Although Microsoft Excel isn’t likely to vanish into thin air any time soon, Power BI Desktop has the potential to overtake it in popularity as it continues to flourish and become more feature-rich. Most of Excel’s latest improvements have only become available if you have a separately installed Office ProPlus license or are an Office 365 E3 tenant.

So what’s so great about Excel? Excel formulas and pivot tables are close to being the number one programming language around for anything from simple to relatively complex data organization, and tools such as Power Pivot, Power Map, Power View and Power Query are also very powerful to:

  • Transform data
  • explore and filter data
  • build key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Creates visualizations

Although Excel is a robust platform to use in order to build the data model you’re going to analyze, the tools to actually conduct that analysis isn’t part of Excel’s interface, meaning you may end up opening up multiple application instances because you need to use different tools, which has a tendency to reduce the quality of the end user experience.

Power BI Desktop is touted as Microsoft’s shiny new data analysis and reporting tool that can do it all – bringing ease of use, and an impressive list of data source integrations. Power BI is indeed a very powerful platform and full of features that can reap immense benefits if utilized properly.

But does Power BI live up to its name?

It does bring some compelling functionality for interactive designers in particular, including:

Importing:

Power BI has the option to import Power Query queries, Power Pivot models and Power View worksheets in addition to having other data import/export options. You can import data from various databases and file formats and its most recent update allows Power BI to integrate with Azure services including ExpressRoute.

Cloud Services:

With Power BI, you can connect with on-premises data and through cloud services. The subscription version of Power BI allows for an unlimited amount of storage and adds connections to your data.

Shape & Combine Data:

Once you connect and import the necessary data, you can adjust and shape the data to fit your needs by renaming columns, tables, changing text to numbers and editing rows in Power BI’s Query Editor. Combining data from several data sources enables users to create unique reports and analysis that will only enhance your BI strategy.

Visualizations:

Power BI users can create custom visuals and use them in dashboards and reports. The number of visualizations is growing, however currently, visualizations include:

  • Bar and column charts
  • Layered and stacked area charts
  • Single number cards
  • Multi-row cards
  • Combination charts
  • Doughnut charts
  • Gauge charts
  • Line charts
  • Maps
  • Filled maps
  • Matrix
  • Pie charts
  • Scatter and bubble charts
  • Slicers
  • Standalone images
  • Tables
  • Tree maps
  • Waterfall charts

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Content Packs:

Content packs allow subscribers to quickly connect to an account from a supported service from Power BI and see data through live dashboards and interactive reports that have been pre-built.

Content packs are constantly being released and are currently available for popular services including Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics, Azure Mobile Engagement, Salesforce.com, SQL Sentry, Marketo, and more.

Organizations can also create their own content packs to share purpose-built dashboards, reports and data sets within their organization.

Mobile:

Excel isn’t exactly mobile-friendly, however with the Power BI mobile app for iOS, Android or Windows, users can have easy access to dashboards and reports. Microsoft recently released an update in April announcing support for SQL Server 2016 for the Android operating system. The update allows users to bring on-premises data to Android phones and stay on top of your business with mobile reports and KPI tracking (also available on iOS devices).

Users can also access full dashboards on-the-go without being tied down to a laptop. Convenient? Yes! The mobile app for certain platforms also has a “global search” function allowing users to search for dashboards, reports, and groups by name.


It will be interesting to see how Microsoft moves forward with features for the Power BI desktop application, as it deepens integration with other services to make a more comprehensive data tool. As the software matures, we can see it being viewed as an idea companion for the Power BI platform.

With Power BI, you can visually explore your data seamlessly. Aptude is a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and has the resources to architect and deploy comprehensive BI solutions with Microsoft’s technology stack on-premise or in the cloud. Contact Aptude to learn how you can integrate Power BI into your overall BI strategy.

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Our support services will free up your senior IT staff from the overwhelming burden of day-to-day maintenance issues. Now they’ll have time to launch those new projects and applications you’ve been waiting for. Simply put, we can free up your resources and contain your costs. Let’s have a quick chat to discuss our exclusive services.

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Keep Moving Forward with Aptude

Aptude is your own personal IT professional services firm. We provide our clients with first class resources in a continuous, cost-containment fashion.

Our support services will free up your senior IT staff from the overwhelming burden of day-to-day maintenance issues. Now they’ll have time to launch those new projects and applications you’ve been waiting for. Simply put, we can free up your resources and contain your costs. Let’s have a quick chat to discuss our exclusive services.

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