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Microsoft BI OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Microsoft BI is the #1 ranked solution in our list of top Business Intelligence Tools. It is most often compared to Tableau: Microsoft BI vs Tableau

What is Microsoft BI?

Microsoft BI is a business intelligence solution that turns data into insightful and useful business information that is relevant to all levels of the business.

Microsoft BI combines familiar Microsoft tools - Office, SharePoint, and SQL server, with extra features for end-users, such as Power View and Power Pivot. This powerful product gives businesses a competitive advantage by allowing end-users to better analyze their data, collaborate and better present their data.

Microsoft BI is also known as SSRS, SSAS, MSBI, MS Reporting Services, Power BI, Microsoft BI Tools, Microsoft Big Data, Power BI Pro, MS BI.

Microsoft BI Buyer's Guide

Download the Microsoft BI Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: October 2021

Microsoft BI Customers

Konica Minolta, Klout, Mahindra Satyam, The Weather Channel, Argus, Credit Suisse, NCR, and Sysmex.

Microsoft BI Video

Pricing Advice

What users are saying about Microsoft BI pricing:
  • "Pricing is a big advantage that Power BI has over Tableau. Power BI is three or four times cheaper than Tableau. For my personal use, I will definitely prefer a $20 monthly fee of Power BI rather than a $70 monthly fee of Tableau. If you pay altogether for Power BI, they give you a discount, whereas, with Tableau, there is no discount. There are three versions of Power BI: Free, Pro, and Premium. The Premium version comes with a lot of things. There is no extra or hidden fee. You pay every month, and the software is with you. If you upgrade, there will be some extra charges."
  • "For my primary use case, i.e. teaching students, the free version of Power BI is adequate."
  • "Setup is easy, and the cost is economical. You do sometimes need to pay additional costs for third party products which "plug-in" to Microsoft BI."
  • "We pay on a monthly basis which is approximately $10 per user on the Microsoft Power BI Pro license. At the moment we are still down at 400 users, but once we reach 500 users, we will move to the premium edition. The premium is $5,000 for unlimited users. Currently, with the 40 users, the cost is roughly $500."
  • "They are charging us by users in storage, and there is a license fee. My financial people handle all that. The client has already worked out a contract with Microsoft, and basically, we're getting government prices."

Microsoft BI Reviews

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Tariq Raza (MS Certified)
Operations & BI Analyst at American Hospital Dubai
Real User
Top 5
A complete ecosystem with an builtin ETL tool, good integrations with python and R, and support of DAX and Power Query (M languages)

Pros and Cons

  • "Power BI is a complete ecosystem. It has an integrated ETL tool and good connectivity with applications such as Office 365 and SQL. There are also solutions for RPA, such as Microsoft Power Automate and Microsoft Power Apps. Power BI now has integration with Power Query, which has an AI feature for text analytics. Text analytics is a very good feature. This feature is also there in Tableau, but I like it in Power BI because you can write something like, "What is the total sale in the Eastern region?", and it will give you the answer. For example, when you have different types of user opinions, you just run one algorithm and you will have the output that provides the number of positive and negative responses. You can even have a dashboard with positive remarks. This feature has been introduced recently. Power BI supports the DAX and Power Query M languages. These languages are making Power BI very strong in data analytics, and you can do many types of analysis."
  • "It should be more user-friendly. There are very small or tiny icons that you need to move very carefully. If you go a little bit up and down, some of the values change. Its user interface should be improved. It should be like Tableau. Its performance is also slow and should be improved. I definitely feel some sort of speed issues with Power BI. The integration of Excel with Power BI would also be good."

What is our primary use case?

Tariq: I am currently using it for my professional and training use. I am using the Power BI Premium per user recent scheme announced by Microsoft. In my current company, we are using Tableau.

What is most valuable?

Tariq: I’m going to go cover my TOP 5 Features for getting you started on your own visualisations so you can be up and running and leveraging Power BI within your own business in no time at all. Power BI Desktop Sure you probably want to build some beautiful and interactive reports and dashboards to share all those insights from your data with your business, but perhaps lacking the experience that report designers, data queries specialists or Excel Power Users have? Well now all your end users can easily access data and build their own reports using a simple yet powerful interface, Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop is a free download which provides an excellent canvas for creating your own masterpiece’s or perhaps just a simple report or dashboard tile. Power BI Desktop with its monthly release cycle is constantly evolving with newly added features or enhancements that can ‘bring data alive’ often in just a few minutes or hours. Visibility Data is arguably one of most precious resource that businesses are generating today. The key aim to be able to manipulate and easily combine this valuable data with other datasets, and then have a simple way to gain a deeper understanding of their business. With data often residing across multiple systems and formats, a valuable resource that businesses need is to be able to collate the various datasets and generate different ways to visual and understand it. In order to identify trends and relationships which were not previously visible and help make those important DECISIONS that business need to make every day based on the right facts. With a deeper understanding that comes from interpreting data in a visual form, the data world has become even more important for a business to be able to leverage and gain the competitive edge it needs; so it’s no wonder that Microsoft’s BI can provide so much value with the data-shaping and modelling capabilities to unlock hidden insights. Custom Visualisations Every business has its own culture and way of doing things, sometimes the ‘standard way’ of doing something just doesn’t cut it and a need to customise it to make it work is needed. The same goes for visualisations that come as standard with Power BI tool, which for some may not provide the depth or complexity of visualisation that is needed in order to ‘bring data alive’. However by accessing the growing library of custom visualisations or even creating ones that meet a specific need is perhaps a way to find a competitive edge. Import Excel Data One of the recent improvements that was added was the ability to import data from Excel. It has a wizard for making it very straight forward so your Excel ‘Power User’s’ now have even greater functionality to make sense of the data. Power Q&A Have you wanted to be able to ask questions in your own language and have it answered? Now Power BI makes that very easy with the Dashboard Power Q&A and the underlying data models. You just start typing in your question and the data model provides the context and answer which can then be manipulated to suit your own visualisation needs.

What needs improvement?

me to throw some light on the disadvantages of Power BI.


Power BI is good with handling simple relationships between tables in a data model. But, if there are complex relationships between tables, that is, if they have more than one links between tables, Power BI might not handle them well. You need to create a data model carefully by having more unique fields so that Power BI does not confuse the relationships when it comes to complex relationships.


In most cases, you might not feel the need to configure and optimize visualizations in Power BI. But even if you do, Power BI does not provide many options to configure your visualizations as per your requirements. Thus, users have limited options for what they can change in visuals.


The user interface of Power BI is often found crowded and bulky by the users. It is in the sense that there are many icons of options that block the view of dashboard or report. Most users wish that the user interface or the report canvas was clearer with fewer icons and options. Also, creating scrolling dashboards is a native feature.


As we know, the expression language used to deal with data in Power BI is DAX. However, you can perform a lot of actions using the DAX formula in Power BI, it is still not the easiest language to work with. Sometimes the formulas you create work well in Power BI, sometimes they don’t. You can concatenate up to two elements but concatenating more than two elements needs nesting statements.


