Power BI has gained significant popularity over the last few years. More and more people are interested in what the product has to offer and whether it’s a good fit for their business needs. In this blog, we’ll examine what Power BI is as well as how to tell if it’s right for your business.
What is Power BI?
Power BI is a business intelligence and analysis software that enables the user to easily produce and share beautiful interactive reports to offer business insights. Once you’ve created the report, you can upload it to the web and share or import it using the embedded functionality on your website. The product’s main goal is to answer specific business questions like How many new users have registered for the last X years? and How many of those users have actually made a purchase?
Power BI’s intuitive UI means you don’t need to be an expert in database design or a developer to produce a report. Drag-and-drop controls and visuals, filtering data, dropdowns, and tables offer the means to create simple yet professional-looking reports. If successful, it can lead to the next important business question: Why is the number so high or low? This can result in another report which can show how the purchased items’ prices have changed over X amount of years or explore how the users’ age and interests are affecting the result.
Is Power BI Right For Your Business?
Power BI is an attractive and robust option to help solve a number of different business needs. However, depending on your specific business, it might be overkill for you. Here are some important things to consider:
Each Power BI data set has a 1 GB limit. If you have bigger volumes of data, you can purchase Power BI Premium with a 10 GB limit. Keep in mind, this limit is PER dataset so you can’t have more than 10 datasets larger than 1GB with the Premium account. It’s crucial to generate a good quality data model, keeping in mind Power BI’s data management structure. Since it’s column-oriented, its power is in transforming the data by columns, instead of rows. The model must be created in such a way to take full advantage of what the technology has to offer. Only after that should you do the analysis and reporting part on it. The more data you have, the more precise and correct the result.
Power BI supports a great deal of data sources to import records. Records don’t need to be imported in a tabular form but once loaded, the data needs to be managed and re-formed to a table structure.
For example, if your data comes from a web API service, a local CSV file, an Excel worksheet, Google Analytics or an SQL Server Database, the records will need to be transformed in different ways but will all be organized in rows and columns. That way, despite the data’s heterogeneous origin, the user can define relationships between sources, combine the data, and manipulate it. The Power BI team is constantly adding more and more source types to improve the user experience and work as efficiently as possible. If you’re gathering information from many different places, Power BI has a solution for you. If you only need to query a small number of records from your database, Power BI might be overkill.
If you have a good amount of business data and are at a crossroads deciding how to proceed or need to gain some insight based on it, Power BI can help you. The logic behind the reports is presenting the data aggregated on multiple levels and enabling the user to interactively operate with the visualizations. It’s also possible to form a hierarchy and explore the data more thoroughly. Interacting with one visual can have an effect on all the others in the report.
Let’s assume you have two visuals: a bar chart and a table. Based on the report filters, they show some information from the datasets aggregated accordingly. Once we select a specific row in the table, the other rows are greyed out. The selected one gains focus and the bar chart now only shows records relevant to the selected row. This interaction, combined with the complex calculations and aggregations the environment provides, can be key in your decision-making process.
Technical and Business Knowledge
The technical knowledge one needs to develop a Power BI report is very closely linked to the usage of the report. As mentioned above, Power BI is helpful in answering business questions. The more complex the question, the more knowledgeable the user must be. Either way, it’s good to have some relational database knowledge when working with different sources of data while forming the model and the relationships. It’s also important to know that Power BI is column-oriented, resulting in different tactics to manage data.
When creating reports, you should be aware of how, when, and where the data encryption and compression process take place. Having more in-depth knowledge on what is happening under the hood enables you to grasp Power BI’s full potential. Your reports will be better structured, more effective, and easily maintainable. They’ll also offer better insights and lead to better business decisions.
There are at least two levels of complexity worth mentioning: the complexity of the case the user is trying to solve with the report and the complexity of the data. Power BI operates using a storage and a formula engine. The storage engine is responsible for importing the data from the source, transforming it, manipulating it, and defining relationships. The formula engine is responsible for visualizing the result, aggregating the records in the visuals, calculating columns and measures.
If you’re developing complex data manipulations, formulas, and so on, you need to understand which operations are best to happen on which level. Too often, not knowing this leads to performance issues.
If you’re considering using Power BI, it would be wise to do some research first. Although it might sound flashy and modern, it may not be the best fit for your business needs. If used properly, Power BI can truly be a business driver. Here at MentorMate, it’s proven extremely helpful on several projects.
We’ve used it Power BI answer questions like:
- Are people interested in the classes I am opening or should I open different ones in a different time interval?
- How have my finances changed compared to a previous period of time?
- What percentage of my customers are new/returning?
- Have there been issue blockers in the current sprint and if so, what is the cause?
- How much time has an employee spent working on issues in this sprint? What is his cumulative work and cost for the specified time period?
There are others who have also expressed interest and have added ‘Power BI Interactive Reporting’ to the tasks in their backlog. With the constant improvements and innovations from the Power BI team, the technology is gaining more and more popularity and has earned its place as a leader according to Gartner’s ‘Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms’, the criteria being the completeness of vision and ability to execute.