Pros & Cons of Microsoft Power BI: Analysis of a Leading Business Intelligence Software

What are the pros and cons of Microsoft Power BI?
The pros and cons of Microsoft Power BI are demonstrated by its flexibility in handling either on-premise or in-cloud data, a simplified approach through the use of natural language queries, and excellent visualizations among others. It is backed by reasonable pricing which does not prevent it from adding such advanced capabilities as clustering and forecasting using robust DAX formula language. It is well built for any kind of integration, though some users report it’s unable to acknowledge records bigger than 250 MB.

As one of the leading business intelligence tools forged by one of the most venerable names in the software industry, Microsoft Power BI has a lot to live up to trying to meet the complex demands of today’s businesses. A crucial tool formerly reserved for technical analysts and programmers, business intelligence has become accessible to decision makers of any kind, from sprawling multinational enterprises to small businesses trying to make a dent in their chosen markets. From whichever of these you are coming from, you need to consider multiple factors before settling for that one BI application that matches your actual needs.

In this article, we’ll help you make your final decision simpler by analyzing the pros and cons of Microsoft Power BI so you can assess whether it makes the final grade. If you had been there before, you know the task is fraught with difficulties trying to include multiple key factors and not overlook critical ones. If you are using legacy systems, for example, the application’s capability to hook up with what you already have plays an important part in your software investment decision.

microsoft power bi pros & cons

More than anything else, the latest business intelligence statistics reveal just the kind of massive impact this class of software solution brings to businesses today. The numbers reflect how businesses are realizing the importance of business intelligence in their processes.

In 2018, the top BI objectives include making better decisions, enhancing operational efficiencies, driving revenues and increasing competitive advantage according to a report titled 2018 Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study by Dresner Advisory Service.

Objectives for BI implementation in businesses. (Source: Dresner Advisory Services)

While business intelligence platforms used to be available only to large organizations, the emergence of cloud technology has enabled even small businesses to implement BI in their workflows. One of the top products in this niche is Microsoft Power BI. It offers affordable plans for free and monthly subscriptions depending on the type of solution you need.

Microsoft also continuously updates the software’s offerings. Its most recent updates, for example, include improved features in reporting, analytics, custom visuals, data connectivity, and data preparation. These are M Intellisense, aggregations, dot plot layout support in scatter charts, built-in report theme options, and analytics and formatting pane support, among others.

Before getting to know the pros and cons of Microsoft Power BI, it’s essential to get to know its features and functionalities first. Also, for more information about business intelligence software in general, you may read this guide, What is Business Intelligence Software, to get a better understanding of the niche.

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI features pack a suite of business analytics tools for delivering insights throughout your organization. It offers a wide range of functions that simplify the management of big data and empowers businesses to transform their data into meaningful, actionable reports that support data-driven decisions.

Typical of various SaaS tools for small business, Power BI connects with various data sources, drives ad hoc analysis, and streamlines data preparation for businesses to produce reports. They are published for your organization where they’re distributed across multiple platforms—from the web to mobile devices. This easy-to-use tool enables anyone—business users, analysts, IT, and developers—to build personalized dashboards that incorporate a unique 360-degree view of your business.

This tool specializes in delivering its functionality with speed and simplicity. Since you can easily connect your data wherever it lives, exploring data is made easy with interactive visualizations. You can then publish reports and dashboards, improve team collaboration, and share insights across your organization. Power BI apps can be accessed from your desk or on the go so you can take action anywhere you are in an instant.

Key Features

Here are Microsoft Power BI’s top features:

  1. Real-Time Dashboards
  2. Data Visualizations
  3. Reporting
  4. Report Authoring
  5. Interactive Visualization
  6. Natural-Language Questions
  7. Collaboration
  8. Touch-Enable Native Apps
  9. Open, Standards-Based REST API
  10. Publish to Web
  11. Integrations and Data Sources
  12. Power Query

Now that we’ve covered the key features and functionalities of Microsoft Power BI software, let’s take a look at its strengths and weaknesses. In a nutshell, this tool excels in many areas, but some of its offerings may not suit your unique business requirements. The pros and cons of Microsoft Power BI are listed below to help you determine if it matches what you’re looking for in a BI software.

Pros and Cons of Microsoft Power BI

Robust Data Visualizations

Microsoft Power BI is designed to speed up visualizations even for the most novice users. Unless you are an analyst shooting for expanding your BI skills, anyone can access robust data analytics and discovery in the tool without extensive knowledge or experience beforehand. It has some handy drag-and-drop features and real-time data access for your team to quickly and effectively react to your business changes coming from various sources such as sales, financial, project management, and CRM. With that, live data access is one of Power BI’s most prominent features.

Furthermore, it allows for a short learning curve, especially if you’re familiar with Excel’s pivot tables and visualizations. This also goes to say that if you’re not a Microsoft Excel power user, Power BI can be challenging to use at the start. Fortunately, it doesn’t require the writing of SQL code so users could easily get familiar operating it over time. Once data is in Power BI’s dataset, creating graphs, charts, and tables are streamlined. For instance, you can easily focus reports on data based on certain criteria or a specific timeframe using slicers. It can simplify the sales comparison of an individual product line from the previous month and the monthly sales for one customer all in a few clicks.

