4 min read

Power BI vs Excel

By Jon Thompson on February 22, 2022 5:24:22 PM MST

Power BI vs Excel: For the Big Data Users | Blue Margin

Article summary: Learn why Power BI, a cloud-based, centralized source for data insights, is ideal for companies that need to analyze large volumes of data and work collaboratively.

Power BI is a collection of software, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your data into insightful visuals making big data easier to analyze. Power BI’s Reporting Service integrates with major cloud providers as well as on-premise installations, allowing you to easily connect to external data sources, visualize your most important metrics, and share seamlessly across your organization.

Power BI’s Excel Roots

Power BI’s roots are based on much of the popular functionality found in Excel, and it shares many of Excel’s foundational elements. In fact, many regular Excel users do not know their favorite go-to spreadsheet tool already includes powerful business intelligence features like Power Query (for pulling data from sources and loading it into a data model), PowerPivot (for data-modeling), and more. Power BI is a completely separate tool that has both of these tools included.

It has more connection options than Power Query in Excel. It also has better visualizations and can publish to the Power BI Service for better sharing of reports. For example, Power BI uses the same syntax for developing calculation functions in Excel. The functions language in Power BI is called DAX (or Data Analysis Expressions.) Also, Excel’s Power View tool for creating visuals is similar in functionality to the visual analytics that are the centerpiece of Power BI.

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Rapid Release Cycle

You may be wondering, if Excel is in so many ways comparable to Power BI, why would Microsoft want to offer the audience of general business users two seemingly similar tools for Business Intelligence? There are several reasons, and the most prominent is development trajectory. Since Excel is by far the most utilized spreadsheet and data tool in the world, deploying broad functionality updates runs the risk of creating a bug or issues on a massive scale. Accordingly, any updates that are made to Excel are done through lengthy release cycles and are subject to rigorous change management processes. 

Centralized Insights

Unlike Excel, Power BI is a cloud-based centralized source for data management and insights. This is favorable compared to data tools like Excel, since Excel files can float around an organization across various drives and emails. Excel is not a centralized analysis platform, even though it can be cloud-based, since there are no workspaces and places to view updated reports. Power BI is simple and powerful in that everyone can work from the same workspace and see the most important elements relevant to them. This helps reduce silos that are problematic in so many organizations.

Power BI vs Excel

Excel and Power BI are both highly effective analytical tools with different strengths. With an estimated 750 million users worldwide, it can be argued that Microsoft Excel is one of, if not the most user-friendly spreadsheet tools in the world. 

When working with small amounts of data, creating visuals in Excel is relatively straightforward. However, Excel is limited by how much data it can work with and the customizations of its visualizations. This is where Power BI excels (no pun intended). Unlike Excel, Power BI offers functionality like cross-filtering, the ability to build complex data models, and handling large datasets. Power BI is a more complete application and is ideal for businesses and companies that need to analyze large amounts of data in a simple way, work collaboratively, transform data into insights, update data regularly and present information visually.

Power BI vs Excel Comparison - Blue Margin
Key Power BI's key differentiators:
  • Dashboards are easily shared throughout an organization for collaborative work.
  • Ideal for visualizing large datasets and complex data models.
  • A business intelligence and data visualization tool capable of handling large amounts of data.
  • Unlimited data source connectors.
  • Easily accessed on mobile devices.
  • Faster processing than Excel.
  • Visually appealing, interactive, and customizable dashboards. 


What can Power BI do for your business?

Blue Margin is a gold certified developer of Microsoft Power BI and offers premier Power BI consulting services To learn how to leverage your company’s existing data with Microsoft Power BI, schedule a demo by clicking below.

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Jon Thompson

Written by Jon Thompson

Jon Thompson is co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Blue Margin Inc. An author and speaker, Jon sheds light on how businesses can take advantage of a revolution in business intelligence to become data-driven and accelerate their success.