Power BI has a limit of ingesting data at a time which is approximately 2 GBs of data. If you wish to import and use data of even greater volumes, you need to extend your free version to a paid version of Power BI. Also, users have reported that Power BI takes a little more than usual time or even hangs while processing millions of rows and columns of data.


Usually, Power BI is the easiest to use BI tool if you are using it simply to import data and create reports. But Power BI is an entire suite having a lot of other interrelated tools. When the purpose of your use is more than just creating reports in Power BI Desktop, you need to learn and master several other tools like Gateways, Power BI Report Server, Power BI Services, etc.


For how long have I used the solution?

Tariq: I have been using this solution for more than three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Tariq:

I am currently using it for my personal training, and I didn't find any stability issues, but when it comes to big data, there may be some sort of issues where the system might hang.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Tariq:

In terms of adding more users, there shouldn't be any issues or limitations. Currently, I am using it for my personal use.

For very big companies with large-scale data and many rules, there would be speed issues with Power BI. Therefore, I don't recommend Power BI at this level. For such organizations, Tableau is the best solution. I have tried Tableau in many companies with many nodes, and I found no speed issues with Tableau. So, I won't recommend Power BI for organizations where 2,000 or 4,000 computers are connected, and there are multiple branches with data coming from different countries.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tariq:

I contacted them for an installation issue related to the RPA Power Automate Desktop. I had downloaded this software, and I was trying to use it with Office, but there were some installation issues. I contacted Microsoft's technical team, and they logged in to my computer and fixed the issue.

Their support is very nice. They called me and then remotely connected to my computer through Teams. They gave me very good support, and I am perfectly satisfied with them.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Tariq: I can mentions main difference between Power BI and tableau which is as under. Advantages of Tableau Here, are pros/benefits of using Tableau BI: •Less cost of training •Very fast and easy to create visualizations •Good customer support •Data Interpreter Story-telling ability •Tableau offers a feature of visualization •It helps you to combine shape & clean the data for analysis. •It helps you to handle a large amount of data. •Uses scripting languages like R & Python to avoid performance for complex table calculations. •Allows users to create reports, dashboards, and stories using Tableau Desktop. Advantages of Power BI Here, are pros/benefits of Power BI •Offers pre-built dashboards and reports for SaaS Solutions •Provide real-time dashboard updates. •Secure and reliable connection to your data sources in the cloud or on-premises •Power BI offers quick deployment, hybrid configuration, and a secure environment. •Data exploration using natural language query. •Feature for dashboard visualization •New features frequently added that are great for excel users. •Extensive database connectivity capabilities Q&A feature publish to the web. •integration with both Python and R coding to use visualizations. •Power Query provides many options related to wrangling and clean the data. •Post publishing the data into Power BI web service can schedule refresh without manual intervention. •Power BI backed by the superpower of with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Disadvantages of Power BI Here, are cons/drawbacks of Power BI •Dashboards and reports only shared with users having the same email domains. •Power Bl will never mix imported data, which is accessed from real-time connections. •Power BI can't accept file size larger than 1 GB. •Dashboard never accept or pass user, account, or other entity parameters. Disadvantages of Tableau Here, are cons/drawbacks of Tableau •Relatively high cost •No change management or versioning •It is expensive, BI, when compared to other tools. •Importing custom visualization is a bit difficult. •Not offers easy methods for embedding reports to other applications. •Tableau is suitable only for a large organization which can pay for licensing cost. •The tableau does not offer support for artificial intelligence and machine learning. •There is integration with other Microsoft products like Power Apps , Dynamics 365, Office 365, and Microsoft Flow, which uses Single Sign-On (SSO).

How was the initial setup?

Tariq:

Its initial setup is very simple. There is no issue at all. If you have everything set up on your computer, it takes only 10 minutes.

In terms of maintenance, Power BI does not require any maintenance, but the database behind Power BI requires some sort of maintenance. Power BI is like a tap. It is just providing what is in the tank. For clean water, you just need to clean the tank at the back. To get good visualizations, you need to clean your database, tabling structure, and data modeling. If you are doing all data modeling in Power BI, then data modeling requires some sort of maintenance.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Tariq: Power BI comes in three levels – Desktop, Pro, and Premium. The Desktop level is free for individual users. Pro – The Pro plan costs $9.99 per user, per month and includes a mobile app, the ability to publish and share reports, a 1 GB model size limit, eight data refreshes daily, the ability to connect to over 100 data sources, embedded APIs and controls, AI visuals, data security and encryption, metrics for content creation and publishing and up to 10 GB per user maximum storage. Pro is available for free for companies that have the Microsoft 365 E5 solution. Premium (per user) – Microsoft launched this new pricing strategy that costs $20 per user, per month. It includes all of the features of the Pro plan, plus paginated reports, a 100 GB model size limit, 48 data refreshes daily, advanced AI features, XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity, data flows, the ability to analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, application lifecycle management and up to 100 TB of maximum storage. Premium (per capacity) – This plan starts at $4,995 per month per dedicated cloud compute and storage resource. It includes all of the features of the Premium per user plan, plus on-premise reporting, a 400 GB model limit, multi-location deployment management, Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) and autoscale add-on.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Tariq: No, I am diehard fan and accredited professional of Microsoft technologies, so I have no other thought.

What other advice do I have?

