Excel does a lot, and it does it really well. It hasn’t been the dominant data reporting software for decades for no reason. But Microsoft rolled out something even better in Power BI. If you just need to make a few simple spreadsheets every now and then, Excel probably offers everything you need. But if you need to analyze that data, see trends and relationships between categories, and share your findings with others in your company (and what business doesn’t?),
Excel has nothing on Power BI. The transition from Excel to Power BI easier and more rewarding than you think.
Here are eleven reasons to make the switch:
1. Keep All of Your Excel Files
Switching to a new system for storing and sharing data probably sounds like a nightmare. No matter how good the new option is, you’re probably reluctant to go through the work of converting hundreds or thousands of spreadsheets. But because Power BI is a Microsoft product, it’s designed to work seamlessly with Excel. This means that you get all of the benefits of Power BI with zero headaches. Simply import your files and interact with your data in ways you never could before.
2. Minimize the Learning Curve
Your next concern is probably the learning curve that comes with a new system. And again, the fact the Power BI is a Microsoft service works in your favor here. While other similar products like Tableau require users to adapt to an entirely new system, Power BI keeps the best and most familiar parts of the Microsoft Suite UI. There’s still a bit of learning curve. After all, you can do way more with Power BI than you could with Excel. But previous experience with Microsoft combined with a Power BI training will have most of your team acclimated and ready to go in no time.
3. Create Customizable Visuals Instantly
If you’re already using Excel, the ability to quickly create charts and tables might not seem like a big deal. Excel already does that, right? Sure. But it’s nothing like Power BI. And before you think that Power BI is just a fancy upsell that doesn’t offer any real value to your business, you should check out this video to see how much more you can do with Power BI.
Go from pie chart, to donut charts, to line graphs. Instantly add filters based on product, region, day of the week, or almost anything else you can think of and watch your visuals instantly respond. The data that used to scattered across multiple platforms or departments is now neatly stored in one place, ready to be interpreted and examined from any possible angle. With the ability to import data from almost anywhere, create your own filters, and combine information from multiple platforms, you can make more detailed, more useful visual data reports faster than you could have dreamed in Excel.
4. Three-part System Makes Sharing Data Easy
With Excel, sharing your data usually means sending an attachment. While you can add multiple authors to a document, if you want to give someone access to the data without giving them access to edit it, static attachments are typically your only option. And when you make updates, you send a new attachment. Other than just being a hassle, the true flaw is that your team can’t see realtime changes in the data. Power BI’s three-part system allows you to share real time updates to your data with as many people as you’d like. No attachment or emails required.
Here’s the lowdown on the three-part service:
- The Power BI Desktop: The Power BI desktop is where most of the creation happens. Here, you can compile all of the different sources of data your company uses, whether it’s from Excel, databases, or even web pages. Once you’ve imported all of your information, the user-friendly interface makes ita breeze to select the data you want and create detailed visuals just by clicking and dragging.
- The Power BI Service: The Power BI Service is an online platform that allows anyone you’d like to see the data that’s been compiled in the Power BI Desktop. Simply publish the reports, graphs, or other visuals created in the Power BI Desktop to the Service. Anyone who has access can instantly view the reports online.
- Power BI Mobile: Similar to the Power BI Service, Power BI mobile allows for instant access to data and reports for team members who are on the go. Visually it’s a lot more appealing than Excel for mobile, and it won’t take up memory on your phone by requiring you to download endless attachments.
5. Improve Your Analytics
Even the best data collection practices don’t do you any good if you can’t easily analyze your information and find meaningful trends. With fully customizable filters and the ability to combine and compare data from multiple sources, you can spot relationships and trends in minutes— relationships you may have completely missed before.
In this case study, for example, a school district had “years of unstructured data, but without the required insights from the data.” With Power BI and a little help from a consulting experts that taught them how to get the most out of their data, the school was able to “gain critical insights” that improved student performance. What used to be a quagmire of disconnected spreadsheets became meaningful, useful data that helped them spot the changes they could make to help their students.
6. Practically Endless Storage, All in One Place
Visual data is great. It lets us see relationships and trends clearly, and it’s a lot faster and less painful than reading the same information in detail. The only one who doesn’t love visual reports? Your computer. Visual reports can take up a ton of memory on your computer and take forever to download. Even large Excel files without any visuals can be a hassle. Before Power BI your options were to compress everything into zip files or to split your data into multiple documents, making analysis and reporting more time-consuming.
