If you haven’t been inundated with everyone’s new favorite topic in IT, Big Data, then you’ve either been under a rock or perhaps competing on season 100 or so of Survivor. Like many people, I work with lots of spreadsheets and have data that’s important to me in our CRM system, our financial figures, and outside data sources that we might use for something like market analysis.  That said, I didn’t think of myself as a ‘Big Data’ person.  That seemed like something for research analysts or financial market folks.

Coupled to this, I didn’t really think about the tools that would be used in the Big Data world because we are very focused on the Microsoft stack and more specifically in Microsoft Online Services.  But then Microsoft launched PowerBI and I found that my data could come to life visually in ways that make it much easier for me to both understand it and use it to collaborate with my colleagues.

As far as I can tell, there are many tools out there that you could use for data visualisation of you “big data.”  In fact, the folks over at www.creativebloq.com have been so kind as to write a solid piece outlining their take on the 38 best tools for data visualization.

That said, if you are an Office365 customer, you may already have access to PowerBI and more importantly you may already have easy access to link any of your Microsoft solutions to PowerBI which makes putting your data sources together easier.  I’d love to share with you visually what I have been able to do with PowerBI but sadly I’ve been working at improving my understanding of our customer and partner relationships which is info I can’t share!  What I can share, however, is that rather than first having to take several different spreadsheets and figuring out how to get all of the data on each one to somehow work together, in PowerBI all I had to do was import that data and it did the rest.  I was easily able to identify some opportunities for us to explore.

Given that I’m writing about data visualisation, I’d like to leave you with something visual and as I was perusing Microsoft’s info on PowerBI I came across their “see it in action” sites which review uses in Finance, Sales, Marketing, IT, HR, and Operations.  If you click on the “view report” button you’ll open a live PowerBI instance that you can click through and explore to your heart’s content.

Suffice it to say, it was pretty easy as well.  You can either connect your data sources or simply upload spreadsheets.  Then all you have to do is play with the data to find interesting insights and opportunities.  I’m sure I’ll still have my fair share of days staring at spreadsheets, but now we all have tools to make that much easier.


Damien Robinson, GM Solutions (US), rhipe Solutions