Tariq: I will suggest below guidelines to Power BI users. Limit the number of visuals in dashboards and reports According to Microsoft's Optimization guide for Power BI, placing many visuals in a single report slows report performance. Limit widget visuals to eight per report page and grids to one per page. Limit pages 30 points (cards: 1, gauges: 2, charts: 3, maps: 3, grids: 5). Limit tiles to 10 per dashboard. To improve Power BI report performance, remove unnecessary interactions between visuals By default, all visuals on a report page can interact with one another. For optimal report performance, interactivity should be minimized. Reduce the number of queries fired at the back end and improve report performance by disabling unnecessary interactivity. Enable Row-Level Security (RLS) Row Level Security restricts user access to certain rows in a database depending on the characteristics (role) of the user executing a query. With RLS, Power BI only imports data the user is authorized to view. Combining Power BI roles with roles in the back end can result in substantial performance gains. Test all roles before rolling out to production. Use Microsoft AppSource certified custom visuals Power BI certified visuals are AppSource visuals that have passed rigorous quality testing. Microsoft verifies that certified custom visuals have robust, high-performance code. Certified custom visuals are the only custom visuals that can be viewed in Export to PowerPoint mode and email subscriptions. Use preview feature of hierarchy slicers instead of custom visual If you need to show hierarchy in slicers, enable the preview feature provided by the Power BI desktop instead of using of a custom visual. Provide data categorization for Power BI reports (HBI, MBI, LBI) High Business Impact (HBI) data requires users to get a policy exception to share the data externally. Low Business Impact (LBI) and Medium Business Impact (MBI) data do not require exceptions. By using Power BI data sensitivity labels, you raise user awareness about required security and how reports should be shared inside and outside the organization. Use on-premises data gateway instead of Personal Gateway Personal Gateway takes data and imports it into Power BI. Enterprise Gateway (on-premises data gateway) imports nothing, which is more efficient when working with large databases. Use different Power BI gateways for Live Connection and Scheduled Data Refresh If the same gateway is used for Scheduled Data Refresh and Live Connection, Live Connection performance will slow down when Scheduled Data Refresh is active. Avoid this issue by creating separate gateways for Live Connection and Scheduled Data Refresh. Test custom visual performance on reports to ensure fast report load time; use an alternative visual if the chosen visual performs poorly Uncertified custom visuals are generally not tested by the Power BI team. Custom visuals can perform poorly when handling large datasets or complex aggregations. If a custom visual performs poorly, consider replacing it with a different visual. Limit complicated complex measures and aggregations in data models Push calculated columns and measures to the source where possible. The closer they are to the source, the higher the likelihood of improved performance. Create calculated measures instead of calculated columns. Use star schema to design data models. Use slicers sparingly Slicers are a great way of allowing users to navigate data, but they come at a performance cost. Each slicer generates two queries: one gets the data, and the other fetches selection details. Creating too many slicers negatively impacts performance. To evaluate which slicers are infrequently used, use the Filter pane and remove unnecessary slicers. Ensure the Power BI report and data source are in the same region With the tenant and data source in the same region, you can reduce network latency. The results are faster data transfer and faster query execution. Import only necessary fields and tables instead of entire datasets Ensure the model is as narrow and lean as possible. Power BI works on columnar indexes; longer and leaner tables are preferred. Ensure the cache update frequency aligns with the data source refresh frequency Cache update frequency should be set at similar intervals to data source refresh frequency. By default, the Power BI cache update frequency is set to one hour. If, for example, your data set refreshes only once per day, you should update the cache frequency accordingly. Use white or light background colors For users distributing printed reports, white or light backgrounds are printer friendly. Shorten numbers Don’t exceed three or four numerals when displaying numbers. Display measures to one or two numerals left of the decimal point and scale for thousands or millions. Use Report Tooltip pages to provide more context for the highlighted measure Report tooltips are a great way of sharing additional information on the metric. Use limited visuals in Report Tooltip. Ensure you select Tooltip field carefully (categorical or measure). Use templates (.PBIT files) to speed up and standardize report development instead of starting with an empty .PBIX Templates can be saved with custom color palettes and themes pre-incorporated. Templates ensure corporate branding is pre-applied to all pages. Templates ensure connections to commonly used data sources are already in place. Templates create commonly used DAX measures. Source: LinkedIn Use names that are meaningful to your business users or intended audience Power BI provides the ability to give aliases to report objects. Avoid ambiguity when naming columns and measures. Consider hiding unused columns in the data model. Source: LinkedIn Reduce queries Reduce the number of queries sent by Power BI using the settings for Slicers and Filters.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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BL
Certified Adjunct Faculty, School of Engineering and Computing at a university with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Top 5Leaderboard
Helps introduce data analytics in a way that students understand and appreciate

Pros and Cons

  • "What Power BI is, is a whole collection of templates of small amounts of data that can be used to do something for a real world project, that can be easily set up and become the business intelligence environment or a data warehouse for a large amount of data, for a real world customer. That's what is remarkable."
  • "When it comes to improvement, I would say there could be more tutorials for students in universities who are just learning it. And it wouldn't have to be just for students in universities. It might also be for the people who use it in the real world."

What is our primary use case?

I have taught and mastered many desktop tools, including Power BI, for the purpose of prototyping designs for business intelligence and data warehousing. Currently, I am teaching data analytics at graduate level and Power BI is on my schedule.

We teach tools like Power BI by going through common scenarios in a business intelligence environment, which most often deal with the factual numerics that get designed into a sales force reporting dashboard or similar solution, showing details like order placement, orders shipped and paid for, etc. The templates for these typically use a style of diagramming called star schema, which is a common dimension modeling technique. 

I can't say whether it's the most frequent real-world use case that a real customer would focus on, but for the level of our tutorials, a sales scenario might involve a description of customers, products, locations, maybe geography, and the timing of sales for trends analysis.

Other than Power BI, I also teach AWS and Azure, where I help guide students to plan and come up with architecture for deploying to the cloud. It's not actually very hands-on, as it's more to help with architecture diagramming for the intentions that students have when using them. And at our institution, all of our courses last only four weeks, so it's very fast tracked, which sometimes means that we don't really go too in-depth.

AWS has a lot of samples and diagrams, including many graphics that are fairly artistically detailed. The level at which I've helped students reference those kinds of diagrams is mainly for their team projects, to illustrate their intention, for example, to deploy a database into AWS. If it's an SQL Server database, we usually choose Azure. But it's not to actually do it. It's rather to have the intention to, for illustration purposes.

How has it helped my organization?

I had a brilliant student in May last year, 2019, who did her graduate capstone project - where I was her advisor - using Power BI. And she has two times now responded to my invitation to be a guest speaker on that tool to classes such as the data analytics class that I've been teaching for about 20 times now, going back six years.

At my institution, I'm the only one teaching database design, whether undergrad or grad, and I found Power BI was a very attractive tool to introduce during the database design class, and then later enable the students to use it for their capstone. Unfortunately, it didn't work out in November this year, because few of the students picked up on it and gave the actual time it would take to focus their attention on using Power BI templates.

Overall, my observation is that the enrollment is way down and the students who are still in the program are very distracted, I think because of the pandemic. Despite this, Power BI has helped me introduce students to business intelligence and data analytics because it's a very attractive and cost-effective tool (there's no cost to it, it's free).

Another reason I'm inspired to focus my time on helping students with Power BI is because of the analyses done by the Gartner Group and Forrester Research, wherein they reviewed the strengths of Power BI. Both of them call it a "killer app". That caught my attention. And Power BI seems like the best thing to suggest to the students.

And I'm up to it on my side teaching through online, although I'm regretting that I cannot go on a campus to be still there for the students whose strong preference is to be together in a room learning on site. I hope that in the class in May, there'll be more people really interested in actually using it. In November, I was hoping some of the students would, but for reasons such as the pandemic, these online students have too many distractions. Especially if they're also still working or they have families with kids at home.

What is most valuable?

What Power BI is, is a whole collection of templates of small amounts of data that can be used to do something for a real world project, that can be easily set up and become the business intelligence environment or a data warehouse for a large amount of data, for a real world customer. That's what is remarkable. And that's what it takes.

It makes use of the ordinary things, and they'll sound familiar. Excel, Access, or SQL Server as the database, and the deployment techniques like Azure for it to be in the cloud.

It's very heavily like Microsoft promoting its own products, but I forgive it because this time it works. And I'm speaking from some experience; I worked in the data warehouse technology group at Oracle for three and a half years, and I was helping Oracle's clients put up a data warehouse with Oracle as the database, and to migrate data into the Oracle database. So that was my background. And for me to be persuaded that this collection of regular, already known, already used desktop tools could work just as well, but with the added value of the samples, the templates, frequent updates, and lots of support. That says a lot.

