Understanding ArcGIS Power BI Simplified

Ofem Eteng • Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

ArcGIS Power BI | Hevo Data

The possession of an analytical tool in which you can add maps to your text data to make them location-specific is an amazing and wonderful way to improve and enrich your customer experience thereby growing your business. Looking through a map for demographics allows you to come up with patterns and solutions to your business problems. This information may be specific to locations on a map such as the best schools to attend, parks to visit, where to purchase a home, a store to get quality products, etc.

ArcGIS is a geographic tool that is used to perform such analysis in an automated way. It helps in the creation of maps from your data and when combined with an incredible analytic tool like Microsoft Power BI, what you get is a sophisticated report filled with insights and pathways that allows you to make the best business decisions.

In this article, you will be introduced to ArcGIS Power BI and given a general overview of the product and how you can combine information from many independent sources to derive new sets of information to aid in the transformation of your organization through the creation and addition of locations to your visualizations.

Table of Contents

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is an analytics tool developed by Microsoft used in transforming your raw data into a visually appealing structure where analysis and decisions can be made. This is done by building Dashboards, Templates, Charts, Graphs, Lines, and Creative Reports through a unified and scalable platform that bridges the gap between your unstructured data and decision-making thereby helping you to gain deeper and more useful insights. 

Microsoft Power BI consists of different formats such as Power BI Desktop, an online Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) called Power BI Service, and a range of mobile apps available on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. It also includes the Power BI Report Server which allows for the publishing of Power BI reports to an On-premises Report Server, after creating them in Power BI Desktop.

Analyzing your data using Microsoft Power BI gives room for confident decision-making and creates a data-driven culture for an organization. This in turn helps the establishment in asking relevant questions and getting the most appropriate answers where needed. Microsoft Power BI is a Business Intelligence tool that can be used to gather information from various data sources and turn them into meaningful insights using Data Visualizations, in-built Artificial Intelligence capabilities, integration with Microsoft Excel, and pre-built or custom data connectors designed to help you not only read the information but also get a clear idea of actions to be taken. 

What are the Key Features of Power BI?

Some of the main features of Power BI are listed below.

  • Hybrid Development: Power BI offers integrations with many connectors that allow users to connect to various data sources.
  • Modeling View: Power BI allows users to divide and slice complex data models into a simpler form, separate diagrams, multi-select objects. 
  • AI Support: Power BI supports Artificial Intelligence in Data Analytics that users can leverage to prepare data, build Machine Learning models and quickly identify insights from structures as was unstructured data. 
  • Quick Insights: Power BI makes it easier for users to create subsets of data and automatically Data Analytics to that information.
  • Report Sharing: Users can easily share their reports with other users of the organization without worrying about data security. 

To know more about Power BI, click here.

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What is ArcGIS?

ArcGIS is a Geographic Information System (GIS) software that is used in handling and analyzing geographical information by presenting compelling visualizations, managed by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). It comprises the creation and use of maps, analysis of the mapped information, compiling of diverse geographic data, sharing the discoveries across an organization or community, as well as managing geographic information in a database.

It is used by a vast variety of people and institutions ranging from academic departments and institutes to develop and foster research to several private/commercial institutions and governments. 

ArcGIS is made up of four key parts which are used to create geographical visualizations. The first part is a Geographic Information Model for modeling aspects of the real world, the second is basically for storing and managing the geographic information which is stored on files and databases, and the third is made up of applications for creating, manipulating, editing, analyzing, and sharing information, and finally, the last part is a collection of web services that provides contents to software clients in a network.

ArcGIS has ranging functionality to implement geographic workflows and can be deployed on mobile devices, laptops, desktop computers, and Servers. Windows desktop software versions consist of the following: ArcReader, ArcGIS Desktop known as ArcMap, and ArcGIS Pro. Server-based ArcGIS software is available and forms part of the ArcGIS Enterprise product.

What is ArcGIS Power BI?

