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What is Microsoft Power BI and How Can it Bring an Edge to Your Business?

Microsoft Power BI Can Benefit and Improve Your Organization

What is Microsoft Power BI and How Can it Bring an Edge to Your Business?In this digital age, data is one of the most important and critical assets a business can collect, analyze, and harness to develop more practical, cost-effective and efficient strategies for the future. With the advent of more robust data storage facilities and more advanced computing resources that allow data to be thoroughly analyzed, SMEs worldwide - along with larger enterprises - have been able to radically transform their strategic business and analytics processes into powerful Big Data analytics operations, based on the processes of advanced data science. These data analytics operations leverage the power of Big Data to transform raw, unstructured data into actionable insights that offer critical intelligence to business executives, helping to shape the tactics and strategies of an enterprise’s future. Such Business Intelligence is at the forefront of novel strategic foresight and planning that can help a company of any size to scale, increase revenue, and better the overall bottom line.

Most organizations today utilize Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), which typically use Structured Query Language (SQL) to query, transform, migrate, and parse data stored in in-house, private cloud servers, public cloud servers, or a combination of the two (hybrid). In order for businesses to harness the power of Business Intelligence (BI), they must harness a combination of tools to record/collect raw corporate data, transform and/or migrate the data to data warehouses or data silos, analyze the unstructured data, and generate robust reports based on the actionable insights (information/BI) provided by the analyzed data. Modern data analysis pipelines usually use cloud-based enterprise solutions to easily collaborate on critical data operations, and to feasibly share the pertinent information/intelligence among different corporate departments in an efficient way. Cloud-based solutions are secure, managed, and allow for resource-heavy operations without extensive overhead for the end-user.

One of the most powerful modern solutions for data collating and parsing is Microsoft’s suite of Azure-based cloud solutions. This impressive suite, with its full arsenal of data analysis, BI production, and reporting can be fully integrated with a core technology to produce actionable BI. It’s called Microsoft Power BI.

While Microsoft Azure is a suite of cloud-based enterprise solutions - including Azure Data Factory, Azure SQL Database/Data Warehouse, among others - at the end of the data analytics pipeline is Power BI, which, as noted by Margaret Rouse of WhatIs.com, is “a free, self-service business intelligence cloud service that provides non-technical business users with tools for aggregating, analyzing, visualizing and sharing data”. Typically, while raw, source data is pulled into Azure Data Factory for data transformation, migration and integration operations, the data is then stored in Azure SQL Database/SQL Data Warehouse, which is then fed into Power BI for the production of BI reports after thorough data analytics processes. 

MS Power BI can be integrated with Office 365 and/or can also be integrated with a number of enterprise-level solutions as noted above, and due to its easy-to-use nature, helps to facilitate self-service data science workflows in companies worldwide. While Power BI can serve the goals of enterprises of all sizes, an added Web-based SaaS, called Power BI Pro, allows larger organizations to leverage additional features, including enhanced sharing and collaboration functionalities (e.g. app workspaces). Power BI comes with a number of powerful and advantageous solutions, including cross-platform usage with its native Windows and smartphone apps, helping to increase collaboration, sharing of critical reports, and company efficiency.

What is the Difference Between Workspaces in Power BI?

While Microsoft’s Power BI is a robust BI-analytics and reporting enterprise solution, in keeping with Microsoft’s goal of increasing workplace collaboration and sharing (and not just workplace productivity), Power BI has the unique feature of also offering collaborative workspaces within the BI system. Power BI workspaces act as shared environments within the system, which - in conjunction with a robust permissions system - allows the relevant people to collaborate on data sets and reports, and to share this information with others as needed.

My Workspace

There are a number of different types of workspaces within the Power BI system, one of which is “My Workspace.” This personal environment is the equivalent of the “My Documents” folder in a Windows OS system, and is used for personal workflows, and not typically used for shared content (with the exception of testing). Usually, another shared workspace is created for collaboration outside of one’s personal workspace. People can be added to a workspace, where they can then be permitted to read or edit content.

App Workspace

While Power BI is used primarily for BI production/reporting and analytics, it also has the advantage of allowing the management and collaboration of apps within the system. While workspaces are typically shared or personal work environments within the Power BI system, app workspaces are used to publish apps within the system, and can be collaborated upon and/or shared, and can be integrated with the dashboard/reports system. This integration of data, reports and custom dashboards associated with a development life cycle can be connected to a published app and collaborated upon or shared.

What are the Main Tools I Will Use in Microsoft Power BI?

Another core functionality of Microsoft’s Power BI system is the ability to create customized visualization pages to allow company executives to easily monitor all of their core operational data processes and insights. While data can be presented in a number of ways via dashboards, reports, and the like they all tell a story. It’s up to a company’s preferences and needs how that visual story is created using the flexible Power BI system.

Dashboards

MS Power BI can act as a company's central data/BI hub, and there are a number of ways for corporate data to be presented and visualized. One way is via a Power BI dashboard. BI dashboards are a visual, single page summary of data, known as canvasses, which highlight the most important factors associated with an enterprise’s data operations. Dynamic and presenting high-level data based on underlying, static elements, dashboards offer a summary of a company’s most important data elements in an easy-to-understand fashion.

