Power BI, a new part of Microsoft Excel, is being touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread. And it does do a lot of cool stuff. With my dedication to Microsoft BI solutions, you’d think I’d be a huge fan. But I’m not.

I will acknowledge, however, that Power BI can be a valuable tool in certain conditions. Let me explain.

The promise of Power BI is that end users can create dashboards, visualizations and other cool BI stuff without IT intervention. There’s only one problem: Power BI only works well if your data is organized and your users pay attention to data cleansing. And for most folks, this isn’t the case.

But then I ran into Belinda Allen at the GPUG summit in Reno, NV. Belinda is a Microsoft MVP. We’d met almost a year ago when I spoke at a local user group. We talked, and she mentioned that she’d given a full day pre-conference class on Power BI. She picked up on my facial expression (I don’t hide my opinions very well) and realized I wasn’t a fan.

She responded with two key points:

  1. She dedicated an entire half her daylong training to the importance of data cleansing.
  2. She strongly advises end-users to seek out proper DBA help to set up views over their data. They shouldn’t try to figure out table relationships for themselves. (For more on this, see our post, Room for Some Views—Understanding the Value of Database Views for Reporting.)

Now, whether her audience will follow through, I don’t know. Indeed, Microsoft’s Power BI marketing doesn’t claim you can be independent of IT (except for initial DBA help). They just claim you can be independent.

So, hey, if you follow Belinda’s instructions, then great. And if you need some of that behind-the-scenes data cleansing and DBA help, we’re here to help you out.


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