The business intelligence tool that will transform the way you make decisions: Power BI

September 24th 2019 / By David Smetana

In an age when data is crucial to business strategies and the decision-making process, business and department leaders are increasingly looking for solutions that will help them to gain greater control and understanding of the data that flows through their company. Business intelligence initiatives can provide that transparency and structured information. In this blog we explore exactly what we mean by ‘business intelligence’ and look at Power BI, the business intelligence tool from Microsoft.

What is business intelligence or BI?

Business intelligence refers to the processes, technology and applications used by businesses to collect, analyse and present business information. Business intelligence aids organisations in making more informed, data-driven decisions.

Why is business intelligence important?

Business intelligence systems power smart decision-making and business agility. As businesses grow, they often face difficulty managing the amount of data that is being generated. Actionable strategies that are underpinned by data can be created by businesses that embrace large volumes of data – and the transformation of that unstructured data into data that can be easily analysed.

Having all this data held in one central location allows businesses to prevent departments working in silo, improving efficiency, collaboration and productivity.

What is Power BI?

Built on the foundation of Microsoft Excel, Power BI is a powerful, user-friendly analytics tool compromised of a collection of cloud-based apps from Microsoft that enable businesses to collect, manage and analyse data. Power BI collates and processes unstructured data and uses its features to create interactive data visualisations or personalised dashboards and reports.

Power BI is an overarching umbrella term, under which the following reside: a Windows desktop application, Power BI Service (a SaaS service) and a collection of apps available across Windows, iOS and Android devices.

Regardless of the size of a business, Power BI doesn’t require any capital expenditure and its implementation is instantaneous. The latest version is free from the limitations of legacy software, and no specialised training is required to use the tool.

What does Power BI offer users?

Using company data, Power BI runs reports and finds insights. It can connect to a wide range of data sets and arrange the information for easier understanding. Users can look at past, as well as present, data and use it for forecasting and projections. Using machine learning, Power BI identifies patterns in the data, enabling users to make better informed, educated decisions based on its findings. Here are some further features and benefits of Power BI:

Easy access and storage of data

Through its remarkable abilities to compress documents, Power BI allows you to access, analyse, visualise and store huge amounts of data. You won’t need to cut down or aggregate datasets to achieve a comprehensive analysis. Compressing data through its powerful algorithms, you can drill down the most granular details in one file, as well as modify the data.

The tool improves efficiency as it allows new datasets to be added and integrated as they are discovered. It remembers data preparation steps you have used previously, to prevent these being repeated and save time.

Quickly spot data trends

Power BI possesses intelligence features, allowing users to view large volumes of data in mere seconds. The data can be viewed by a range of attributes and dimensions.

Users can create date dimensions that relate to other business elements, such as revenue or sales, allowing you to easily and accurately view trends and comparisons.

Intuitive features

Power BI’s intuitive UX features mean that users can easily create data visualisations that are easy to interpret, visually appealing and on-brand even if they have limited design skills or creativity.

Features like those found in the Microsoft Office suite such as drag and drop functionality, copy and pasting and easy cropping and resizing, make users feel comfortable in formulating their graphs and charts. The Microsoft ‘Format Painter’ copies all brand formatting such as fonts or colours across to other visualisations. Other custom features make such as line markers and labels make it easy for viewers to interpret the data visualisations.

Cloud-based accessibility

Once your analysis has been carried out, and your dashboards and reports have been constructed, they will now be ready to be published. Rather than using another platform such as SharePoint, and pointing colleagues to the location, they can be published via the Microsoft hosted cloud service Power BI Service. This streamlines the publication and distribution, and allows users to access a range of other features including:

Access filtered security

Power BI allows users to add access filters where necessary, such as Row Level Security (RLS). For example, this can be used to make sure that employees can only see data relevant to them. The roles can be easily set up within Power BI, then employees or Office 365 groups can be added to these roles, through Power BI Service online, determining and controlling their access.

In conclusion

By making vast amounts of data more accessible and easier to analyse, Power BI will propel your business into the modern, data-driven era that we reside in. Increased efficiencies from automation and machine learning, not only will you be able to make better-informed decisions, but you can do so more quickly, leading you to gain a competitive edge. If you would like to learn more about business intelligence tools and Power BI, contact a member of the Chalkline team today.

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