What’s So Special About Power BI?

In previous blogs we showed how businesses were benefiting from Power BI in ways that were not possible previously.

What makes Power BI such a revolutionary analytical solution are  technology innovations that were introduced in Excel.

As Gil Raviv notes, Power BI, Excel, and SQL Server Analysis Services share the same analytics engine, Power Pivot, which was introduced as the PowerPivot add-in to Excel 2010. Power Pivot, says Raviv, is “a game changer in self-service BI.”

High-Performance Engine

Power Pivot is based on an in-memory technology called VertiPaq, which arranges data into columns and compresses it to speed performance. In-memory computing speeds processing by storing data in RAM rather than on slower-performing disks.

As Microsoft explains, Power Pivot is a data modeling tool that works hand in hand with Power Query, a data extraction and transformation engine that began life as Data Explorer. Power Query enables you to discover, import, and merge data from any number of sources, while Power Pivot enables you to model, manipulate, and operate on the data you have imported.

Power Query can be embedded in Excel or the Power BI Desktop, and the tool can load a data set into an Excel spreadsheet or into Power Pivot for data modelling.

Power BI Ecosystem

The story gets even better. The tight integration between Power BI and Excel, which extends to Azure, Office 365, SQL Server, and other Microsoft technologies, creates an ecosystem that makes Power BI a flexible and formidable analytical tool.

Power BI and Excel also share the Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) language, which can be used to create formulas to operate on your data. DAX runs on top of the VertiPaq engine, whose official name is the “xVelocity in-memory Analytical Engine.”

You can apply DAX formulas to columns of data to perform calculations. For example, you can use DAX to calculate anticipated sales based on a percentage increase over last year’s sales, or to calculate sales rank or customer rank by sales. You also can perform time analysis functions such as year-to-date sales, actual sales vs. targeted sales, and current sales.

Automating Analyses

Power BI provides a host of features to simplify and speed up analytical operations. You can use Calculated Columns, which are formulas that are applied to joined columns of data. For example, you can calculate profits by joining sales and costs columns.

You also can use Measures, which are formulas that are applied dynamically to perform calculations as you interact with your reports. Measures are typically used to calculate aggregations such as average sales amount or average sales by region.

You can use Power BI to track your business’s sales and marketing performance by creating key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable you to evaluate the current value and status of a metric against a defined target. The KPIs can be updated automatically and the data can be visualized for easy understanding.

You also can use Power BI’s Quick Insights feature to evoke a machine learning engine that will instantly apply algorithms to your data sets to discover hidden insights such as correlations, outliers, and trends.

Data Visualization

Another core strength of Power BI is the tool’s data visualization capability.  As Gil Raviv notes, Microsoft built an HTML 5 compliant visualization engine for Power BI that can slice and dice data in any direction and provide visualizations of the results.

Besides enabling a myriad of visualizations out of the box, Power BI has a library of custom visualizations users can draw upon. This highlights another strength of Power BI: the large and growing user community that contributes to the ongoing innovation centered on Power BI as it evolves.

Advanced Analytics

Power BI accommodates a wide spectrum of users, enabling novice users to work at a basic level, while enabling more sophisticated users to work within the Power BI Desktop to employ formulas and perform complex calculations and analyses.

Power BI enables small and mid-size organizations to gain the advantages of advanced analytics that were beyond their scope in the past. This includes visualizing predictive analytics that can employed using Power BI linked to Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.

Predictive analytics can be used to optimize marketing and sales initiatives, such as predicting how customers will respond to new products, as well as helping to identify the best channels and messaging for campaigns. Machine learning can help identify potential customers, personalize marketing approaches, predict customer churn, and much more.

Real-Time Analytics

As Microsoft explains, Power BI also lets you access real-time information, which can be used to identify trends, optimize pricing, and take advantage of market opportunities that arise. Power BI and Azure Steam Analytics can be combined to create real-time IoT dashboards for monitoring sensors. Uses include tracking and monitoring instruments, devices, packages, greenhouse environments, market fluctuations, and real-time monitoring of machinery data streams that can be analyzed to predict failure.

