Skip to content

Why Consider Power BI Over Other Business Intelligence Solutions

In any business, systems generate a wide variety of data in the size of terabytes, petabytes or in some cases exabytes. Businesses analyse this data and create actionable information (decisions) and the entire process is called Business Intelligence (BI). It is quite evident that the company’s success relies on these decisions that derive from business intelligence.

BI is an ever-growing technology dominating all businesses across the world. BI services are very much successful in ensuring a personalized experience to the customers. BI Services are widely diversified, and businesses are leveraging the potential of this technology. 

Microsoft has created quite a buzz in the BI technology space in the last 7 years with Power BI. What started as a self-service BI tool has over the years changed into a robust enterprise solution. While many companies moved early to adopt the new approach and are leading from the front, there are many that held off for various reasons. One main reason why companies hold off investing in Power BI is if they have made a large financial investment in a legacy BI solution. In case your company has not made the decision for Power BI then here are top 16 reasons why you should consider Power BI.

1. Great Pedigree

Power BI is owned and developed by Microsoft and has enormous heritage. Microsoft has been leading the BI space leading with SQL Server Analysis Services.  Also prior to Power BI, Excel was the most widely used self-service BI tool used around the world. The DAX engine (Vertipaq) of power BI is built grounds up leveraging the skills, knowledge, and experience of SSAS team. Similarly, the Power query (the self-service ETL tool – Extract, Transform and Load) is built from scratch leveraging the expertise of SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) team which has history of successful development of ETL software.

Overall Microsoft has always been great at building and delivering world class robust commercial software. They have deep pockets which can help in making the platform robust, stronger, and widely adopted in the enterprise world. Under the aegis of Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has embarked on a different journey to be more sensitive to customer needs and to be more embracing open-source technologies rather than competing with it.

2. Easy to Learn

The UI of power BI has a strong resemblance with excel, but it’s not Excel. So, it is relatively easy for business user (who are mostly Excel users) to get started on power BI. Anyone that can click on a button can interact with a Power BI report.  It is intuitive and easy to learn for anyone that wants to consume the content interactively.  The training costs of Power BI is low making the total cost of ownership very compelling. 

Also because of the Vertipaq engine Power BI can enable self-service BI to a new wave of “citizen developers” from the business community.  No longer is this the sole domain of an MDX programmer to develop a cube that can be used.  Power BI has a language called DAX (Data Analysis eXpressions).  This is a functional language that can be learnt by Excel professionals hence it doesn’t have to be the IT pros that do all the work now.  And as a bonus, the DAX language in Power BI is also available in Power Pivot for Excel, so Excel users get to learn a new super language that they can leverage in multiple places.

3. Diverse Data Source Ingestion

Power BI has inbuilt connectors for most of the major data sources. There is also a “catch-all” ODBC database connector and there are new (less mainstream) connectors being developed all the time.  In addition, there are many cloud-based connectors that allow users to easily connect to cloud content like Google Analytics,, and lots more online software service providers.

4. Highly Compressed Database

Vertipaq (the data modelling engine in Power BI and Excel) is a highly compressed and performant columnar database.  It uses modern tabular database technologies (built from scratch) to create a highly compressed database that loads fully into memory for rapid performance.  It is not unusual for a database to compress between 600% –1200%, meaning a 1GB database will compress down to an operating size of between 85MB – 170MB.  The performance impact of this compression is amazing, and it needs to be experienced to be believed.

5. Great Visualisation Engine

Power BI has a brand-new HTML 5 compliant visualisation engine that is simply awesome.  Everything will slice and dice and cross filter everything else. If you can see a map of your country showing sales by region, then click on the region to see the underlying details.  If you can see a bar chart that show performance by year, then drill down on the bar chart to see the monthly, weekly, or daily breakdown. Everything is intuitive and simply works.

Also, rather than trying to solve every visualisation problem for every company around the world, Microsoft decided to share its visualisation source code so that any capable developer can develop their own visualisations and share them with the community. Developers can either copy an existing visual and extend it, or they can start from scratch and build something completely new.

Power BI also has consolidation dashboards. You can pin your visualisations to a dashboard/cockpit where you can see everything you care about and nothing you don’t.  And if you want more detail, then just click on the tile and drill down into the report.

With these capabilities organizations will not require any specialised IT report writer to create a new report for the business. Anyone who can create a chart in Excel can create a chart in Power BI. Self-service data modelling experts can help/coach/support busy business users to fast tract development of self-service BI solutions

6. Cloud Based

Power BI was built grounds up with the view of sharing via the cloud.  It uses all the modern HTML5 coding techniques to ensure compatibility with browsers across any platform.  It has industrial strength security wrapped around the cloud presence and it is very secure. 

