Power BI for Office 365 Launched – Is This Excel BI?

Microsoft is never shy about its goals and the launch of Power BI for Office 365 is not any different. Microsoft’s goal…bring business intelligence tools to a billion screens.

Once the domain of analysts and data scientists, increasingly companies are looking to have critical business data presented directly to decision making end-users in a visual format that doesn’t require a degree in rocket science to understand and act upon.

To Microsoft that means using familiar tools with new features that can more directly access and use business intelligence data. Their solutions, Excel and Office 365. Virginia Backaitis, writing in CMS Wire, claims to be “bullish” on the launch which made the service available on February 10th. Her primary rationale isn’t so much about how well the new service actually works but more about how deeply embedded knowledge of Office tools are in the general population of business users.

“Everyone from high school students to stock brokers, to C-level execs, to researchers and even the heads of gardening clubs know how to use Microsoft Office tools. Is there a better way to achieve widespread adoption?” She writes in her coverage of the launch.

Nancy Gohring, writing in Cite World, likes it too but cautions that it is not an “off-the-shelf” product that you can distribute to your team and start using overnight.

She notes that “the stumbling block will be implementation and ease of use. This is not one packaged product that a group or business can buy and start using. To get the full product, businesses need Office 365 and SharePoint, as well as an administrator to manage it.”

Keeping that in mind companies who have invested heavily already in 365 and SharePoint will find the transition less stressful and the time it takes to start benefiting from the service may be shorter. Firms who have not but plan to invest in these systems and services might consider seeking external expertise to deploy SharePoint, integrate into 365 and then add Power BI. These same firms can often provide aid in getting users up-to-speed with the new tools and the business can start to benefit at a more rapid pace.

Nonetheless the tools are fairly slick, with a few bugs to work out yet and mobile use not quite where it should be. Nonetheless the ability for more users to access, visualize and share data directly with teams is an important step forward for Microsoft’s family of cloud and on-premise systems.

Whether it hits “a billion screens” or not however, remains to be seen.