Will Microsoft Power BI replace Excel

Microsoft Excel has always been the go-to application when it comes to analyzing data, identifying trends or preparing reports and charts. With the introduction of Power BI, a more powerful tool with enhanced features, the industry is abuzz with discussions on the future of Excel and whether Power BI is about to replace it.

Data analysts will vouch for Excel as it stands strong for the versatility and flexibility it provides to maneuver and interpret data and mold it into customized flowcharts and presentations. The additions like Power Pivot, Power Query, Power View, and Power Map make it a more wholesome package. Now, armed with the capacity to filter out unwanted data, remove duplicates, and build better data visualization, Excel seemed invincible until Microsoft introduced the Power BI service.

What does Power BI have that Excel doesn’t?

It is integrated to the Cloud: Since the Power BI is a cloud-based service it can integrate with other data sources. This gives the businesses two definite advantages:

  1. Access to a wider range of data and opportunity to leverage the insights derived there from, and
  2. Saving copious amount of operational time involved in moving and sharing data in the absence of an integrated platform.

Being on Cloud provides other benefits like having scalable resources, cost effectiveness, being accessible to social media, getting data updated in real-time. There’s also a free version that grants limited storage.

A consolidated view to multiple dashboards: Getting insights from multiple data sources becomes simpler as you get to view them all in one dashboard. Drawing comparisons, charting out reports, applying analytics, all of these are vital to a business and Power BI helps you remain on top of all information.

Custom content pack and Q&A feature: Power BI lets the user pull data from a wide range of cloud services like GitHub, Salesforce, and Google Analytics. One can create customized content pack to combine data from on-premise and the Cloud.  The Q&A feature lets you get answers by typing a natural language rather than a code.

Predictive forecasting: By adding predictive forecasting to BI, Microsoft brings sophistication to the data analysis. Advanced analytics and the use of Big Data puts Power BI in a different league since there aren’t many tools in the market that combine these features.

Excel features can be imported: Since most businesses still rely on the pivot table and map features of the Excel, it made greater business sense to include the option and that’s exactly what Microsoft did. You can import the Power Pivot or Power View worksheets and work in a familiar environment to play around with the data.

A unified package: The power tools of Excel are not integrated within it. They stand out as separate appendages and a user is required to toggle between multiple windows making the whole exercise cumbersome. Power BI rectifies this by bringing together the whole analytical process under one roof.

Does this mean Excel will lose its stronghold over users?

Experts and Excel users maintain that there’s no other data tool in the world than Excel. Tools that resemble Excel, including the Power BI, claim to be flexible but are in fact quite rigid and complex. On the other hand, Excel features like the Pivot table, Charts, Formulas are basically well-integrated programming languages and can be mastered by the average user.

The fact that BI itself uses the feature to import from Excel is a testimonial to the fact that data analysts all over consider working with Excel as second nature for data manipulation and number crunching. Over time, the scope of Excel expanded with powerful add-ons like the Excel Services, Power Pivot, and Power Query.

Excel Services is a server version that lets you secure your workbook and publish it to SharePoint. The user can continue working on the workbook while the server manages the security and storage, and even the calculation aspects.

Power Pivot gives the traditional analytical Excel a huge boost with its portable formulas . It’s a huge time-saver when the formulae get more complex and need to be reused in other Pivots.

Power Query is an intuitive tool BI tool that you can use to modify data in so many different ways. You can clean your data, merge and reshape any data to match your requirements, create queries from Facebook likes, create views that are customized, and also import data from other sources like XML, File Folders.

The New Excel is powerful enough to build robust Excel models.

The primary backlash faced by Excel is that the power tools are not integrated within the main spreadsheet making it “complex” as compared to solutions like Tableau that are self-service analytics.

However, as James Philips, general manager, Microsoft data experiences, puts it across this cannot be reason alone for Excel to lose power as since even users who have shifted their loyalties to other self-service analytics solutions keep coming back to Excel.

So, will Microsoft BI replace Excel in the time to come?

Power BI comes across as an all-in-one BI pack, but it is quite new and still relies on Excel tools, so if the end users are not Excel users, it might not be a good replacement. Also, there are limitations when it comes to large sets of data or having customizable dashboards.

There’s no doubting Excel’s functionality when it comes to data analysis. The new power tools do take up the advantage factor several notches higher yet the lack of seamless integration is what might turn the tide against it. It might require a bit of sprucing up to meet the modern BI requirement.

Do you think Excel could be replaced? Let us know your opinion. Suyati is a Microsoft Gold certified partner. To know more about our services, please write to services@suyati.com.

Author : Uma Chellappa Date : 23 Mar 2016