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Analyse, interpret and understand your data with Power BI

Power BI is an app in Office 365 which seeks to provide information to its users through data analysis and presentation, allowing them to gain a greater understanding of their business and its data.

In Power BI for Office 365, users connect to their data in the Cloud, and can deliver their insights with Excel using captivating visual representations. In addition, users can share reports and datasets online, ensuring that data is as updated and accurate as possible, and further to this, all of their data can be accessed in text and graphic form through a range of mobile devices.

To demonstrate the capabilities of Power BI, we have illustrated its use in real life – by the Head Coach of a school cricket team. In a year when England have enjoyed unexpected Ashes success, Mr Brown’s Senior School team are making a run of their own. His side are playing in the National Schools Cup, a tournament which the school have entered for years but never been able to win, and they have progressed to the knockout stages for the first time in over a decade. However, the coach is now faced with a classic sporting scenario; his team have reached the semi-finals, but in unexpected circumstances, and he has a pivotal decision to make.

In the quarter final, his best batsman was injured and unable to play, and his replacement scored a match winning hundred to help his team qualify for the next round. Now the star batsman has returned from injury, but the performance of his replacement means that the coach cannot drop him. However, he knows he has to find a place for his best player. He can only pick eleven players. Four of these places are taken by bowlers who have done an excellent job so far in the tournament. The fifth place in the team is taken by the wicket keeper, leaving six batting spots available, with seven batsmen to choose from. So what should the coach do?

He has to take a whole range of different factors into account when making his decision. Firstly, he has to consider the performance of his players in the tournament so far. Some are older than others, meaning that there are players who have tried and failed to win this Cup before. Will their experience help, or hinder the team’s efforts this season? Secondly, their performance in previous seasons will also affect how he makes his choice. Helping him make this crucial decision is all of the data which he has compiled over nearly two decades of working at the school. Every match that his team have ever played has been recorded, and the statistics put into an Excel spreadsheet. He knows that the answer to his question lies within this data – but he has no way of extracting it – until now.

This is where Power BI comes in. Built to help business leaders make sense of their data, the application allows you to drill down further than just viewing the graphs, by asking questions which focus on specific elements of your data. Mr Brown can ask, “How many runs has each batsman scored? When did they score those runs? Is one player more likely to score runs on a hot day when the ball spins? Is another player more likely to not get out on an overcast day? Who performs when his team needs him? Who only scores runs when the pressure’s off in matches which are already lost?” All of the answers to these questions are available to help you make sense of your data, enabling you to be more informed, and ultimately make better decisions for your team, and your business.

In the past, director’s and manager’s would spend days sifting through their data, trying desperately to locate one category within the thousands of numbers and symbols in their database. Power BI takes all of the pain and difficulty out of data analysis, providing you with the facts that you need, when you need them.

Having asked Power BI about when each batsmen scores runs, how often they score them, and whether or not they contribute to victories, Mr Brown was able to see that senior player Neil Fitzpatrick offered the least to the team going forward. In realising this, was able to select both his star batsman, Brian Lingfield, and his young prodigy, Charlie Stuart, and the pair helped the team realise their ambitions in winning the Cup for the first time.

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