Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft offers a whole suite of services, apps and connectors known as Power BI to implement a Business Intelligence (BI) solution for companies. The objective here is also the presentation of data in the form of interactive dashboards for analysis and reporting.

Due to the strong increase in demand for self-service analytics and as an alternative to Excel, Microsoft released Power BI in July 2015. Beforehand, the individual elements of Power BI – Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View – were already part of Office 365/Excel.

Power BI offers experienced Excel users the ability to query, combine and store data multi-dimensionally in an in-memory database from various sources. With this offer, Microsoft promises a scalable BI platform for companies that stores data securely and in accordance with compliance agreements.

Part of a big picture

Furthermore, the SQL server´s analysis, reporting and integration services naturally complete Microsoft´s BI and data warehousing portfolio. This explains why, at the beginning of 2020, Gartner ranked Microsoft as “Leader” in its Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence for the 13th (!) year in a row – even before Tableau.

In addition to the possibility of offering data analysis as a self-service with Power BI Desktop to occasional Excel users, Microsoft considers its own store for so-called “custom visuals” to be a key factor in the success of Power BI. Presumably, the possibility of customization provides a solution for the limitation of Power BI Desktop to predefined visualization elements that can only be parameterized to a limited extent – in contrast to Tableau – for complex visualization requirements. 

Furthermore, Microsoft is pursuing the goal that these “custom visuals” can be used in Office 365/Excel in the future (source).

Desktop, online and mobile

From desktop to mobile device (graphic: graphomate)

1. Power BI Desktop

Power BI Desktop is installed as an application on a computer. Here, reports are created to be published or used locally.

Power BI Desktop can be downloaded and used for free.

2. Power BI Service

With Power BI Service, reports created in Power BI Desktop can be published online and used by others. This allows existing reports to be edited online and new reports to be created. However, the underlying data model cannot be changed which provides a single point of access.

Power BI Service is offered as a free version and as paid (Pro or Premium) versions with additional features (such as automatic data update).

We have linked the price models of Power BI for you.

3. Power BI Mobile

Power BI Mobile is an app for mobile devices. It allows you to access reports published in Power BI Service directly from your smartphone or tablet.

Furthermore, Power BI Embedded enables the integration of Power BI reports into your own IT environment, your own web portals and the use of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform for BI services.

In addition, so-called Power Apps make it possible to integrate your own or third-party applications with access to a consolidated database into Power BI.

Power BI’s range of functions is very comprehensive and a large community has emerged around the use of Power BI. In any case, Microsoft has managed to stir up the market for Business Intelligence enormously with this tool.