When people ask me if Power BI would be good for their company, it is true sign that they don’t know what the product really is. Because if they did, they would know that it is an extremely powerful tool that could be beneficial for any size company. The textbook definition of Power BI is that it is ‘a cloud-based business analytics service that enables anyone to visualize and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding. It connects users to a broad range of data through easy-to-use dashboards, interactive reports, and compelling visualizations.’

Most of the time when I speak to someone from a small company, and tell them that power BI is a cloud based data analysis tool they usually initially think two things. Their first reaction is that it is something too fancy, or advanced, that their small company doesn’t really need. The second thing is, that it probably costs way too much for their small company.   What I ask them next is if they were listening to themselves when they, multiple times, referred to their business as a small company.  That question is the followed by another question, ‘Do you want to stay a small company’. When they invariably answer that they don’t want to stay a small company, it is then that I explain to them what Power BI is, and what it could mean to the growth or survival of their company.

Interestingly, when I speak to someone from a larger company about Power BI they are usually interested.  But a funny thing happens when they learn the cost associated to the product.  Since there is no initial large purchase required, and the product price varies from free to just under ten dollars a month per user, they assume that it is a simple and not very advanced tool.  How could it be any good?  Any product that promises such functionality, and results, especially one from Microsoft has to cost much more.  There must be a catch.

Once you have the opportunity to explain, and better yet demonstrate, the product and its capabilities their interest get piqued.  How could it not?

Quite often this powerful tool will provide information that will potentially scare a company’s management team as they learn more about their business than they might have wanted to know.

Companies have used Power BI to determine something as basic, and at the same time complex, as which product is selling better or worse than others.  Most decent Sales Analysis reports can provide you with this basic information.  Power BI takes this further.  You can, on the fly when you are running the report or visualization, slice the data by criteria such as date, salesperson, location, product class, customer type, etc. This information can then be viewed as a report, as a bar code diagram, as a line graph, etc.  AND! Whatever you see on your computer screen can easily be adapted to appear on your tablet or smartphone.

After playing with the product for a short period of time, one of our customers came up with a request where they wanted to know which of their customers are no longer purchasing from them on a regular basis, that is before they lose them for good.  To provide them this information, a report was generated that listed each customer who had at least twenty invoices in the past twenty-six weeks, providing them with the average value of those invoices, the average number of days between purchases, and the number of days since their last purchase.  The only records that would then appear on the report were those where the number of days since the last purchase exceeded their average number of days between purchases, by twenty percent.  As a result, they were able to catch customers who might have started to purchase merchandise from a different source, before it went on for too long.  In that way, they can avoid the potential loss of a customer, and recapture potentially lost business.

Whether you have a small company, or a larger company, Power BI is a product that is as powerful as the imagination.  If that data exists somewhere in your database it can be tweezed out and sliced into a vast variety of reports and visualizations that can help to grow, and possibly even help to save, a business.

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