It’s not uncommon for our clients to come to us asking how they should build dashboards into their business systems. After all, a great dashboard will give easy insight into key metrics that can be used for a variety of analyses. Often, our clients come to us with the idea that Excel is the best route for them; this is usually because people are creatures of habit, and spreadsheets are what they’ve always known.

We’d like to invite you to learn a little more about Microsoft Power BI right now, because, as you may or may not know, Power BI is the most widely used cloud-based analytics platform available and its user count is continuously growing.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is an integrated suite of software solutions, connectors, and applications, designed to transform disparate information sources into unified, visually compelling, and interactive outputs. No matter if your data is stored in Excel spreadsheets or a mix of cloud-based and on-site data warehouses, Power BI enables seamless connection to your data sources, facilitates visualization and discovery of key insights, and allows for easy sharing with a targeted or broader audience.

The usage of Power BI varies depending on one’s role within a project or team, with different roles utilizing different Power BI features. For instance, a user might mainly use the Power BI service for viewing dashboards and reports, while a colleague could be using Power BI Desktop or Power BI Report Builder to generate reports, which are then published to the Power BI service for viewing. Someone else, maybe in sales, might generally use the Power BI Mobile app to track sales progress and delve into new sales leads. Developers, on the other hand, could use Power BI APIs to push data into semantic models or embed dashboards and run reports into custom applications.

The usage of Power BI can vary based on the specific needs of an assignment or role with each service or feature of Power BI serving as a tool for different situations. For example, Power BI Desktop can be used to produce reports on customer engagement stats, while the Power BI service can be used to view real-time inventory and manufacturing progress. Additionally, a paginated report of mailable bills can be created from Power BI semantic models. The flexibility and versatility of Power BI lie in its ability to cater to various needs and roles within an organization.

When Does Excel Work for Your Dashboards?

Excel is significantly less powerful and more restrictive than Power BI. Excel is fine if you’re considering a lot of tabular reports such as income statement or if your users are well versed in spreadsheets and you intend to send the entire dashboard and dataset via email or share the whole workbook with them. Excel dashboards can also work to the best of their ability if you simply aren’t interested in using any other platform.

When Should You Upgrade to Power BI?

As you can see from the list above, Excel has its limitations. If your company is growing (or has just outgrown the simplicity of Excel), it’s time to think about switching to Power BI.

Microsoft’s Power BI software is designed for self-service business intelligence, offering an intuitive platform for creating visually engaging reports from data. It also facilitates the creation of interactive tables that are easily shareable. The cloud-based platform enables easy sharing of reports and dashboards over the web, facilitating efficient team collaboration. Visualizations can be accessed on mobile platforms, such as iOS and Android, or even on a connected watch.

Power BI also offers various security features to protect data, and it prevents the sharing of outdated data, ensuring everyone has access to the latest version of reports and dashboards.

From a top-down view, here are some key factors to consider if you’re evaluating the upgrade to Power BI:

  • Are you looking for more aesthetically appealing reports? Excel reports are simpler and less attractive than those created in Power BI. If you’re looking for a way to showcase personalized, eye-catching reports for your employees, stakeholders, or potential clients, Power BI offers reports with more visual appeal and interactivity.
  • Do you need to support advanced cross-filtering features between charts? Excel does not offer advanced cross-filtering between graphics, but this feature is natively built into Power BI.
  • Would it be helpful for data to be automatically updated? Data is automatically updated in Power BI, but this is not the case in Excel.
  • Is tech-savviness a concern? With Power BI, reports can be worked on by a large number of users, whether they’re experts or not. With Excel, reports often need to be limited to a specific subset of users.
  • Are analytics important? (Hint: They should be!) Excel offers far fewer data analysis options than Power BI.
  • Are your data modelers looking for something more robust? Power BI is ideal for building complex data models easily, but Excel only offers the ability to work on simple and structured data models.
  • Have you struggled to connect separate tables? If you’re using excel, it’s difficult to connect separate tables, but this can be easily achieved using Power BI.
  • Do you want to use up-to-date tools in your organization? Excel is just a traditional spreadsheet program, while Power BI is an advanced version of a data analysis tool, with a great amount of possibilities to work with the data.
  • Is collaboration important to your company? Excel makes it fairly difficult to share documents and work with others; on the other hand, Power BI makes sharing data and reports quite easy.
  • Are you looking for a way to process big data? As data becomes more and more important in the business world, Excel increasingly shows its limitations, as it can only handle a finite amount of information. Power BI allows you to process much larger data sets.
  • Do your users struggle to figure out Excel? As simple as many aspects of Excel are, the user interface can be quite confusing to many users. Power BI is often much easier to figure out than its spreadsheet counterpart.

Let MIBAR Introduce You to Power BI

If you’re wondering when it’s time to upgrade from Excel to Power BI, you’ve already taken the first step by starting your research. Our team at MIBAR is happy to walk with you through your path of discovery. Touch base with us, and let us show you how yesterday’s spreadsheets have evolved into today’s business intelligence universe.

Additional Business Intelligence Resources

The Power of Dashboards: How to See the Big Picture with Power BI

Unleashing Business Potential with Power BI: 9 Real-World Use Cases

Uncovering the Financial Benefits of Business Intelligence

Introducing the Sales PowerPack: A Powerful Sales Dashboard for Power BI Users

Need Better Reporting? 12 Reporting Challenges and How to Solve Them