It also has other features that I like, especially regarding the designs in the set of templates for things that would perhaps be very puzzling to somebody doing it for themselves. It has pre-built tables to hold, during project lifestyle, maybe a small select amount of test data with the intention of the large amount of data going into production after deployment. And it has all the table designs that start out generic but that can be easily customized.

What needs improvement?

When it comes to improvement, I would say there could be more tutorials for students in universities who are just learning it. And it wouldn't have to be just for students in universities. It might also be for the people who use it in the real world.

The evidence that I see when I look into it is there's a lot of user group type of connections to the Power BI world. And many, many bloggers telling their stories and promoting themselves or small businesses promoting themselves to do it for you using Power BI. The claim being that they could help you get it done instead of you doing it yourself. That's what goes on in this industry. You see a lot of entrepreneurial people who want to work in the role of consultant and get paid for it. There's a lot of that.

And the invitation to look into the websites comes from little mini tutorials, which can be very helpful. But the next step of those tutorials, if most of the people get what they want out of them, is a contract to do the work. I don't want to introduce those kinds of things to my students, because it's kind of promoting something that could be a distraction.

I worked for years as an independent consultant. I even did a fairly long series of contracts up in the state of Washington at Microsoft and I had 38 years in the industry before I became an academic teacher. But I'm avant-garde when it comes to sales. I avoid salesman because I don't want to believe the hype. I don't want to be deceived. And I don't want to suggest that somebody go that way. The topic of sales is overdone. This is an opinion on my part.

On a practical note, the process of importing data into a new environment that has recently been designed is always a major effort. And Power BI has some weaknesses when it comes to loading data into an otherwise good concept and a good design because if it's not seriously tested and all shortcomings noticed beforehand, the importing process will fail.

Even a cool tool like Power BI cannot anticipate the complexity of the variety of sources of data. But they're not alone. That would not be a disqualifier. But because I don't have direct yet, hands-on, having done this, I don't really know how Microsoft would improve this area.

I think they've got it handled on integration. Everything that you're working with is already a Microsoft environment or a Microsoft tool. It's integrated. But if you're using the desktop tools by Microsoft and you need to deploy into a backend of Oracle, there might be some things that a smart consultant has to help out with. So cross-platform integration could use some improvement in terms of ease-of-use.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used Microsoft BI in my data analytics classes for a few years now. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In an abstract sense, it's holding up. I don't speak to actual customers of Microsoft products to answer that question. But I would suggest that it's holding up because the Gartner Group put out another magic quadrant output that describes it as being in the leader category.

It's a well-respected research group, Gartner. In fact, companies that want to acquire its research for anything more specific or consulting, have to pay for it and have ownership. I don't pay for it. But there are many vendors who have my school email on their lists, so I get the reports for free, and I have my hands on quite a collection of the reports.

And that's why I'm mentioning them because the Gartner Group has mentioned Power BI twice now. So as far as long-term prospects go, I'd say Power BI is a stable solution.

How are customer service and technical support?

Microsoft provides frequent updates and a lot of support for Power BI.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have worked in the data warehouse technology group at Oracle for three and a half years, helping Oracle's clients deploy a data warehouse with Oracle as the database. But when Power BI came onto the scene, I was more and more persuaded to use it instead for business intelligence and data warehouse purposes. This was mainly because I enjoyed how easily Power BI builds on existing tools that I'm already familiar with like Excel and Access. 

How was the initial setup?

The setup is straightforward, because it exhibits itself within familiar tools, like spreadsheets.

The complexity comes when you try to convert from simple beginnings into something that needs to eventually become reality. But I'm guessing. I don't know that it's complex. And anyway, I personally like complex. It attracts my attention.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

For my primary use case, i.e. teaching students, the free version of Power BI is adequate.

What other advice do I have?

May is the next time I'll be teaching the data analytics class, the graduate class, and I will be actively trying to promote Power BI for the team project.

I would rate Microsoft Power BI an eight out of ten. 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Learn what your peers think about Microsoft BI. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: October 2021.
540,884 professionals have used our research since 2012.
RicardoPedro
Northern Europe IT Business Intelligence Manager at Adecco
Real User
Top 5
The tool is very flexible, allowing for creativity

Pros and Cons

  • "The tool is very flexible so it allows creativity."
  • "I think that the product would benefit by increasing the range of visuals and graphics readily available, as opposed to using a third party included as part of the product."

What is our primary use case?

Microsoft BI can be useful for several scenarios, depending on your end audience, or what they're looking for. Depending on your creativity, imagination, and what the tool allows you to build, you can create a lot of cool things with it. You can build a lot of very elaborate and dynamic reports for example. The most important thing to consider is to understand what your audience is looking for. The development side of the tool is not the problem.

How has it helped my organization?

The usability of the tool is very simple. If you know the basics, it's fine. Even if you don't have the basics, there is a lot of self-service documentation available which helps to guide the user to start to use the tool, and how to navigate through it. 

There was also a new feature added last month to help new users practice using the system by providing an example data set to experiment with. Power BI server can be run on-premise so that your reports are available locally. Or you can have a premium version, including all your reports on the Cloud. It can be determined by the number of refreshes required from the reports or can depend on the volume of users that are consuming the reports.

What is most valuable?

The tool is very flexible so it allows for creativity. Power BI allows you to incorporate Microsoft Visio diagrams and other graphics from Microsoft tools. You can also integrate third-party visual graphics created from other tools, such as R or Python. It is useful to be able to obtain additional charts or different types of graphics developed by a third-party tool. This gives you more options for your end solutions. However, for some third-party tools and graphics such as Zoom charts, you have to pay for those separately. This is useful if you really wish to mesmerize your audience with dynamic, interactive visuals.

Alternatively, if you just want to use what is available to you, and with a little bit of UX/UI knowledge and creativity, you can build really cool stuff with it. For example, you can have dynamic dashboards on a screen that is connected in real-time. Users can interact directly with the data, so when they click the mouse, they can see the data changing. There's a lot of things that you can do with it. Let's say you develop a report, to put on a big touchable screen. Let's say the CEO is presenting to someone, and he's on a big screen. As soon as he touches a dialogue or a graphic on the screen, all the data changes. 

As an example, in CNN news, or any news, where they are presenting, and there are some dashboards and reports, journalist clicks on the screen, and everything changes instantly. That's what Power BI can do. If you have touch screens Power BI allows you to interact with your data.

What needs improvement?

I think that the product would benefit by increasing the range of visuals and graphics readily available, as opposed to using a third party included as part of the product. One way they could do that is for Microsoft to buy some of those third party companies, as they are specialists in visual creation, and they are making money from that. However, I understand that perhaps Microsoft maybe doesn't want to invest in that side of the business. Perhaps it is a financial decision. I would say that if we can have those additional visuals built into the product, it will be great. Alternatively, in the future, there should be an additional tool there that allows you to create your own visuals. That will give users more flexibility. 