ArcGIS Power BI is one of the custom visualization tools in-built in Microsoft Power BI. ArcGIS Power BI provides mapping capabilities that enable you to create more attractive data stories using reports and dashboards. ArcGIS Power BI helps you in performing spatial analysis which leads to a greater understanding of your data through mapping important locations, spotting prominent patterns, budding relationships, etc. These can be done by using smart maps like Heat Maps, Clustering Data into Aggregates, adding Demographic and Reference Layers of Interest, Measure DriveTime, etc. 

ArcGIS Power BI is a wonderful mapping tool that gives you the ability to do a lot more with maps than ever before like adding data to maps that would then be viewed differently from the regular data. Visualizations from your dashboards and reports can be published and shared with others.

A sample visualization created using ArcGIS Power BI is as follows:

To use ArcGIS Power BI, you either connect directly from Power BI or sign in using your ArcGIS account. Doing either of these gives you access to content from your organization and the visual becomes active where selection, navigation, and user profile tools would appear on the map. 

To successfully use ArcGIS Power BI to achieve your goals, you will be introduced to a few points that should be kept in mind as they are very helpful tips. These points are as follows:

1) Preparing Data

Before venturing into using maps, your data needs to be changed into a required format for easy assimilation and this is done through Geocoding. Geocoding is the process of transforming a text-based description of a location into a geographic location on the earth’s surface using Latitudes and Longitudes. These text-based descriptions could be an address, a name of a place, or a business. You can Geocode by entering one location description at a time or by using a table that contains many descriptions at once. 

ArcGIS has resources you can use to locate Cities, Landmarks, names of businesses, Addresses, and other places around the world. It does this using the World Geocoding Service to detect such locations. Another feature it has is the ArcGIS GeoEnrichment Service which is used to detect boundary locations such as ZIP Codes, States, Provinces, Countries, etc.

The important thing to note when adding data to a map for ArcGIS Power BI is to always select the location type that is best suited for that information as this will be used in creating a relationship between your business data and the specified location type you choose. To do this, in the location field on ArcGIS Power BI, input the type of location depending on what you want. The location types are Address information such as an Address, Neighborhood, City, Region, Sub-region, Province, etc., and Standard Administrative boundaries.

2) Adding a Map to the Report

To come up with an efficient report using ArcGIS Power BI with visually appealing dashboards, you need to add maps to it so that conclusions derived from locations can be done quickly. To add map visualizations to a report, carry out the following steps: 

  • Sign in to Power BI then connect to your data source.
  • Open an existing report or create a new one to see the visualization pane which will appear beside the report.
  • Click ArcGIS Power BI and a new visualization will appear on the report page from there you can add maps to your report.

3) Adding Data to the Map

You can add data to your map as this allows you to control the way locations appear on the map. The available options are location data, size, color values, time, and tooltips.

Location-based data from Power BI datasets added to ArcGIS visualization enables it to be more tailored but before adding location data to a map, ensure that your data is appropriately configured for use with ArcGIS Power BI. The location-based data includes Location, Latitude, and Longitude and it is advised that you add these values to the map before adding other non-location-based data like size, color, and others as listed above.

4) Editing Map Contents

ArcGIS Power BI has sets of map tools that can be used to customize the contents of the map and determine how they are displayed. The map tools for editing are an expandable series of buttons seen on the map when you click on the map tools button when you are in the application. 

There are lots of other features found on ArcGIS Power BI which would prove helpful to transform your data from text-based to location-specific data using mapping capabilities.

More information on ArcGIS can be found here and ArcGIS Power BI can be found here.

How to Create an ArcGIS for Power BI map visualization?

When an organization already has geodata in ArcGIS that they want to display, ArcGIS maps are frequently used. And, while the ArcGIS visual is similar to Azure maps, it includes demographic reference data that is not readily available in Azure maps.

