Power BI vs [another tool]

Well this took much, much, much longer than I would like, but we have eventually got agreement that Power BI is the best tool for our needs (ITSM Reporting). I now get to get on with the fun right?

The Lesson

When evaluating anything, be it a software product or even something more trivial like a sofa it’s vital to understand your requirements before you start to consider the solution. What is the role of your software (or sofa), what do you have to have, what are the nice to haves. Only once you have that list can you really consider what the solution should be. Make a quick study initially, what is definitely in and definately out? Only then should you start to invest your valuable time and effort into in-depth evaluation of tools.

REMEMBER: Your time is the most precious thing out there, if you’re going to spend it on something then make sure you’re not wasting it on something!

For me we ended up with two tools that broadly met the specifications and they were honestly both completely fit for purpose, the issue was our architecture team wanted one and I wanted the other. I wasn’t being a complete plum, it was more that the architecture favoured tool seemed to bring back centralised management of reporting and the multiple packages required to publish. Power BI is very close to my heart because it pushes a core belief of mine “Self Service”. Data democratisation is a coming wave and it would be to the detriment of any IT organisation to fight against it. Data is now so readily available to all in their personal lives that they expect similar at work.

After a great deal of slow progress management have viewed it Power BI as aligning to our Office 365 Strategy so worth bringing into our arsenal.

Wait what’s the lesson, you’re going off topic? The lesson is clear understand your requirements before looking for a tool. In my case in our journey through excel tools we’ve really built knowledge within our user community, that knowledge must continue to be forstered. The Democratisation of Data is the major area I want to support  and continue to grow. Efforts will continue and over the next year I want to build a real hard core community. The evaluation really found that the single layer model that Power BI has would be a better fit for us. By single layer I mean that everything is done in the same tool/engine. The other tool we were assessing (another top 3 from Gartner) has a desktop commponent that must be used to create and then a web component that is used to consume and has limited redesign capability. The final deciding factor was transparancy… Our IT organisation has 200+ people who’s activity is monitored via the ITSM reports, that means that anyone in that list may want to see what the reports are saying about them (there are all sorts of reasons for this) it may not always be appropriate to give someone a licence if they just want to seen their performance before the mid year review or end of year review. Power BI Desktop gives us that capabililty, the desktop does not require a licences and is able to grant access to the report data all be it without all the bells and whistle, the overhead of doing this was miniscule compared to the other assessed tool.

The big thing here is of course will be learn this lession and embrace it. I used to work in Enterprise Architecture and our department view was very much do multiple quick studies on new technology all the time and then evalauate requirements against those to then ideally have a top 3 for the customer to do deeper dive on. That was a different time and the company I was with then was not looking at an application rationalisation mentality. However the mind set is key, having a single “Standard” is doomed to failure, choice automatically sets the discussion to be in terms of which one of our choices fits your needs. There is some solid psychology behind this honest.