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By Jacob Mason
The following blog will provide you with 9 reasons to take a leap and stop using Excel for producing visual reports, explaining why Power BI is a superior choice.
1. Power BI Feels Familiar
The look and feel of Power BI is like Excel. Being a Microsoft product, there is an Office-style ribbon along the top and page tabs along the bottom. Power BI also opens with suggestions of how you might want to begin importing data, as shown below.
You’ll notice ‘Import data from Excel’ is the first option – so your Excel work can continue! Power BI is very data agnostic, so your data can come from many different sources including Excel, SQL, CSV Files and Azure Data Lakes.
2. Quick to get Started
On top of the familiar feel, Microsoft provides plenty of online materials to walkthrough your first steps in creating a report.
Microsoft provides a free environment for you to have a go with, along with some data and guided exercises. Power BI utilizes a drag and drop user interface so creating your first visual can take just seconds – simply choose a visual in the Visualizations pane and some data from the Fields pane – no more chart wizards from Excel!
3. Variety of Visuals for Better Data Analysis
There are a large variety of charts, tables and visuals available in Power BI. Everything that was possible in Excel is possible within Power BI too, but even more is on offer. Gauges, KPIs, Pie Charts and Ribbon Charts to name just a few. Beyond these, you can incorporate an R or Python script to produce more complex visuals or download more visuals from Microsoft’s bank of visuals provided by both Microsoft and third parties.
4. Automatic Calculations
In Power BI, you do not need to know a formula to get results. The drag and drop functionality allows you to choose your desired visual and data, and Power BI does the rest. Your data will be aggregated automatically when visualised.
5. User Interactivity
In Excel it is possible to include user interactivity with the use of macros, buttons and forms. Power BI, however, makes this much easier. A ‘slicer’ visual will produce a tick box list, slider or buttons. This then automatically connects to the visuals on your page and becomes a simple and effective way of a user filtering the data shown.
There is also a Filters pane which allows you to configure a filter for a visual, entire page or entire report. You can then choose whether these filters are changeable by a user or if they are locked.
6. Distribution and Security
With Power BI, you typically develop reports on your computer. You can then publish your newly created report to the Power BI Service, allowing your report to be viewed by those who you give access to. This means that your report can be securely distributed and shared with your users without everyone having their own copy. Instead, your report can be surfaced through a web browser with each user authenticating to gain access.
7. Updating Data
As your Power BI report is created separately to where your data is stored, your reports can be set to automatically update with the newest available data as it becomes available. This could be monthly, daily, or even real time updates without the need to make changes or create a new version of your report.
8. Drill Down and Drill Through
Power BI is well equipped to allow the user to explore data in more depth. Drilling down allows a graph to initially summarise data by a high level category (for example, year on a time series chart) and then display lower level categories beneath (for example, months or days).
Drilling through allows the user to gain more insight from the data by producing a new page of visuals with more detail.
9. Regular Updates from Microsoft
Power BI comes with regular (usually monthly) updates from Microsoft with new features and improvements. This means that Power BI is only getting better as time goes on. Along with the updates, a video is released explaining what has changed and what is new. There are also various preview features which are initially turned off but may be turned on in the options menu. These include new visuals, visual changes and additional functionality.
In summary, Power BI has a lot to offer your business, enhancing your data interrogation and reporting with easy to create interactive visuals. The whole package provides the ability to gain the greatest insight from your data to enable data-driven decision making whilst being user friendly and secure.