When is Power BI more convenient than Excel?

Excel, Power BI

For many things, such as reporting and performing analytics, Power BI is much more extensive and effective than Excel. In addition, the software performs faster with processing than the classic Office tool. That just doesn’t make Power BI the right choice to use for every organization and for every purpose.

Power BI is the obsolete successor to Excel. The software, as the name suggests, focuses mainly on business intelligence. Many advanced features from Excel, especially the pivot tables and other analytical features, are easier to add via Power BI than in Excel. The two programs largely overlap, but teaching Power BI is a bit more challenging, while users have decades of experience with Excel.

Power BI for reporting

Excel is usually used for reporting, and Power BI is generally more suitable for those purposes. Take creating a dashboard. This requires a number of steps, while Power BI is designed to obtain these graphical insights quickly. To refresh the data from an Excel dashboard, it is necessary to update all the data and then refresh the pivot tables. In Power BI, data is updated automatically and in real time, so a Power BI dashboard is always up to date. It is clear which software is more suitable for data analytics and the use of advanced data models.

Power BI gets its data from all kinds of data sources. For example, in the tool users link tools such as SAP or Google Analytics to set up the dashboards. In principle, this is also possible in Excel, but that requires more manual work and design. Another reason that using Excel in such a case is more cumbersome is the lack of the auto-refresh just mentioned. Power BI is also the superior choice for this purpose.

Another advantage of Power BI is the shareability of reports within the organization. Via the Power BI app, insights can be displayed quickly and beautifully on smartphones and tablets. This information is real-time, so it is always completely up-to-date with the very latest changes. The creator of the dashboards always remains the owner and is the only one who can make changes. Users can only consult. The apps can be downloaded for platforms on iOS, iPadOS, Android and Windows 10.

Very different learning curves

But Power BI isn’t always the logical option right now; sometimes the preference will certainly be Excel. For example, for displaying tables you are better off with Excel. Power BI is very strong in presenting trends and insights, but managing tables is cumbersome. In Power BI, it takes several objects to fill the table, a user has to go through more steps, and the table needs to be formatted in detail. In Excel it is – literally – a matter of clicking the button “Format as table”.

Two ways to format tables

Power BI’s formula language is different from Excel’s, and users will have to learn a different syntax. Microsoft did this because, for example, it is difficult to use tuples, data arrays for advanced processing, in the original language. However, that makes it more difficult for someone who is less familiar with this to create content in Power BI.

In the deep

With Excel, users do not have to worry as much about the data models from the start. This is an important starting point for Power BI, so users who want to make the switch must approach data differently. Not all Excel sheets that may now be widely used within an organization are immediately ready for Power BI. The two can be used side by side, Microsoft has even made it easy to publish Excel data to the free Power BI tool, so people can transition in phases and get to know Power BI bit by bit without being thrown straight.

Another disadvantage of Power BI for some Excel experts is that it confronts users with a completely empty window, while Excel opens with a spreadsheet to be completed. This also has to do with modeling data, which is a high priority in Power BI. This is not the case in Excel. The software is almost self-explanatory, which makes the Office tool accessible and immediately usable for absolute beginners.

Business intelligence tool

In short, a rule of thumb is that you are better off with Power BI for extensive reports. Processing large amounts of spreadsheet data is easier to view in trends in Power BI than as a dashboard in Excel. Moreover, in Power BI they are easier to update, to share within the organization, external data sources are easier to link and the performance of the software is much better when crunching data. This is clearly a more useful tool for Business Intelligence than Excel, but Excel is usually the first choice for the processing of overviews, partly due to the extensive experience of employees with the software.

Knowledge Day Power BI

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