How organizations process and analyze data is a significant competitive differentiator. Microsoft Excel has been – and still is for most business users – at the very center of these activities. But with the emergence of dedicated tools like Power BI, the tables are beginning to turn.

In this article, we’ll compare the difference between Power BI and Excel. Ultimately, framing Power BI vs Excel as a rivalry is missing the point. These two tools work well together. Excel is still a go-to tool for all kinds of situations, but it can provide even greater value thanks to the next-generation capabilities of Power BI.

Interrogating an old friend

Microsoft Excel has been a firm fixture of the digital toolbox for decades. The leading spreadsheet solution is like a digital Swiss Army knife. It can be used for a wide variety of tasks and can do a pretty good job at each. In fact, for tabular reports or complex calculations, you can’t do better than Excel, but when it comes to an increasing innovative workplace, we need to question whether Excel is the best tool for the job.

Question one:
In the age of Big Data and with the emergence of powerful platforms built for data processing in modern business environments, is Excel looking dated?

Question two:
As the workplace and the tools we use are increasingly being shaped to accommodate remote working and highly collaborative user experiences, is Excel out of touch with modern users?

Question three:
In a world where gaining actionable insights in real time from enormous databases is a business priority, and where these databases are in constant flux, as IoT and edge computing devices are connecting and communicating with a multitude of different IT systems across the globe, is Excel falling behind?

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Now for the defense…

The truth is that the answer to these three questions is: “Yes, it is.” But that doesn’t mean it’s time for Excel to throw in the towel. Microsoft certainly has no plans to do so. As part of the cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity suite, Excel is constantly being improved and modernized with rolling updates. The reason for this is that it is still an invaluable tool for many organizations.

Excel has many different strengths. Quick calculations using complex formulas and tables is a unique function and a blessing for billions of users. If you want to present data in tables, there is still nothing that compares to Microsoft Excel tabular reporting.

Another key benefit is its multipurpose and flexible nature. Excel can be beneficial across the entire organization from HR to Sales to Accounts. All of these line of business teams can use Excel in different ways to achieve specific objectives. It’s the same application but used across different business scenarios. It’s familiarity, due to its ubiquity, is also great, as this removes the requirement to train up new users.

What is Power BI?

Now let’s turn to the other major player in the Power BI vs Excel debate.

Power BI is a selection of software services, apps, and extensions built for business intelligence. Whether data is in Excel spreadsheets, on-premises databases, or SQL centers, Power BI allows you to bring all your business data together to can gain actionable insights. It can automatically pull in data from all major cloud services too, like Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce. Of course, it integrates seamlessly with all of the other tools across the Microsoft ecosystem.

Power BI allows users to go far beyond the line graphs, bar graphs, and pie charts that are used to visualize data in Excel. Here, we’re talking fully customizable data visualization with dashboards, reports, and content packs. This makes data analysis quick, easy, and more insightful than ever. For modern users, the look and feel resembles other apps with seamless user experiences.

Power BI makes data analysis easy and accessible for all business users. You don’t have to be a data analyst or have specialist knowledge to gain impactful insights. Because of this, you not only empower users but encourage better collaboration and boost productivity. At the Bauen Group, we could discuss the benefits of Power BI endlessly. Explore our collection of articles on Power BI to see how it can help you overcome your organization’s unique challenges.

Power BI vs Excel or Power BI and Excel 

While Power BI may be a good replacement for certain elements of Excel, using both these tools together will ultimately deliver the best results – and the Bauen Group can help you combine them in the most effective way. We know the difference between Power BI and Excel, how each can be used to solve particular problems, and can help you use this to your advantage. From our perspective, it’s best to forget about Power BI vs Excel, and instead focus on how both of these solutions can help you achieve your business objectives.

Using the Excel skills they already have, your users can transfer their queries, data models, and reports to Power BI, connect Excel workbooks, and access rich self-service data visualization. We can help with user adoption and training to make sure that your employees get the most out of these powerful tools.

We have experience in business intelligence, cloud applications, custom software, mobile applications, and much more. We can help you get started with Power BI and the wider Power Platform – which includes Power Automate for automating workflows and Power Apps for building custom applications. By getting to know your business we can find the right balance between unleashing new powerful tools like Power BI and helping users get more from old favorites like Microsoft Excel.

To learn more about business intelligence and the Power BI vs Excel debate, get in contact with the team at the Bauen Group today.