Every action today generates information. When tapped the right way, this information can bring about astonishing and, quite often, ground-breaking insights.

These days, information has become ever more pertinent, given that businesses and enterprises hardly get a second chance. The only way to get things right is to get it right in the first shot. And that takes place only when you use the data in the right way.

Business intelligence

The world of data and related business intelligence (BI) has been around for close to a decade now. One of the first ones to enter the field of BI, reporting, and data visualization products was SQL with its SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and then Salesforce’s Tableau. While both belonged to an established pedigree, the latest entrant in the field of BI was Microsoft’s Power BI. It was launched in 2011 and has seen releases as late as March 2021.

With the BI space getting crowded with every passing day, an oft-asked question is, why Power BI and not others BI tools like Cognos, OBIEE? Here are some reasons.

Ability to access data from varied sources

Power BI gives you the capability to extract data from Excel sheets, CSV, XML, JSON, PDF, and the likes. You can then compress this data using the robust Power BI systems to cache it and churn it as needed. Also, Power BI keeps updating itself on sources from where it can harvest data.

Interactive UI & UX

Power BI’s features are competent and appealing. Its drag and drop functionality that maintains formatting and essential features across visualizations deserves special mention. It also simplifies calculations, reducing the chances of errors and time taken to derive results and outcomes.

Easy integration of data on Excel sheets

The rise of BI and the likes of AI was increasingly relegating Excel and data therein to the sidelines. Power BI acknowledges the enormous quantities of data Excel sheets accommodate. It enables easy integration of business data on Excel sheets, giving it an edge over others like Qlik, which need specific APIs. Familiarity with Excel and other spreadsheets eases the data migration to Power BI and derives relevant data and insights.

Easy usage of Azure on accumulated data

Microsoft’s public cloud, Azure, makes massive volumes of data available through its data lake configuration. It can easily be integrated into the working of Power BI.

This attribute is advantageous to varied users, such as engineers, scientists, and analysts, since they can simultaneously:

  • Collate vast quantities of data from disparate sources, and
  • Use the output through Power BI.

With the end-to-end over-arch of Microsoft, operations become smooth, and outcomes become certain.

Analytics on the go

One of Power BI’s most visible USP is the ability to do real-time stream analytics. It receives data in real-time from multiple sources, including sensors and social media sites. What it does is provide its users actionable, in-the-present information that enables faster decision making.

An exciting feature for enhanced data visualization

Power BI introduced a feature called ‘Key Influencers’ in February 2019. It is visualization powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

This new feature makes data visualization using Power BI easier with multiple visuals seared into one. It allows you to see the elements that influence all your metrics. Likewise, it lets business users gain insights on their data leveraging machine learning capabilities.

The key influencers visual helps users visualize the top contributors to the selected metric value. It visually assists in comprehending the constituents that drive KPIs. When a metric is chosen to be examined, the key influencers view investigates it as the key factor in evaluating that measurement. It helps understand the factors or variables affecting the analyzed metric.

The visualization also gives an easy way to compare the relevancy of these variables. The AI part examines the information and shares intriguing data regarding the key drivers impacting the metric under investigation. By selecting the appropriate metrics, users get a clear visual showcasing the relevant scenario and where they need to act.

Key influencers visual features

Users can toggle between two views:

  • Key influencers – shows the top contributors
  • Top segments – shows the top segments

The drop-down box shows the value of the metric being assessed.

The left restatement (When…) helps interpret the visual, while the left pane displays the list of top influencers.

The right restatement helps interpret the visual on the right pane, and the right pane shows the visual, here, a column chart.

The average line shows the calculated average for all possible values except the selected metric influencer.

The checkbox filters the visuals in the right pane.

The power to do more:

  • The key influencers visual is completely interactive. It allows you to use filters, slicers, and selections on visuals to change the results.
  • Key influencers charts let you segment all your data. This feature enables you to easily determine the aspects that impact your metrics more than others.
  • You can add measures and aggregates as explanatory factors in the analysis.
  • You can easily organize data and analyze the relationship between multiple factors.

Major IT leaders who use Power BI

Before you initiate a proof of concept to mitigate risks and start the migration to Power BI, be aware of the following users who are already reaping the benefits of Power BI:

  • Nokia – Nokia uses Power BI for all HR metrics to visualize data and analyze workforce metrics such as headcount, attrition rates, etc., to make data-driven decisions.
  • Adobe – Adobe Analytics Cloud, a data management platform, is linked with Power BI enabling businesses to use data feeds for enhanced customer engagement.
  • Nestle – Nestle uses Power BI to visualize data holistically to make faster and more effective business decisions.

And many others like Rockwell Automation, Cummins, Bayer, King’s College, and Standard Bank.

Final words

The focus of Power BI is not only on data visualization but also on data modeling and reports. The data analysis and visualization provides interesting insights regarding the key drivers with its key influencers feature.

However, the main advantage is the ability to analyze a metric from various perspectives without the prerequisite of keeping any influencer(s) constant. The feature does look promising and makes you look forward to the next release.

Nous Infosystems, a Microsoft managed partner with gold certified competencies in data analytics & data platform, builds robust Power BI solutions to help businesses determine business KPIs, create custom visualizations, and develop interactive dashboards. Nous’ Power BI implementation consultants help leverage Power BI to enhance data exploration and discover hidden business insights.

Karthik Valluri
Technical Manager - Analytics

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