Power BI: do you need more for your reporting?

By Dries on 8/03/2017

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The shortest way from data to insights.

The shortest way between 2 points is the straight line, right? If you don’t agree, and you think that the most efficient route between any point in Belgium and Brussels is via Paris, then you can stop reading. If you – like myself – want to save time and money for yourself and your customers, then please read on.

I have been a BI & reporting professional for almost my entire career now. Regardless of the reporting & BI tools used, the most used feature always was ‘export to excel’. BI tools that cost tens of thousands of euros are quite an expensive Excel export tool, don’t you think?

It is and stays a simple fact that most people want to interactively analyse their data in Excel. Next to that, they want to visualise the data in a compelling way that gives them instant insights. Power BI offers just that: visualize data with the Power BI tools and further analyse the data in Excel, all from the same dataset.

Unless your dataset has a huge volume, the dataset is hosted within Power BI without the need for extra data storage or extra tools between your data sources and Power BI.

If you want to continue using Excel, then crank it up a notch by using Power BI and you’ll get Excel on steroids.

Fantastic, no? Well, not everyone is amused with this (new) kid on the block.

The direct Power BI competitors are afraid. Other competitors now offer their tool in combination with Power BI.

Direct competitors of Power BI (see the gartner magic quadrant) struggle to keep up (or catch up) with new functionalities offered by Microsoft and Power BI. I have seen ‘how to compete with Power BI’ slide decks from these vendors with far-fetched arguments (sometimes misleading or half-truths) trying to convince you why you should not choose Power BI (instead of trying to convince you to buy their product). They are afraid and they should be.

Other competitors try another approach telling you that you can use Power BI together with their product. In fact, they are basically telling you to take the route to Brussels via Paris. (this way, they make sure to collect road toll). Also they have a hard time justifying their position as the ‘middle man’.

For very specific features or circumstances, other BI tools may still be considered (to complement Power BI), but in most cases – especially for SME’s – Power BI will cover the needs. (and for the price of competitor’s licenses, you already have weeks worth of implementation)

If you just started or are to start your BI & analytics endeavours, you can jumpstart with Power BI. Or maybe you first want to get advice from your IT partner or you have to follow corporate standards.

So why doesn’t my (Microsoft) IT partner propose me Power BI straight away?

There are a few reasons I can think of why Power BI would not be the first choice of offer for an IT partner.

  • Long-time investments and partnerships with other (fit-for-purpose) reporting & BI tool vendors
  • (Recurring) income from license and maintenance fees which are virtually non-existing with Power BI
  • A lack of knowledge of Power BI technology
  • A lack of knowledge of business intelligence & analytics

Most (one-stop-shop) IT partners are specialized in installing, implementing and maintaining hardware and/or operational (transactional processing of data) software like ERP, CRM, CMS, WMS, DMS, …

Business intelligence & analytics though is another ball game that relies on analytical processing of data.

With Power BI you are not limited to reporting on a single data source. With Power BI you can create integrated reporting views on data coming from several data sources from different vendors and platforms.

Bottom-line: it is always a good idea to at least also listen to a (Power) BI professional that knows the possibilities and limitations best.

Takeaways:

Usage scenarios for Power BI

Microsoft Power BI are open, modern and flexible tools & technology that allow usage in a number of different scenarios like:

  • Traditional reporting, BI & analytics (forecasting, clustering, correlation, …).
  • Monitoring & real-time dashboarding of streaming data (sensors, IoT, events, …) or by means of life connections to data sources.
  • Integrated with Big data, Advanced analytics, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, … solutions
  • Embedded reporting/dashboarding in Apps, Portals, …

· …

Straightening out some Power BI misconceptions

There are some misconceptions about Power BI that I read here and there lately. I want to straighten out at least a few of them here.

‘you need Office 365 to use Power BI’: INCORRECT, Power BI is a Microsoft cloud service that can be used and provisioned without Office 365.

‘your Power BI dataset has to be in the cloud’: INCORRECT, a Power BI dataset can be hosted in SQL Server Analysis services on-premise.

‘you have to use either Power BI or Excel’: INCORRECT, both Power BI (for visualisations) and Excel (for analysis) connect to the same dataset.

‘Power BI is too young to be mature’: INCORRECT, the Power BI tools as such only exist for about 2 years, but the technology behind Power BI has been there since SQL Server 2012 and PowerPivot for Excel 2010.

Business Intelligence
Power BI
Analytics
DAX
Embedded
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