It would also be useful for users with little experience in coding, or other Microsoft tools such as Excel. For example, let's say, you are a random user, and you're just looking at the computer for the first time. You open Power BI, but you know you can go to an Excel file and connect to that Excel file from Power BI. This is very simple and intuitive. So, once you have connected to the data, you can see your fields on the right-hand side, and all you need to do then is to drag and drop the fields you need. You can then select a relevant visual or graphic, and put the information alongside that visual, and then you have the visual and the data created as one item. This is very useful and dynamic. This would also have the other huge advantage, in that it would be a cheaper solution to use. I would like the ability to reuse connections. 

For example, if I created a connection to an SQL server, and I published my report using that connection, and then shared my report, it would be useful to be able to reuse the existing connection to the SQL server. In this way, I can reuse the existing dataset to create another report. I believe this is already the subject of a support ticket. Say I then wanted to reuse another connection from a different connection, say Oracle, to use in the same report, I could use the connections to those two sources and build the report. If I already have the sources online, and available for me, it would make sense that I could reuse them. At the moment, you can only reuse one data source. You cannot reuse more than one data source, at least if the data sources are online. One workaround would be to access each data source in turn, to obtain the data for the report. However, from October 2020, when using Excel driven reports, it is possible to reuse data flows or reuse the data component, from Power BI in Excel. So Microsoft has already implemented it for Excel, but it is still in the preview features. That will help a lot in financial areas. This could also impact company sales forecasts and sales.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have 10 years of experience using BI tools, like Tableau, Power BI, QuickView, and MicroStrategy. I have a background in technical architecture but my main expertise is in BI tools. I use Power BI. It's a business intelligence tool that helps you develop and create reports that you can connect to various data sources. Then you can slice and dice, and build what you want to build from there.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Microsoft BI is stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The product is scalable, and new updates come out every month.

How are customer service and technical support?

Microsoft Technical Support is very good. If I need their assistance, they will liaise with me. They are very flexible, useful, and very friendly. They are very open to helping you out. So depending on how you escalate your call, and say it's a high-priority issue they contact you very fast. They have support lines globally. So if I'm in the Czech Republic, I may be contacted by someone from Romania, or from India, or another zone. It's fine, if, for example, I'm not English, and I need to speak to someone who speaks Spanish, they put me in touch with someone who speaks Spanish. There is a lot of available support for Power BI, and they have their own Power BI page called Power BI Support. Power BI issues are registered on that page. Support usually fixes the issues within the given timeframe. The other good part about Power BI is the huge Microsoft community that it is there. So you can raise tickets and use the community which is on the same page. Sometimes the community helps you find your solution. So, it provides two ways to access support solutions.

How was the initial setup?

It's easy to install which helps new users to the product. The installation process is easy. You can install it from the Microsoft store, or you can go directly to the Microsoft portal, and download the version that you require. It keeps historical versions available in case you need to test a different version. The advantage of the Microsoft store is that as soon as you install it from there, it always keeps you updated with the latest version. Also from a Power BI service point of view, you have several capabilities. The learning curve comes in when researching the different features, and what is new in the product, as well as what is going to be provided in future versions. The advantage of Power BI is that every month you have something new provided with the update. For example, you may have a new connection, additional visuals, or use new narratives.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We have 8,000 Power Bi licenses in our organization, so it is widely used. Setup is easy, and the cost is economical. You do sometimes need to pay additional costs for third party products which "plug-in" to Microsoft BI.

What other advice do I have?

I would give Microsoft BI a 10 out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
BlessingSithole
Software Engineer at syntegra
Real User
Top 10
Easy data source connecting, simple implementation, but needs more financial visuals

Pros and Cons

  • "I also find connecting to different data sources is quite simple. Other solutions we were using before were complicated."
  • "I think that there should be visuals for financial reporting videos. It should just be a plug and play because there is a lot of coding that goes into it with different clients."

What is our primary use case?

We are an analytics company, and we consult for different companies. Currently, we were doing automation of financial reporting, income statements, balance sheets, cash flow, and different kinds of analysis on revenue and products. We extract data from ERP solutions, accounting data, and then we transform that into financial reports.

What is most valuable?

The data modelling and the use of decks are key features. It is difficult to create financial statements using most BI solutions, with decks it is a bit easier to summarize data and to have cascading totals that you would find in an income statement or balance sheet. Most other solutions, you can not have a moving total but with this solution, we found it very easy to implement. 

I also find connecting to different data sources is quite simple. Other solutions we were using before were complicated. 

What needs improvement?

I think that there should be visuals for financial reporting videos. It should just be a plug and play because there is a lot of coding that goes into it with different clients. We should have a visual for income statements and other elements, this should be made easier. For example, suppose you are looking at an inventory report, it is all plug and play because you can just use a matrix or a table to summarize the information and the visuals. The systems are more adapted to that kind of area than for financial purposes.

For the next release, I think they need to improve on getting more visuals that are related to the finance side of things. Like I mentioned before, the matrix now is more of an OLAP cube, we are looking into something more adapted to the finance field, such as a drag and drop where you can build an income statement very quickly without too much code. This would be a nice addition. 

As far as I understand Microsoft has two solutions that are similar, Power BI Report Builder and Power BI Desktop. The features that you get in Power BI Desktop are more advanced than the features that you get in Power BI Report Builder. They should just merge the two and move forward this way. There is no reason to have two different applications serving the same purpose.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the solution for 18 months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The biggest problem we have had is refreshing with MySQL, we are using a MySQL backend. It has to refresh all the data at once and store it in a cache, is my understanding. I am not sure where Power BI stores the data that it gets from the warehouse, this takes some time. If there are interruptions in the network, then the figures become messed up at some point. It should either commit all the data or it should not commit anything at all if there are errors. I think that is the biggest issue we have had so far.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are rolling out the solution to various clients and one of them is a large client in the manufacturing industry. The solution scalability is very good, we can do a lot with it.

We have about 40 users at the moment. As we continue to expand, we are looking at approximately 20 companies with about five users at a time. Currently, we have done five companies, but I think by the end of this quarter, we should have about 100 users in total. At the end of the year, we hope to have at least 200 users from different financial departments in different companies. It is my team that does the financial reporting, we also have other companies that have the operations and logistics. We are looking to probably double that figure because eventually, we should be moving to the enterprise license. We had seen that the enterprise license will be beneficial to us. If everything goes as planned, we are looking at about 500 users at some point.

How are customer service and technical support?

At the moment we have not needed much technical support from Microsoft. Most of the problems we have faced have either been resolved by someone else on the forums available. We also have an expert consultant in the UK who helps us. The areas that have needed assistance has been very minimal.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We have used Eclipse BIRT and Knowage in the past but were not as good and more complicated. We find Power BI is more direct, it is much easier to connect to other data sources and so forth.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was very straightforward. You just download through the Windows Store or through the website, then you just start to connect your databases.

What about the implementation team?