Microsoft has done an excellent job of making it easy and affordable for non-technical users and power users to gain the benefits of enterprise-grade analytics. And with the continual contributions of the Power BI community, the story grows better day by day.

MaxQ Technologies provides state-of-the-art Power BI solutions and incorporates Power BI within advanced business solution suites. Contact us to learn more about Power BI and how your business could benefit from a Power BI solution.

 


Power BI Gives Businesses Super Powers

Since Microsoft’s Power BI launched as part of Office 365 in July 2013, it has evolved at a rapid pace and blossomed into a full-blown feature-rich modern business intelligence tool.

In July 2015, Power BI had 45,000 users worldwide. Today that number has grown to more than 5 million users.

What makes Power BI such a compelling business tool is a combination of strong data visualization capabilities, ease of use, and affordability (starting at free, with a Pro version priced at $10 per user per month). Moreover, Power BI can be accessed from the cloud, run as a desktop app, embedded in applications, integrated with other business planning tools, and optimized for mobile devices.

BI Barriers Fall

Years ago, obtaining the capabilities that Power BI provides required complex and expensive systems that had to be implemented by specially trained data scientists. A data scientist would develop a design concept and hope it would deliver the results you desired. Because of the cost, complexity, and specialized skill requirements, only the largest enterprises with the deepest pockets could afford these types of BI systems.

Power BI has changed the game, enabling small and midsize organizations to perform analyses and visualize data in ways that previously were prohibitively complex and expensive. Rather than the long development periods required to build these systems in the past (often weeks, months, and years), users can get accurate and actionable results in only a few hours. Moreover, real-time updates can be used to enable business managers to leverage a continual flow of insights.

Seeing how Power BI has been deployed by real-life companies shows the benefits that can be gained, as well as the ease and speed with which a Power BI application can be set up and immediately begin delivering useful insights.

Real-Time Insights Pay Dividends

Pizza Express in the UK was able to gain real-time insights and improve its business operations by deploying Power BI. As part of its strategy to expand worldwide, the company migrated all its data to the Azure cloud, created a data warehouse, and began using the data to make decisions based on its customers’ preferences.

Real-time monitoring comes from a tool called Event Stream that was built using Microsoft Event Hub and Data Factory. Besides giving managers an up-to-the-minute view of the business, it allows Pizza Express to track customer activity and make personalized offers. While in the past, building a tool like this would have been complex and time-consuming, Pizza Express was able to set it quickly using ready-made Microsoft tools.

Power BI has enabled Pizza Express to aggregate sales, customer, and operational data that used to reside in different places. The system enables the management team to combine all its key performance indicators (KPIs) to gain a comprehensive look at the company’s sales data, customer preferences, and profitability. Thirty regional managers can access the performance data on mobile devices to view results by region, area, and individual restaurant.

As Pizza Express IT director Siobhan Fagan noted, having precise information on demand means the company can be agile, decisive, and respond much better to its customers.

Better Management Through Power BI

The use of Power BI by Howell-Jones, a law firm in the UK, shows how not only law firms, but many types of agencies, can benefit from Power BI. As Howell-Jones operations director Chris Cato notes, personalized dashboards with complex data could be spun up in minutes by non-IT staff to deliver insights throughout the firm. Team leaders could use Power BI to manage caseloads across entire teams, distributing work to maximize collective output.

The Howell-Jones management team was able to generate high-level visual reports that were updated in real-time, which they could drill down into to analyze all aspects of the business, such as lawyer’s workloads, fees vs. targets, billable hours vs. targets, time from enquiry to billing, cross-department work referrals, and more. In addition, financial insights that previously were available exclusively to the management team could be surfaced and shared around the business.

The marketing team could see real-time inquiries and divert spending to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. The marketers also could drill into the data to refine their strategy based on the results of individual campaigns, how initiatives converted to new clients, and the lifetime value of marketing investments.

New Doors Open  

As these case studies show, Power BI is a game changer, making possible analyses and visualizations that had previously been too difficult and too expensive for most businesses. While the examples above involve the hospitality and legal sectors, the same techniques can be applied to any type of business to realize similar benefits.

