In my article, “PMO Data Management – From ‘Copy and Paste’ to Delivery of Business Insights” (Link) I talk about a method to utilize Microsoft’s Excel and SharePoint as a method of getting your data organized. Excel and SharePoint are great tools for data organization. Not so, for data presentation. In this article, I provide a rationalization for using Microsoft’s PowerBI to visualize and present your PMO data.
With origins back to 2006, Microsoft has been iterating on PowerBI for the past 11 years. Originally an add-on to Excel, this offering has since evolved to become one of the top tools in the industry. Along with Tableau and Qlik, PowerBI has joined a latest generation of data presentation tools that turn highly disorganized data into rich visuals without the help of highly skilled technical staff. PowerBI does this as well as the leading tools in the industry at a significantly lower introductory cost.
The PowerBI Rapid Improvement Cycle
One of the competitive advantages of PowerBI is the rapid rate at which improvements are made to this product. The PowerBI tool has benefited from enhancements and bug fixes that come out every month. Because of the monthly enhancements, the user experience around this product offering is rapidly improving. The improvements offered each month include:
- Improvements to new visualizations
- Enhancements to existing visualizations
- Enhancements to the way the tool is able to take in data from data sources
The changes from one month to the next are not that dramatic. However, the changes that this tool undergoes in a six-month time frame is dramatic. Microsoft’s agile approach to enhancing and updating this product is helping to make it fresh and ready for today’s market.
Microsoft’s Other Advantage: Cost
Microsoft offers a full featured version of Microsoft Version of PowerBI for $9.99 a month for a single user. Compare this with Microsoft’s nearest competitors. Tableau is at $999 for a one time per user fee and Qlik will cost $20 a month. The graph below shows the five year cost curve for each of these offerings:
PowerBI costs significantly less than Qlik and Tableau at today’s pricing levels. This is true if you look at initial purchase cost ($9.99) or the total investment after 5 years ($599.40). Qlik ($20 Initial purchase, $1,200 after 5 years) or Tableau ($999 one time cost) is as cheap as PowerBI. Microsoft has a clear advantage over these two offerings in terms of cost.
But Can’t I just use Excel to Visualize my data?
Short answer is Yes. But not easily and certainly not elegantly. PMO data tends to be data that is highly disorganized. It is the type of data that is just thrown into a spreadsheet quickly for presentation to leadership. The latest generation of BI tools make it significantly easier to deal with data in a variety of locations and formats. They also provide an instant method of publication to a wide audience of users. In the case of PowerBI, the publication mechanism utilizes the mechanisms already built into Office 365.
So Yes, you can use Excel to visualize your data. But why would you want to work so hard to do it?
The Limitations of PowerBI
As a regular user of PowerBI, there are some things that I think Microsoft needs to fix. The following are two of my biggest complaints about PowerBI:
- Offer more out-of-the-box visualizations. Specifically lacking are bubble and shape charts. Tableau does this elegantly and easily. It would be nice if PowerBI could do the same thing. Note that you can download third party visualization options. The third party options I have found so far do not meet my needs.
- Offer a better way to drill into detail. Microsoft has started to address this with the last couple of monthly releases, but there is still a long way to go.
These are my complaints and I have every hope they will be addressed in a future monthly release by Microsoft.
I would recommend Microsoft PowerBI as your BI tool. Its advantages in terms of cost, its ability to interface with other Office365 applications, and the rate at which it is improving makes it hard to pass up.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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