Is Power BI For Real ?

Thought of the day …

I have been messing around with Power BI for a while now and while it “looks” great and does “good demo” I’m finding it almost impossible to build anything that I can rely on  .. it has a lot of supposed features that really don’t exist (vaporware) and frankly it’s VERY complicated to the point where I’d be reluctant to put a price on a Power BI implementation and I’d be worried that in the end it would let me down to the point where I would look bad for suggesting it.

I am TRYING to come up with a set of best practices that work reliably and consistently but to this point haven’t found that sweet-spot.

Also remember that Microsoft is selling this as an end user tool for analysts … and they have no idea that this will mostly NOT work because these “Analysts” will run into so many walls (data access, data quality, networking issues, security, internal data politics, etc., etc., etc.) that it should be done by professionals … But by Microsoft pricing it and selling it as an end-user product, companies will just never allocate the money needed to make  Power BI Solutions thing really work (if that is actually possible) ….

Oh yeah, sure Microsoft’s line is “We’re working on it and shipping new incremental improvements every day” … but what that means is that Power BI will NEVER be stable enough to host anything but demos .. How can I rely on a technology that will change regularly and is very likely to make things that work for me now stop working at some time in the future for no apparent reason and without warning…  ?

And if IT gets involved, none of these Power BI installations will ever see the light of day .. it’ll be just too fragile, too needy and too prone to embarrassing IT in the eyes of their users .. So IT will shut it down.

I am thinking that Power BI better level off technologically and soon and that Microsoft needs to work on making it SOLID, explaining what it REALLY can do rather than writing endless crap on the web about stuff that they’re “working on” as if those features really exist and begin spinning the fact that Power BI is NOT EVER going to be a tool for the amateur.

But that in the end Power BI COULD be a great product and that Microsoft is working to make it so.

No I’m NOT just in a bad mood today btw 🙂


About Biggus Dickus

Dick is a consultant in London, ON Canada who specializes in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office Development.
This entry was posted in Analysis Services, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Excel 2013, Microsoft Access, Office Automation, OLAP, Power BI, Power BI Desktop, PowerPivot, Process Automation, Spreadsheets, the Cloud and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Is Power BI For Real ?

  1. Hi Dick,
    I agree with you in many points. But Access or advanced Excel apps aren’t end user tools either…

  2. Biggus Dickus says:

    Yes they aren’t …

    Microsoft has completely abandoned the idea of legitimate Excel development (unless you are using their ridiculous “Add-Ins” that they are pushing now .. a repeat of a failed effort more that 15 years ago) … And the idea of Access as an end-user tool has been the official stance on Access for years now. It’s hard to understand and hard to believe. ,,, How they can be so ignorant of what people REALLY do with their products… 😦

    Frankly they spend way too much time talking to people who tell them what they want to hear to support what they’ve already decided and not enough time talking to people and just listening to what they say .. Typical but sad. I always thought Microsoft was better than that but not lately I’m afraid.


  3. souzaesanto says:

    It takes minutes just to open a Power BI sample… after they solve the performance problems i can think about use it

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      Too true .. and the official way to deal with this kind of issue is to never mention that it exists … just look the other way. And their sycophants who have committed their businesses to this technology will NEVER criticize because they think it’s biting the hand that feeds them. In actual fact this sycophancy is hurting Microsoft, all us devs and our customers. If you ever speak out about the problems with mS tech you become a marked man. The could say that this sin’t a democracy but on the other hand in the end every player in the piece should look after their own needs and if a tech has issues and everyone is afraid to say anything then what incentive is there on the part of MS to fix things. Quite the opposite, you get stuff like Power BI..

      I remember saying to an MS tech at a seminar the problems I had with something they just showed me and he said “But I’ve just worked on that for 2 years 😦 ” … To which I said “And you got paid for it … don’t complain .. if it sucks it sucks. But don’t expect me to go out and sell something that sucks at my own expense if I don;t think it’ll sell. Fix it or move on but I don’t give a shit about all your effort and I shouldn’t.” I think he got it. 🙂

  4. francorg01 says:

    100% agree

  5. sam says:

    Power BI Desktop is just 2 steps away from becoming a Desktop Database for the Millions
    1. Allow users to connect to the Data model in a pbix file from Excel without resorting to the DAX studio hack
    2. Allow users to encrypt the pbix file
    Once this is done we have modern replacement to Access

    PowerBI (cloud) is just a dream

    But unfortunately all the focus in MS in on the Cloud version

  6. Giorgio says:

    “Once this is done we have modern replacement to Access”
    They said the same about Visual Fox Pro and LightSwitch and yet Access buried them all. I think the combination of Access and Power BI should be achieved instead.