We’ll continue looking at how Power BI is unlocking new possibilities across various industries in future posts.

MaxQ Technologies provides state-of-the-art Power BI solutions and incorporates Power BI within advanced business solution suites. Contact us to learn more about Power BI and how your business could benefit from a Power BI solution.

 

 


Power BI Desktop Adds Filtering and Sorting in the Data View – Finally!

Veteran Excel users like myself, who use filtering and sorting in the data view of Power Pivot, were surprised and disappointed to find that Power BI lacked this capability. Early on I would build and debug a model in Power Pivot and would then import the Excel file to Power BI (this also allowed me to set a date table, another missing Power BI feature that has since been added).

Lately I have been building models in Power BI, but many times have been forced to use Excel to debug and validate the data. Finally, with the June release of Power BI, we no longer need to resort to using Excel, making Power BI Desktop much more productive.

Above: A Power BI Desktop screen showing the tool’s new sorting capability.

Contact us to learn more about how Power BI solutions for Acumatica and Microsoft Dynamics can help your business.


Microsoft Power BI Gives Small Businesses Enterprise-Level Analytical Power

Microsoft’s Power BI is a significant advance that can level the playing field for your small business.

Small to medium-size businesses often struggle with implementing company-wide analysis programs because of the high cost associated with big data reporting and assessment. Besides the high cost and complexity of implementing analytic solutions, a business owner had to spend money to train someone to be able to read and interpret the information.

Affordable High-End Analytics

Microsoft Power BI eliminates these barriers, offering the same level of performance analytics that big companies use for a fraction of the cost. Power BI is a cloud-based business data analysis application geared specifically for the small to medium business.

No matter the size of your company, the importance of big data and programs that analyze it correctly are essential. Collecting, assessing, and interpreting data from all pertinent business activities is the way to move your company forward quickly. From sales to production, manufacturing and delivery, Power BI gathers information from all departments on a daily basis, then presents that information to the user.

Easy to Use and Understand

Business intelligence historically has required data scientists and technical experts. Power BI eliminate the need for technical experts and enables non-technical business managers to analyse data and make decisions. Power BI provides a series of user-friendly dashboards and color-coded spread sheets designed to be user friendly and easily understood. By connecting users to a broad scope of data pertaining to all aspects of their business, it allows for rapid analysis and the ability to focus on areas of concern immediately. Because Power BI runs analytics daily, there is never a lag time for fresh data.

Top Benefits of Power BI

  • Your Data Belongs to You. No longer do you have outside companies storing your data and providing it only after a lengthy request. Your marketing data, lead and website tracking data, and sales data are all kept in-house and available at the touch of a key. This kind of “information immediacy” and internal resource tracking allows your company to make quicker decisions, resulting in faster turn-around and reduced costs. With Power BI you own the data, you mine it yourself and perform the analysis of that information on-site and in-house.
  • Quicker and Better Decisions. For a small business to stay competitive and ahead of the curve requires quick responses on important business decisions. From determining the best mix of products to carry to selecting the best suppliers based on cost and quality analysis, quick decisions are key. The faster an informed decision is made, the sooner you can move product to market. Power BI gives your company the back-story on all data interpreted with the express intent of helping you make the right decision. When you know which markets are growing and where demand is flourishing, you can take advantage of that dynamic instantly.

Because Power BI runs its analytics daily, any deviation in performance will be reported to you. Whether it be marketing shifts, sales force lulls or inventory movement above and beyond regular patterns, when you are made aware of an issue at the moment it occurs, you can focus your energies more closely on resolving an issue. Being this agile and resilient in the milieu of a small business is key to success.

  • Low- Cost.Power BI offers enterprise-level data analysis at a fraction of the cost. Because it is a cloud-based service, you pay a low monthly fee and enjoy all the benefits the big companies pay thousands of dollars to deploy. As a small business, anything you can leverage to enhance your bottom line helps you stay competitive.

