Power BI by Microsoft: Pros, Cons, & Use Cases

TrustRadius Community Contributor
January 17, 2020

Power BI by Microsoft: Pros, Cons, & Use Cases

Today’s community contributor is Zee Gimon, Digital Operations Manager at HUSPI Software Development. She loves to learn about new technologies and advances in the sciences, cook Chinese and Mexican food, and read Harry Potter to her kids. Check out the detailed reviews she’s written on TrustRadius about tools with which she has worked throughout her career.

Gartner has named Microsoft a Magic Quadrant Leader among business intelligence and analytics platforms for 12 consecutive years. 

Power BI—Microsoft’s newer data visualization tool—brings value to the business owners and decision-makers thanks to the ability to combine numerous data sources into one cohesive dashboard.

One of the biggest advantages of this instrument is that the desktop version of the software is free, which means even small businesses on a tight budget can benefit from the visualized data. After all, the business might be small, but there might be a lot of information to process and it’s not always easy to see the relationships between different factors. With Power BI, you can create simple-to-comprehend visual reports instead of comparing numbers side by side from several Excel sheets.

I have used Power BI in one of the projects that I have worked with – an app for hunters that offered web as well as three native mobile apps (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), which was used by over 10K people. The user patterns for the different platforms varied and we needed to know and compare the trends to streamline our product and marketing communication. We also did a monthly email newsletter and its readership information also was imported into the Power BI.

In this article, I’ll focus on the pros and cons of this particular business intelligence provider based on my experience, and share a few use cases. 

What Power BI does well

  • Extreme data filtering features. As I mentioned above, we had numerous data pieces come in and we needed a way to see, for example, only the data from Android users who registered within the past three months to see whether our marketing efforts were successful. Power BI offers numerous ways you can filter the information and get rid of the “data noise” in the meantime.
  • A great number of visualization formats – you can easily create graphs, charts, and many other reports. If you’re thinking “I can do that in Excel or Google Spreadsheets, I don’t need Power BI,” well, I won’t disagree. It’s not a unique feature. However, with Power BI, this process becomes much easier because your data is labeled appropriately and instead of the hassle of dealing with all the cell selection, you can simply choose what data sources to use and what information you need from those sources. 
  • Power BI is also great for big data projects. Our 10K+ users’ project only scratched the surface of the data processing capabilities, but even for us, it was a great help in user behavior analysis and subsequent user modeling. Granted, you would either need a more powerful computer for big data processing using a desktop version of Power BI, or you can simply get Power BI cloud account and do it in the cloud. (The pricing for the cloud version – Power BI Pro – starts at $9.99/user/month, which is quite cheap compared to many other analytical platforms.)
  • As I mentioned in the very beginning, it’s a Microsoft product, ergo it seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft products, including those that use .NET technology. 

What are Power BI’s areas for improvement?

  • One of the main cons of Power BI is the fact that it can be very overwhelming at first. After a while, I got the hang of it (and the developers who installed, integrated and set up the platform also explained the basics to me) so it became my friend. However, the initial learning curve is steep.
  • Power BI tends to have “feature creep.” 🙂 It is a powerful product, but when I just started working with it, I felt like I didn’t know where I should focus my attention to get the information I need. The features are all great and useful, but at times, you get the feeling there are just a bit too many features. 
  • Power BI doesn’t have a standalone app for Macs and iPhones, just Windows-based desktop software or the project in the cloud. 

Power BI Use Cases

  • User behavior analysis and user modeling for web and mobile apps. As I mentioned above, the project where I came in contact with Power BI by Microsoft was an app for hunters. Thanks to visual reports that combined information from various embedded data sources, we could make informed decisions in terms of additional features, user experience (UX) as well as user interface (UI), and general marketing efforts. 
  • Ecommerce ecosystem intelligence. HUSPI, the company I work for currently, had a case where the task set before the developers was to unify several large eCommerce databases into one ecosystem and provide detailed analytics for the key decision-makers in the company. Since the project itself was written using .NET technologies and there were several other Microsoft products already integrated, we went for Power BI and the client is happy.
  • Organizational processes for the Marketing, Operations, and Sales departments. It can be used for streamlining the processes within the organization, where you have your datasets and KPIs. For example, if you have launched an extensive advertising campaign, you can track its performance not only in Google Ads or Facebook Ads, using the limited analytical tools they provide, but see the bigger picture of how this or that ad affected the level of your sales.

Power BI: A Conclusion

If you are considering various BI platforms, I would advise you to at least give Power BI by Microsoft a chance. If anything, you can use the free desktop version and if you don’t like it, you can easily delete it. However, I think, once you’ll start using this powerful platform and get used to the multitude of its features, you wouldn’t want to go back or switch to anything else.

Read reviews of Power BI on TrustRadius

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