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.