Many years ago, when I was a young Business Intelligence (BI) Report Writer and long before Power BI, I remember seeing Excel 2010 for the first time—mesmerized by the striking animations that shimmer in the splash screen. I remember my excitement to play with it, like a child waiting to tear off the gift-wrap and start playing with his first remote-controlled car. Eager to take Excel 2010 for a spin, I started the engine and immediately, the slicers blew me away. What fun I had! There was now no longer a need for the drop-down filters in Pivot Tables, and I could use Power Pivot to help me deal with big data.
Excel 2013 then came, and thereafter, Excel 2016. These offerings starred with their flashy, fluid data transitions on their charts, Power Query, and of course, Power View. Wow! Power View was the popular kid in school for a while, with its dynamic drill downs and powerful mapping capabilities—and for the first time, incredibly easy-to-set-up story telling abilities. Then (insert crickets chirping), radio silence from Excel.
Microsoft seemed to shift its focus away from Excel into something else. For well over a decade, Excel was the golden goose. Yet all of sudden, almost overnight, we hear about this new, innovative tool. A separate installation and application altogether—a new kid on the block, Power BI.
What is Power BI?
Well, in summary, Power BI is a combination of three applications. Power BI desktop (separate stand-alone application), the Power BI Service (web-based application), and Power BI Mobile application (available on the Play Store, App Store and Windows Store).
Power BI Desktop
This is the primary focus. And with a new update being released with awesome features every month, what more could you ask for? Firstly, Power BI desktop, in its basic functionality, is as easy to use as tying your shoelace. There are so many BI solutions out there, some of which even have more features than Power BI, however, one thing I have found with Power BI is that it is extremely easy to use if you really want to use it. Especially if you have used Excel before, or better yet, Power View.
The best part about this whole thing? Power BI Desktop is FREE, yes, FREE, 100% FREE. Did you catch that? IT’S FREE! Why wouldn’t you try it? I’m sure your manager won’t mind you playing with Power BI Desktop for a few minutes, given that it could revolutionize the way you do BI reporting in your organization—at no cost!
Power BI Web Service
Following the flow of the Power BI experience, you would then have the option to push your Power BI Desktop report into the Power BI Web Service—for the primary purpose of creating Tiled Dashboards and sharing. The idea of dashboards with tiles is a new feature that Microsoft seems to be emphasizing with their demos. You can pin charts\other elements from a report (or a multiple reports) onto a dashboard. The dashboard can be shared with whomever you want to share it with. Clicking on a tile will then take you to the report the tile comes from. This is simple, yet again, looks snazzy.
Another big deal with the Power BI Web service is the Q and A feature—a SIRI like creature that allows you to ask questions and see whatever data you want to see. Yes, this is the future and it is growing quickly, but unless you know how to ask the questions, you may find yourself cursing your laptop for its inability to understand what you mean. Even though it always seems to work well in rehearsed demos.
Power BI Mobile App
Picture this; it’s Monday Morning, I need to check some stats for my department, and even though I’m on my laptop (so I could just go to the web service and check it out), I want to be fancy. And so, what do I do? I pick up my iPhone and launch the Power BI app. All my dashboards are right there, and they are all automatically updated whenever the Power BI Web Service reports are updated. It’s spot on for consuming reports on the fly, or even when you are not on the fly, and like me, just get a bit lazy to open the Web Service. The visualizations are optimized for mobile devices and both the Power BI Desktop and Power BI Web Service allows you to easily create reports and dashboards that are 100 percent mobile compatible.
Sounds great! BUT, what’s missing from Power BI?
Power BI is a fantastic tool for many of your reporting needs, but in the intricate world of Accounting, Power BI falls short. But hey, that’s why Sage Intelligence is there. Sage Intelligence has incredible financial reporting capabilities that are specifically designed with two kinds of people in mind. Firstly, the non-financial guy, and secondly, the financial guy. Combining Power BI with Sage Intelligence is simply the right thing to do if you run a business and want the greatest insight possible. Both complement each other perfectly, like peanut butter and jelly, cheese and tomato, butter and bread… Well, you get the point. Click the image below to find out how one of our customers have gained incredible insights by doing just this.
So is Power BI worth all the hype? Given that it’s free and from the leading software company on our planet, and that it can pair up with Sage Intelligence to give you the greatest insights possible, then I would say OF COURSE IT IS! Give it a go. You have nothing to lose, but so much to gain.
Check out this recorded webcast and discover the convenience and benefit of using Microsoft Power BI with Sage Intelligence Reporting: