Today was our third day of #Dashboardweek and as DS11 did last time, we had to use PowerBI. The data came from the New Orleans .gov site and it was about 3-1-1 calls. This number is a non-emergency phone number that people can call in many cities to find information about services, make complaints, or report problems like graffiti or road damage. Hence, the data was about different incidents, their nature and location.

The Prep

Same as previous days, the data wasn’t very rich, and we didn’t have much time to look for extra data as we had to learn how to use PowerBI and produce something within the day. The data prep wasn’t that bad as we just had to use the API to extract all the data and do some basic filtering to get it ready.

The building

The building of the dashboard was the main plate of today and a relatively challenging and unnerving task. We had just a few hours to learn how to use the tool and build something. How is it working with PowerBI coming from a Tableau background?

Pros

  1. It has a familiar feeling as it shares some of the tools that you can expect to have in PowerPoint and Word. Particularly useful the align and distribute for the different charts.
  2. If you have used excel before, this will also feel familiar as the way to write the formulas it is the same and you can expect it to be in the same place.
  3. It looks very cool when doing exploratory analysis as it shows transitions (something that is currently on Alpha in Tableau). Also, it does automatically a mix of filtering and highlighting  when you select different elements of the dashboard but in a look that feels much more fluent than Tableau.
  4. In general, I felt the filtering was faster in PowerBI than in Tableau.
  5. It can be easy to build different types of charts as they come pre-built and you can download different ones. For example, Marimekkos or Sankeys would take a lot of effort to build in Tableau but here you can just drag it to the canvas.
  6. The Mapbox maps allow this funky 3D view that looks very cool! (maybe not good for business though).
  7. It has a free version

Cons

  1. In comparison to Tableau is extremely inflexible. Everything seems to be pre-made and doesn’t allow for much customisation.
  2. It feels very PowerPoint-y, even if you can add different charts they have the feeling of the old-looking excel charts (except for the mapbox map).
  3. Things are fairly hidden and in not super obvious places. To find something in PowerBI or change a setting, you have to do at least twice the number of clicks you would do in Tableau.
  4. The charts by default are very simple and if you look for some of the more complicated charts you may find you need to pay for them as they are produced by external developers.
  5. To create calculations, you need to define beforehand if they are measures or columns.
  6. Publishing to the gallery is a pain compared to Public.

Overall, the experience wasn’t completely horrible. However, as someone who appreciate design and flexibility there is no way I’d prefer PBI to Tableau. That said, PBI may be an easier option for people that doesn’t have much experience in anything else but PowerPoint and Excel. Also, the tool has a free version which probably is the biggest Pro in comparison to Tableau.

This was the result:

If you have any doubts or comments, feel free to use the box below or contact me in Twitter @DiegoTParker