Office 365

Power BI – Microsoft ups the ante

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Whether you’re a business analyst, an administrator, a market researcher or a project manager, being confused and frustrated by the vast amounts of data available within your business is far from an uncommon experience. Since the rapid growth in IT and emergence of the Internet, Information Overload has become a real problem for decision makers. There’s sometimes just too much data available to decide what’s important, what trends should influence business choices and what is simply inconsequential.

Getting the most out of the data available to you is a real skill, yet at present it can be incredibly hard. Take the data available within one single organisation’s SharePoint Intranet, or Project Server for instance; there’ll be files uploaded by different users, at different times. There will be project data, tasks, list information and more. Information may be out of date, infrequently updated or disorganised, often without the right metadata. Digging through all this to get the numbers you need requires a lot of time and even more patience.

At Program Framework we’re always keen to find out about developments in tech which help users decide how to run their projects and programs more efficiently. Microsoft’s Power BI strikes us as a significant step forward in helping users make the best data driven decisions – see it in action here. Available as a standalone product, it’s most effective when incorporated into Office 365 and is a pretty impressive tool which promises to help you make better decisions for your organisation.

The need for better Business Intelligence

For a long time now, companies have been seeking ways to get the best insights from their data to help drive decisions. There’s no doubt statistical sources can inform the best policies – from where to invest, to the revelations of market research or the kinds of policies governments should implement. However, the vast quantity of data which organisations need to treat and manipulate to feed into these decisions is a real obstacle. Even if an organisation has all the data it needs, turning this into clear, concise and confidence inspiring arguments takes time, skill and a deep knowledge of available data sets.

Especially in the case of organisations which have to make snap decisions, getting all that data in one place, organising it to show something concrete and being sure that all eventualities have been covered is difficult to put it lightly. Unsurprisingly, many businesses make decisions on shaky data, gut instinct or speculation as a result. You can just about get away with that in some industries, but for the majority of businesses, being able to reduce the risk around decision making keeps shareholders happy and has considerable benefits.

Get the most out of your data

Consider the modern work environment: colleagues are often geographically dispersed, time is often restricted and collaboration is the name of the game. Power BI positions itself here as a tool for easing the pressures modern decision makers face.

In a nutshell, Power BI is an incredibly powerful data treatment engine. When tied in with your organisation’s Office 365 solution, it lets users search their company’s data sets – as well as draw in statistics from external sources – to produce an impressive range of interactive tables, graphs and maps. These can be shared instantly with colleagues in SharePoint, comments made and, ultimately, means your business can make the best decisions. It’s quick, intuitive and, well, we’re impressed.

As a tool it offers a broad range of functions, but stand out features include:

  • Schedule workbook refreshes. Lets you set automatic updates at certain times of day – for instance just before the working day begins – to let you and your colleagues be productive from the minute you walk through the office door.
  • Q&A service with natural language. Intelligent search function allows you to input queries in natural language which the tool then interprets and proposes appropriate suggestions. These can then be filtered down to find exactly what you need. The service draws in data from across your organisation and is also able to interpret stats from external sources.
  • Everyone on the same page. When making decisions, nothing counts more than everyone being able to understand the logic which inspires them and Power BI allows you to share results, graphs and data particularly easily.
  • Simple User Interface. Dashboards can be built in minutes and interactive reports mocked up in a moment.
  • Share and interact – even on the go. Power BI is available as a freemium app on all major mobile device platforms and means everyone in your business can use company data while on the go.

Power trip

The potential benefits of a tool like Power BI are tantalising – it promises a lot in terms of collaboration, ease of use, intelligent data treatment and decision making. We can’t wait to see just what people will do with it.