Tuesday 27 November 2018

Why Microsoft Power BI is a Big Deal

To understand why Microsoft Power BI is a big deal, you have to got back a bit. 153 years back, to be precise.

You would no doubt agree that businesses fail or flourish depending on how quickly they can adapt to new information. Whether it’s a competitive move, or a change in consumer tastes, ignoring intelligence is at best damaging, and at worst fatal. Over 150 years ago Richard Devens used the term business intelligence to describe profiting from timely decision making based on intelligence, or data. Back in 1865, acting on intelligence before the competition was unusual enough for comment, and is arguably still noteworthy today. But while we still use the term business intelligence, we actually mean something quite different.

Today businesses run on software systems - from banking to sales leads, invoicing to estimating. Business intelligence (BI) is also digital - instead of relying on the relatively haphazard activity of noticing what’s going on, we now methodically and systematically process and transform data. BI systems require a budget and project managers to turn disparate data into consolidated, useful information. While just about all businesses have more data than they can handle (estimates suggest that only 0.5% of data is analysed) not all have a business intelligence system. It seems that some things never change.

The modern term business intelligence, refers to a set of technologies that facilitate the analysis of data generated within the business. Data warehouses take data from the different systems, and bring them together into one useable form. If you’ve ever tried to figure out which system holds the correct version of the data you want, you will know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Reporting systems then provide access to the data warehouse, giving decision makers good, clean, and timely information.

If the data in our business systems were easy to access and match up, we wouldn’t need BI systems. And if the data were always good quality, up to date, and available when we needed it, we wouldn't need BI systems. The reality is that for many businesses, data is siloed, available only to the department who owns it. Data is neither correct nor up to date, because people are busy and pulled in many different directions. The result is that people make decisions based on incomplete evidence, or carry out instructions in the belief that someone, somewhere has better data than they do.

For large businesses, the expense of implementing a business intelligence system is worthwhile; they hold a lot of data, and there are a lot of people who need access to it. For smaller businesses, there are spreadsheets. So prevalent are spreadsheets, it is often said they are the world’s most popular business intelligence tool. But they do have their limitations, and whilst it’s true that small and medium sized businesses have less data than the multi-nationals, they still have a lot of data, and they still need to be competitive. The playing field is anything but level.

Which brings us up to the present, because a new kid has arrived on the block. A powerful business intelligence system called Microsoft Power BI. Related to the spreadsheet in that it has taken some of the more powerful technologies from Excel, Microsoft has created a true business intelligence system that is capable of handling large volumes of data, producing real insights, and includes visualization capabilities that once belonged only in eye-wateringly expensive BI tools. Power BI is a truly democratizing piece of software, and a big deal for all businesses.

If you'd like to know more about what Microsoft Power BI can do for your business, follow the link to our web site and get in touch.

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