The New Power of BI

The New Power of BI

Recently, during its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), Microsoft announced Power BI for Office 365, a new way to discover and access data within and outside your organization using Excel and Office 365. With Power BI, business users can shape, transform, and analyze data, creating interactive visualizations that reveal hidden insights. Power BI enables users to share and collaborate on content and reports from virtually any device and platform.

The announcement included a long list of features and interesting scenarios that are worth highlighting:

  • Excel is the de facto BI self-service authoring tool and provides full functionality from data discovery and transformation to data modeling and data visualization.
    • Let's forget about Excel for a moment and think about the self-service capabilities users will have now. They can start by searching and browsing for data and are able to connect, merge and re-shape it - many call this "data mashups" using Power Query. Then, they have the ability to create models with that data and add calculations, measures and even KPIs using Power Pivot. Finally, they can create graphs, charts, maps and other data visualizations using Power View and Power Maps. Having all this capabilities in Excel, while it may be shocking to many, especially if you are in IT, it has been proven to be very popular among business users as this is a tool they already know how to use. Now, there are few things to consider, first the fact that not everybody is using the latest version of Office, and second, that not every user will take advantage of all these self-service capabilities as not all users are created equal. If you are eager to try it, there is more good news: all these capabilities are available today and for free if you are using Office Professional Plus 2013 or Office 365 ProPlus.

  • BI content publishing and collaboration is available as part of Office 365 "Power BI sites." For now, this is a cloud only offering.
      • The Power BI sites are Office 365 SharePoint sites that bring publishing, collaboration and data refresh capabilities. As you can see in this demo from WPC , reports created in Excel can be uploaded and shared in these sites and consumed via Excel, web browser (Excel web app) or mobile applications.
  • A new feature called "Q&A" promises users the ability to ask questions about their data by typing questions into a dialog box within BI sites.
      • One of the most interesting, yet intriguing, of the announced features is "Q&A" which is a type of natural language query engine that allows you to interrogate the data sets that have been published to the site, pretty much in the same way we search in the internet. It will be interesting to see how smart the query engine is and how much metadata has to be added upfront to the data sets for this to work with an acceptable degree of relevance.
  • Mobile BI will come via native application for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices first and for iPad devices later. Content can also be accessed via internet browser (HTML5) on any device.
Power BI promises to bring new scenarios that can increase the value of your investments on BI. Before investing in a new solution, it is always best to evaluate the most effective way to deploy in your environment in order to empower business users without overwhelming them and while maintaining an efficient process integration and quality of data.

In the meantime, ensure your organization is ready for the cloud with Intellinet's Cloud Readiness Workshop. You can also be one of the first in testing Power BI when it becomes available by registering for the Power BI for Office 365 preview.

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