Optimized Report Authoring

Power BI does a good job of simplifying report authoring, generating rich and interactive reports using visual analytics. Since it connects with supported on-premises and cloud-based sources such as Salesforce, Azure SQL DB, Dynamics, Sharepoint, and Excel, it empowers you to draw deep insights in various scenarios and guarantees they’re regularly refreshed and up-to-date.

As the self-service Power Query experience is familiar to Excel users, preparing and modeling data is streamlined. Advanced features such as grouping, quick measures, clustering, and forecasting help users to dig deeper into the data and spot potentially missed patterns using robust DAX formula language.

With that said, Power BI can experience slow performance and low time-outs in analyzing a huge set of data. Hence, if your organization usually handles large datasets, it may not be the most suitable solution for you. The turnaround for this is migrating data into the SQL Server to improve speed overall.

Numerous Integrations and Data Sources

To maximize your business analytics tool, it’s important to be able to connect data from your existing systems. This is another strength of Power BI. It enables you to quickly connect your services to your organization and build your visualizations by downloading data files. API access and pre-built dashboards are available to accelerate the accumulation of insights from tools such as Google Analytics, Salesforce, and, of course, Microsoft products.

Power BI can read data in the cloud such as Azure and online services like Facebook. In addition to Microsoft Excel, it also supports text files from XML and JSON thanks to the tool’s support for numerous data sources and it even continuously adds more to its list. It pulls data from one or multiple sources and stores them in datasets for offline analysis. Its Excel integration also lets you save data to Excel in a few clicks where you can easily see the raw data behind the visualization.

Moreover, Microsoft is investing time and resources in this product as shown by the ton of new features released in Power BI regularly. This means more advanced features will likely be added in the future if there are any features you’re looking for that’s currently not on its feature list.

Flexible Software Setup

Power BI is available on desktop, mobile or service. It is a web-based tool that’s easily accessible on any browser and device. Its desktop version can be used offline for analyzing data and developing visualizations. This makes it easy for managers to evaluate how the team is doing from any location using any device.

You can use one or all of them in creating and publishing visualizations according to your preference, need, or role. Its most basic setup is the Azure tenant that can be connected to the tool through the Office365 Admin interface. Companies already using this software will appreciate how quickly they can set up and run the framework in place.

Power BI has a long list of components such as Power BI Desktop, Power BI Services, and Power BI Gateway, among others. If you don’t know what components you need, determining which one to choose can be a challenge. Hence, it is important to make a comprehensive analysis of your business needs. Once you figure it out, you can easily maximize the features and functionality of the solution you need.

Affordable Pricing

Microsoft Power BI is one of the most affordable business intelligence solutions in the market. It has a free version, a monthly subscription and a scalable premium version for large deployments. Power BI Desktop is offered for free. This already includes the ability to connect to hundreds of data sources, using visual tools to clean and prepare data, analyzing and creating reports, publishing to the Power BI service and embedding public websites.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Power BI cost for the Pro version is available at $9.99/user/month which is lower than similar products in its niche. Large-scale deployments come at a capacity pricing scheme per node on a monthly basis. Companies who are deeply invested in the Microsoft software will find Power BI highly affordable in the way it is set up within the Microsoft ecosystem.

Is Microsoft Power BI the solution for you?

Microsoft Power BI is a reliable BI solution, especially if you are the right user for this software. It is built for users who are not necessarily data analysts which makes it a great addition for teams with no related degrees in their resumes but nevertheless needing deep data analysis. At the same time, organizations with no Microsoft Excel Power Excel will have to think twice if it’s the right solution for them as it’s a product that works best with organizations already invested in other Microsoft applications.

You could be an analyst or manager in charge of making the most of this tool, which means you would find great use in diving into business intelligence KPI to accomplish just that.

Overall, the software’s affordable pricing offerings allow businesses, especially SMBS with limited financial and human resources, to boost their operations with this tool. It is easy to use, highly intuitive and available in numerous setup options. It is also generously packed with features at an affordable price point and regularly receives new updates and additional features.

Meanwhile, if Microsoft Power BI doesn’t match what you’re looking for, there are other options for data visualization and data analysis tools. Our experts prepared this guide on Top 10 Alternatives to Power BI of similar BI products that excel in terms of functionality, features and value.

Chris Miller

By Chris Miller

Chris Miller is a senior customer service analyst at FinancesOnline. For more than 5 years now, he has witnessed and written about the tremendous impact of digital technologies that have deeply disrupted the customer service industry. The onset of chatbots and other AI/ML tech, omnichannel platforms, highly personalized service, the emerging blockchain methodologies specially created a deep impact, all of which are reflected in his writing. His reviews of customer service applications serve as invaluable resources for businesses of any size and scale.

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