BI Q&A presents your answers in the form of visualizations. As you type a question, Power BI Q&A picks the best visual to display your answer; and the visual changes dynamically as you modify the question. And you can further customize the visual results as well, using features like filtering and fields lists.

The experience is truly interactive…and fast! Powered by an in-memory storage, response is almost instantaneous.

See it in action.

We’re working to improve Q&A, and will continue to update and refine our documentation as we develop the Q&A service and add new features.  If you find errors or have other feedback on the documentation, please let us know!

The 2 sides of Q&A

There are two sides to Q&A.  The first part is the preparation, or "modeling."  The second part is asking questions and exploring the data, or "consuming." 

In some companies, employees known as Data Modelers or IT Admins may be the ones to assemble the data into workbooks, create the Power Pivot data models, and publish the workbooks to the Power BI for Office 365 site.  While a second set of employees may be the ones to "consume" the data online.  In other companies, these roles may be combined.

The Help topics are split into:

Language Modeling

It all starts with the enterprise data you already have in Excel, or that can be pasted or imported into an Excel workbook.  In each of those workbooks, create a Power Pivot model and tune it to work with Q&A. The better the model, the easier it will be for users to navigate the data. 

Language Modeling in the Cloud

Take that workbook that you’ve uploaded to an Office 365 Power BI site and optimize it (or continue to optimize it) for your users. Changes you make here are saved back to the uploaded workbook and its data model. The cloud modeling capabilities are substantially more robust than the modeling available in Excel.

Note: The ability to optimize a workbook in Power BI for Office 365 is limited to those with Admin permissions.

Language Modeling in Excel

Excel Power Pivot provides some basic language modeling capabilities, primarily adding synonyms. This capability, and much more, is also available in cloud modeling.

When the model is ready, upload the workbook to an Office 365 Power BI site. After uploading, consider creating some featured questions to help users get started querying the data. 

Online end-user experience (consuming the data)

When you go to a Power BI site, you see all the workbooks available to you. Jump right in by clicking one of the featured reports or open Q&A to ask your own natural language questions.  When a question is asked, Q&A searches across all enabled workbooks to find the best answer, but you can also “pin” a workbook to get answers from only one workbook. For more information: Power BI Q&A in Office 365: Searching and Querying with natural language 

Prerequisites, installation, and setup

Excel experience

The ability to add synonyms to data models is automatically enabled in Power Pivot for Excel 2013 Professional Plus. If you have a Preview version of Excel, you will be prompted to upgrade.

Online Office 365 experience

Power BI Q&A is added to your Office 365 site as part of the Power BI app.

The complete Power BI experience

From a Q&A perspective, the Power BI experience starts with loading data, from one or more data sources, into a Power Pivot model. Along the way, Q&A is just one of the tools available to explore your data and discover fantastic insights. The strength of Power BI is revealed when you realize that all of your self-service business intelligence needs can be met within Office 365:

  • Power Query—search, find, clean, and import data from internal and external data source into Excel
  • Power Pivot— in Excel workbooks, create relational data models that are stored in-memory for lightning fast performance
  • Power View—create interactive reports and visuals so you can see your data, not just the numbers
  • Power Map – explore and navigate geospatial data on a 3-D map
  • Power BI Sites— upload workbooks to a shared Power BI Site and enable for Q&A, save and share not only workbooks, but also queries and reports
  • Power BI Admin Center – IT Administrators monitor usage and access, and manage infrastructure and system health
  • Power Q&A—the natural language query experience – ask questions and get insights across data in Power BI Sites.

True self-service BI in one place. Always available, wherever you go.

See Also

Q&A Forums

Read about Q&A on the Power BI blog to hear directly from the product team

Visit the Power BI web site on

Power BI - Getting Started Guide

Power Pivot for Excel

Power View

Q&A Videos – coming soon!

Applies to:
Excel 2013