Don’t use Power BI with PowerPoint

I work with many customers on Power BI. It is a new topic for many users and decision makers (not techies). The benefits of using Power BI are obvious and everyone wants to use it immediately. However, the first question I get is – How to use Power BI with PowerPoint ?Here is the answer. Don’t try to put Power BI dashboards or visualizations into PowerPoint. Simple. If you want to know why, read on …

Why not use Power BI with PowerPoint

What is wrong with using Power BI with PowerPoint?

Everything is wrong with it. It has always been a bad habit and this is the best opportunity to break the habit.

Ever since PowerPoint existed, reports and charts are being copy pasted into slides. I am sure you have seen slides with 6 charts crammed in. It is an easy way of presenting static reports. We are used to this process so much that we have stopped noticing the inefficiency associated with it.

The person who created the reports must have spent a lot of time crunching data, formatting, pivoting and chart customization. Often the reports are based upon the same underlying data. In short, there is some correlation between the data shown on different slides.

Using Paste Link can be used to have dynamic refresh of the reports in Excel. Charts refresh automatically anyway. However, in practice, most of this stuff is a static image.

Even with older version of Excel, the data could be presented using Excel itself instead of PowerPoint. But it is a messy process, multiple files, unlinked pivot tables, pivot charts all scattered (or loosely arranged) across sheets.

Now all that has changed – due to Power BI and that is why we need to change as well to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Power BI Interactivity is the key. Show it off!

What do we need to change?

First of all, we need to demonstrate the unimaginable capabilities of Power BI to our superiors, subordinates, colleagues, external agencies and partners.

Once they are aware of the benefits, stop using PowerPoint for demonstrating analytical data. Of course, you can have a snapshot of a Power View or Power Map added to PowerPoint. But hyperlink it to the same file in Power BI Portal or OneDrive.

Open the file and show it interactively during the presentation.

Encourage everyone to ask questions, look at the same data from different points of view, change the visualizations and filters, ask business related questions and try to find the answers…

This is the real use of a “REVIEW” meeting. This way, everyone present can contribute positively. Very rarely will you need to say “I will get back to you tomorrow” when someone asks you for a different variation of a static report.

Power BI Tiles App

I am aware that there is a Power BI Tiles App. However, we do not want to show individual tiles while discussing the report or dashboard. We want the interactivity, ability to change visualizations and focus mode. Tiles are static and do not provide interactivity. That is why it hampers the ability to understand the data in a deeper sense.

Power Map Video

As a compromise Power Map Video can be inserted and shown in PowerPoint. However, if possible, try to keep the original file available during the presentation. This way, further animation, time scrubbing, filtering and visualizations are available for interactive analysis.

Teach Power BI to your boss

Often the  persons creating the dashboard are different from the persons interpreting it. If your boss is not aware of the benefits of Power BI, (s)he may ask you to send the traditional static  PowerPoint based reports or copy pasted Pivot tables.

Try showing the benefits of Power BI by highlighting some new things which neither you nor the boss were aware of earlier. Once you demonstrate that it is not just another fancy tool, it actually provides additional, useful and actionable information, everyone would love it.

The process

I have found this process useful. Try it out.

    1. Talk to IT and find a business team which creates lots of reports
    2. Conduct a pilot and create Power BI based dashboards using their data
    3. Sit with that team and find some new and useful information which was simply not known earlier
    4. Call the departmental head and other decision makers and show them the new business information and the action items which originated from that knowledge
    5. Then show them the older reports and explain how this useful information was missed – which is obviously a loss of business opportunity
    6. Finally show them how this was done by starting from a blank dashboard and creating the report in front of them
    7. Go to Focus Mode of some visualization and show them that the raw data is always available for validation, auditing and cross-checking
    8. This is the time to tell them that the whole reporting thing is called “Power BI”

Try it out and post your experiences as comments. Enjoy!

Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?