From its genesis, Power BI was made to compile and store incredible amounts of data (we’re talking data from some the largest companies in the world) in a way that Excel just wasn’t. Because of this, Power BI compresses files far more effectively than Excel or other Microsoft products do. Since you can store all of that data in one place, you’ll never have to go searching for what you need again. Different departments can share their information, making communication and collaboration that much easier and preventing the lapses in information that could cost your company money.
7. Row Level Security Keeps the Need-to-Know Safe
Having all of your information in one place, accessible by every department sounds great–except when it doesn’t. Some things just aren’t meant for everyone’s eyes. If you’re not familiar with the term, row level security (RLS) means that you can restrict access to certain rows in a spreadsheet based on an employee’s department or position.
Implementing RLS in Excel required some pretty in-depth knowledge and minor coding skills, but adding RLS in Power BI is easy and intuitive. While “row-level” meant just that when the term first came about, it’s now more of a metaphor. In other words, whether you’ve created your reports with actual rows and columns or visual like maps and charts, the RLS features on Power BI will still keep your confidential data confidential.
8. Built in AI Answers Questions So You Don’t Have To
Using artificial intelligence, the natural language query feature makes it easy for everyone to get the information they need from your reports. If you’re on the number-crunching, report-making side of business, you know that no matter how detailed your reports are, someone will always want to see the information a different way. So in addition to all of the work you put in up front, you then get to create additional reports about the top-selling products in Nebraska or peak buying times.
With the natural language query and the Power BI Service, they can now generate these reports themselves just by typing in the question. Powerful AI understands almost any question they can ask and presents the information seamlessly, even if they’ve never so much as touched the Power BI Desktop. You just need to add the “Ask a Question” button to your reports to save hours of time answering follow up questions yourself.
The natural language query is an especially useful feature for those who are struggling to adapt to Power BI. While it’s UI makes it incredibly user-friendly, Power BI does still come with a bit of a learning curve. The natural language query makes it easy for even the least tech-savvy among us to navigate the reports and find the information they want. If you find that your team is still having a little trouble adapting to Power BI, look into professional training from Power BI experts to get everyone up to speed and ensure that you’re getting maximum ROI from Power BI.
9. Add a Narrative to Your Data
How do humans like to absorb information? For as long as we’ve been around, it’s been in two ways: visuals and stories…and preferably, visuals that tell stories. We paint, draw, compose songs, write, and speak all in effort to tell where we’ve been and what we’ve done. It’s intensely human and, until recently, something that’s been completely detached from business reporting, which is why reports and analytics can usually put you to sleep faster than a tranquilizer shot.
Power BI has always had the visual portion covered. A colorful donut chart may not be art, but it’s at least appealing and easy to understand. And even since its collaboration with Narrative Science in 2016, Power BI has had the storytelling part covered too. Narrative for Power BI is a paid extension that adds a narrative element to your reports, making them more engaging and easier to understand. It will cost you a bit extra, but if you have trouble getting team members to understand (or even read) your reports, Narrative might be a worth the cost for you.
10. Power BI Report Service for High Security Information
As stated above, the Power BI Service is a online, cloud-based platform that allows you to publish and share your data and reports. And while it’s very secure, some companies’ internal security regulations prevent them from sharing certain information through the cloud. For this reason, Power BI offers the Report Server as an alternative to the Cloud. With the Power BI Report Server, your company can still benefit from the easy sharing of the Power BI Service while keeping all information behind company firewalls.
11. Low Price Point
For everything it offers, Power BI has a remarkably low cost, significantly cheaper than competitors like Tableau. The most basic package is actually free to download. From there, Power BI Pro is $9.99 per user per month, and Power BI Premium offer custom pricing depending on your needs.
Final thoughts: Power BI also offers free trials, letting you get your feet wet before you commit
There’s a reason “Business Intelligence” is built into the name. Power BI is an intuitive, easy to adopt reporting software that foresees and perfectly meets the analytics and reporting needs of businesses from Nike to The National Institute of Health to small town school districts. With that kind of versatility, odds are it will work for your business too.