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Excel vs Power BI – differences and common features

Excel vs Power BI is a very commonly asked question during the sessions I conduct. However, a to-the-point comparison is not easily available. You will see lot of feature comparisons. However, those will confuse you even more. That is why I created this short 8-minute video. Watch it and learn which tool to use when.

Excel vs Power BI weighing balance visual

Excel vs Power BI video

You can jump to a specific topic in the video as well:

Excel vs Power BI in brief

In summary, both tools are immensely powerful. It makes sense to use the combined power to your advantage. Continue with traditional Excel reporting as before. But it is equally important to import the same data into Power BI and explore what more insights you can gain and act upon.

  1. Excel and Power BI are not competitors
  2. Power BI is not designed to replace Excel
  3. In fact, both have more similarities than differences
  4. If that is the case, why have two products?
  5. The common part is data import and clean up.
  6. Whichever analytical tool you use, you need these two components anyway
  7. Those are exactly the same in Excel and Power BI.
  8. It is called Power Query – shown in Get and Transform under Data tab in Excel
  9. In Power BI Home tab we have Get and Transform as separate buttons.
  10. But in effect both are Power Query – with exactly the same syntax.
  11. Power BI supports more data sources (150+) compared to Excel (40+)
  12. The differences are with visualizations and sharing
  13. With Excel we can use Pivot Tables and 40+ charts (and 600+ Excel functions)
  14. With Power BI, we have 40 default visuals + 100s of additional visuals from Microsoft and third parties.
  15. With Power BI every plotted component is an interactive filter.
  16. With Excel, we only have Slicers – which are fairly primitive – though useful.
  17. Sharing files – either as attachments or links to cloud files works in both cases.
  18. However, with large data, this approach soon becomes unviable.
  19. With Excel, we simply copy paste reports as images and lose interactivity.
  20. With Power BI also you can copy paste as images. But there is a better way.
  21. So far, whatever I have said is available with Free version of Power Bi.
  22. For more efficient and secure sharing you need the paid version of Power BI.
  23. With Power BI Pro – you can publish the report and share a link.
  24. The recipients can interact with the report but cannot change it. Nor can they see the underlying data.
  25. Power BI Pro also supports row level security.
  26. AI visuals are an amazing addition to Power BI.
  27. Even with the free Power BI Desktop, you get powerful AI visuals like Explain the Decrease, Key Influencers, Smart Narratives and Decomposition tree.
  28. Moreover, you also have automatic analysis of data in Excel as well as Power BI
  29. In Excel it is the Analyze Data button in home tab. In Power BI, once you publish a report to cloud, you get Quick Analysis. Both are invaluable tools to look at significant findings in your data in an unbiased manner.
  30. To top it all both of them have Q&A option. The natural language query option

Related articles

  1. How to use Power BI free of cost
  2. Power BI for Excel users – Democratizing BI – Best Practices
  3. Power BI Grouping and Hierarchies
  4. Enhance data after import using Power BI
  • Make sure you use a corporate email id.
  • You will get a 30 day Pro version for free.
  • After registration, download Power BI from the top right down arrow icon (next to your profile picture)
  • You can also install Power BI Desktop from Microsoft Store
  • Power BI Desktop is not available on Mac.

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