Many of us in the corporate world are used to “corporate intelligence.” We get canned reports that may or may not answer our questions and we’re forced to extrapolate on those things that drive action in our business without being able to directly see and verify our claims. Corporate intelligence may have been the way to do things 10 years ago (maybe even five years ago). However, we are moving closer and closer to self-service and end-user business intelligence (BI) every day. Today, there are a ton of cool applications and tools saying they’re the best, but I truly love Microsoft Power BI – there’s nothing better and, in this post, I’d like to tell you why.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent more time than you’d like to admit, day after day, trying to tackle challenges and obstacles of your company’s intelligence capabilities – whether it’s gaining access to the data I need or pivoting tables to get the perspective I need. It is a constant “cart before the horse” scenario. I just want to go to one place – access, clean, visualize, and eventually share what I’ve done with the team. So when I found Power BI, I was shocked at how seamless my experience was and needed to share with the world. As you read below, I want you to think about your needs as Analysts, Developers or Directors, and consider these 5 reasons we LOVE Microsoft Power BI:
The first reason why I love Microsoft Power BI is because it’s just so darn simple. In my experience, being able to connect to 70+ data sources out of the box is super easy, because all of my data lives in one of these repositories. Whether your data lives in Excel, SAP BW, SQL Server, SalesForce or even Marketo, you can pull your data in to Power BI and create meaningful relationships, cleanse, and visualize your data in minutes. Also, with Power BI’s autodetect features, it can instantly create a data model for you to create and manage meaningful relationships in a safe, downstream, effective manner without needing granular SQL level expertise. The simplicity truly enables your Analysts like never before.
Power BI has the ability to load millions of records into memory and process those quickly and efficiently. It can do this because of the way it stores and compresses the data once loaded. You may find that your original data set is twice or three times as large as your Power BI Workbook (.PBIX file), because Power BI uses very efficient compression. You can also essentially “build your car” in Power BI using Power Query. So, if your data isn’t exactly clean when you get it, you can click “Edit Queries” and pull up Power Query Transformations on top of your read-only datasets. Being able to promote headers, filter rows, fill columns, or split columns is just a fraction of the abilities you have at your fingertips directly in Power BI. When you’re done, close it up and you are ready create your visuals. It’s never been easier!
3. Custom Galleries and Themes
The Power BI Community is HUGE! This makes for a very cool experience when you go to the community forums and see how feature-rich this tool really is and see what others are doing with it. When you go to the Custom Visuals Gallery, you can view and use industry- or category-specific visuals others have created for free (just by registering for app.powerbi.com). But that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Visuals are not the only galleries they have – they have galleries for themes (custom color pallets for your reports), bookmark galleries, or data stories. These are incredibly useful when you need to advance your design techniques or just want to see what others in your industry are doing.
Bookmarks are incredibly powerful. Let’s think about a scenario for a second. Let’s say you’ve been working on a Power BI Report for some time, and you’ve created multiple versions or views of the same data. Finally, you’ve landed on a few reports out of 50 that you like and want to showcase to management. With Microsoft Power BI, you can go in and create bookmarks or links to the reports that will have the most value, and then create a custom homepage using shapes, images, and links to direct your users to the appropriate reports.
Bookmarks also provide a way to create a custom experience for the users and essentially tell a story. Here’s an example of something I’ve created (for demo purposes). You can view the actual report by clicking HERE (all data is dummy data).
5. Distribution and Sharing
So you’ve created some amazing reports! Your audience can’t wait to see! How will you get it to them? E-mail? Will you share your workbook file directly? Power BI makes this part of the process straightforward and secure. In a few steps you can publish your reports from your desktop tool to Power BI Service in the cloud. You can create custom workspaces if you have multiple dashboards or reports you want to share, or you can share individual dashboards and reports to select users in your Office 365 environment. Now, you can share your reports with anyone who may want to see what you’ve done, without exposing the underlying data sets. You can also grant your users the ability to refresh (you can schedule refreshes also) your data so they always have the most recent data points available. There are also some very simple-to-implement security tactics that are extremely secure and powerful, without duplicating data, and without exposing your on-premise data to forbidden viewers.
At FlexManage we have a plethora of experience using multiple BI tools, but we have fallen for Power BI. Hard. We just love Microsoft Power BI. Businesses big and small are taking advantage of simple, straightforward, and powerful methods Power BI has to offer. Contact us today to find out how your organization can leverage Power BI in your own environment.