I’ve often espoused here of different tools and products that I use to carry out my project management duties. I’ve come across some great tools before but I have to say that Power BI is one of those tools that Microsoft keeps getting right. I’m a data junkie at heart and grew up (in IT) building reports using a myriad of reporting tools (Crystal Reports, SQL Server Reporting Services to name a couple) but I feel like I’ve found a pot of gold with Power BI. Here are three key reasons why you should be looking at Power BI for your reporting needs.
Compatibility with Data Sources
This is probably the single biggest reason I love Power BI. It can hook up to virtually any data source you can think of. Excel? Sure. SharePoint? Of course! SQL Server/Oracle? Definitely. Power BI has native dataset connectivity to just about any data source you can think of. It has more generic types such as JSON or Web API or very specific types such as SharePoint lists or Dynamics connectors. No more fussing around at the data source level trying to get it to an exposable state for your reporting tool. Power BI is very portable in that it can talk to just about any type of data source you can throw at it.
Ease of Use
Definitely running a close second to data source compatibility is how easy this tool is to use. With the proper data set construction (which is elemental for any BI tool), you can take anyone with an imagination and understanding of your data set and turn them loose to create magic in their reports and dashboards. With the canned visual components (get used to the term “visual”) and very simplistic interface for matching data to visuals, Power BI makes it incredibly easy for your novice user to become a BI powerhouse. Within minutes you can be off to the races in creating your own reports and sharing them with your team. Power BI utilizes a drag-and-drop interface that lets you pull data fields from the dataset, determine what type of visual you want to show it as (and there’s no shortage of visual types) and you are done! (until your imagination kicks in again and you keep building).
Unlike most development tools, with Power BI it’s really just a single application to install – and that’s if you are editing reports locally – if you use the online service there is zero local footprint on your machine. If you are however creating or editing data sets you will need to use the Power BI Desktop version as the online version does not permit you to do dataset modifications (the one single shortcoming, in my opinion). Like many of the tools that are offered in the cloud, Power BI is no different in that all you need to get going is an Office 365 account. There are no third-party connectors that you need to install (remember ODBC?), no web connector tools needed – just your Power BI app and you are done.
Power BI is one of those tools that is on the rise within the Microsoft suite of tools. It’s getting a lot of attention and traction and continues to build momentum. I’m happy to say that this is one of the times that I feel the hype and attention is quite warranted. Power BI will allow your organization to make greater use of your data and make it easy to do.