  7. quiddata says:


    6 months later, have you changed your mind?

    What do you think about improvements recently?

    My 2 cents : The product is nice, trendy, flashy but :
    – yes still too complex for the most of users (even advanced users as long as they will need to learn DAX and M to do anything)
    – connection with Excel is still to weak (what ? i can’t export this matrix and create an automatic pivot table in excel from it? come on….)

    hope next features will go in these directions.

  8. quiddata says:

    Ok, looking forward…

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      OK … A day late 😦

      What I said in that Post still applies and I guess always will. Power BI is extraordinarily complex and unintuitive and I believe that it is doomed to suffer for this in the marketplace. As far as new things added it is my opinion that most that keeps getting added is just adding more and more complexity and confusion.

      That said, I personally have worked hard to come up with a set of Best Practices for getting data to Power BI using Excel (which I know is very not cool – even in the Excel Team). These are all outlined here in this blog as you might have seen. Of course my processes are NOT simple but they do work and that cannot be said for every other way you might want to stage your Power BI solution’s data.

      In the end my techniques tick off everything that I believe one might need in a successful PBI solution:

      1. Access to data behind the firewall with no need for a Data Gateway
      2. Promotes the concept of pre-aggregation where one pre summarized the data to a useful degree before publishing to Power BI. The fact is that Power BI is for Analytics not for Querying and any way to distill the data by structure and by timeframe IMHO is a huge pickup
      3. By using SharePoint the data is easily updated, audit-able, manageable and reliable
      4. While you can store you data produced in Excel in Azure I would guess that 90+% of PBI solutions will work perfectly with Excel as the data storage medium
      5. By following specific rules these same Excel data sources can be automatically refreshed simply from re-saving the source Excel files. In this way users can feed new data to Power BI with zero understanding nor any reason to care how it all works. Many seem to have accepted the idea of manually updating Power BI Desktop files and republishing them every time the data changes. This is ridiculous to me.
      6. I have yet to write the post but there is a quite straight-forward way to control what is know as Row level Security (RLS) in Power BI to drive specific data to specific consumers based on assigned responsibilities assigned in an Excel file easily and reliably.

      In the end I believe that I have come up with a set of best practices that would allow just about any of the 700 million Excel users out there to Publish successfully to Power BI … Too bad this “space” is being controlled by a small cadre of BI nerdmasters who frankly aren’t interested in such an idea. Power BI is frankly not as difficult as it is made out to be but if no one cares then I guess I don’t either 😦 ..

      Does that answer your question ?


  9. quiddata says:

    Thanks for the answer. oh yes i’ve got what i wanted and even more ! 🙂
    Very deep understanding of the solution, its limits and what it involves.
    I agree with you on most of your points.
    if you don’t mind i’ll reply (as the modest user i am / we are not is the same league for sure) when my mind will be clearer to explain what shocked me as a newbie first.

  10. Code Korenge says:

    I’m tempted to agree to this post since power-bi has changed recently – bringing both & embedded together and expecting old user to migrate their apps. The worst is embedded service requires license to try it. An their licensing model is soo confusing!

  11. Kungfu says:

    And all for the low low cost of $100/mo/user!

    I spent a year fiddling with Power BI before giving up on it. It isn’t stable, every time I would go to open it up it needed a new update. I hated the limitations for connecting to existing multidimensional cubes. In my experience, business users don’t want fancy graphs and charts they just want a clear bottom line and details that made those up. These kinds of reports look terrible in PowerBI compared to Reporting Services. I also feared putting time and effort into an entire warehouse worth of reporting in some kind of propietary format that MS will likely abandon in a few years, leaving me in the lurch. Why would I ever want to pay for reporting when I already bought it with SSRS? The Azure marketing team ruins yet another product.

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