FrustrationDo you currently use Microsoft Excel to build reports or manipulate data? Have you spent countless frustrating hours developing reports in Excel, copying VLOOKUP formulas, and writing formulas to cleanup the data… only to find out you need to reproduce the report on a daily or weekly basis? You may be one of the fortunate ones whose company has an enterprise reporting solution, such as Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, or one of the other business intelligence vendors. Yet, how often do you run a supposedly “final” report, and because you must still add data to the output of the report, you export to Excel to add the data? Over and over and over…

Rinse – Wash – Repeat

You’ve come to the right place!

Our team at Think Data Insights has been designing data analytics and business intelligence solutions for many years, working with some of the most popular vendors (Microsoft, Cognos, Business Objects). While each tool has its strengths, our experience has shown that many of these deployments lack one key feature: Self-Service Analytics.

What is Self-Service Analytics, you ask? The ability to discover and analyze data from any location, no matter the size or shape of the data, and to define calculations against this data, creating stunning graphic visualizations of the data that provide actionable insights. Enter Microsoft Power BI for Excel, a set of add-ins for Microsoft Office Excel 2010 and 2013.

The “Modern Excel” Experience

First introduced in 2010 as “PowerPivot 2008 R2” (aka V1), the world Excel Dashboard watched in anticipation as it looked like Microsoft had something great. But we weren’t sure exactly how it should be used. As V2 rolled out in 2012, we realized we had a bona fide self-service analytics solution, built right into Excel. More than that, it was built for Excel users. Since then, a whole new world has opened up for casual and serious Excel users alike, giving them the ability to Discover, Model, Visualize, and Share amazing insights. That’s right! All from Excel! And Microsoft continues to expand their offering with the Power Query, Power View, and Power Map add-ins, collectively known as “Power BI.”

What can you do in this “Modern Excel?”

There is so much functionality, that I could hardly go into it here. We will be covering more topics in the weeks to come, so be on the lookout. For now, here are some of the key features of Power BI:

  • Create a single pivot table against data in two or more data sources
  • Create complex transformations of the data (splitting/joining fields, pivot/unpivot, table lookups, etc.)
  • Create aggregate calculations (average, percent of, etc.) that are correct at any level of detail
  • Automate manual import and copy/paste operations for external data…without using macros/VBA
  • Do away with VLOOKUP functions that must always be copied to match your input data size
  • Create unbelievably gorgeous visualizations, all within the comfortable Excel interface
  • So many other amazing things

How do I get it?

The beauty of this Modern Excel experience is that it is a part of the Excel desktop experience (with the right Office/Excel licensing, of course). You simply need to go to the Microsoft download site, download and install the add-ins. As of the writing of this blog, the requirements are you must have one of the following desktop licenses to use the “Power BI” add-ins.

  • Office 2010 Professional
  • Office 2013 Professional Plus
  • Excel 2010 Standalone
  • Excel 2013 Standalong

What are you waiting for?

Are you already using Power BI? Good for you! You’re one of the enlightened ones that have found freedom from the shackles of the conventional Excel experience. We’d love for you to share how you’re using it. Also, check out our links in the sidebar to the other online Power BI communities. Come join the fun!