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Using Microsoft Power BI to leverage your data
Callum Gillespie head of infrastructure operations at Littlefish, shares some advice on getting the most out of the business intelligence offering
Microsoft’s Power Platform is designed to empower your employees. It offers an intuitive, collaborative, and extensible platform of low-code and no-code tools that make it easy to create efficient and flexible solutions to all kinds of day-to-day processes.
However, despite plenty of organisations utilising Microsoft software, many are simply not aware of just how much power sits right at their fingertips. For the purpose of this article, I’d like to focus on one example, Power BI (which stands for ‘business intelligence’), however, there are four products in total under the Microsoft Power Platform:
- Power BI
- Power Apps
- Power Automate
- Power Virtual Agents
Power BI is a cloud-based business analytics solution. It’s designed to help organisations bridge the gap between one of their most important assets, data, and their decision making.
It can sometimes be the case that – especially as businesses grow – they find it more difficult to manage and interrogate data meaningfully. Unfortunately, whilst most organisations have a lot of data available to them, and may capture a lot of metrics, many simply aren’t using data enough (i.e., daily rather than in annual planning meetings), or they aren’t using it proactively, to find new opportunities and think about business from a new perspective.
The good news is, Power BI is a phenomenal tool for users and/or businesses looking to increase their business intelligence efforts. Using it, employees can connect to, model, visualise, and securely share data, turning insights into intelligent, evidence-driven actions.
One of Power BI’s most popular uses is data visualisation – and, as such, it’s it’s often most popular with users in finance, marketing, sales, human resources, IT, and operations since it allows users to bring data to life and tell stories to others through engaging visualisations.
Power BI empowers employees
Power BI currently has two versions: Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. Power BI Desktop is free, so anyone in the organisation can download it and start using it immediately. Whereas Power BI service requires a pro-license.
In data-driven cultures, decisions are made based on evidence and facts, rather than personal feelings or gut instinct. By putting business intelligence assets into the hands of everyone, Power BI helps make data-driven decisions egalitarian; giving everyone the ability to analyse and back-up their findings with reports and rich visualisations – all of which can be published and shared as dashboards with anyone.
Power BI is secure
Power BI has robust encryption for both data at rest and data in transit, enabling users to protect sensitive information and meet various cyber security and compliance standards.
According to Microsoft, ‘Power BI was built to provide industry-leading complete and hermetic protection for data. The product has earned the highest security classifications available in the industry, and today many national security agencies, financial institutions, and health care providers entrust it with their most sensitive information.’
Furthermore, Power BI’s sensitivity labels feature makes it easy for administrators to alert users and consumers as to what data or information in particular is sensitive and therefore should be handled differently, according to data protection or company regulations.
Power BI has great functionality
There’s no use having data at your fingertips unless it can provide useful business insights and share narratives that help decision-makers make better, evidence-based decisions. Thankfully, this is exactly where Power BI comes into its own.
It’s easy for users to connect their data to Power BI quickly and choose from a variety of pre-templated visualisations to both gain and share insights. Furthermore, these visualisations are interactive, so users can filter reports in seconds – say, to test certain suggestions or questions in a live meeting, and to, overall, gain a more rounded, holistic view of what their data is telling them.
Callum Gillespie is Head of Infrastructure Operations at Littlefish,