In the digital age when we are generating more data than ever, analytics has become a vital part of many modern businesses. Analytics allows us to make sense of a great amount of digital information with ease using various tools — one of which is Microsoft Power BI.
Microsoft calls Power BI “a business analytics solution that lets you visualise your datasets and share insights across your organisation, or embed them in your app or website.”
The ‘BI’ part stands for ‘business intelligence’ – a technology-driven process for analysing business data and delivering actionable information. It is seen as one of the best business intelligence platforms available in the industry today, with Microsoft recently named a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Power BI.
Microsoft Power BI is generally used by businesses that need a tool with more reporting power and analytical muscle than Excel. By pulling data together, processing it, and turning it into intelligible insights, businesses can make more informed decisions based on real data.
The fact that it works with any data you upload makes reporting an easy task. That’s the reason a wide range of departments use Power BI — from finance and sales to marketing and operations.
Business people use Power BI because it’s versatile and user-friendly. The tool has an easy setup which means users don’t need extensive training and can gain insights quickly. Based on what you need to access, you can generate custom interactive dashboards. Power BI has a drag-and-drop interface, so you don’t have to code or copy and paste anything to get started. It’s simple to turn data into visually compelling and easy-to-process charts and graphs, allowing users to generate and share clear and useful snapshots of what’s happening in their businesses.
One of the great things about Power BI is its ability to connect to a range of data sources, from basic Excel spreadsheets to more complex databases. It also offers integration with other popular business management tools such as SharePoint and Office 365, and non-Microsoft tools like Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Analytics, and Mailchimp. Being able to bring your data together into one place allows for greater accessibility and organisation, as well as more visibility in your reporting efforts. You can also load pre-built Power BI dashboards via these tools, performing powerful data analysis within minutes.
When it comes to compiling daily reports and pulling information from dashboards, many business intelligence tools rely on constantly refreshing data. But as streaming data becomes more popular and 24/7 customer expectations increase, refreshing is no longer enough. Power BI updates dashboards in real-time as data is pushed or streamed in via social media, service usage metrics, or any other time-sensitive data collectors and transmitters. This gives viewers the ability to solve problems and identify opportunities quickly while giving them the edge over those businesses making decisions based on past events and outdated information.
As well as integrating with Microsoft programs like SharePoint and Office 365, Power BI also works with Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana. The tool incorporates natural language search interfaces to allow users to verbally ask questions, for example, when accessing charts and graphs. When a user double clicks an empty part of a report, an ‘Ask a Question’ box will appear, where you can ask data-specific questions such as “what were the sales for [region] by quarter”. Voice recognition Q&A is also now a feature on the mobile version of Power BI, making it possible to ask for information on the go.
While we’re on the subject of mobile, let’s talk about the fact that you can access your data anytime and any place, as many times as you want thanks to Power BI apps available for Windows, iOS, and Android. All the data that you work with and import from data sources is stored in a centralised location. When any changes are made to your data, the app is automatically updated, allowing you to use reports flexibly. Microsoft Intune has mobile device and application management capabilities which makes your company’s data secure.
Microsoft is known for being proactive in responding to community suggestions — and the same goes for Power BI. The platform is updated regularly, with new proposed functionality voted on and implemented within the core product. As the Power BI community grows, users can be confident that their support channels will also grow, allowing them to access more ideas about how to best use the tool to their advantage. Want to stay up to date with any changes or new features? We recommend adding Microsoft Power BI blog to your bookmarks.
Power BI sets up control through Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Microsoft’s enterprise cloud-based identity and access management (IAM) solution. One of the main benefits is that teams can grant and rescind access on a very controlled level. For example, if a business wanted executives to see the whole report and everyone else to see specific rows of that same report, it could create rules to automate that process. To make data more secure you can build one single report, then use access controls to restrict which data users can see. It makes it much easier and more cost-efficient than creating and maintaining reports for every team member.
Need a crash course in Microsoft Power BI? Our team of experts will teach you how to use the tool to connect to data sources, create dashboards with charts, and more. Book a place on our two-day course via our website.
by Emma Gibbins | 26 Apr 21
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