Excel’s Power BI Tools – the Next Big Think in Data Analytics?


For years Excel has been the default application for number crunching.

It has been used, abused and adapted by users to do all kinds of jobs, including some it was never really designed to do. A common example is Excel has been used to create dashboards, but these have generally been just a collection of charts and tables arranged to look like a dashboard, and unless you had a good knowledge of functions and VBA, they are typically fairly static and unimaginative.

Other developers saw a gap in the market to produce interactive and more meaningful dashboards that could import data from Excel and convert it into something more spectacular. This is where applications like Tableau, Qlik Sense and Business Objects, amongst others, have come in and some of these have proved to be very successful.

Power BI Desktop boasts the power of Power Pivot but without actually needing to work within Excel.

So Microsoft has been on the back foot for some time, but in 2010 it introduced Power Pivot. When it first appeared, it was a free add-in that had to be downloaded with a bunch of other applications to make it work but was never really pushed at the time, attracting only seasoned Excel users to the new functionality. Since 2013 it has been properly integrated into Excel and has opened a whole new dimension to analysing data within Excel, linking directly into huge SQL databases as well as web pages and pretty much any data form going today. Their version of a dashboarding application came in the shape of Power View – a blank sheet that you could add charts and graphics to within Excel itself. This was OK but still lacked the punch of some of the other applications out there.

Enter Power BI Desktop

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We offer an Excel Module 5 – Power BI course where we look at the functionality of the tool & how to make the most of it.
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Currently a free data visualisation tool, Power BI Desktop boasts the power of Power Pivot but without actually needing to work within Excel. This is a standalone application that can import data from numerous sources, including Excel of course, and turns the data into more professional looking and interactive dashboards.

It’s still early days, but it is a fantastic application that is being updated on a monthly basis. So, each time you go into the application you discover new charts, or visualisations.

Unlike its rivals, which all require licencing, and therefore additional costs, Power BI is a free tool and one that  is a fairly simple to use, once you understand the basics. There is a lot of functionality and options built in, but for most people being able to map data, and add interactive slicers as well as custom graphics you can download from the Microsoft store is more than enough to whet the appetite and with regular updates being made this application can only get better.

By combining the analytical power of Power Pivot, Power Query and now Desktop BI, you will finally be able to do all your number crunching and create beautiful and simple to understand dashboards with ease.

power bi

*Above are screenshots, demonstrating some of the potential outputs available in Power BI

Ready to take your data analytics and presentation to the next level?

To view our full course outline and next available dates, please view the Excel Module 5 – Power BI course page.