July 5, 2022 Software Development

From Insights to Action: Power BI Unleashes Intelligence

Data is the fuel that drives today’s business; helping them accelerate past the competition by improving customer experience, supporting sales cycles, showing business trends and boosting efficiency. 

And data is the power behind business intelligence (BI). But if you think BI is simply reports and dashboards, you’re only seeing part of the picture. BI is so much more. 

Business Intelligence Defined 

Business intelligence helps organizations analyze historical and current data, so they can quickly uncover actionable insights for making strategic decisions. 

It’s the strategic driver of growth. What can businesses do with the insights BI makes possible? According to IDC, companies that invest in BI can “see three clear benefits – improved decision-making, greater knowledge, and more efficiency. These benefits, in turn, drive improved financial, employee, customer, and offering outcomes.” 

The global business intelligence and analytics platforms market size is expected to reach USD 84.25 Billion by 2028 at an annual growth rate of 11.9%. Emergen Research 

 

Business intelligence (BI) platforms (also sometimes called business analytics platforms) are the software tools businesses use to: 

  • Prepare data from a range of sources including structured and unstructured data. 
  • Model data to assign values and store data properly for extraction and visualization. Architecting this step properly (not just for today, but for future requirements) is key to getting the visualization and insights you are seeking. 
  • Blend data to combine information from different sources and formats. 
  • Visualize data through reports, dashboards and narratives that help businesses understand the story being told by the data. 
  • Deliver insights to help business see trends, track customer journeys and better understand key aspects of their business. 

When people think of BI, they usually jump right to the end and focus on the visualization and insights, but a lot of work needs to be done to get to that point. Dashboards and reports are only as valuable as the data that goes into them, so you need a software solution that is correctly architected and data sets that are properly selected and prepared to realize the benefits. 

The Road to Meaningful Insights 

The first step in any BI software project is understanding the requirements. What do customers want to know (today) and what might they want to know in the future?  

We look at your goals and data sources, then evaluate a range of options – and there are a lot of different options – so we can propose the right solution, which meets today’s need without limiting future growth. 

Business Intelligence Options  Pros Cons

Custom reports: 

Developed to create reports or analysis that meet the specific criteria of a customer. 

No licenses required. 

Complete control over all functionality developed.  

Simple reports that don’t provide deep analytics. 

Any report changes require a developer. 

Downtime required whenever changes need to be deployed. 

It is costly to extend reporting or functionality. 

Reporting libraries and addons:  

There is a range of libraries and tools that can allow us to add reports to a custom application. 

Not too costly. 

Faster to introduce report changes. 

Have some out of the box functionality that can be leveraged.  

Good for simple reporting requirements. 

Licenses required. 

All data preparation and modeling needs to be done outside of these tools. 

Limited functionality is available. 

Any report changes require a developer. 

Downtime required whenever changes need to be deployed. 

Future roadmap is limited. 

Enterprise reporting and analytics tools: 

Enterprise-level tools that provide sophisticated business intelligence and analytics with reporting, data prep, and data visualization tools. 

Solutions include Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Cognos, MicroStrategy, and more. 

Provide advanced business intelligence features and rich functionality. 

They are premium platforms with well-defined product roadmaps. 

Highly scalable solutions. 

Power BI offers low code options for report creation, rich out of the box functionality, and report changes don’t require a developer or downtime. 

Power BI offers a range of licensing options (including a free version) making it the most cost effective of the enterprise options.  

Tableau, Cognos and MicroStrategy come at a premium price and require an elaborate technical setup before any data preparation or modeling can begin. 

 

There’s Power Under the Power BI Hood 

When looking at the options, we have found that Microsoft’s Power BI has real advantages for many of our customers, balancing scalability, rich feature sets and a range of licensing options. And we’re not the only ones. Gartner has named Microsoft as a leader for analytics and BI platforms 

In addition to the simple pros and cons above, Power BI also comes with important features that can really benefit businesses. 

Structured and Unstructured Data 

While companies often come to us wanting dashboards or reports, every business intelligence solution starts with the data. And, that data comes from a wide range of sources and in varying formats (some of which are easier to work with than others). Power BI can work with both structured and unstructured data sources which makes it powerful for businesses trying to integrate modern and legacy applications, as well as the wide range of solutions running in the company. 

Data volumes are growing by 63% per month. The mean number of data sources per organization is 400 sources. More than 90% said that it was challenging to some degree to make data available in a format usable for analytics. Matillion  

 

Powerful Transformations 

Data Transformation is where the magic happens. Being able to take any kind of data and transform it so we can work with it, report on it and gain insights from it is powerful for businesses. Microsoft Power BI supports two different languages – M language and DAX (Data Analysis Expression) – which help developers to filter, manage, and visualize data. Using Power Query, developers can filter and draw data from one or more of a rich collection of supported data sources, blend and analyze that data into a single report or dashboard. 

Well Connected 

Power BI has seamless connections to the Microsoft suite of products including Dynamics 365, Teams, SharePoint, Office 365 and Power Platform. In addition, there are connectors to a wide range of common 3rd party enterprise tools like databases, CRM, ERP, financial systems and more. With a vast library of connectors, and the ability to create new ones, we can work with virtually any dataset and help turn that data into something valuable. 

Big BI Business Opportunities 

Today’s businesses need information at their fingertips to deliver the experience that customers demand. If a salesperson can’t quickly pull up sales history and trends, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation with a customer. Business Intelligence platforms like Power BI, make sure your employees have the information, when and where they need it. 

Every client has a data story to tell and every story is unique. Do you need help telling your data story? Let’s chat.