The first deployment took approximately four months. The data preparation took most of the time, once we got into Power BI we had most of our financial reports in a month.

Part of our implementation strategy was to get the requirements from the customer, documents, information on what they were using before, key performance indicators and other information. Afterwards, we started to build the data warehouse with the requirements in mind. We tried to mimic the reports that they were using before when we were building the Power BI reports. We tried as much as possible to have reports that look similar to the reports to meet our customer's needs.

There is a similarity between Microsoft Excel and Power BI. If you understand one it make the other easier to understand. If you grasp Excel, it is easy to grasp Power BI as a user. We wanted to make it as similar as possible to the Microsoft Excel experience, with the drill-downs and the pivot tables and so forth. I think with the matrix in Power BI, it is more or less similar, it is the same experience. To summarize our implementation strategy, it was to try to mimic the reports as much as possible and then add more features that are available in Power BI.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We pay on a monthly basis which is approximately $10 per user on the Microsoft Power BI Pro license. At the moment we are still down at 400 users, but once we reach 500 users, we will move to the premium edition. The premium is $5,000 for unlimited users. Currently, with the 40 users, the cost is roughly $500. 

There can be some additional cost, for instance, it was an internal decision to have an on-premises gateway set up with the standard Windows Server installed on it. We had to set up this server on our side, which costs us no more than $400. This was important because we needed something to allow our reports to refresh on a regular interval without people using the personal gateways.

What other advice do I have?

I would advise those thinking about implementing the solution to compare different products to see what is on the market. They have to look at the pricing which is what we looked at initially, I think it quite affordable. Additionally, research the infrastructure that is required and the cost per user for the different BI solutions. Some of the solutions are cheap, such as Eclipse BIRT and Knowage, but it takes a lot of efforts to get your reports out with them.

With this solution, it is more of a drag and drop scenario. You have a quicker delivery time as compared to the traditional or the older BI solutions.

The biggest lesson I have learned with working with this solution has been in the area of data warehousing, you should develop something that is more like a star schema when building a BI solution, especially with this solution. It makes things much easier. We did not favour the star schema, we preferred the snowflake approach. However, data modelling is easier when you use the star schema.

I rate Microsoft BI a seven out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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LunikKanungo
Solutions Architect at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
Real User
Top 20
Easy to learn with good data preparation features and good stability

Pros and Cons

  • "As it was my first time using Power BI, I can say that it was fairly easy to learn, especially if you already know BI-type tools."
  • "The one thing that I noticed specifically was the graphical features, and some of the analytical features. They were stronger on the Tableau side."

What is our primary use case?

There were two systems that the client was looking at creating some BI visualizations for. There was the system called ICE, which is a system that takes in automated calls, for service calls. They go into voicemail, however, if there's not an agent to take the call, it'll track statistics like how long a client was on hold, if an agent actually took the call, if the person hung up, et cetera. There are all of these different statuses and it would take all of those statistics. The product was used primarily to take that data in that case.

The other system was an ITSM system, which was the ticketing system. It would

it was my first time using Power BI, I can say that it was fairly easy to learn, especially if you already know BI-type tools. But the one thing that I noticed specifically was the graphical features, and some of the analytical features, I think they were stronger on the Tableau side. But the data preparation features, I much preferred the Power BI with the Power Query type features, at least for the datasets that we were working with. They were helpful in preparing the data.

 combine those two data sets and reduce a merged analytical set of reports to just show when the call volumes were and what the performance rate was and the nature of the calls and things like that.

What is most valuable?

As it was my first time using Power BI, I can say that it was fairly easy to learn, especially if you already know BI-type tools. 

The data preparation features were great. I much preferred the Power BI with the Power Query type features - at least for the datasets that we were working with. They were helpful in preparing the data.

What needs improvement?

The one thing that I noticed specifically was the graphical features, and some of the analytical features. They were stronger on the Tableau side.

There are two areas where the solution can be enhanced. One is natural language, where you can have third parties, however, it would be nice to have it built-in within Power BI, where a graph could be automatically explained in whatever language so that somebody can just kind of read through and have the graphic as an extra for exploring. That's something that I was looking at.

The other is the explained data, which is more of a lineage-type feature. My understanding is Tableau has that feature and Power BI doesn't. I was looking at a graph of comparisons and I noticed Tableau had this explained data feature, which gives, some lineage where data has come from, and Power BI doesn't have that. Or, if it does, it's not as well developed as Tableau.

For how long have I used the solution?

I used the solution a few months ago. I'm semi-retired, however, I did have a two-month contract and did some work with it. On the project, I did work a lot with Tableau, however, I also used Power BI, and would like to continue to use it more. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It was a short project on the Power BI side. I didn't really identify any glitches. Certainly, over time things might've come out, however, I enjoy doing experimenting and playing around with things. The one definite thing that I noticed, as I do art with Tableau, is some really neat art stuff, so I tried to replicate that with Power BI and the quality just wasn't there.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

With ITSM, there's a lot of data that they collect on that side. That could be an issue, scalability. It wasn't moved to production yet. I basically produced a report as there were some issues with the ICE data, the voicemail system, and data collection. They had some issues that they had to solve. However, they were collecting data on a daily basis. You get thousands and thousands of calls on a daily basis. It depends on how they want to store that data historically. There may be some performance issues and scalability issues, however, for me, I can't really address that, as I didn't see that side. There's always a potential for trouble.

How are customer service and technical support?

It was a really short project for me. I was really there just to analyze those two data sources and produce a report for them, with some examples, using Power BI. I was able to do that without getting tech support involved.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I've used other solutions, such as Tableau and Power Query. Tableau from a graphical point of view is much better than Power BI, however, from a data manipulation standpoint and things like that, I prefer Power BI and Power Query to prep the data.

Tableau got bought out by Salesforce, which is a cloud-based company, so they're all going to push everything to the cloud. I'm sure they'll incorporate all these new features.

How was the initial setup?

I downloaded the solution from their website. 

The server side was already set up, therefore, I don't know much about the initial setup process. As a contractor, I came in just on the development side, which was just downloading the Power BI tool as a client. It was fairly easy. That's the nice thing is it's easy to set up. It is similar to Tableau, in that Tableau is fairly easy to set up. It is all built towards this whole idea of self-service.

What other advice do I have?

I'm just a customer.

As I downloaded the solution right off the website, I assume it was the latest version. I don't know the version number off-hand. 

I would do the development on-pre

There were two systems that they were looking at creating some BI visualizations for. So there was the system called ICE, which is a system that takes in automated calls, for service calls. And so goes into voicemail, but if there's not an agent to take the call, it'll track statistics like how long you were on hold, if an agent actually took your call, if you hung up. All of these different statuses would take all of those statistics. And so it was to take that data.

And the other system was the ITSM system, which is the ticketing system. And kind of combine those two data sets and reduce a merged analytical set of reports to just show when were the call volumes were, and what was the performance rate, and the nature of the calls and things like that.