Datasets

As a powerful enterprise data-analytics and processing hub, Microsoft’s Power BI allows data scientists and executives to gain a better understanding of a company’s processes by including the ability to routinely add specific pieces of data, metrics, and other information. For any given workflow, process, operation, project, or app, higher level reports and dashboards can be built. Datasets in MS’s Power BI are lower level elements that make up a BI report and are thus specific pieces of information that do not tell a complete story without the inclusion of other datasets, requiring a combination of reports. While a single dataset makes up a report, multiple reports typically make up a dashboard, which tells a complete story at a glance.

Reports

The visualizations associated with the single-page Power BI dashboard canvas are based on reports. MS Power BI reports act as condensed nuggets of visualized information that provide a robust summary of specific insights to the inner workings of a particular enterprise workflow, company project, or business operation. The advantage of a report is the ability to view a dataset in a multidimensional way, from different analytical perspectives. Additionally, reports may be multiple pages long, and thus may include multiple dynamic visualizations that are customized to span a number of pages.

Workbooks

The Workbooks tool is another core service within the Power BI suite. The Power BI workbooks functionality allows Excel workbooks to be fully integrated with Power BI to obtain data from Excel for data reporting, analytics, and BI production.

How Microsoft Power BI Can Give You an Edge in Business

MS Power BI allows businesses to integrate and incorporate powerful but easy-to-use data analytics solutions into their daily workflows to turn raw business data into understandable, actionable insights. Power BI gives executives a central hub for generating robust BI reports that can reveal critical business insights to company strategists. Such insights (Business Intelligence) can provide companies with a new direction or help them to redefine and alter previous critical business strategies. Power BI is a powerful solution that can work with a number of already-existing cloud-based services, allowing companies to radically enhance their data analytics pipeline.

Multiple Ways to Access Power BI

As has been noted, one of the most significant advantages of Power BI is the ability to increase workplace collaboration, sharing of critical insights, and productivity. There are a number of ways for personnel in an enterprise to access the Power BI system, including several different apps and technologies that allow for a quick connection into the Power BI network. This seamless access gives the different roles within a company’s departments the important ability to access and use resources advantageously.

Desktop

While Power BI is a SaaS cloud system, Power BI Desktop gives companies the ability to create live, interactive reports, while also offering a number of data analytics and modeling tools, resulting in the production of actionable company insights. But there are some limitations to Power BI Desktop, such as the inability to utilize the dashboards function. Overall, Power BI Desktop is built for the production of robust data reports, so that self-service data scientists can be report creators for other personnel to access as report consumers. Within a company’s data pipeline, a data analyst who feeds data into the Power BI system may utilize Power BI Desktop to produce robust reports from company datasets that will be used to create dashboards using Power BI Service.

Service

Power BI Service is the core SaaS/cloud BI system that is used alongside Power BI Desktop and Power BI Mobile to record critical company datasets, produce robust reports, and create powerful data dashboards visualizing the data processes of a company in real-time. While personnel may use Power BI Desktop to produce reports, other data analysts/personnel may view the reports (as report consumers) via the Service (or via mobile), and then use the cloud Service to create robust dashboards, which can then be shared as well. Users of the Power BI service is also able to edit reports, given the correct permissions settings being implemented by the original report creator. 

Android, iOS, and Tablet Apps

Power BI comes with native Android, iOS and tablet apps that are for monitoring and analyzing data processes and progress within a company’s data pipeline, while also giving personnel the ability to fully interact with the reports and dashboards that are a part of the cloud or on-premises corporate Power BI network.

Power BI Desktop is usually used to create robust reports based on processing and analysis of corporate data, while Power BI Service is then used to view/edit the reports and produce dashboards, and Power BI Mobile is used to monitor the company’s visualized data. Different personnel utilizing the different Power BI components creates an efficient system of data processing and BI production workflows, all with robust sharing and collaboration capabilities. This tight, integrated system increases the efficiency of all BI/insight creation processes, giving executives key business information to use in formulating more efficient future strategies.

Intuitive User Interface

To allow all personnel to leverage the power of Power BI, the system uses the familiar Microsoft GUI and setup process to create an easy to learn, intuitive user experience so all members of a team or company can easily access reports, share insights, create dashboards, and collaborate on projects. Via the Service’s GUI, the system utilizes simple point-and-click processes to create stunning visualizations and truly robust reports.

Integrating and Accessing Data Across Platforms

Power BI is a very flexible BI SaaS that allows companies to integrate the BI system with a number of custom-created enterprise apps, or other, major enterprise apps, via the Power BI API. Since one of the significant aspects of Power BI is the ability to feed data from multiple sources into the BI system to update visualized dashboards in real-time, the system allows developers to create apps that embed inside the Power BI dashboard. This allows BI reports and tiles to be integrated (and fully shown) in custom apps. Microsoft developed Power BI to integrate with a number of different Microsoft products like Azure, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and Office 365, along with over 60 other types of software (e.g. Slack, Facebook, Trello, etc.).

Easy to Learn and Implement Business Intelligence Platform

Power BI is one of the most significant BI producing/reporting enterprise solutions of the modern day. MS Power BI has a very easy-to-use interface that allows for data analytics self-service, while still being powerful enough to radically enhance a company’s data analytics pipeline. In conjunction with Azure Data Factory and Azure SQL Database/Data Warehouse, Power BI offers a new solution to businesses who need to monitor, analyze and leverage their corporate data to produce the most robust BI reports possible. Power BI is truly leveling the playing field for how companies use their data, while providing companies the ability to turn their data into new strategies that can alter their bottom and top lines in the future.

Assessing the Impact Your Technology Has On the Business

Posted in Microsoft, Custom Software Solutions, Custom Software Development, Application Development