Whether it’s using interactive dashboards to consolidate key metrics or rich reports to connect datasets from workloads, Power BI is a key tool to engage with business data, pull it from a broad range of disparate sources, and enable smarter data-driven decisions.
Power BI offers data preparation and discovery, interactive dashboards and rich visualisations in one solution, and its self-service capabilities make it an intuitive tool for interacting with data and turning it into insights more easily. Here's our top 9 reasons why you should use Power BI for data analytics and self-service business analytics.
1. It’s easy to connect your data together
Power BI makes it incredibly easy to bring your data together into one place, for greater accessibility, organisation and visibility in your reporting efforts.
The tool currently supports up to 70+ connectors out-of-the-box, letting businesses load data from a wide range of highly used cloud-based sources such as Azure (Azure Data Warehouse), DropBox, Google Analytics, OneDrive and SalesForce, in addition to Excel spreadsheets, CSV files and data located on-premises, such as SQL Database.
With these in-built connectors, you can load pre-built Power BI dashboards in seconds and perform powerful data analysis within minutes - and you can always customise elements further to your liking, or have your data experts start from scratch by importing your datasets and developing your own dashboard and reports.
Power BI's drag-and-drop interface also means you don’t have to code or copy and paste anything to get started, and Power BI can combine multiple files (such as Excel spreadsheets) and let you analyse the merged data in one report.
2. It’s powerful and performant
Power BI’s Power Pivot data modelling engine (which is shared with Excel) is a highly performant columnar database, using modern tabular database technologies to compress databases and ensure they load fully into memory for the best possible performance.
It’s not uncommon for your Power BI Workbook (.PBIX file) to be significantly smaller than your original data sets - in fact, 1GB databases are usually compressed down to around 50 - 200MB in size.
While in comparison Excel starts to slow down when dealing with large models, Power BI is optimised to deal with tables in excess of 100 million records without breaking a sweat.
Power BI also implements automated, incremental refreshes, ensuring data is always up-to-date, an invaluable advantage that further streamlines visual reporting for end-users. In short, Power BI efficiently condenses and loads millions of records into memory, enabling a quicker and snappier data analysis experience for end-users.
3. It has custom, open-sources visuals
Power BI comes with a ton of pre-packed standard data visuals to leverage in your interactive reports, such as bar, column, line, map, matrix, pie charts, scatter, table and waterfall - each with their own variety of customisation options for enhanced presentation and functionality.
However, for that extra touch, you can also utilise free custom visuals created by developers (or in-house) and shared with the Power BI community to represent your data in a way that tells your data story the best.
With custom visual files available from both Microsoft and the community over at the AppSource Marketplace, there’s an impressive range of rich and complex visuals to take advantage of, including bullet graphs, correlation plots, decision-trees, heatmaps, sparklines and more.
If you want to present your data in a very specific way, Power BI makes it very easy to create your own visuals rather than being stuck with the usual. It’s also incredibly useful to see and use what the broader Power BI community is using to advance your own design techniques.
4. Advanced data experts can leverage its native R integration
Power BI’s core strength lies in its simplicity, but it also caters to advanced data experts. One way it achieves this is through its support for R, a open-source programming language that currently has over 7,000 packages and is primarily used by data miners and statisticians.
R scripts use complex graphical techniques and statistical computing for data manipulation, machine learning, and statistical modelling. This includes data visualisation - and naturally, Power BI lets you integrate these detailed R visualisations directly into a standard dashboard.
Power BI is great on its own for drilling down and slicing data to better represent relationships, key metrics and hierarchies, but with native support for R scripts, users are able to present more advanced business analytics and shaping like machine learning, predictive trends and smoothing.
5. Enable more advanced analytics with familiar Excel features
Advanced Excel users knowledgeable in Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) formula language can dig deeper into their data and find patterns easier with Power BI with its familiar Power Pivot features like clustering, forecasting, grouping and quick measures.
The embedded self-service Power Query tool will also be familiar to Excel users, making it easy to ingest, transform, integrate and enrich business data in Power BI from the get-go.
One other understated advantage is Power BI seamlessly integrates with Excel, negating the need to export files; just click on ‘Analyse in Excel’ and Power BI presents an interface almost identical to Excel. If you’ve had problems getting your business users to a new tool, Power BI’s native integration of Excel can’t be ignored.
In summary, Power BI’s powerful toolset will be easy to pick up for MS Excel users, allowing you to leverage existing organisational expertise and ease into Power BI faster.
6. It brings together data governance and security
Power BI lets you manage security and user access and security within the same interface, removing the need to use other tools to ensure you meet stringent compliance and regulatory standards.
The service also has Azure Active Directory (AAD) built-in for user authentication, allowing you to leverage Single Sign-On (SSO), along with your regular Power BI login credentials to access your data.
7. You can ask questions and get answers about your data
Power BI incorporates natural language search interfaces to allow users to create visualisations and discover insights using search terms in plain English, without the need for code or syntax.
Using the Q&A feature, you can explore more specific insights by double clicking an empty part of your report canvas and using the ‘Ask a Question’ box to ask data-specific questions like “what were the sales for [region] by quarter”.
As you type, Power BI automatically lists related meaningful queries, and a preview of a chart or table visualisation that best represents the data you’re looking for. The mobile Power BI applications also now support voice recognition Q&A, making it possible to ask for information on-the-go.
It may all sound like a gimmick at first, but in action Power BI’s natural language query engine is very intuitive and works extremely well - and with constant updates from Microsoft, it can only get better and more accurate with time.
8. You can embed Power BI tiles into your custom PowerApps apps
Do you use PowerApps? If so, you can use the Power BI custom visual to embed your Power BI tiles inside your app.
Power BI's native integration with PowerApps allows you to send contextual data to your PowerApps app that updates in real-time as you make changes to your Power BI report, letting your end-users access live data insights while using your in-house developed custom applications within the same interface.
If you’re unfamiliar, PowerApps is a powerful enterprise tool used to create business apps that run on almost all Web browsers and operating systems - Android, iOS and Windows - with a simplified interface that doesn't require coding experience, similar in usability to Power BI.
With native integration between the services, this means it’s even easier to share key insights with staff using your in-house custom apps without needing access to Power BI itself. End-users can additionally dig deeper into the data simply by clicking (or tapping, if on mobile) on the embedded Power BI tile to be taken to its dashboard, if public.
9. Power BI is a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms
Power BI has once again made it into Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms, and is recognised as one of the leading data analytics software solutions this year alongside popular competitors Qlik and Tableau for the second year running.
Why you should use Power BI - Next steps
It’s not hard to understand why Power BI is growing in popularity among businesses seeking better insights, interactive dashboards and rich reporting. Now is the time to leverage the many tools and services available that can help you prepare for a successful Power BI adoption and improve your data insights across the organisation.
Learn more about how Power BI can enhance your BI and leverage the broader Microsoft Azure platform - and master the 4 Best Practices for Successful Business Intelligence with our free-to-download whitepaper.