For companies not ready to move to the cloud server, Microsoft has released an on-premise version of Power BI called Power BI Report Server.

In addition, the desktop version of the software is free for everyone and is very effective in creating personal BI analytics. Users can build and share pbix files just like they share xlsx files to any other users that has a desktop application.

7. Access Reports Through Mobile Apps

Power BI reports can be accessed through Apple, Android and Windows mobile app which are free. These apps have full interactivity. Using these apps users can securely access and view live power BI dashboards and reports on any device. They can access the data stored in SQL server or in the cloud. They can monitor their business, share, and collaborate on the go. They can also receive push notifications for personal data alert on the device

8. Embed into Any Custom App

Power BI can be embedded into custom apps.  So, if users want to build their own website and control user access via their own logon credentials, then that is fine with Microsoft.  They just have to embed Power BI into their application.  Same goes for mobile apps or anything else that one can think of for that matter.  There is a dedicated licensing agreement specifically built for Power BI embedded that makes the product financially compelling.

9. Affordable

Power BI is free for trial for as long as you want. If you want to take advantage of more of the enterprise features including controlled sharing of data, automatic refreshes using gateways etc.  then you have to pay a whole US$9.99 per month per user, which is quite cheap to buy. Also, Power BI Desktop is free to use on the desktop for ever, and free for any user in the cloud if they are not using the sharing features mentioned above.  The pro features are also hugely value adding.

10. Simplified Data Loading

Power BI has easy to learn data loading tool – Power Query. Power Query is much more than a self-service ETL tool. Power Query has a user driven interface that generates code (in the M language) to transform the data.  The process steps are saved as a process and can be re-run over new data at any time.  Power Query is also available in Excel and has taken Excel to a special level. So by learning this language once, it be put to use in multiple places. 

11. Massive User Community

Power BI has millions of users in the community that ask questions and help out other like-minded people. There are also user groups in the major cities around the world and community forums that provide help and solutions to user. People can visit these forums and get answers to their question within minutes. At the same time the content of their question and answers remains on the web for others to learn. Furthermore, there are showcases demonstrating various uses of Power BI. 

The Power BI community plays a central role in determining what new features are most valued by them and communicating the same to Microsoft.  Anyone can sign up and create and/or vote for new ideas on how to improve the product.

12. Natural Language Processing Capability

Power BI has a natural language query engine. This feature was originally developed for the cloud version of Power BI but now it has been added as a visual inside Power BI desktop.

You can type natural language questions like “what were my sales yesterday?” or “what were my sales by state?” or “how are bike sales trending vs last year?”. Power BI will present the answers in table, chart or whatever makes sense. If you don’t like the first response, then you can tweak the setting from a standard user interface. If you are happy with the report, then you can pin it the dashboard and see it updated every day forward.

The mobile apps allow voice recognition Q&A and so you can literally ask your phone/tablet for some information, and it will get the answer

13. Quick Insight on Data

There is a quick insights tool that will trawl through your Power BI reports (when you load them to and analyse the data for quick insights.  When I used Quick Insights on the Adventure Works demo database it returned almost 50 interesting facts about the data in my report.

14. Integration with Office Products

Business users often are not familiar with a BI tool and don’t want to learn a new tool. So, under pressure they often end up exporting data to excel and then do the manipulation and analysis inside Excel. Power BI seamlessly integrates with Excel without requiring exporting. You just click “Analyze in Excel” and power BI talks natively to Excel. Also the look and feel within Power BI is so similar to Excel that many users end up staying in Power BI rather clicking “Analyse in Excel”

Also, business rely on PowerPoint to tell stories and hence integration between Power BI and Power point is highly desirable by many. The PowerPoint integration is pretty basic at the moment. You can just export reports to slides. There is already a third party product that will allow you to embed Power BI reports directly insider PowerPoint and which will allow you to interact with reports live during a presentation. This is an area where continuous work is happening and expect to see some outcome soon.

15. Integration with R and Python

R and Python are two of the most used, open-source statistics and transformation software packages in the world today.  Instead of competing with these tools, Microsoft  has integrated R and Python directly into Power BI so you can use your packages directly with Power BI. 

16. Third Party Tool Integration

There have been third party tools around for many years, notably DAX Studio and Tabular Editor, and many more. Microsoft have made a strategic decision to “harden” the backend of Power BI so that third party developers could connect directly to Power BI and Power BI Desktop in a robust and supported way.  The third-party tool integration means the community gets what it needs to extend Power BI without having to wait for Microsoft to prioritise the work.

3 thoughts on “Why Consider Power BI Over Other Business Intelligence Solutions”

  1. Thank you for sharing excellent informations. Your website is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you抳e on this website. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for more articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found just the info I already searched all over the place and just couldn’t come across. What a perfect web-site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *