Is Power BI the end of the road for Excel

Take a deep breath, Excel isn’t going away! Those of us working in the finance department, Excel is our favorite go-to tool. No matter how amazing your financial management solution, most Controllers and CFOs all agree, please don’t take away my Excel.

The evolution of our favorite analysis tool is the new analysis and visualization tools that turn Excel into a business intelligence (BI) platform. The most popular programming language may just be Excel formulas and pivot tables. And now there are new tools available, Power Query, Power Pivot, Power Map and Power View, make Excel even more powerful. These tools allow you to transform almost any data, explore and filter millions of rows of data, build KPIs and create visualizations.

Some of the most popular mid-market accounting solutions, for example, Unanet, allow end user to leverage the power of BI to create dashboards and project analyses which is key to project managers. Unanet was purpose-built for project-driven organizations and provides resource management, budgeting and forecasting and financials with cost pool calculations. Undoubtedly one of the best in the industry for project insights, it also recognizes that end users want to view data in a way that is important to their business. Users can leverage Microsoft’s Power BI service, which is both powerful and easy to use, to build data models and analyze their data which often times was very complex in Excel.

Visualizing the future of analysis

“Business analysts have wanted the self-service BI capability that allows them to not have to stand in line to get their work done, to not have to go get someone else to do measures for them in Cognos or Analysis Services,” says James Phillips, the general manager of data experiences at Microsoft. “I want something that allows me to get my work done without being a BI professional.”

Phillips has overseen the transition of Power BI from a SharePoint feature to a service that he expects to have a billion users. The service only came out of preview in July 2015, and it was already being used by 500,000 users at 45,000 companies in 185 countries (even though it’s only officially available in 145 of those).

“Instead of saying ‘it slices, it dices, it does julienne fries, you don’t need anything else,’ we’re keeping Excel good at what it’s good at,” Philips says. “Excel offers unbelievably powerful ad hoc analysis. It’s great for analyzing any kind of data. It’s effectively a programming environment for data. Really, it’s beautiful! But the interactive designer, where you can slice and dice and do visualizations for your reports, is Power BI Desktop.”

We often hear from our clients that one of their goals moving forward is the ability to expose the right data to the right people in their organization. The SSi and Menlo Technologies team can help firms develop their KPIs and leverage tools like Power BI to expose those in meaningful ways to their users.

Karen Riordan, Vice President
KRiordan@ssiconsulting.com