While MS Excel frontends the Power BI offering from Microsoft, the Microsoft Online services extends the Power BI experience to the cloud by providing a platform for sharing, collaborating and searching for information. It also adds mobility to the information by making the business intelligence information accessible from mobile devices through an app.
The Power BI platform is built on SharePoint technology and as a result brings with it the collaborative flexibility and added security of information with control in the hands of the business decision makers.
BI Sites are built with additional features that will be required by the analysts who build the data models and visualize the data mined using the queries that they have discovered from the databases. Excel workbooks containing the queries and the power views can be easily uploaded (a drag and drop is all that is required to upload a file) and featured visual reports int he form of tables and charts and Powerview dashboards can be presented on these sites. Queries that were used to build the data models can be shared with others on this platform so that they can also use these queries to design other data models related to the queried data. A dynamic relationship can be established between the datamodels on the site with the source databases using a Data Management Gateway (DMG). This will add a touch of real time capability to the BI information presented in the site.
These sites also have features required by the stakeholders of the information so that the BI experience becomes seamless. The HTML 5 enabled web pages make the featured reports interactive. What if? scenarios can be visualised instantly. Forecasting (predictive analysis capability) is built in and the alforithms that come into play for this forecasting feature can be tested for its accuracy (to add to the confidence of the user on the reliability of this forecast) using the hindcasting feature. Animated visual reports using the play axis feature can make the BI info come alive on the web page.
Q & A
One of the outstanding features of the Power BI sites is the Question and Answer feature. This allowes the users to ask any question on the featured data models on the site in plain English and receive answers instantly - whether it be in form of plain individual facts and figures, tables or a choice of charts. This completely eliminates the learning curve (that might come as a deterrent for many as in the case of other complex BI applicaitons) and provides the decision makers with a simple tool to access the BI information.
The BI information for the BI sites are accessible to users from mobile devices like tablets (coming soon to smart phones) eliminating the need for carrying heavy devices of larger form factors to access realtime information. The Power BI Mobile app brings rich BI information to the mobile devices eliminating the need for loging in to a browser all the time afresh everytime some info is required. Also, the BI info made available to the users is visually uniform across any of these devices making it more user-friendly and providing them a seamless experience.