Excel is the world’s most widely used and familiar data analysis tool and for good reason! It provides flexibility at each stage of your analytic journey, with tools that support both quick ad hoc calculations and exploration across large data sets. Last month, Microsoft expanded its BI offerings by releasing the latest version of Power BI, a groundbreaking cloud-based business analytics service, which has gained over 500,000 unique users, from 45,000 companies and across 185 countries during the public preview. One question we are asked a lot is, “How does Excel work with Power BI?” Here is an overview of how these tools work together to solve your analytics needs.
Excel 2016 and Power BI are a portfolio of tools that is unique in the industry. Together, they provide a broad set of capabilities that allow business analysts to more easily gather, shape, analyze and visually explore their data. The new Power BI service is a business analytics collaboration and delivery environment where anyone in your organization can bring together data from a wide range of sources—such as Excel workbooks, on-premises corporate data, Azure services and other popular cloud-based offerings like Salesforce.com or Marketo—to view and share it with live dashboards and interactive reports.
Along with this new service, we released Power BI Desktop (previously named Power BI Designer), a visual data exploration and interactive reporting tool that allows business analysts to navigate data quickly across a free-form canvas and easily design dashboards and reports for the Power BI service. And of course, Excel is best for flexible, powerful data analysis—providing a collection of integrated features that enables analysts to shape, model and analyze millions of rows of data within its familiar grid environment.
If you are one of the hundreds of millions of people who use Excel as their analysis and reporting tool today, you should find it easy to begin using the Power BI service and Power BI Desktop to expand the capabilities of your analytic toolset. Excel 2016 and Power BI Desktop are deliberately compatible, using the same underlying technologies—like sharing the same data access capabilities and publishing directly to the Power BI service. Additionally, you can import your Excel workbooks into Power BI Desktop and take advantage of the queries, data models and reports you have already created in Excel. This makes it easy to move between these powerful desktop tools as your business needs change. Power BI enables users to use Excel workbook data to build Power BI dashboards and reports, as well as view and interact directly with rich Excel-built reports through Excel Online.
The design of the new Power BI offerings was based on an incredible amount of customer and partner feedback, ensuring that the experiences worked well for all users. You have also given feedback about the business analytics features within Excel, which has driven us to make several improvements. In addition to providing a set of new charting and analysis capabilities, expect to see the following changes in Excel 2016:
- All Excel 2016 users can take advantage of Power Query, our powerful data gathering add-in. We have fully integrated this set of capabilities into Excel—no add-in required—and removed the “power” name. Simply find the Power Query features as part of the data access and management experiences under the “Get and Transform” section of the Data tab.
- Similarly, Power Map, our popular 3-D geospatial visualization add-in, will also be integrated fully into Excel. Now with a more descriptive name, “3-D Maps,” you can find this functionality alongside other visualization features on the Insert tab.
- We heard from you that Power View, our premium free-form interactive reporting add-in, provides a compelling new way to report. You also made it clear that you value the consistent look and feel of the familiar charting experience already in Excel. This feedback helped lead us to develop Power BI Desktop, which is built with the same technology as Power View and provides a dedicated environment for visual data exploration and reporting. New investments in this space will be done in Power BI Desktop, and we encourage users of Power View to take full advantage of the new tool.
With the newest releases of Excel 2016 and Power BI, we are providing a complete, flexible and robust business analytics toolset that works great together. Use these tools to discover the deeper business insights with more speed and power, and spend less time trying to find the right way to share with peers and workgroups. Try our new offerings out, leave your comments below, and share your ideas for improvements and new features.