Last week Microsoft officially released its PowerBI service for Office 365. Power BI has grown to encapsulate the four Microsoft Excel plugins/features of Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Maps. In addition, when Power BI is deployed to an Office 365 tenant you get a host of features for managing data connections, access to Power View reports via Windows 8 app, a PowerBI dashboard and my favorite natural language search.
Insights through Q&A
At the heart of Business Intelligence is the quest for information/data needed to monitor progress and make business decisions. In reality, answers to questions like ‘How many customers do we have?’ With existing BI tools these types of questions are often answered with reports. Reports are sent via email, printed out put on a SharePoint site or consumed in the form of a dash board. With Power BI this is done by typing your question.
This is a pretty powerful way of getting the information you need. The interface is pretty sleek (does require IE 10) and provides ways to change the visual from Bar Chart to Pie Chart to Map, etc. You can even save the question to the Power BI dashboard as a ‘Featured Question’ so that others can simply click on it to view the report without having to ask the question themselves. I really like this natural language option for getting to the data I need quickly and easily