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What is Power BI tool?
Power BI is a range of software services, apps, and connectors that work in conjunction to turn unrelated data sources into insights that are cohesive, interactive, and visually immersive. The data may be a collection of cloud-based data warehouses, on-premise hybrid data warehouses, or an Excel spreadsheet. The Power BI tool allows easy connection to the data sources; it also allows the visualization and identification of what is important, and share that with anyone.
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Parts of Power BI
Power BI has several elements working together, starting with the below three basics:
- Power BI Desktop – a Windows desktop application
- Power BI service – an online SaaS service
- Power BI mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows devices
The above three elements allow one to create, consume, and share business insights effectively according to their requirements.
Additionally, there are two other elements:
- Power BI Report Builder— helps create paginated reports for sharing in the Power BI service
- Power BI Report Server— an on-premises report server that helps in publishing Power BI reports after creating them in Power BI Desktop
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Power BI depending on the role
The way to use Power BI depends on one’s role in a project or team. People may use Power BI differently according to preference. Power BI can be very flexible for users in this way.
For instance, Power BI can be used for viewing reports and dashboards. It can also be used for number-crunching and generating, publishing, and viewing business reports. A sales professional can use the Power BI phone app to monitor progress on sales quotas and drill into the details of a new sales lead.
Power BI developers may use Power BI APIs to push data into data sets or embed reports and dashboards into custom applications. It is also possible to create a new visual according to one’s ideas and share it with others. One may also implement each element of Power BI at different times depending on the end goal of a project.
As you can see, the usage of the Power BI tool can vary depending on the feature or service that works best for the situation. For example, Power BI Desktop helps in creating reports and statistics, monitoring the progress of manufacturing in a real-time dashboard in the Power BI service, viewing inventory, etc. Based on a Power BI data set, one can also create a paginated report of mailable invoices.
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Reasons To Use Power BI
Power BI is a cloud-based BI service that was released by Microsoft in 2014. It uses years of experience in SQL Server, Access, MS Excel, etc. It enables businesses to clean and transform data into meaningful insights by thoroughly analyzing the data.
Take a look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant below that positions Microsoft as the leading vendor in the market, to this day, in this domain.
Let us look at some of the reasons why Power BI is a huge success among its users.
Ease of Use
Power BI has a very easy-to-use interface. Even without prior knowledge and experience in programming, one can use Power BI. Its inbuilt intelligence allows one to choose attributes for reports by suggesting the best reporting element.
Here is an example of how easy is Power BI. After choosing the right data source, when opting for sales and category, the tool will identify the column chart on its own. Similarly, for sales and location, it will pull out the map chart automatically.
The user interface (UI) in Power BI is very simple and easily connects to the data source. On selecting the data source, a simple drag and drop allows the selection of attributes for the report.
Additionally, QA makes it extremely convenient and easy for one to have their written questions answered by Power BI through values or graphs based on the question asked. For example, a question like “What was this year’s revenue by month?” will return a graph showcasing the monthly revenue.
Power BI offers a range of reporting capabilities.
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Ease of Learning
Power BI was built based on the founding platform of MS Excel and follows a similar approach for designing reports. Excel is a widely used software around the world, which makes Power BI easy to pick up as well. Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access database served as the foundation for modeling the data and hence, it is easy for users and programmers to learn the data modeling of Power BI. Besides, it comes with learning guides on the official website as well.
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Ease of Collaboration
Power BI comes with options that make it really easy to collaborate. Users can collaborate with others to compile interactive reports and dashboards in app workspaces. One can even publish them to a larger audience. Sharing these dashboards or reports with a smaller audience is even possible over the mobile app with Power BI.
The reports can be printed by the user as well as exported in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. The reports and dashboards can be published to public websites and anyone in the world can access and interact with them.
Power BI Desktop is available for free and the user can create simple or complex reports and dashboards. Not only that, but the pro licenses of Power BI are quite affordable at US$10 per month). For a larger audience, Power BI has a premium option allowing customization of cost based on usage.
Wide Coverage of Data Sources
Power BI comes with a wide array of connectors for data sources like MySQL database, SQL Server database, Oracle database, IBM Informix, Microsoft Excel, IBM DB2 database, MailChimp, Facebook, GitHub, IBM Netezza, PostgreSQL database, SAP HANA, Sybase database, Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Analysis services database, Azure Blob Storage, Salesforce, and many more.
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- Visualization: Microsoft’s SDK in Power BI contains a huge library to create custom visualizations. This allows the users to customize the UI as per their requirements.
- Data shaping: Power BI’s Query Editor tool is very flexible and comes with a ton of features. It is self-documenting and offers the opportunity to go deeper in the DAX language for data modeling.
- Data modeling: The data modeling options offered by Power BI are very efficient. It is derived from experiences in SQL database and Cube technology, and this makes Power BI a powerful solution.
If you look at the Gartner Magic Quadrant again, you will see that there are quite a lot of competitors of Power BI such as IBM Watson Analytics, Google Analytics, Sisense, and ZOHO reports to name a few; but, Power BI stands tall in the market mainly because of its ease of use and prompt help available from Microsoft.
Some of the other reasons why users choose Power BI over other similar tools are:
- Power BI insights and Office 365 integrate seamlessly with Excel and Microsoft Teams
- The ability to connect to data anywhere with a large number of built-in connectors with the help of Power Query
- The ability to quickly develop systems of intelligence with Power BI + Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics
- The transformation of insights to action using Microsoft Power Platform
- Built-in data loss prevention through Microsoft Information Protection and Microsoft Cloud App security
- Industry-leading AI that helps in finding solutions quickly
- Best mobile experiences with Power BI Mobile
- Cloud maturity—one of the fastest-growing and largest BI clouds
- User-driven innovation—weekly release of new features based on user feedback
- Driving a data culture that everyone can access
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Ultimately, Power BI is able to drive better decision-making in businesses through its ability to provide insights in visually impressive and interactive reports. It established a data-driven culture with BI for everyone. Additionally, it keeps the data secure and includes end-to-end encryption and sensitivity labeling as well as provides real-time access monitoring.
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