Power BI is at the top of the hype curve right now, and everyone is taking about it from operational decision makers through to the CEO as a one size fix-all. Power BI has a few coloured skies: Power BI Desktop, Power BI Cloud and the lovely Power BI Mobile app. But if your organisation is not ready to go to cloud yet, Power BI isn’t more than a B.I. Accelerator tool used for rapid prototyping, using Power BI desktop only – which is still an incredible use case, but this may be enough to bust your hype bubble.
Power BI Desktop is a data discovery and interactive reporting tool allowing business intelligence analysts (note I didn’t say developers), to connect, prepare, and visually explore data across a freeform canvas. It combines the strengths of all the self-service business friendly technologies that Microsoft has been launching for the last 10 years, like Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View. These tools now look old hat beside Power BI, but when blended together as Power BI, become unrecognisable as the whole experience is so seamless. Power BI Querying allows you to connect to a vast spectrum of data sources and easily shape data in transit. Power Pivot modelling allow for rich data blending, business modelling and borderline genius calculations. Next generation visuals bring a new wave of intuitive visual analytics and author compelling reports that have shaken the cornerstones of head offices at Tableau and Qlik.
But before getting too excited, let’s jump ahead of the hype curve. The interactive Power BI data experience has a few important considerations before jumping in head first :
- Power BI is on the surface, easy and definitely fun
- You can create Power BI solutions for Free using Power BI desktop, but as soon after your journey starts, you will want more, and there is a $10 per user per month license as you develop hunger for things like active directory groups, content packs, hourly refresh or greater parcels of data. Make sure you read the pricing guide https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/. These are USA biccies. For low to medium numbers that’s still a bargain though as you may have gotten away with zero infrastructure.
- Power BI can restrict data per user (row level security) but you need to be using an Analysis Services Tabular data source (meaning you need a SQL Server license).
- Power BI doesn’t replace all other reporting tools, but with such as rapid development pipeline, it might in the future. Power BI doesn’t support drill down easily nor is it suitable for reports like P&L, Balance sheets or paginated reports with loads of detail. It is a B.I. Data Discovery, Data Collaboration and Fail Early technology on steroids that might just save you a lot of money in wasted investment
- Power BI will publish to On-Premise Reporting Services, but won’t render in the browser, so users will need to download the report and view using Power BI desktop
- Power BI can be embedded in SharePoint but not easily and requires custom programming
- Power BI often requires some data modelling and calculations, but if you are new to Power BI, you will surprised how far you can get with a single flattened dataset, like public data pet names for example.
- Power BI requires good knowledge of Excel like DAX formulas to implement decent calculations
- Power BI developers need an eye for good looking design, like layout, colours and appeal.
- Like other data processing and visualisation tools, 64 bit is the go, and 8Gb RAM recommended. Power BI doesn’t run on a Mac like Tableau, but you can design Power BI reports in the cloud in Edit mode.
So the good news too is Microsoft is listening like never before. Like the Batman symbol to be part of the Power BI logo ? Power BI to run on a Mac ? Import Tableau TDE extracts ? You name it – log your request here…
Also check here for a full list of Power BI user Groups…