It's easy to set up, however, regarding scalability and high-end analytical features, Tableau is still better on that. It's always important to keep up, as technology's changing all the time. They're always adding new features. There are no negatives in exploring these tools. In the end, you just want some visualizations that help you make decisions. Both Tableau and Power BI tools are great for that. However, if you want advanced stuff, then it's just about experimenting and seeing what will help you solve your problems.

I'd rate the solution at an eight out of ten.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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NG
Managing Director at Streamline Strategies
Reseller
Easy to use, integrates well, and gives us the ability to collaborate and keep track of everything

Pros and Cons

  • "It is easy to use. It has got a desktop where people can develop their own dashboards. Basically, we have figured out how to connect finance contracts and all programs for the government agency. So, they can see everything in a dashboard. So, it is very easy to use from a technical standpoint of view."
  • "Its desktop tool is a little bit memory CPU intensive, and it can be improved, but the machines nowadays come with a lot of memory. For the desktop users who are using it on the desktop, we recommend that they do an upgrade. It is a minor issue. We can fix it on the desktop."

What is our primary use case?

We are using it for financial analytics and reporting. We are using it to keep a track of projects and being able to degrade the projects. We are also using it for contract closeout.

My technical guy has been using the first version of it since it came out, but we are getting ready to upgrade to the newer version. It comes along in a bundle with the 365 Enterprise version.

It is on the cloud. We're probably going to run a hybrid because we want to be able to move around. If anything happens or if needed, we can move from platform to platform.

How has it helped my organization?

We can see things from a bird's eye view. We can do predictive analytics. I can tell who's capable, who's doing what, when and how much money they're spending, and how fast they're burning. So, it gives us a bird's eye view over the financials and the money. It basically gives us the ability to collaborate and keep track of everything that's going on in an organization. We were able to bring all the collaboration and tasks right into Power BI.

What is most valuable?

It is easy to use. It has got a desktop where people can develop their own dashboards. Basically, we have figured out how to connect finance contracts and all programs for the government agency. So, they can see everything in a dashboard. So, it is very easy to use from a technical standpoint of view. We publish a report every morning for the government, and we got all the data into one place. The data can be refreshed. We are using the API to connect to various systems, such as the financial system, contract writing system, and workflow. We are able to bring things from NIPA, which is their budget and where they keep all their money. There are a lot of features, but the most important thing is it is very easy to use. It is not like Tableau. With Tableau, you've almost got to be a rocket scientist.

On the user side, it is quite simple. If you know how to run a pivot table, and then you can do almost anything. All the data is right there in the database. So, if you understand pivot tables and know how they are run, and you know the reports that you are looking for, then everything becomes very easy to run in your organization.

What needs improvement?

Its desktop tool is a little bit memory CPU intensive, and it can be improved, but the machines nowadays come with a lot of memory. For the desktop users who are using it on the desktop, we recommend that they do an upgrade. It is a minor issue. We can fix it on the desktop.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using Microsoft BI for about four and a half years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Its stability is pretty good. It is pretty stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I would rate it an eight out of 10 in terms of scalability. Currently, we are running a pilot. We're doing a pilot for army headquarters. They dictate what happens and what they use. Currently, there are 10 users, but I'm looking to go up to at least a hundred. 

We got an architect and an assistant administrator. We got a staff of three and a half people because people take vacations or sick leaves. The good part about it is that these people can work from anywhere.

How are customer service and technical support?

We are a Microsoft reseller. We have partnered with Microsoft. We have developed a relationship with their technical folks over the years. So, we kind of go directly to them. My partner came from Microsoft, so he has a very good relationship with a few technical folks. So, we, kind of, have some special privileges that a couple of other vendors don't have.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

As a matter of fact, we had built a tool, but it took so long to get it vetted and get it through to ATOs. That's when we decided to convert to Microsoft Power BI. It has already been vetted and approved in the army environment. It is an approved government site for cloud services. We were looking for the easiest path, and that's why we worked with Microsoft BI. They've already been embedded into the government. It is bundled with Office 365.

How was the initial setup?

If my technical person had to rate it, he would say very easy. All we need is to have the software.

What about the implementation team?

It was done in-house.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

They are charging us by users in storage, and there is a license fee. My financial people handle all that. The client has already worked out a contract with Microsoft, and basically, we're getting government prices.

What other advice do I have?

The backend is the most important part. We understand its backend. We implemented the on-time system for an airport. We don't find its modeling complicated. We set up the back offices and get all the modeling done and everything connected. The customer doesn't even see that. They only see the part where they're running their reports and doing the analytics or whatever they need to do. We give them all the information at their fingertips.

Everybody is going to Business Analytics. A lot of people don't understand the difference between analytics and coding, but that's something for me to teach and educate them on.

I would advise doing your testing and environment setup. You should evaluate your product very well and figure out what platform your organization is running on. You should be careful and look at how well it integrates with other products. If you're not in a Microsoft environment, it is going to be quite difficult. Oracle and Microsoft are competitive. So, you go with one or the other. The reason why I like Microsoft is that they integrate with all applications. Microsoft controls 99% of the desktops.

I would rate Microsoft BI a nine out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer:
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Okay Akdeniz
Business Application Group Manager at OBASE
Real User
Top 5Leaderboard
Scalable with various licensing options and offers good technical support

Pros and Cons

  • "Technical support is quite good."
  • "The licensing needs improvement. There needs to be a middle option between Pro and Premium versions."

What is our primary use case?

We primarily sell Power BI licenses. 

Mostly, we focus on the retail industry. Usually, we are using the Power BI reports for dashboards. We are also providing our customers with some data warehouse reporting. Basically, we do long-term categorization of stock and inventory numbers and sales figures so that they can compare the sales and stocks to the inventory numbers.

We tend to deal with physical inventory reports. We tend not to deal with the solution for financial operations.

What is most valuable?

The solution has different licensing tiers.

The product can scale if you need it to.

Technical support is quite good.

With the cloud deployment, there's no setup required.

The product works well for small or mid-level organizations.

What needs improvement?

The solution's stability could be improved. In the retail industry, due to issues with information updating and data uploading. Clients may end up pricing items wrong as they could accidentally base their choices on old or wrong data.

The licensing needs improvement. There needs to be a middle option between Pro and Premium versions. It could also be less expensive.

For how long have I used the solution?

While we have experience with Microsoft tools for the past ten years, I personally have had experience with Microsoft BI for the past two or so years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is not really stable. I've faced a lot of limitations especially in terms of some data flows updates. We have faced some exceptions. Right now, we have created a case for Microsoft in order to solve some problems we've been having as, right now, there's some sort of system fault.

While the platform is a little more stable, the big problem is the latency issues around customer updates.

In a recent project, in Sweden, we faced an exception in Power BI from the update path. Whenever we refresh the animations and the fact tables, we faced something that said we couldn't upload the data. After 20 minutes we tried to refresh again. We didn't change anything with our reports or platform or anything related to infrastructure or schema. We didn't touch anything. An yet, the data is updated successfully. That leads us to ask the question: what was the problem 20 minutes ago? We still don't know the answer.

