Microsoft Power BI
Power BI is a cloud-based BI product designed for business users to access and combine different data sources for data discovery, visualization and interactive dashboards. It was released by Microsoft in 2015 initially as a cloud-only product. Power BI comes with built-in data preparation and multiple innovative features and functions such as natural language query and machine learning driven “Quick Insights”. In mid-2017, Microsoft delivered the possibility of running the product on-premises with Report Server.
Microsoft is the world’s largest software company. Compared to the huge business the company does in a range of different markets, its BI revenues are relatively small. Nevertheless, Microsoft is a strong presence in the BI market and its offering is strategic to complement existing solutions and to drive cloud revenues.
In the past, the vendor spread its BI capabilities across the Office, SharePoint and SQL Server product lines, providing tools for formatted reporting, analysis and dashboards. For some time, part of Microsoft’s BI initiative has been to focus strongly on the spreadsheet solution Excel – and in turn on business users. Accordingly, the vendor has regularly added more BI functionality to the solution.
Power BI was first introduced in 2013 as a cloud-based BI package using Office 365 for publishing, collaboration and mobile delivery. Microsoft Excel played a dominant role in the Power BI offering and received functional extensions, such as Power Query, Power Pivot and others.
In July 2015, Microsoft launched a new generation of its Power BI product line consisting of Microsoft Power BI Desktop (a full client for ad hoc reporting, dashboards and analysis) and Power BI Service (a web client for content publishing and sharing). In 2017, Power BI Report Server was released to enable the on-premises distribution of Power BI reports.
Power BI was designed as a business-oriented solution. Its full-client Power BI Desktop includes capabilities for data preparation built on Microsoft’s Power Query technology, and data modeling is built on existing Power Pivot technology.
User & Use Cases
Microsoft Power BI deployments show a fairly common distribution in terms of customer size despite largely relying on provisioning via cloud, unlike most comparable tools. Installations typically serve a below average number of users.
In line with usage of other data discovery oriented offerings, more Power BI users model and enrich (i.e. prepare) their data than users of other solutions. Accordingly, basic data analysis and dashboarding (i.e. condensing multiple analyses on a single screen) are among the most common application areas.
Current vs. planned use
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5 products most often evaluated in competition with Microsoft Power BI
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Percentage of employees using Microsoft Power BI
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Number of users using Microsoft Power BI
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Tasks carried out with Microsoft Power BI by business users
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Company size (number of employees)
N = 108