What's The Difference Between Power BI & Excel?
Did you know that the same Data Model, Power Query Editor, and DAX Measures found in Power BI, are also in Excel? In fact, all these tools started in Excel first, Power BI came after.
Excel Power Pivot and Power BI Desktop share the same Vertipaq Data Model that was originally developed for Excel 2010. The engine continued to evolve each year, and eventually was used as the foundation when Power BI was released in 2015.
Even though Power BI might become the more popular visualization tool as it continues to improve and gain features, Excel isn't likely to disappear anytime soon.
Both tools support a specific need when it comes to reporting. The decision is more about how to want to present your data, rather than features or limitations of the data model in either tool.
The Report Development Process
Power BI & Excel are so similar, that roughly 80% of a reports development time would be nearly identical between the two tools.
The only real difference in development or design exists at the visualization level, once you've completed your data model. Here's a flowchart showing the typical report development process using either Excel or Power BI.
Two Reporting Tools, Same Authoring Environments
As shown above, Excel and Power BI share the same back end development environment.
In fact, Power BI even has a feature that lets you migrated a completed data model from an Excel report into Power BI desktop, with just a few mouse-clicks.
So learning how to create a data model in Power BI also means you learn the tools needed to create a data model in Excel, it's a two-in-one package.
Power BI or Excel? Which is Better For Reporting?
The honest answer is neither, and both. Both tools have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to data visualization.
Power BI's strength comes from it's visualizations and online features. Excel is still the best tool at displaying information in Pivot Tables, and for data analysis or data exploration.
So the question of which tool to use really comes down to how the data model will get used once it has been built. It's not always an easy question to answer either.
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