That is why we need some stability for the update service. We are deciding some business decisions based on this data. If this data is not updated, we may decide to take the wrong path. 

This is very important in the retail industry. For example in the grocery field, sometimes with vegetables or fruits or other products, customers need to decide to change the prices within lock days. They need to decide, based on demand, if they should increase or lower prices. They can't make the correct decisions if the numbers don't update.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability potential actually depends on your licenses. Microsoft provides three licenses. One of them is absolutely free. Another is called Pro. Yet another is per user or Premium. There is a huge difference between the Pro license and the Premium license. There is no need to scale the Pro license or other license models.

When you put the on-premise reports, you can scale out or scale up. It depends on your existing resources. However, in the services as a software (SaaS) version, it actually comes with Microsoft's units or Microsoft resources. 

How are customer service and technical support?

We have an ASFP agreement with Microsoft. As a Gold Partner, Microsoft is pretty good and responding automatically and helping us resolve issues.

If a partner does not have an ASFP agreement, they tend to have to go to forums or try to Google answers to their problems.

We are aware that sometimes when we make changes to BI, the solutions might be complex. There might be SQL involved, which needs to be taken into account, for example. We may have to look into other resources and other tools to see if there are interactions that are the issue. However, Microsoft is quite helpful as we work through issues. We're quite satisfied with their level of support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We also work with and sell MicroStrategy in Turkey. 95% of the MicroStrategy projects have been completed with our company. It is a direct competitor with Power BI. My company commonly does consulting for some small and medium markets and for that we recommend Power BI. Whenever we talk about enterprise-level solutions, the company we will use is MicroStrategy.

How was the initial setup?

There isn't much of an installation process, as the solution is on the cloud.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

There is a free license, however, it is limited. The Premium license and the Pro license functionalities are very different. Whenever we talk with our customers, they ask "Should we chose the Premium?" We say that "No, you don't need to, as it's too expensive. It is much more expensive than the Pro license." However, the Pro license functionality is not enough for some customers. There is no middle between Pro and the Premium. We need something in between.

The Pro license is maybe suitable for SMBs, small and medium-sized businesses. The premium version is ideal for companies that need to scale up and out.  

There also may be some additional costs that can drive up the price.

What other advice do I have?

I prefer this product and I suggest Power BI to all customers, however, we know that if Power BI is a new idea, we make sure to show company-specific data or analytics for analyzing the data and how this solution can analyze everything quickly. That said, it's not for everybody. If all companies tried to put all their reporting expectations in the Power BI, it would not fit their expectations.

It's not a standalone solution. You need other items in your toolbelt. You need, for example, something that can handle raw data, you need warehousing, et cetera.

In general, I would rate the solution eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller
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VK
CFO at Travel Food Services ltd
Real User
Top 5
Very scalable and stable with a fluid interface

Pros and Cons

  • "The interface is very fluid."
  • "The challenge of this product is in truncating the table data."

What is our primary use case?

We're a retail hospitality chain spread throughout India, operating over 330 outlets across the country in various formats, ranging from a coffee chain to fast food restaurants through our in-house bespoke brands. All these brands run out of travel hubs like airports, railway stations, and highways stops. We needed a solution to manage both the multiple SKU levels and in terms of individual dynamics, the profitability of each store. We constantly track the various types of back-end raw materials, specifically on our prediction modeling where we use Power BI. We also use Power BI analytics to drive those results with regard to the day-to-day dashboarding, reporting in terms of collection, on sales trends per hour, manpower and the like. We are customers of Microsoft and I'm the CIO. 

What is most valuable?

I like that the interface is very fluid in the sense that you can upload via Excel or you can attach via connectors, any software you like.

What needs improvement?

The challenge of this product is in truncating the table data. It would be great if Microsoft would include a naming convention which has the advantage of enabling a VLOOKUP on top of it, so two tables can be merged more seamlessly. Currently, the time it takes to merge two tables in Power BI makes the entire analysis quite complex because it requires common numbering in one table and then creating another common indicator in another table in order to merge the two. It wastes precious time. 

Secondly, while they talk about visual analytics, sometimes the challenge is when you're looking for more in terms of geovisual analytics, such as city maps which requires a functionality whereby you can upload transactions. For example, if I want to visually present my data on an airport map, showing which stores are generating what revenue dependent on the traffic heat map, I am unable to do that because I cannot upload drawings. Ideally, I'd like to show each store as a bar map with waves explaining the sales in each location. It allows me to pinpoint which locations are more profitable. 

I'd like to see a degree of variability so I have the flexibility of putting those variable components in my predictive modeling, and I can get a feel for the trends. It requires a common input database. You can do it in Excel, but you can't do it in Power BI, which I find surprising.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using this solution for nine months. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product is fairly stable, it doesn't get too many upgrades or updates from that perspective so it's fairly straightforward in terms of implementation and our entire ecosystem was on Microsoft which helped us. The only area that can be problematic is when you're trying to create relationships between two databases and you're trying to link it with your Power BI solution, sometimes that mapping takes considerable time.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is scalable. We are a cluster of eight legal entities and we've been able to expand to all of them. We started with 20 outlets and today we have 350 outlets. We are more granular and today Power BI allows us to drill down to the last voucher. We have around 14 users from the finance and operations teams.

How are customer service and technical support?

We haven't needed to call Microsoft, because we worked with one of their gold partners in India. So we are on an AMC model with them in terms of manpower. If there are any problems or upgrades we need, we reach out to the partner. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward for the simple reason that our entire ecosystem was on Microsoft and we use Azure Web Services in terms of hosting. We split the entire project into two parts to simplify things. The first part was more about the granular analysis of sales and various other elements, which took considerable time due to the many external stakeholders involved. Phase two was relatively simple, because it was department specific and we created a split team, which led to the creation of a better platform.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Licensing is on an annual basis. We have a complete Microsoft Ecosystem license. I think there is room for improvement with the licensing, specifically during the pandemic when it would have been reasonable to offer a discount. Many other companies, SAP and Oracle, for example, gave waivers to the MSME sector. Microsoft traditionally is used by smaller or medium-sized companies so I was expecting some sort of discount on the pricing, but unfortunately that didn't happen. We managed to avoid an escalation in cost, but frankly speaking, a discount would have been much appreciated.

What other advice do I have?

It's important to understand your entire ecosystem in terms of your tables; the kinds of tables your back-end database has and the elements of analysis that you are looking at. If you are looking at predictive modeling, you need to have at least two to three years of data, because that allows you to define the trajectory of the predictive modeling. Otherwise, it doesn't serve any purpose. Secondly, be very specific with your implementation partner, as to how you'd like a particular visualization tool to look, otherwise you may not get what you want. Finally, it's important to invest in people and create a center of excellence made up of people who know Power BI well, or who will get trained and certified on it. You'll need an in-house team which can do the small tweaks and changes as you require, otherwise you'll get stuck each time you need to do something.

I rate this solution an eight out of 10. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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