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  • Writer's pictureKwixand Team

Power BI or Excel: Which Should You Use?

Power BI, Excel, or both? Learn about the differences between the two and which tool to use when.

Integrated Power BI and Excel dashboard

The importance of reporting cannot be understated for an organization. Accurate data analysis and visibility into your company’s financial performance is key to improving that performance, making better business decisions, and ultimately increasing revenue. Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Excel are two tools used for business reporting but have many significant differences. When should you use Excel, and when is it better to use Power BI? Is one better than the other? This article will give you more insight into how each tool works and when to use it.

Overview of Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet tool that can perform calculations and formulas and presents your data in sophisticated tables and charts. It offers a variety of features such as graphing tools, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and more. Some key benefits of Excel include:

  • The ability to perform quick calculations, with over 400 available functions and formulas

  • Free templates that enable you to create dashboards and other business reports easily, which are printable

  • You can write code to automate any activities that you perform manually in Excel as it has its coding language called VBA

Overview of Power BI

While most people are familiar with Microsoft Excel, Power BI may be a less familiar tool. Essentially, Power BI is a suite of business intelligence, reporting, and data visualization tools. Its various features help businesses analyze data, spot trends, and obtain actionable insights. Some key benefits of Power BI include:

  • Ability to build custom dashboards and interactive reports quickly that update with real-time information

  • Supports and easily integrates with a wide range of data sources

  • Provides enterprise-level business intelligence capabilities relatively inexpensively

Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics dashboard for Sales

Understanding the Differences Between Power BI and Excel

So what are the key differences between Power BI and Microsoft Excel? We highlight some of the main ones below.

Power BI vs. Excel: Data Sources & Data Processing

When compared to Microsoft Excel, Power BI connects to a larger range of data sources. It has a growing library of over 120 free connectors and can connect directly to hundreds of on-premises and cloud data sources. Power BI is also designed to handle large amounts of data, whereas Excel has a reduced data limit. Finally, Power BI is much faster in processing data than Excel.

Power BI vs. Excel: Reporting & Dashboards

Both tools allow you to create dashboards. However, Power BI has more advanced features for creating custom dashboards such as easy formatting, filtering, resizing, and more. It uses drag and drop functionality which makes it easy to create interactive and dynamics dashboards. Data is also updated automatically so that you can view it in real-time. While you can create dashboards with Excel, they are limited in terms of interactivity and functions, and data is not automatically updated. However, Excel is better at creating reports in tabular format. It is also easier to do calculations within Excel than in Power BI, as the Excel formula is easier to write.

Power BI vs. Excel: Collaboration

Power BI enables collaboration with your team. You can easily share dashboards or reports within Power BI workspaces and allow co-ownership of a report or dashboard. It also has a ‘Chat in Team’s' button for reports, and you can create Power BI tabs within Microsoft Teams so that everyone in the channel gets notified when a new report is available. You can also embed or print reports out. On the other hand, Excel has limited scope for collaboration.

Power BI vs. Excel: Data Security

For data security, Excel lets you restrict access to a file or workbook, lock files to hide their visibility or provide read-only copies to people when you don’t want any accidental edits. Power BI comes with robust security features such as strong permission controls, network isolation with virtual network support, and a host of other security features.

So, Should You Use Power BI or Excel?

When it comes down to it, using Excel or Power BI depends on what you need to do.

If you need to conduct analysis on historical data, manipulate or transform data, create complex tabular reports, or do simple calculations, Excel is more than capable of handling your needs.

Power BI is a better choice if you need to simplify real-time data acquired from different sources, create visualizations, and draw actionable insights to make decisions.

Many businesses often use both Excel and Power BI to meet their reporting and dashboarding needs.

Using Power BI & Excel Together

If your business already uses Excel but also wants to access broad data analysis and visualization capabilities, that is easy to do. Power BI integrates seamlessly with Excel and can help save a lot of time when used together. Here are some ways you can delve into data visualization with this integration:

  • You can easily transfer all your current Excel queries, data models, and reports into Power BI to create interactive dashboards without learning a new application or language.

  • You can use and share multiple Excel workbooks in a single view within Power BI and display ranges of data charts, and tables on a dashboard

  • You can connect to your data models directly from Excel to create powerful PivotTables and charts with a single click.

Connect to Power BI in Excel

Get Started with a Microsoft Power BI Partner

If you have any questions about getting started with Power BI or how Excel and Power BI can work together in your organization, the Kwixand Solutions team is here to help. We are a Microsoft Power BI Partner based in Vancouver, Canada, and help businesses across North America digitally transform and streamline operations. Book a free consultation with us today.


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