Power BI: interactive data visualisations
Power BI is a business analytics service provided by Microsoft, which went live in July 2015. It is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform and available in Microsoft Office 365. In just two years, Power BI has exceeded more than 5 million subscribers.
Better intelligence with data dashboards
Power BI provides interactive data visualisations with self-service business intelligence capabilities, where end users can create reports and dashboards without having to depend on IT staff or database administrators.
Power BI is a Microsoft product so it works well with other Microsoft products like Excel, OneDrive, SharePoint, Azure, SQL, etc. Another big strength is that it has more than 74 data connectors, and this number is growing. Data connectors allow you to connect to almost any dataset, such as Salesforce, Google Analytics, Facebook, SAP, etc.
The Power BI offering
Power BI is a very user-friendly tool that can be used by any company, big or small, to carry out data analysis. Power BI offers two versions to its users:
- Power BI Web Service
a self-service reporting tool which doesn’t require additional software installations or advanced technical knowledge. Despite its simplicity, it has a lot of great visualisations to choose from – allowing users to build interactive dashboards and analyse data quickly, with the ability to connect to different data sources or to connect your data sources directly to one of the prebuilt templates available from the Power BI Service folder.
- Power BI Desktop
a more advanced tool with greater functionality which is ideal for developers to build more sophisticated reports and dashboards. This tool provides the ability to connect to almost any data source out there, as well as greater choice of visualisations available from the Microsoft Store.
There is also a Power BI Premium option available for larger organisations which provides additional premium services from Microsoft, but it’s also available for personal use at no cost.
How can data visualisation benefit business?
Analysing your company’s data, especially in real time, can bring actionable insights to teams across an organisation. Dashboards such as Power BI allow you to interact with the data and identify causality and trends. Seeing relationships and patterns in multidimensional data leads to better business decisions, and there is no disputing that visual data is a lot easier to absorb and interpret than spreadsheets and other data sources.
The main benefits for the business are:
- Competitively priced
- Ability to view your reports on any device 24/7
- Consolidate multiple data sources through Power BI
- Easy to build dashboards (drag and drop)
- Easy to share
- Extract as a PowerPoint presentation
- Extract data to Excel for further analysis
- Drill down functionality for more detailed information
- Ability to schedule automatic refresh times for datasets
- 74 data connectors
- Very good support forum
Power BI appears consistently in lists of ‘top 10 data visualisation tools’. It’s a powerful and highly intuitive self-service business intelligence and is priced extremely competitively. It has an intuitive user interface, so is easily adopted by teams.
An example of a dashboard
We successfully moved Unity’s reporting to Power BI, and in doing so reduced the time taken to generate reports – from 20 days to just two days. These two days are spent on data quality activities, the reporting itself is fully automated at this stage.
Now we can view and measure our performances, identify trends, and make recommendations on our findings which are based on historic data. Apart from cutting costs and report preparation times, we have increased customers satisfaction by providing them with interactive reports and dashboards with historic data and drill down abilities.
We have received very positive feedback from our customers, who really liked their new interactive reports, a sample of which can be viewed below:
Personally, I really enjoy working with Power BI and have established a Power BI User Group in Dublin. It’s a Microsoft initiative to promote Power BI and create communities on a local level where people can interact closely and share their personal experiences with the tool.