The combination of ArcGIS maps and Power BI elevates mapping beyond the simple presentation of points on a map. To make beautiful and informative map visualizations, choose from base maps, location types, themes, symbol styles, and reference layers. The use of authoritative data layers on a map combined with spatial analysis allows you to gain a better understanding of the data in your visualization. You can view and interact with an ArcGIS for Power BI map on a mobile device, but you can’t create one.

Esri makes ArcGIS for Power BI available. Esri’s terms and privacy policy apply to your use of ArcGIS for Power BI. To use the ArcGIS for Power BI visual, Power BI users must accept the consent dialogue. The first time you use ArcGIS for Power BI, this dialogue appears.

The Power BI service can also be used to create ArcGIS for Power BI maps.

  • Select File > Open report from the menu bar’s upper left section.
  • On your local machine, look for the Retail Analysis sample PBIX file.
  • In report view, open the Retail Analysis Sample.
  • To add a new page to the report, select “+”.

Follow these steps to include a map in a report:

  • In the Visualizations pane, select the ArcGIS for Power BI icon.
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  • On the report canvas, Power BI adds an empty template. We’ll be using the Standard version of Power BI for this overview. You’ll have more features if you sign in with a valid ArcGIS account that has the appropriate licensing;
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  • Drag a data field to the Location field from the Fields pane, or drag coordinates into the appropriate Latitude and/or Longitude buckets. You’re using Store > City in this case.
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  • Drag a measure from the Fields pane to the Size bucket to change the way the data is displayed. You’re going to use Sales > Last Year Sales in this example.
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How to Format the ArcGIS for Power BI visualization?

To use ArcGIS for Power BI formatting features, follow these steps:

  • To see the formatting options, go to the Format tab in the Visualizations pane.
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The following are some examples of ArcGIS map formatting options:

  • Layers: Change the Layers list’s title (ToC), turn the layers list on or off, anchor the list over the map, and define the anchored list’s position. The Layers list is available in the expanded map tools and is turned on by default.
  • Tools for mapping: Basemaps can be turned on or off (they’re off by default), the map extent can be locked in its current position, and the position of infographics cards on the map can be defined. By default, the zoom in and zoom out buttons are disabled.
  • Specifying the country/region in which your data is stored can help improve the accuracy of your map’s locations. If your data is contained in a single country or region, select it from the drop-down list. Choose World if your data is global.
  • Change the default color of the pin and turn on or off the search function. Search is enabled by default and can be accessed through the expanded map tools.

How to Edit an ArcGIS for Power BI map?

The map tools become available after you add data to the map visualization. To expand the tools,

  • Click the Map Tools button.
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  • The map tools expand to reveal the features available. When a feature is selected, a task pane with detailed options appears.

Change the Base Map

A base map gives the data in a map a visual context. A base map of streets, for example, can help put your address data into context. Four basic maps are available with the Standard account: OpenStreetMap, Streets, Dark Gray Canvas, and Light Gray Canvas.

Follow these steps to change your base map:

  • Expand the Map tools category in the Format pane of the visualization and enable Basemaps.
  • To see the gallery, click the Basemap button.
  • The Dark Gray Canvas base map should be selected.
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The new base map is used to update the map.

Show Map Layers

You work with geographic data using layers in ArcGIS for Power BI. Layers are logical collections of geographic data used to create maps, as well as the foundation for geographic analysis.

Click the Layers button in the map tools to display the Layers list.

Each layer that makes up the map is displayed in the Layers list, and each layer has its own set of options for customizing and working with the map. You can change symbology and location type for a layer created using Power BI data, such as the City layer you created for this example, but those options aren’t available for reference or drive-time layers.

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Specify the Location Type

Based on the type of data, ArcGIS for Power BI uses its powerful geo enabling technology to accurately position location data on the map and renders items as points or boundaries by default. A latitude-longitude coordinate, for example, is displayed as a point on a map, whereas a state field is displayed as a boundary, or polygon. By specifying the location type, you can change how locations are rendered.

