Power BI: The Route to Flexible Business Intelligence

3 June 2021

Power BI: The Route to Flexible Business Intelligence

Combining ease-of-use interfaces with insightful Visualisation capabilities, Microsoft Power BI has played a pivotal role in demonstrating the wide range of use cases, advantages, and tools available to those organisations wishing to employ Business Intelligence. Currently, Microsoft ranks highest among BI visualisation competitors such as Tibco, Tableau, and IBM, on criteria such as innovation, trust, and capabilities – with their lead only growing. 

Below, we explore the key features and optimal use cases of Power BI, allowing you to decide if Power BI is right for your business. 

What is Power BI?

Initially released in 2014Power BI is a Business Intelligence reporting and visualisation tool developed by Microsoft, encouraging users who relied heavily on a manual and tabular based approach to shift towards a more visual reporting-based approach with advanced tools and functionality.  

Since the release, Power BI has developed a global community, amassing a user base currently in the millions. With monthly updates, its list of features only increases alongside its popularity. The solution is equally catered to the foreign user, offering free trials where you can begin creating custom dashboards and start exploring the many advantages that BI can bring to decision-making, reporting, and productivity. 

However, for larger datasets, there are further considerations that must be taken into account, such as how data is incorporated into Power BI.  

While Power BI’s data uploading is suitable for small-scale datasets and users wishing to begin their BI journey, it does present some limitations and challenges.  

Larger datasets can navigate this challenge by linking their data through tools such as Live Query to pull required data, directly from the source – ensuring that their insights are not restrained by size limits.

A wealth of benefits to those considering Business Intelligence

Microsoft Power BI provides a wide range of benefits to those wishing to experiment with how their data can be optimised 

For organisations just beginning their Business Intelligence journey, Power BI is also extremely cost-effective and integrates easily with existing Microsoft infrastructure, rather than requiring additional login or licenses – giving it the edge over key competitors. Features of Power BI include: 

Ease of use for accessible insights 

The primary benefit, and one that will resonate well with any user who has experimented with the software, is its ease of use.  

While other common systems such as Qlikview depends on establishing servers and other manual processes, as well as requiring extensive training software, Power BI remains intuitive, easily accessible, and dynamic in approach – integrating directly with Excel, Facebook, Google Analytics, and more 

This ensures that any user can begin gaining access to empowered insights with trust, without the need for extensive training and late-night lessons. 

Visualisation capabilities and innovative tools to encourage experimentation

Power BI possesses intuitive Visualisation capabilities – a flagship tool for gaining insights from data at-a-glance.

As more and more data is added to a database, the ease of interpretation and understanding becomes increasingly difficult. By translating this same dataset into an intuitively visual medium, it becomes easier for users to interact with, and draw conclusions from, their collated data.

Through an interactive dashboard and multiple freely available online guides, as well as a highly active community forum, Power BI allows its users to interact with, experiment, and realise the full potential of their data. This allows users to build their confidence with visualisation and reporting tools, enabling them to develop their skills to reach enhanced insights. Through this, users are made aware of many potential Business Intelligence use cases.

A large community that encourages development

Another reason Power BI became such a flagship BI product is the community and user base that grew around it. Developing forums, challenges, and sharing dashboards and techniques, the Power BI community is responsible for bringing many new features via a user voting system. The benefit of this is that it gives a voice to the community, encouraging advancements that genuinely support user needs. It also gives users a supportive platform on which to experiment with how they interact with their data, with the security that stems from active communities that can provide suggestions and advice in the event of disruption.

Within the Power BI marketplace, users can upload templates and visuals which others can integrate into reports. These will often be Microsoft certified, having passed rigorous testing, enabling trust in use, and providing a viable process that encourages confidence in visualisation tools.

As well as releasing regular updates that drive the software forward and encourage users to experiment with how they interact with their data, Power BI also offers ongoing support. This ensures that users with queries or concerns can be reassured quickly, allowing them to get back to gaining insights that they can trust.

How appropriate is Power BI for larger businesses?

While Power BI can provide a wealth of benefits for many users wishing to implement Business Intelligence efforts, for those with larger, complex datasets, there are key factors that businesses must consider.

Ultimately, to accommodate current restrictions on data refresh rates and the amount of data within a report, these businesses may consider using DirectQuery. This option retrieves data for use in visualisations at the time of the request, rather than importing complete datasets natively in PowerBI.

When imported datasets become complex, with a high number of calculations and intricate relationships between tables, DirectQuery may also be a more sensible option. Removing this complex logic outside of the reporting layer ensures consistency across reports and allows for easier management of datasets moving forward.

A core advantage of Power BI for smaller businesses is its cost of use. While advanced visualisation services such as Tableau or Qlikview can require tens of thousands in implementation costs, getting started in Power BI can cost as little as roughly seven pounds a user.

This makes BI accessible and readily available. However, once the size of an organisation reaches a certain size, the cost of Power BI is comparable to other products, and an equal comparison of each service becomes more viable.

When users feel more confident, Power BI also has the capabilities to interact and examine data close up – encouraging a more scientific approach to data that uncovers greater detail and novel trends.

Selecting the best BI solution for your data

Power BI has been instrumental in driving many users and businesses to realise the power and potential of Business Intelligence. From encouraging the community to engage and develop new dashboards and Visuals to allowing seamless integrations with many data sources.

With many advantages present, businesses wishing to integrate more complex datasets with vast amounts of information must consider implementing a formalised BI solution, with a Live Query connection to the data, to navigate size restrictions. While cost-of-use must also be considered to ensure that organisations are getting the best tool possible.

Here at DataShapa, we utilise innovative strategies and unique methodologies to offer consultancy services for those businesses wishing to incorporate BI efforts. In doing so, businesses can ensure that they are optimising any tools to suit their infrastructure – gaining valuable insights without sacrificing capabilities.

Intelligent BI consulting to optimise insights

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