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Power BI – The Top 5 Reasons why you should Move Over from Excel

Posted on: March 5th, 2019 by Simon Swords


When you think about the best reporting tool for business, you probably think of Microsoft Excel, right? It would make sense if you do because Excel has been the go-to for what feels like an eternity.

What if I told you then, that Power BI is the future of business intelligence? With powerful analytics and reporting features for businesses being just the beginning of the list of reasons why Power BI delivers far greater insight than Excel, we decided to take a look more closely at the two programs to see how they compare and, more importantly, how Power BI can benefit your business.


Data Size is NOT an Issue

Anyone who has ever used Microsoft Excel knows that while the application is competent in its ability to perform basic and complex arithmetic operations and functions, effectiveness runs thin when you have huge quantities of data that can’t be opened – and it’s less than ideal.

With Power BI’s impressive comprehension abilities, you can view, analyse and visualise the larger amounts of data that Excel struggles to support. Not only can you do all of this and have your files stored and analysed, but it’s all done using only 50 megabytes. Power BI uses powerful comprehension algorithms to import and cache your data within a .PBIX file.

Efficiency is one of the most obvious reasons why Power BI is such a valuable tool, as large datasets no longer require cutting down in size or the need to be aggregated to show greater encompassing analysis – all of the most granular details and summarisations can exist together in one file and be assessed through drill downs.

On top of the ability to store a vast amount of data, you can also modify and prepare your data. Power BI makes many tasks straight forward, including:

  • Transformations and edits – you can change formats, delete rows, add colums and transport data quickly and easily.
  • Adding relationships in various tables – this is very useful if you have a star or snowflake schema.
  • Adding new datasets – as new data is discovered, you can integrate it on Power BI without having to merge your existing data all over again, allowing flexibility in linking datasets together.
  • No more repetitiveness – Power BI remembers your data preparation steps and automatically repeats them during data refreshes, meaning that you don’t have to manually reproduce these steps each time.


Effortlessly Recognise Data Trends

It’s not unusual to spend multiple hours every month entering macros across numerous large Excel files in order to get time series comparisons. However, time is of the essence when it comes to efficiency and spending masses of valuable time on tasks that should be much more straight forward doesn’t exactly scream ‘productivity’.

Power BI features a suite of analytics tools including DAX (Data Analysis Expression), which provides a wide range of functionalities for trend analysis such as YTD, MTD and QTD. This intelligence makes spotting data trends simple and effective; and what’s more, is that it takes a matter of mere seconds to view extensive amounts of data – be it various dimensions (including date-time) or attributes.

The software allows you to add the following types of dynamic reference lines to visuals and provide precise focus on important trends and insights:

  • X-Axis constant line
  • Y-Axis constant line
  • Min line
  • Max line
  • Average line
  • Median line
  • Percentile line


Attractive UX Features

Excel is great for organising data and entering mathematical formulas and arithmetic, but anyone who has ever used the application will know that making a spreadsheet look pretty is a hard pushed feat. Sure, you can fill out the background to hide cell lines and add pictures or graphs to make them more pleasing to the eye, but you’re pretty limited to do much else in terms of visual appeal.

Limited UX skills are one thing that Power BI and Excel have in common, although there is one major difference that sets the two apart. While Power BI has restricted UX skills, they are also vastly intuitive, making creativity oh-so-easy with its consistent branding and colour schemas, as well as offering drag-and-drop functionality, easy resizing and copy and pasting which makes Microsoft Office veterans feel right at home.

You can build branding themes which can be imported when creating new graphs and charts to keep everything consistently in-line with your company’s colour theme. Microsoft’s Format Painter also gives you the ability to make format changes to visuals and allows you to create custom format changes as well as copying formatting such as colour and font across other visualisations.


Cloud-Based and Hassle Free

You’ve constructed your data analysis and are ready to distribute your reports. Now, if you’re using Excel, it’s likely that this would involve emailing a large file around or saving it in a shared drive, telling people where they can find it and when it has been updated. Yet again, another time-consuming and messy process that boots efficiency right out of the window.

Power BI has transformed the way you share data by publishing your work directly to Power BI Service, a cloud-based service which is hosted by Microsoft and automates the refresh of underlying data.

Power BI Service has many other benefits in addition to the storage and distribution of your data, including:

Personalised Dashboards

  • Create dashboards that have the ability to:
    • Host visualisations from different reports,
    • Customise the size and layout of visuals; and,
    • Set them up in a way that’s insightful and useful to you and your specific role.
  • Use visualisations connected to data sources to create your dashboard.
  • Share dashboards with other users in your company.


  • Set up email alerts on KPIs to track a specific measure or to monitor inventory, for example.

Quick Insights

  • Runs powerful algorithms off the cloud that gives you quick insights straight from your dataset.
  • Get a thorough analysis of your data without having to open it in Power BI Desktop or build a dashboard.

Natural Language Query

  • Data visualisations allow you to type questions and get an answer straight away in either default or user-specific format.


Row Level Security (RLS)

There’s nothing worse than needing to provide the same documented information to multiple people who require different limitations on what they can access – something that is possible, yet complicated to achieve in Excel. Not to mention the added security risk entailed when emailing the same document around to anyone who requires access. It becomes near on impossible to manage who views what at that point.

However, Power BI revolutionises RSL as, (a), it’s so easy to set up and, (b), it’s all online, so that pesky security risk becomes irrelevant. Setting up RSL is as simple as creating rolls for groups, using DAX expression for different fields and adding individuals or groups to them via a security setting in the dataset.


So there you have it

From easy-to-spot data trends to intuitive UX features and beyond, Power BI is crafted to support businesses existing in today’s ever-growing data-driven culture as it’s powerful self-service capabilities allow you to independently gather, transform and analyse data without reliance on your IT department.

Also, with cloud-based features such as Natural Language Query, data governance is made so much easier. It’s important for businesses to apply their data in the most astute and resourceful way possible to allow themselves space to grow alongside changing business and consumer habits.

All of this, along with impressive automation of dataset integration and rapid visualisations skills empowers Power BI as a business necessity.

Analytics have never looked this good and with businesses flocking to reap the rewards of the revolutionary benefits of data visualisation, it seems that Power BI holds the key to a bright new world where manual, complicated and tabular reports are a thing of the past.

Simon Swords


Managing Director

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