Improve the accuracy of your map’s locations by using the Location type feature. Choose a country/region in the visualization’s Format pane (expand the Location type category and select the appropriate country/region), or use the full Location Type feature in the layer options pane to access more options.

The full Location type feature is accessed through the layer options menu and allows you to specify whether your data should be represented as points or boundaries (polygons), as well as the country/region in which it should be located. Countries, provinces, ZIP codes, and other standard geographic areas are used to define boundaries. You can choose from a variety of standard boundaries, such as counties, census tracts, districts, or municipalities, if you choose boundaries and a specific country or region for your data locations. Each country/region has a variety of location types.

To change the location type of your data, follow these steps

  • Choose the data layer you’d like to work with from the Layers list.
  • Select Location type from the Layer options drop-down menu.
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  • Accept the default values to render the locations as points on the map, and select One country > United States as the destination.
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Customize the Map’s Symbology

Values in the Fields pane are used by ArcGIS for Power BI to intelligently determine how locations on the map should be rendered. You can use the Symbology feature to change the default styling to better tell your story. You can customise the symbols and colours used to represent locations on the map by selecting a different map theme. Depending on the values you added to the map visual’s Fields pane, different map themes and styling options are available.

Follow these steps to change the symbology of a layer:

  • Select the data layer you want to work with from the Layers list.
  • Select Symbology from the Layer options menu.
  • The Map theme category is expanded in the Symbology pane.

How to Analyze your data in ArcGIS Power BI?

Several tools in ArcGIS for Power BI allow you to find patterns in your data and tell a compelling story with a map.

Features of analysis include:

  • Locating points on the map
  • Looking for a specific address, location, or attraction
  • To provide more context, a reference layer was added.
  • Locating places within a certain radius or drive-time range
  • Adding cards with demographic information about the area shown on the map

Select locations

To assist you in selecting locations on the map, ArcGIS for Power BI provides several different selection tools. Depending on the type of layer currently selected in the Layers list, different tools appear.

Follow these steps to bring up the selection tools:

  • To expand the toolset, click the Selection tools button from the map tools.
  • There are four selection tools available; depending on the type of layer that is currently active, different tools may appear in the Selection tools menu. Because this map only has a data layer, only the Single select and Box select tools are available.
Single select —This is a single-selection tool that can be used to click individual locations; it is the default selection tool. Press Ctrl and click to select multiple locations.Clicking data locations on the map selects them and triggers interactions with other visualizations.Clicking a pin or a location on a reference layer displays its tooltip.
Box select —Drag a rectangle selector to select multiple locations or select individual locations by clicking them.As with the Select tool, clicking a pin or a location on a reference layer displays its tooltip.When the Box select tool is active, you cannot pan the map.
Reference layer select —If you added a reference layer to the map, use this tool to select locations by clicking areas on the reference layer. Locations that are within a delimited area on a reference are highlighted; locations in other areas of the map are unavailable.This tool appears only if the map contains one or more reference layers and a reference layer is currently active.
Drive-time select —If you added a drive-time area to your map, use the drive-time area selection tool to select data locations within the defined area.
  • On the map, choose one or more locations. At any given time, you can select up to 250 data points.

Pin a Location

On the map, you can pin a specific address, location, or point of interest. You’ll look for the Pittsburgh International Airport in this case.

Follow these steps to pin a location:

  • To open the Search pane, click the Search button in the map tools.
  • In the search box, type the words Pittsburgh international.
  • An address, a location, or a point of interest can all be used as keywords. Similar recent searches and suggestions based on similar keywords appear as you type.
  • Choose Pittsburgh International Airport from the list of results and click Close.
  • When a symbol appears on the map, the map zooms in to that location automatically. Pins stay on the map for the duration of the current session; you cannot save a pinned location. The pinned location is also visible as a layer in the Layers list, which you can rename, show or hide, and remove from the map just like any other layer.
  • Expand the Search category in the Format pane of the map visual and select a new colour for the pin.

