Wasting Hours of Your Life Pulling Data for Reports?
Your search is over! Expert Eric Satterfield to the rescue with POWER BI
As a trainer with the New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Atlanta, I have trained hundreds of students to use Microsoft Excel and cannot tell you how many times my students have expressed something to this effect when asked what brought them to the class:
“I like Excel, but I’m tired of wasting hours of my life pulling data from different files and fixing it just so I can use it in my report.”
Since you are reading this article, I’m assuming you are in the same boat.
Like many, you probably spend lots of time combining data that sits buried in CSV files or is spread across multiple sources such as Access, Mailchimp, Salesforce, SharePoint, SQL, or even ( shudder) PDFs. You likely have to then wrangle the data using tools like Find and Replace, functions such as IF, LEFT, TRIM, CONCATENATE, and VLOOKUP, and perhaps even a macro or two until you emerge victorious, having shaped your data into something you can use in a chart…until it is time to do it all again next month.
Please don’t get me wrong; I love Excel and believe users of all stripes would do well to learn more about what it can do. However, if you, like so many others, have been searching for an easier way, a faster way, a better way to work with your data, then read on to discover just three of the reasons why I think you need Power BI, Microsoft’s next-generation data analysis tool, and believe your search is at an end.
#1: Power BI empowers anyone to create a beautiful dashboard in minutes.
Thanks to Power BI, making reports and dashboards has never been easier, and that is by design. From its inception, Microsoft intended for it to be a self-service business intelligence tool, meaning it can be used by everyone from the busy Director of IT who is overseeing an enterprise-wide BI deployment to the nervous intern preparing to present in a meeting for the first time. In 2015, James Phillips, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Business Intelligence Products, said that the Power BI team’s guiding principle had been, “ five seconds to sign up, five minutes to wow! ”
In case you think five minutes to a “wow-worthy” report is too good to be true, let me assure you: it isn’t. With features like Q&A and Quick Insights, you can use Power BI to create visuals in seconds by simply telling it what you would like to see or asking it to explain a change in your data such as a spike in the numbers for a particular year.
Of course, this assumes the data is already fairly clean and user-friendly. For many, real-world data isn’t typically report-worthy (or even readable by humans) when it first arrives, which brings me to the second benefit of Power BI.
#2: Power BI can tame and enhance your data.
Power BI’s Query Editor empowers you to round up all that unmanageable data by making it incredibly easy to connect to, cleanse, transform and load regardless of where it is stored or what it looks like. Do you need to combine over 20 CSV files into a single table? Power BI can do it in 40 seconds and 10 clicks; I timed it.
Do you find and replace ambiguous values (e.g., “M” for “Male”, “F” for “Female”) or need to know the names of the quarters, months, and days in which transactions occurred? The Query Editor can do this too without asking you to write a single bit of code. It can even join multiple tables together using just the mouse and a handy user interface that basically performs multiple superpowered VLOOKUPs.
Oh, and did I mention it even lets you “travel back in time” if ever you need to make a change to a step you performed in the past? This means no more panicking if you accidentally deleted an important column (not that I speak from experience).
The best part of all is that, when new data comes in, you just refresh the report and let Power BI wrangle it into place. This frees you up to respond to more emails, put extra pizzazz into that upcoming presentation, or just stare in awe at your freshly-updated report, wondering where Power BI has been all your life.
This barely scratches the surface of the cleansing and transformation magic that Power BI has to offer, but I think you get the idea. At this point, a person might reasonably ask, “How much does it cost?”
#3: Power BI is free to use.
The answer is: nothing. Power BI is free as in “no charge.” You can download it and use it without an account or, if you prefer, you can sign up for a free account so you can store your reports online. You get the power to shape, transform, and visualize your data with ease and never pay a cent. This $0 price-tag alone makes Power BI the data analysis tool of your dreams.
It is only when you want to share live reports that refresh themselves on a schedule that you will need a Power BI Pro subscription for you and for the person viewing the report, which sits at a “hefty” $10/user/month. Compared to some of Microsoft’s competitors (e.g., Looker, Qlik, Tableau) that charge $30-$70/user/month, this is an amazing bargain. If you are part of a larger organization needing hundreds of licenses, the monthly cost can be even less with Power BI Premium.
These are just three of the reasons why I love and need Microsoft Power BI and believe you will and do too. Of course, there is much, much more to Power BI and the magic it can perform on datasets of all sizes, whether a few hundred rows or millions of records in a Big Data context. If you would like to discover more about what it can do for you, feel free to contact us regarding the courses we offer to help you learn how to revolutionize your reporting life with Power BI.