Every year business leaders assemble to strategize about the trajectory and performance of company imperatives. The conversation revolves around the usual profit maximization, expense minimization, and idea generation. The limits of such discussions stem from unrealized insights buried deep in the sea of data points concerning the business, from customer insights, production chokepoints, trust vs. dependence on suppliers, and the bullwhip effects of synthetic demands and its amplification as it tethers up the supply chain. In the absence of this information, managers scurry to make retroactive decisions in response to underperformance or crisis management rather than proactive ones based on predictive intelligence.
Creating a data-driven culture is a modern business trend that empowers employees and decision-makers of an organization. As businesses expand their operations, they generate an excessive amount of data points every day, from varying sources. The sources include Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as sensors, Software as a Service (SAAS) products, including Customer Relationship Managers. To stay competitive within and across industries, businesses must scale their data infrastructure and architecture to cope with demand. To avoid the precipice of business unintelligence, and it’s damaging effects on strategic management, the best strategy is to develop a scalable cloud analytics capability to achieve growth and performance milestones. Harnessing the power of the cloud eases information flow and accessibility to end-users. With the help of a cloud services provider such as Microsoft Power BI, businesses can achieve a cost-effective strategy that accelerates their data analytics practice without the constraints of their native on-site IT infrastructure.
The problem with data is that it is noisy and disparate, and merely gathering data does not ensure value. For value generation, insights from data lakes consisting of structured and unstructured data types require computational methods such as machine learning. Power BI is a cloud-driven arsenal of tools that allows users to visualize data ingested and distribute insights across teams and organizations or embed graphs in their websites or applications. It accommodates on-demand visibility of different data sources, both structured and unstructured, so analysts and end-users can create live dashboards and reports about the business. An example of this is visualizing company metrics for some specified time and determining high output sales locations and trends.
The difference between Power BI and spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel is the speed of accessibility, computation resources, and costs. Power BI is designed to be a hosted user interface rather than a locally stored company resource. With Power BI, businesses can leverage the power of the cloud to analyze complex data with graphically rich representation reporting and useful, cost-effective computations, rather than exhausting company local resources. In a scenario where the data size increases from megabytes to gigabytes or terabytes, most general-purpose machines such as personal computers have limited storage capacity. This limit would slow access to required information or fail to load and crash company servers. However, it is like opening a web page with Power BI as it is a hosted service.
From the Microsoft Cloud Analytics with Azure Website Power BI is composed of different components that can perform various functions:
Power BI Desktop
Power BI Desktop is a Windows desktop-based application and “Authoring Tool,” where analysts primarily design and publish reports to the service. The authoring tool (Power BI Desktop) is equipped with many built-in features to derive analytics. It is smart enough to suggest a visualization model based on the fields of your choice, and all managed from the platform to deploy your reports. It is a Software as a service (SaaS) application and has evolved from “Power BI for Office 365” to just Power BI.
Features and Benefits
Power BI offers the following benefits, personalized dashboards that allow analysts to brand the look and feel of the graphs, charts, and tables that provide collaboration across different users. Data governance and security ensure that only authorized users can access the dashboards, with no memory or speed constraints, as it is a cloud-hosted service. Similar to web-page loading. Reports require no specialized technical support as Power BI is an intuitive drag-and-drop tool for fast access and visualization of data. However, support for advanced data services such as the “Ask a Question” feature, integration with R, segmentation, and cohort analysis is also available. Power BI Dashboards and Reports are highly customizable and allow you to personalize the experience depending on your branding. You can select themes, use custom charts, create labels, insert drawings and images, and a lot more.
Power BI Mobile Apps
These are native mobile applications that can access reports from a workspace hosted in Power BI. It is available on the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play Store.
Power BI Gateway
Gateway is a mechanism to synchronize external data into Power BI. For enterprise scenarios with on-premises storage, Power BI Gateway acts as a mechanism to query against the data source without the need to transfer databases to the cloud. However, the data hosted in Power BI reports lives within Azure Cloud.
Power BI Report Server
In an on-premises scenario, Power BI Report Server allows you to host Power BI reports within your own data center. These reports are still share-able across different members if they have the right network access.
Power BI Embedded
Embedded allows you to white label Power BI in custom applications. Strategically these are often integrated into existing dashboards and back-office systems where the same set of users can only access the reports. Compared to sending an email with a PowerPoint file attached, Power BI allows an open collaboration between analysts and other members of the company by sharing a centralized dashboard. Accessing the reports through web browsers or mobile applications downloaded in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store is one of several features. Comments and annotations about the generated reports create a faster feedback loop with alerts and notifications.
Power BI is very secure. For example, when authoring a report, businesses are ensured selective access to data sources, backed by Row Level Security (RLS). For example, analysts can only access local data to their region, restricting access to another city or country’s data. Once a report is ready to be shared, the user saves it to a personal workspace for organizational access or external tenants.
Data ingestion into Power BI can be as simple as using Excel and CSV files for manageable datasets or massive datasets from IoT devices on the factory floor or sensors that monitors customer in-store behavior. Although Power BI supports multiple data sources, including Azure Synapse Analytics and on-premises databases, it is best to consume an Analysis Service instead. Sometimes users can also query from a cached result of Azure Databricks.
There are different approaches to this, but the primary reason for using this approach is elasticity and separation of duties. If you are using Azure Analytics Servers, a snapshot of the state of your data sources, from IoT streams and databases (with the help of Azure Data Factory, Data Lake, SQL Data Warehouse), is available for insight preparation. The data from your production transactional database is cached and would not significantly impact the performance, even if you have billions of rows in your databases.
Adastra provides world-class Big Data, Business Intelligence, Data Integration, Data Quality, Data Warehousing, Data Governance, and Master Data Management services and solutions to companies worldwide and across industries. They have developed a Trends Analysis solution to track the downtime of a manufacturing plant production line. There is a loss of productivity every time a production line is down. Adastra captures trends for both planned (no scheduled production activities, company event), or unplanned (production incidents or malfunctions) downtime incident. The objective is to identify the areas of concern and take the necessary corrective actions to reduce production downtime, thereby increasing the plant’s productivity.
With this report, executives can get a summary of the frequency and duration of failures or downtime incidents occurring at their plants, primary reasons for downtime incidents occurrence, and a comparison of which plants and corresponding production lines have higher downtimes. This analysis is available for all plants in the organization or a specific plant or production line. Users generate charts to display the breakdown of total downtime duration and the number of such occurrences by production line for a selected timeframe. Additionally, budget vs. actual accounting and other estimates summary breakdowns by plants can be published and delivered to decision-makers for strategic business initiatives.
Data analytics provides enterprises and businesses with the ability to understand both the company and customers better. Additionally, it offers valuable sector insights that affect supply chain networks, series forecasting, and delivers to business leaders the information required to remain competitive. It affords scalability regardless of size, cost-effective ingestion, storage, and computation, limiting the risk associated with on-site local data warehouses. Microsoft Azure Analytics Servers running Power BI as a service is the most reliable way to scale your business data requirements and publish-on-demand live business insights so the decision-makers can strategize more effectively.
**All information gathered from various Microsoft partner pdfs as well as from the following websites and publications:
Cloud Analytics with Azure
“The scientist, the engineer, and the warehouse: Building the right team for data analytics in the age of cloud”, Donald Farmer
Partner Showcase Adastra Manufacturing