Add a reference layer

The reference layers add context to the Power BI data you’ve already plotted on a map. Demographic data such as household income, age, and education can be included in reference layers. They can also include ArcGIS Online feature layers that provide more information about the areas surrounding the locations on your map.

Add a demographic layer

A curated selection of U.S. demographic layers are included in the Standard ArcGIS for Power BI account to help contextualise data from Power BI.

Follow these steps to add a demographic layer:

  • To expand the toolset, click the Analysis tools button from the map tools.
  • Select the Reference layer from the drop-down menu.
  • The Demographics tab and its selection of layers appear in the Reference layer pane.
  • Click Add on the thumbnail of the layer you want to add to your map as you scroll through the gallery.
  • Find the 2020 USA Average Household Income layer and select Add for this example.
  • The map is updated to reflect the addition of the new layer.
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Add a reference layer from ArcGIS

You can search for publicly shared feature layers on ArcGIS using ArcGIS for Power BI, giving you access to thousands of reference layers that provide information about the areas surrounding the locations on your data layer. You can search for content in your organisation, your organization’s groups, or public content when you sign in to ArcGIS for Power BI with a valid ArcGIS account. Because you’re using the Standard account in this case, the search results only show publicly shared content.

Follow these steps to add an ArcGIS reference layer:

  • Click the ArcGIS tab in the Reference pane.
  • Type USA Congressional districts into the search field and hit Enter.
  • Several possible outcomes appear in the gallery.
  • Select Add for the USA 117th Congressional Districts (all territories) layer.
  • The map is updated to reflect the addition of the new layer.
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Find nearby locations

You can use pinned locations on your map as a starting point for finding and selecting nearby locations on your map. For instance, if you search for a specific point of interest, you can select locations on your map that are within a certain driving time or distance of that location.

You’ll use the Pittsburgh International Airport you pinned earlier as a starting point to find locations within 100 miles of the airport in this example. To find locations within a certain drive time, follow the same steps.

Follow these steps to find locations within a certain driving distance of your starting point:

  • To expand the toolset, click the Analysis tools button from the map tools.
  • Select Drive-time from the drop-down menu.
  • The time pane for driving appears.
  • Select the Pittsburgh International Airport location you pinned earlier using the single select tool on the map.
  • Choose Radius from the Search area drop-down menu and enter a distance of 100 miles.
  • Click OK.
  • A circle is drawn around the pinned airport location on the map. The styling options for the driving distance area are displayed in the Drive time pane.
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The driving distance area is also a layer in the Layers list, which you can rename, show or hide, and remove from the map just like any other layer.

Use the Drive-time select tool to click the driving distance area while the drive-time layer is active in the Layers list.

Unselected locations on the map shrink or become more transparent, while those that fall within the search area are selected. The selected locations are reflected in other visualisations.

Add infographics cards

Infographics cards, like reference layers, provide extra information about map areas. Infographics cards are placed on top of the map and display demographic data about the area immediately surrounding a selected location or the entire map extent.


The purpose of this article was to expose you to how analysis can be carried out from information gotten from a location and how veritable conclusions can be derived from them using ArcGIS Power BI. You were given an in-depth understanding of how data can be used to describe locations to reveal what is happening there, what conclusions could be derived from such locations, and how modeling your data to specific locations can be used to tie relationships between the business and such a location.

Most businesses today use multiple platforms to run their businesses. Performing an analysis of this business data can be a complicated task since all the data is spread across the various platforms being used. In order to perform an analysis, the data from all these platforms have to be integrated and stored in a centralized location. Making an in-house solution capable of performing data integration would require immense engineering bandwidth for development and maintenance. Businesses can instead use existing platforms like Hevo to integrate data from their sources and visualize it in Microsoft Power BI easily or even set up ArcGIS Power BI if required.

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