Power BI is Microsoft Business Intelligence offer. This solution is distributed in SaaS mode, meaning it is available from the editor’s service Cloud, but no version of this app is currently offered in server mode – On Premises. For setup in your infrastructures, Microsoft offers other solutions that are currently collected in SQL Server. This offer is also evolving a lot with the arrival of new technological offers such as Datazen that enriches SQL Server Enterprise’s potential. But this post is about presenting a way to test and start using Power BI quickly with support thanks to our PowerBI Challenge offer.
A “QuickStart” offer
Power BI’s successive modifications have made some users confused between various versions and particularly, as it often happens, between licensing options. Business Intelligence offers – not specifically Microsoft’s but also its competitors’ offers – often revolve around two main concerns: price, and technical difficulty to access and understand data.
In both cases, the PowerBI Challenge offer gives you the opportunity to be assisted by a technical specialist, and potentially to be funded by Microsoft. The whole offer relies on quick and easy startup. In business intelligence just like in most technical projects, a large part of the issue lies in the way we approach the need and the scope that is often little or poorly defined.
Just like in most projects, a scope too wide does not allow us to deliver a convincing result rapidly, whereas a narrow scope risks not showing the solution’s benefits. That is exactly the approach that we offer to use to start this PowerBI Challenge: discovering your dataset and defining together if it fits your goals.
First pitfall: the price
Although decision-making solutions are often criticized for it, the upcoming of Cloud applications (SaaS) decreased those solutions’ entry price. These solutions are often confused with databases such as Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 or Oracle, because they stock data. But typically, even though it is perfectly possible to connect PowerBI to Cloud or Local databases, it is often a scope mistake to begin this type of project from the start and to see costs and technical difficulty increase rapidly.
What we usually offer is to work on a sample of your data that is already used in dashboards or Excel pivot-tables. You would be surprised by the number of strategical decisions that are taken from the many pivot tables scattered across a company. This first step allows us to work from this Excel file with no need to invest at once in a PowerBI Pro account. Using PowerBI free offer, whether or not you are already an Office 365 customer, we will be able to convert this pivot table or this first dashboard from your Excel file into an online dashboard in PowerBI. This has the immediate benefit of facilitating access and sharing with your co-workers.
Only possible blocking element: Excel version 2013 or later is a prerequisite to use Power Tools such as Power Query, Power Pivot etc. or PowerBI Desktop application which is only available in 64bits version and therefore requires a 64bits OS to be executed. To prevent possible issues due to these prerequisites, our consultant can work with your BI teams from their own workstation that already fits all needs.
There is also a 30-day free trial to test PowerBI Pro. However, we advise you to keep this option for a second stage, to demonstrate the capacity to maintain dashboards created using data extracted from your database this time.
Second pitfall… Technical complexity
Handling data sources in a consistent environment is not always easy. It rapidly becomes more difficult as soon as you are using real – and therefore heterogeneous – systems.
In addition to sometimes complex technical installations, security issues linked to authentication systems represent a major proportions of issues. We often see SQL identifications on a SQL Server system although users are identified by their Windows session. It is also frequent that, like on SharePoint, access to data is operated by a technical service for the user. The typical double hop issue then arises, and is often dealt with by setting up the Kerberos protocol and constrained delegation, if necessary, in authentication infrastructures to ensure identity transfer by the service. This setup is not an easy and quick technical operation. It often requires an advanced reflection on the setup’s needs, options and impacts.
In our approach of PowerBI Challenge, we favor, once again, the use of an Excel file as a first step, to create a representative sample of the data we are trying to present. It allows us to remain within the limits of PowerBI free offer for this first stage. By using Excel, prototyping is often easier and quicker since users already master this tool. It allows us to deliver the result quickly with the expected visualization and gives the possibility to validate the technological choice and convince – or not – to carry on in this direction.
Start small but think big
This is a pretty good summary of this offer that you can take out right now with our team. A support offer potentially fully or mainly funded by a Microsoft grant, and which only goal is to allow you to launch the initiative and ensuring a result, although limited at first, but already visually acceptable in the context of the selected data sample. All this, without engaging your company in a subscription or any technical investments.
Getting a result quickly will allow you to justify the benefit of producing new dashboards. In this case, your team will probably be able to create them, and the experiment can also be extended by making your tables more dynamic by connecting them directly to data sources.
Furthermore, PowerBI, event in its free version, offers a number of data connectors from the catalog and can therefore exploit data from several applications such as Dynamics CRM, SalesForce, SAP, Azure, etc.
So, if you are ready for the PowerBI Challenge, please contact our team!