There was a time when business intelligence solutions were mostly for big businesses.
Large companies have armies of IT technicians to install and maintain a business intelligence solution. And they have plenty of time and money to get a customized system up and running.
Large businesses would then be capable of pulling data from many different silos and combining it into meaningful charts and graphs that produced great business insights.
But what about the entrepreneur or small business owner without the budget to afford a large scale business intelligence system or the staff to maintain it? How can you combine data from, say, your retail, bookkeeping, and other solutions to discover insights that could help you make more informed business decisions in the future?
Enter Microsoft Power BI, the company’s business intelligence solution.
According to Michael Tejedor, senior product marketing manager for Microsoft who spoke with us recently, “Power BI is a business analytic offering that’s provided as an online service. Dashboards are the central point for the solution allowing me as an organization to get a 360-degree view of my business.”
I am a Microsoft Small Business Ambassador and so was able to secure a personalized demo from him, to get details on Microsoft Power BI.
There are three main advantages to small businesses with Microsoft Power BI.
1. Your Data all in One Place
Microsoft Power BI pulls key business metrics and data together in one place. “You have a view of the data across multiple systems. You don’t have to jump into each of those systems to see how that data is tracking. It’s a time-saver to have it all in one place,” he said.
One of the biggest benefits of Microsoft Power BI is that it can pull in data from various applications, so the business owner and managers can see it in a single application. It can pull from your own systems and from spreadsheets, as well as third party services.
“It doesn’t really matter where that data’s coming from. Think about cloud-based solutions like QuickBooks Online as an example. A lot of small and medium businesses are adopting those third-party services. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to tap into those services and visualize all that data in one place?”
Microsoft has made the process of integrating popular outside services into Microsoft Power BI easy, with pre-packaged solutions. “We know that a lot of businesses are using some great new cloud-based services out there such as Marketo, QuickBooks Online, Google Analytics, Ndesk, Github, Twilio, MailChimp, SweetIQ, Acumatica, UserVoice. Inside the product, we’ve built pre-packaged solutions that allow the business owner to go into Power BI, log into their QuickBooks account from within Power BI, and then Power BI will automatically connect to their QuickBooks account, and pull their data in. Then it shows all that data in pre-built dashboards and reports.”
While each software application like QuickBooks may have its own analytics and reports built into it, according to Tejedor, “It’s a hassle to have to do the in-app analytics versus having a layer of visualization that’s separate from all that, that can pull that information together so that I can monitor it through one dashboard, one single pane of glass.”
That single place to visualize all your business’s data is the concept that Microsoft Power BI is anchored on.
“It’s very interactive and explorative. The fact that I have a single pane of glass that I can see all my data through, but also explore that data and interact with that data, is a very unique value proposition as well,” adds Tejedor.
2. More Holistic View of Your Business
You can blend and mash up the data for greater insights when it’s in a single place. Mashups start to become really important because, if your data is siloed, then you can’t see everything in that silo view of your data.
“Combining information from multiple different sources gives a more holistic view of your customer base. Because if you understand what your customers are doing online as well as how that marries up to your internal systems for your own specific customers, you can get additional insights,” Tejedor said
3. Access it From Anywhere
“I can stay on top of my business when I’m out of the business,” says Tejedor.
Microsoft Power BI not only works on Windows and Windows mobile devices, but it has native apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. It also includes mobile collaborative features.
“As an example, I’m in Starbucks and I’m scrolling through my iPhone and I’m looking at five different dashboards. And I see one and I’m really concerned about it. Right from that app I could email Bob back in the office. I can annotate a screenshot of that dashboard. I can request that he take a look at this number and write him a little note and then just send that off. That’s all built in. That workflow is thought through,” says Tejedor.
Free and Pro Versions
Microsoft Power BI has a free version and a Pro version.
The Microsoft Power BI Pro version, at $9.99 per user per month, offers more storage space with faster data response, and deeper collaboration features. Microsoft Power BI Pro adds 10 GB of data capacity (versus 1 GB for the free version), refreshes data hourly (versus daily for the free version), and streams up to 1 million rows of data per hour (versus 10K for the free version). Pro adds full data interactivity with live data. It also adds more collaboration features. See more at https://powerbi.microsoft.com.