Summary

Big data collection and analysis is no longer reserved for the larger companies. Smaller companies need to take advantage of every resource they can to stay competitive in the modern business world. Power BI was created with small to medium-sized businesses in mind to level the playing field. When you are ready to move your company into the data fast-track, please contact us.


Business Intelligence Software: Benefits to Combining Internal and External Data

Business Intelligence

Finding business intelligence software that gives you a complete picture of everything in your business isn’t always easy to find. It’s one reason maybe you’ve waited to invest in BI software, even though you’re realizing doing too much guesswork about business reality isn’t smart.

In today’s more competitive business climate, not knowing everything about your business can end up hurting you in the long run. All it takes is overlooking one tiny piece of information, and it could snowball into a bigger problem financially.

Going with a “gut feel” about your company should never be a way to envision the future. More so, when customers demand quicker responses in services you provide, you have to make quicker decisions.

BI brings all of this to you, frequently using real-time technology. The problem is that while you may have insight into internal issues, should you also look externally?

When you integrate an internal and external view of your company, you get a wider view since outside situations could directly affect what happens internally.

The Online World as an Outside Source

Placing the Internet into the business intelligence equation, you have a vast digital world to explore in how it affects your business. The challenge behind this is far too much BI software out there ignores data from the Internet.

So much is happening online you need to explore, including your own role in marketing. Social media alone has many areas to explore, including how your content performs there and how people interact during conversations. More so, you can get an idea of which social media channel works the best with your content so you eliminate the ones not working as well.

One danger about social media is spreading yourself too thin and not properly targeting the right demographics. BI can study metrics there, plus other places where you’re not directly involved. For instance, BI could scan industry message boards to see what people are talking about and if they happen to mention your company.

Exploring outside databases from financial or marketing research companies could bring deeper insights as well, though it’s not always easy to gather this or put in a readable form.

Remember, offline environments are just as valuable. Looking at variables out in the real world could end up shaping things more than anything you find online.

Using BI to Understand Nature

You may not think something as simple as the weather could apply to your business, and yet it can when it comes to something like logistics. Getting products delivered on time matters when related to weather.

Studying BI on weather patterns and other acts of nature gives you a better idea of how to prepare and the best days for deliveries.

Metrics on Populations in Specific Regions

As part of your marketing efforts, you want to know what regions to target if doing offline advertising. Looking at the analytics behind the populace you sell to gives you more variables on the neighborhoods they live in, what their incomes are, and even what crime statistics are.

All of these potentially give you deeper insight into the people you market to and how your products help them solve problems.

Socioeconomic Factors in Determining Business Success

If you own a brick-and-mortar business depending on in-person visitors, analyzing socioeconomic factors about your area determines what kind of customers you’ll attract.

Studying this before you even open your business doors gives you insight into where you should locate, or if you need to move to a different region.

Contact us at MaxQ Technologies, Inc. so we can help you with reliable business intelligence software in finding thorough data.


The Superb Combination of Power BI, IoT, and Azure Stream Analytics.

Power BI

If John Greenough, who is a Senior Research Analyst for BI (Business Insider) Intelligence is to be believed, there will be an astounding 24 billion devices comprising the IoT by the year 2020, according to an article by John Greenough and Jonathan Camhi titled How the ‘Internet of Things’ will affect the world.  This monumental development now in play is being called the next Industrial Revolution and is expected to generate $6 trillion worth of spending over the next 5 years.

For the business management or high-tech professional in the line of decision making the question naturally becomes, how is value generated from the use of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of sensors, from automated and internet-enabled machinery on assembly lines, in supply chains and throughout transportation networks, from continuous video feeds emanating from countless intelligent devices, etc.  A big part of the answer lies in turning all of this data into a form that the human mind can readily comprehend.  Herein lies the genius of Microsoft Power BI.

Power BI has about 5 million users and features excellent graphic visuals that turn live data into rich displays.  And Power BI just received an extremely useful and powerful update with the addition of Azure Stream Analytics, which acts as a bridge between Power BI and the IoT.  “By integrating Power BI, Microsoft’s business intelligence and analytics product, and Microsoft’s Azure Stream Analytics, it is now possible to create interactive, live dashboards that offer users an up-to-the-minute overview of their IoT device deployments,” according to a blog by apacciooutlook.com titled Azure Stream Analytics Integrates with Power BI; Converts IoT Data into Real-time Insights.

