Big data has been all the rage for a few years now. It seems like everything is "big data this" or "big data that," and every vendor has managed to work "big data" into their marketing materials as the buzzword du jour. Beneath the marketing hype, though, there is actually tremendous value in applying big data analytics. Unfortunately, extracting information from big data is easier said than done, and most small and medium businesses lack the skills and resources to do it — until now. Microsoft has solved that problem with the launch of Power BI.
According to Quentin Clark, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Data Platform Group:
"Today business intelligence is only used by a fraction of the people that could derive value from it. What we all need is modernized business intelligence which will help everyone get the information they need to understand their job or personal life better. Not just the type of information gained from an Internet search, but also information from expert sources."
Microsoft took one of the most popular and widely-used applications — Excel — and gave it new capabilities with Power BI. Most customers aren't business intelligence or big data analytics experts, but they're comfortable navigating Microsoft Excel. They understand the conventions, and it's easier to embrace and apply the Power BI tools from the familiar interface of Excel.
Power BI enables users to search data within their own network, or access data from public sources. Users can query in plain English and easily convert the results into interactive charts or maps to put it into context that can help guide business decisions.
Power Query can merge and analyze information from multiple sources and produce results that help users make sense of the data without requiring them to be a database or big data genius. Power Pivot allows users to create analytical models and easily manipulate the results to create different "what-if" scenarios.
Microsoft is offering Power BI as an add-on for Office 365 subscriptions. The base cost is $33 per user, per month, but new and existing Office 365 customers can take advantage of a limited-time promotional price of just $20 per user, per month.
The following video shows an overview of Power BI for Office 365:
Power BI is also available as a standalone product for $40 per user, per month — or customers can get the standalone Power BI and Office 365 ProPlus combined for $52 per user, per month.
You can also access Power BI on-the-go with the Microsoft Power BI app for Windows Mobile. Microsoft says it also plans to offer support for other platforms — assumedly iOS and Android — at some point in the future.
Is your organization taking advantage of Microsoft's Power BI? Share your experience or thoughts about this tool in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.