What is Power BI?
Officially released in 2015, Power BI is an umbrella term used to describe a number of data collection apps that is offered by Microsoft for the purpose of analyzing and visualizing raw data. Praised by Gartner for its exceptional analytics and business intelligent platforms, Power BI has come to be known as a business essential tool for customers of all sizes and every industry, from construction to finance to insurance. The apps that comprise the interwoven matrix of Power BI include:
- Power Pivot: Allows you to import data from a variety of sources
- Power Query: Allows you to transform data
- Power View: Helps you to visualize the data that has been compiled
- Power Map: A nice 3D feature that can create a better visualization of the data
- Power Q&A: An engine for question/answer style interactions with your data
Together, with all these interweaving parts, Power BI customers can perform such demanding tasks like examining what-if scenarios, conveying business models in an easy to read format, and forecasting business requirements.
Pros of Power BI
You don’t have to worry about breaking the bank when you sign up for Power BI, as Power BI even has free alternatives such as the Power BI Desktop which can be downloaded to create interactive reports. However, these free versions are quite simplistic and limited when compared to Power BI’s true processing potential, that performance capability is saved for the paid versions. Pricier models like Power BI Pro allow users to share data and dashboards and Power BI premium allows for much deeper and meaningful insights, as well as on-prem reporting. If you already have an Office 365 plan, you may have Power BI as an added feature at no additional cost. Want to know how Power BI relates to SQL Server Licensing? Check out our article: SQL Server Licensing Explained for more information.
CustomizableIf you have a very specific look you’d like to achieve, then Power BI can make it happen, offering a variety of custom visualizations, available in the Microsoft marketplace in addition to general visualizations used for polishing up reports and dashboards.
Excel-User FriendlyYou have the option of uploading and viewing your data in Excel if that’s your thing. Power BI is built using the same interface as Excel, so if you know your way around an Excel spreadsheet, then you’ll find using Power BI to be both easy and familiar. Even if you aren’t exactly an Excel wizard, Microsoft has a wide array of tutorials, blog posts, and other available learning resources to assist you up this learning curve. There’s also a budding community of Power BI experts you can turn to if you need an extra helping hand.
Cons of Power BI
Difficult to UseDespite the wide array of resources available, Microsoft is known for its hyper complexity when it comes to their software and Power BI is no exception. Since Power BI is merely a collection of apps, that means to properly maintain Power BI and get it to create the reports your looking for, it will require learning what each item in Power BI’s ensemble does and how it relates to the rest of the structure. This also means if Power BI isn’t working, you’ll have to go through the task of figuring out which app is broken and why.
Not Very VersatileThe expression language that Power BI uses is DAX , which is not known for being the easiest language to work with or master, once again adding to the learning curve. When compared to its competitor Tableau, Power BI is often viewed by customers as less flexible due to the fact that at the end of the day it is designed mainly for visualization purposes. Customers need to be careful to account for unique fields that can create inaccurate graphics and tables.
Large Data Sets Cause Lags
There is a cap for the digestible material that Power BI can handle at any given time, especially if you only have the free version at your disposal. If your business is on the smaller side, this limited space may not be an issue, and even such problems may be counteracted with a few space saving techniques such as writing simpler queries or splitting the queries into several different components. If you want to expand your Power BI capacity, you’ll have to upgrade to a pricier model.