Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, was founded in 1975 and has become a household name primarily due to its Windows operating system and Office suite. The vendor has a broad enterprise offering too, ranging from cloud (Azure) to database to its ERP products.
Microsoft was among the first vendors to focus on providing cloud-based solutions for analytics, a path later followed by several competitors. Azure is used by numerous companies as a cloud computing platform and for storing large amounts of data, putting Microsoft in a comfortable position to offer integrated analytics front ends.
Microsoft concentrates its core BI and analytics capabilities in Power BI and brings in tools and capabilities from Microsoft Azure such as Azure Data Explorer and Azure ML for specific usage scenarios. Power BI is a cloud-based analytics product consisting of Power BI Desktop (a full client for data preparation, dashboards and analysis) and Power BI Service (a web application for content publishing and sharing). It is an interactive tool for data visualization geared at enabling business users to analyze data and share insights predominantly via dashboards. Power BI Premium offers dedicated capacity, which is especially useful in large deployments.
Data visualization in Power BI delivers rich visualizations but is limited in flexibility by its dashboard-oriented approach. NLQ makes it easy for users to retrieve relevant visualizations. Guided analytics is mostly covered by ‘Quick Insights’, a feature that automatically analyzes data sets for patterns and outliers and provides the user with suggestions about relevant findings. The ‘Insight’ feature can be used to receive information about interesting patterns in the data a specific visualization is based on. For advanced requirements, Microsoft has integrated AutoML features into Power BI Data Flows.
The vendor has also incorporated formatted reporting functionality from its on-premises product set Reporting Services as paginated reports into Power BI to provide a broader feature set and integrate analytics capabilities. Power BI Report Server delivers a subset of Power BI features to on-premises customers, mostly to facilitate their migration to the cloud.
User & Use Cases
Power BI customers use their tool mostly for consuming standardized content such as dashboards (85 percent) and reports (70 percent). At 54 percent, usage of data analysis is lower than with comparable visual analysis and self-service tools, showing that Power BI could attract more users to engage in analysis rather than viewing predefined content. Tableau and Qlik are currently Microsoft’s main competitors, both of whom have a vision of empowering business users through intuitive and attractive tools.
Power BI has clearly made its way from being a departmental tool to an enterprise information platform. The median number of users is above average and many large and middle-sized companies use the software as their prime BI & analytics front end.
Current vs. planned use
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Percentage of employees using Microsoft Power BI
Number of users using Microsoft Power BI
Tasks carried out with Microsoft Power BI by business users
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