Microsoft Power BI - Excel Lovers Dream
Updated November 04, 2014

Microsoft Power BI - Excel Lovers Dream

Sean Warren | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version

Current SaaS based

Modules Used

  • Power View, Power BI all

Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft BI

We use Microsoft Power BI across all departments in our company. Power BI is used in reporting and data mining. This allows us to see trends and to identify areas of concern with in our hospital systems that we currently serve. The distribution through Microsoft SharePoint allows for a high adoption rate.
  • Ease of use: For end user Microsoft Power BI is incredibly easy to use. Excel is simple for most people. The presentation through SharePoint gives users with any medium the ability to instantly use the dashboards. End users are able to use mobile, local and just about anyway they would choose.
  • High Adoption Rate: We had a very high adoption rate causing many of our users to be incredibly engaged. The adoption of is due to many users already familiar with the tools they grew up on. If you grew up on Excel, then you will instantly feel at home in the tools. The new add ons are rarely a challenge even for novice users.
  • Mapping functions: The mapping functions are one of the cooler features. Power Maps automatically recognizes zip codes and other addresses much like other packages. The one item I really liked was the ability to create a movie file that would play over time showing the growth across a map through the different areas. Saved as a MP4 then blended with music made this function particularly delicious for many of our end users.
  • The Gateway: MS has provided a really cool little trick. The Gateway. I will explain this part later in my review.
  • On the occasion some of the plug ins run unusually slow. I don't know if it's because they run in Silver Light or what. :) The plug ins have locked up more than once (once a week). My installation got so slow that I had to actually reinstall a couple of times over the past year. Is this a show stopper? For me, it was not. There are other features that keep me glued in. The office repair utility makes the re install a snap and if you are a realistic Microsoft fan, then you almost come to expect it.
  • The natural Language selection: We are a MS SQL house and we love MS. We have the skills for high end SQL statements with a full development staff but we still wanted to try the natural language selection tool. To no avail. We tried redoing the data and that did not work either. I'd call this beta still.
  • I would like to see them improve their visualizations. They are Microsoft and can easily compete with some of the visualizations of Micro Strategy, Tableau and Domo. They simply choose not to.
Microsoft is a distant me too in a world that is crowded and drowning in BI Me too products. Visualizations 5/10. Micro Strategy, ClickView, Domo, BOBJ etc will kill this product. The issue is cost and speed to implementation. The cost is far less than any of the previously mentioned items. The implementation time could be a fraction of those products. The implementation of this product can be as simple as connecting Excel to the database (Create the relationships that you can do in the dbase or the query in Excel) and pushing to the Cloud. From the cloud based app you simply launch the gateway. The gateway is a breeze for anyone to connect with. The gateway only needs path back and its a breeze. No IT guys needed, no professional services, no firewalls or routing tables to configure. Just plug and play. This feature alone is the key product differentiation in my review. We already had the tables developed and ETL be damned, they all push from the MS-SQL dbase directly to cloud. Is this going to be big and fast in an environment with Data Universe's, API's to other products, and true Enterprise class features. I dont think so. Is it good enough for most small to medium companies or departments? Yes.
I will renew because the pain to change, rip out and buy new is simply too much to live through. I am under the assumption that this is still 1.0. Microsoft will better my concerns and I still see them adding features from time to time. They have released new versions of the Power Query, and the Gateway over the past couple of months. They have single evenhandedly turned Excel from the preferred tool of presentation to making Excel Middle ware. Middle Ware? Don't hang up and close the browser yet. Yup, its middle ware. Excel connects to the data, SQL database or the data model, Excel is the tool that passes the information to the real presentation layer. Excel is just a middleware tool that has become more powerful than ever and the platform that Microsoft BI resides upon.

While my review may seem at times critical its the familiarity of the tools (Excel), ease of use, and price that make Microsoft BI the recommended tool for the small to medium size company looking for BI.
Microsoft has pulled a great trick. The trick is getting you into the pricing for only $20 to $50 dollars a month. They then made it very easy to push to the SharePoint site and keep it updated with free gateway product that will keep your reports live and consistently updated. Now here is a gotcha....IF you use the Data modeling tool (Power Query) for example that is then connected to a large database, you will have no issues. The issues begin at publishing information to SharePoint. There is a size limitation to how large the excel sheet can be. I would point out that we are not making large spread sheets with Pivot tables and millions of rows of data. We are simply connecting through Power Query. The sheet is still very small but the issue is the data model size. This is tapped at a gig on SharePoint. To be considered a true enterprise product, this size limitation will have to be overcome.

There is a (not sure if beta or not) version of some of the power views that can be done in Power BI. These views when rendered locally are wonderful. When they are rendered from the web, they can take a little longer. The part that can be agonizing is the showing views through HTML5. This is almost unworkable when using power maps or maps through power view. The response is so jittery that it is almost unusable.

Using Microsoft BI

Usability is great. This product will make most feel right at home. I feel like this question should be asked from two points of view:

1. Creator of reports, Data Models, Views etc: Most Advanced users will still rate the usability as very high. Its capabilities are still robust. However when compared to other Enterprise Class products it will not do many of the advanced application queries.

2. End user, Consumer: All end users will feel right at home. Many will be able to create connections to already created data models and other external publicly available sources like twitter, Facebook, World Health order etc... These connections are then in turn very very easily available to publish to SharePoint and Power BI.

It took me a while to understand what I think is Microsoft's strategy. This will handle all but the most of robust needs. Much like many American made cars and my favorite Corvette, Microsoft is fast, has it own break downs from time to time but all of these are really to tolerate when the price is considered and the next one up that can out perform it is three to four times as much money makes this an easy one to still recommend.
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
  • Mapping: Power Maps and Power Views displayed as Maps are awesome. The drill down ability into those is one of my favorites of showing.
  • The ability to add other plugins from the apps store can be very nice as well. There are several of those visualizations that are very nice.
  • Dashboards can be very easy to create but what is elegant? There is a Power BI app for Windows 8 that was compelling enough run VMWARE inside of a Mac. Very slick presentation of the same data as online but not as slick can be.
  • Understanding the license model. As an example we found it very hard figure out exactly what constitutes someone needing a license to even read file from SharePoint and not needing one. There were several occasions that we published what we thought was clean data and the end consumer would not need to have a license only to find out that the user would still be required to have a license. Sounds simple enough to understand but it was not.
  • There are a few features that should translate all the way through Power BI from Excel. As an example Power BI can recognize types of data like Zip codes but even dates in Power View, Power Pivot are not able to be 'Grouped by" by qtr or month. If you are going to group on those you have to add it to the dbase. Yet, Excel will easily group on those in a normal pivot table.
  • HTML5 versions of the presentation on the web have the jitters. very difficult to zoom in our out with any browser or versions of browsers. Stick with the regular version and wait for the HTML 5 version to be updated.
Yes - Not very well..I don't think this version is very well In a tablet form many of the reports are fine however it works with out many of the interactive features. Static Reports= works great
Dynamic = Not yet Ready. There is no native mobile client that I am aware of for Microsoft Power BI.