It wasn’t all that long ago that business analysts were a breed like no other. They had the ability – and the patience – to trawl through thousands of lines of data to identify trends and patterns.
However, this meant that businesses were often only as good as their analysts. It also meant that the insights were several degrees removed from the people who were generating the data.
Data analysts had a remarkable knack for using the numbers to predict the future, but they sometimes lacked the experience, intuition and market knowledge that existed elsewhere in the business. The problem is, numbers on their own lack context. There’s no narrative.
Numbers can tell you sales of a product, but they don’t provide any insight as to why that product is or isn’t performing well. “Because it’s a winner” won’t really cut it.
If the numbers are misinterpreted, this could lead to knee-jerk decisions that harm the business in the medium and long terms. The advent of visual analytics within business intelligence solved this, allowing a range of metrics to be compared at once, providing context and insight.
What is Power BI?
Microsoft’s Power BI is a collection of services, applications and connectors that allow you to consolidate your various data sources into interactive insights.
You can dynamically visualise your organisation’s data by department to gain a genuine understanding of what’s happening across the business, rather than a disparate overview that can miss out on crucial pieces of information.
Included in Power BI are several components that help users create, share and collaborate reports across the business:
- Power Query: a data transformation tool
- Power Pivot: a data modelling tool
- Power View: a data visualisation tool
- Power Map: a 3D geospatial data visualisation tool
- Power Q&A: a question and answering engine
This allows you to create and share business insights in a way that fits their role and, therefore, provide the most value to the business.
You can create a single-view, real-time dashboard of your organisation’s data, wherever it resides. Power BI can integrate with a range of data sources including Dynamics 365, Excel, Azure, SQL servers, Office 365, Salesforce, Google Analytics, Oracle and many more.
Power BI also consolidates all the disparate systems that should talk to one another but don’t. That means you won’t have to manually pull out data, decipher its meaning and collate it into a digestible slide-deck.
More than that, Power BI can use artificial intelligence to analyse all your data and make predictions. It has the power to analyse trends and produce “what if” scenarios; much like an analyst would except it does so in a fraction of the time, saving the business considerable time and money.
Allied with your knowledge of the industry and your business, this puts you in a position to make decisions based on more than numbers or gut feeling. Essentially, the more informed you are, the better those decisions become.
For example, a data analyst pouring over sales reports can determine that sales of dining tables are down in inner city stores of a retail chain. But crucially, they won’t be able to tell you why.
Adding this information – along with other sales data – to a visualisation with a heat map provides you with that all-important context. For instance, the sales figures may show poor sales of dining tables but high sales of coffee tables and leaf tables. The reason for this may be that people living within inner city areas are more likely to live in apartments, and are therefore less likely to have a dining room or to have sufficient space for a dining table to be a permanent fixture.
Armed with this insight, the business can now focus on improving the range of coffee and leaf tables in those stores. They can then rotate the traditional dining tables out to more rural locations.
This level of insight allows for positive action to remedy the situation rather than just assume certain stores or departments are under performing.
So who is Power BI for?
Power BI is one of the greatest emancipators of the office worker since Windows for Work Groups. It puts the power in the hands of the people who can actually provide the greatest of level of insight, based not only the numbers but the narrative around the numbers too.
This is a move away from the traditional approach of placing analysis and business performance into a separate silo. The platform allows anyone to build dashboards or reports to understand how their part of the business is performing.
Of course, dedicated analysts and business intelligence experts are able to create visualisations and dashboards with truly stunning levels of insight. But thanks to its drag and drop interface, anyone can use Power BI with some degree of competence. With practice, users can rapidly hone their skills to really dig into the data. This means that everyone can look at the information, understand it and draw conclusions, instead of just being told how to interpret the data.
However, it’s important to understand that Power BI isn’t just for large organisations. Leveraging a tool as powerful as this will benefit your business whether you have large data warehouse or just keep everything on a spreadsheet.
Whatever the data source, Power BI allows you to break out individual elements and compare them in ways that wouldn’t be possible in their raw forms. For small businesses who must keep a very close eye on their cash horizon this is invaluable, especially as it can help to identify trends and a real-world cost-per-client breakdown.
The benefit of insights like this is you can start to work out which clients are costing you money. This means you can refocus your marketing and your sales pitch to attract more of the kind of businesses you like working with…and put off the ones you don’t.
This in turn improves the working relationship and means you’re more likely to keep those customers for longer – lowering your cost of sale and increasing profitability – all because of a report you created in Power BI based around cost of sale and collated time sheet data. That’s seriously powerful stuff.
But that is only the beginning. As you unlock new ways of asking questions you will start gather more and more data to enrich the visualisation. Adding in website data gives you an idea of not just the number of conversations on the site but how many actually turn into a sale, which allows you to factor in hosting and maintenance into your cost per sale. This could result in increasing your prices as you weren’t making as much money as you thought.
All this is more is well within your reach when you connect Power BI to your business’ data.
To learn more about how you can leverage Power BI in your organisation, just get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a complimentary consultation.