“Devices are becoming smarter and more connected, and the expectation of what can be done with the data generated and collected from these devices continues to evolve both in the commercial and consumer spaces. Whether you are doing health monitoring, building or home automation, social media analytics, application monitoring, energy management, manufacturing, etc., there are millions of events or messages being generated from devices from which you need to gain real-time insights,” according to comments derived from a speech by Dipanjan Banik, Bryan Hollar, Richard McCormack, Clemens Szyperski, and Todd Van Nurden titled Gaining Real-Time IoT Insights using Azure Stream Analytics, AzureML and PowerBI.  The devices which generate events or messages can include things like internet-intelligent sensors, tracking devices, and alerts in appliances and in machinery, to name but a few of the myriad possibilities.  Of course, there are intelligent cars, airplanes, and even entire ‘smart cities’ currently under development, with an untold number of internet-intelligent devices built-in.

One of the things that makes all of this up-to-the-minute information rendered in the graphical format of Power BI so great is that oftentimes problems can be spotted immediately, greatly shortening the response time.  Ryan CrawCour, a program manager at Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics, states:  “This (adding the power of Azure Stream Analytics to Power BI) will dramatically reduce the latency and time to action on your most important business metrics,” from an article by Pedro Hernandez titledMicrosoft Power BI Visualizes IoT Data From Azure Stream Analytics.  A good implementation can conceivably upload, process, analyse and display all manufacturing and other procedural data instantaneously, regardless of physical location.  So “Intelligent systems enable users to parse vast quantities of data from multiple disparate sources and then display the data visually in a way that helps business trends to stand out,” according to Brien Posey in an article titled Microsoft’s Power BI puts business users at forefront.

In the world of software development, APIs that feed data into Power BI are being built left and right, because “data is exploding and the ability to take that and do interesting things with it so you can provide more productive apps is the opportunity everyone wants to embrace,” according to James Phillips, here quoted in an article by Mary Branscombe titled Embedded Power BI Microsoft cloud apps could all turn into platforms.  Software developers like Carl de Souza, writing in an article titled Why I Love Power BI, Top 10 Reasons, love Power BI because of its ability to easily create great visualizations, share reports, run on a wide variety of mobile devices, refresh data according to schedule, and pull data from many different sources, among other great advantages.

The future is shaping up to be an amazing arena of great challenge as more billions of intelligent devices come online and the data continues to flood in at volumes that are so vast and from so many disparate sources that it boggles the human imagination.  Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics will continue to be right in the thick of this intense and unprecedented wave of development that’s poised to change the world forever.

For more information, please contact us.


Power BI embedded to offer greater compatibility, accessibility

Power BI

Microsoft’s youngest member of the company’s collection of programs for businesses, Power Business Intelligence (BI) will allow for integration into mobile applications.

Microsoft made this announcement during its build conference in San Francisco earlier this month. With the introduction of its embedded capable version of the software, the company hopes that more people, particularly application developers, will be able to use the software. This version will utilize the company’s Azure Stream Cloud service and it is targeted toward independent software vendors.

“You can now take the Power BI data visualization and reporting functionality, and directly integrate it within your own applications,” Scott Guthrie, executive VP of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise business, said during the conference.

Power BI Embedded through the Azure Cloud would be priced in line with other applications that are currently available on the platform.

Power BI was introduced to the Office 365 platform in 2014. It supplies data analytics capabilities and users can create visualizations and data reports across their organization. Guthrie also noted during the conference that application developers can utilize the embedded version without having to require end users to be aware of the software as a part of their application experience.

According to Microsoft, there are approximately five million Power BI subscribers as of March of this year. With this announcement, the company anticipates that user base will grow as access increases.

MaxQ Technologies, Inc. specializes in reselling technological solutions for multiple industries including manufacturing, distribution, consumer goods and professional services. I Feel free to contact us for your business technology needs.