When it comes to Power BI vs Excel, they are both great programs in their own right. Once you familiarise yourself with both, you’ll notice some overlap in the features. After 36 years, it’s no surprise that Excel is ingrained in most business processes. It’s a tool that allows almost any business to log and keep track of finances, workflow, and organising data.

Excel and other Microsoft products largely influenced Power BI, so there’s overlap and improvements on features you would typically find in Excel or Access. Power BI has a suite of data visualisation tools that allow users to transform collected data into actionable information for sales and decision-makers.

Side note: declaration of (dis)interest

If you’re like us, you may be suspicious of comparison articles – are they completely unbiased? We want to declare our interest upfront: Influential is a Microsoft Gold Partner and Power BI specialist. But we’re also an independent BI consultancy.

Over our 30 years of experience working with BI, we’ve developed partner relationships with SAP, IBM, Boomi, and more. We attract hundreds of clients because we choose to put them first – not Microsoft or any other partner.

So yes, we work closely with Power BI, but we’re providing an impartial comparison with Excel too. If you’d like help finding the right BI tool for your business requirements, please get in touch.

1. Cost and scalability Power BI vs Excel

If you’re under a strict budget, the cost of choosing BI software is integral to your decision. Some businesses opt for the software at a lower price point to get a better understanding of the software before investing in it long term. So Power BI vs Excel, which is more affordable?

Power BI

Like most licensed or cloud-based tools, Power BI is scalable in line with your consumption. The more users and data within your account, the more you pay for your subscription; this price starts at £7 per month. If your business is looking to keep costs low, it’s advisable you work with a partner who can provide managed services.It’s worth noting here that the Desktop version of Power BI is free for personal use — you only start paying a licensing fee when you share documents with other users. The free licence gives users 10GB of storage in the Cloud to host Power BI reports and even excel workbooks. The maximum size of a Power BI report on the free licence is 1GB, and these reports are “refreshed” every 30 minutes, eight times a day.

Excel

Excel has to be purchased as part of a package with Microsoft 365 or as a standalone app, with the annual licence starting at £70.

2. Integrations and connectors

Depending on your industry, the data you’re working with will need to be presented differently. Whether it’s YoY sales or the quarterly budget, there’s a visualisation that can help you create reports for your team.

Power BI

Power BI has a library of built-in visualisations such as pie charts, clustered columns, bar charts, doughnuts, and more. The dashboard has a search feature similar to Google, where you can type in “what department spent the most money in Q2?” and the dashboard will create an answer, telling you it’s recruiting.

Although Power BI is not 100% flexible, you can integrate old and new data reports or do “everything, everywhere”. 

Our expert Power BI development team can help you create highly customised visualisations.

Excel

Excel only has a small number of built-in charts and graphs available. If you’re looking to build a dashboard on the program, you have a minimal set of options. The spreadsheet display is the default on excel, but you can create summary reports with simple steps and formulas.

3. Easy to use

When comparing Power BI vs Excel, it’s essential to consider how your team will take to new software. Will you also need to invest in training? And how long will it take to migrate to Power BI? Let’s take a look.

Power BI

After your team has completed their Power BI training, the software is easy to use and integrated into the day today. But even if you’re migrating from Excel to Power BI, the app requires an understanding of Power Query and Power Pivot DAX formulas. If you need help training your team, get in touch about our Power BI training services.

Excel

After 36 years on the market and over 750 million users, it’s safe to say that most people understand how to use excel for their business.

In the new age of digital transformation, connectivity is key. How do Power BI and Excel measure up when it comes to collaborative working?

4. Is it collaborative?

Power BI

Power BI was made for collaborating — it operates within its Power BI cloud service. This means you and your team can access and edit the same report simultaneously. If you upgrade to the Power BI Pro package, your data will be automatically refreshed, so you don’t have to upload and re-upload every time you make a change. Your data is safe with Power BI security, as it’s stored on Azure AD and protected using industry-standard security measures.

Excel

Collaboration on Excel is slightly more complex compared to Power BI. Unless your Excel workbook is saved on the Cloud, you will have to email the file to one another every time you make a change. Emailing reports to one another can confuse and open your team up to security problems and misreporting data.

5. Capability

Depending on the size and workload of your business, your needs may differ from other companies. If you deal with large quantities of data, you will need to find software that keeps it secure but can also have a good capacity. Let’s see how Power BI and Excel measure up.

Power BI

Power BI is great for building reports and datasets of any size. But as we mentioned earlier, the cost of your PBI license can vary depending on your data usage.

Excel

The maximum file size for an Excel workbook with a data model is 2GB. If you exceed this limit, your workbook won’t save.

 

Summing up: Power BI vs Excel

To summarise;

  • Power BI is scalable, depending on the business needs
  • Power BI has more options for visualisation
  • Excel, however, is more flexible in terms of reporting
  • Excel is universally understood.
  • Power BI was launched with collaboration in mind.
  • Power BI can handle any data size.

Each of the two products have their perks and have their place within a company’s software portfolio, so the real answer is that almost every business needs both Power BI and Excel, rather than one or the other.

 

Contact us today to discuss how we can easily demonstrate the use cases for Power BI and the benefits your business will realise, whilst continuing to get the best from Excel?

Book your free PBI consultation

As BI consultants with over 30 years of experience, we want to help you find the perfect BI software for your business. Whether you need a proof of concept or a fully managed project, we’ll exceed your expectations.

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