ArcGIS Maps Visualizations in Microsoft Power BI

I had a closer look at ArcGIS Maps for Power BI, as promised in an earlier article. The tool is easy to use and after some tweaking you should be able to create beautiful maps. Wait no longer and start adding map visualizations to your reports and dashboards for better insights.


ArcGIS Maps for Power BI is now a standard feature available in Power BI Service and Power BI Desktop. Apart from ArcGIS Maps for Power BI, there are other map visualization tools in Power BI. David Eldersveld mentions the pros and cons of 10 of them in his recent blog post 10 Ways to Create Maps in Microsoft Power BI.

Enabling ArcGIS Maps

Start Power BI Service and confirm that the ArcGIS Maps feature is enabled by checking whether the Esri icon appears under the visualizations.

Getting the Data

For this demonstration, I am using secondary school statistics for Kenya stored in a spreadsheet on my OneDrive. Before importing the Excel data to Power BI I had to ensure that it was formatted as a table and that each feature has a locational reference (e.g. Lat/Long).

When getting the data in Power BI, ensure that you import the Excel file into a Dataset. This allows you to generate reports and dashboards from it, which is just what you want. When the import is successful, you should see the dataset listed in your workspace.

Visualizing the Data

To visualize your data, start by creating a new report by selecting the dataset in your workspace. Then click on the ArcGIS Map visual to insert an empty map template in the report.

The map template will populate itself when you drag and drop fields into the buckets. The example below displays secondary school locations as point symbols. The size of the symbol represents total enrollment and the color indicates whether it is a boys (green), girls (blue) or mixed (red) school.

Formatting the Map

We can tweak the map display by selecting the ellipses on the map and choosing Edit.

The original map can be improved by selecting OpenStreetMap as the Basemap, changing the Map Theme to Clustering, adjusting the Symbol style, and adding County Boundaries as a Reference Layer. This makes the map look a lot better, and additional detail will appear when you zoom in.

Heat Map is one of the Map themes that you can choose from. It is particularly suitable for visualizing incidents like for instance accidents, crime or prevalence of malaria. If your data is time-referenced you will also be able to track changes over time.

In my example I used traffic accidents from the UK, since I couldn’t get a local dataset that had a location and time reference. Have a look and compare accident casualties for two periods in December 2015.


I enjoyed working with ArcGIS Maps for Power BI and find it a valuable addition to the other visualization tools. It’s a relatively new tool, so I expect powerful new features to be added and any bugs or performance issues to be fixed.

A big concern is the lack of a location- and time-reference in many important datasets. This is particularly the case in Kenya where many statistics are aggregated to national or county level. There is limited value in knowing that a metropole like Nairobi has more traffic accidents than a county like Turkana. However, for remedial action it is important to know where and when accidents happen.

Now it’s your turn. As mentioned in my earlier article Journey of Discovery for Microsoft Power BI you can get started with a free version of Power BI. Getting good data could be tricky, but you can even start collecting data with your smartphone.

Do you have a question, comment, or concern? Just leave a comment below.

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