Microsoft Excel is a piece of software that most people are already familiar with. It has a wide range of applications and is often used for organizing data and making mathematical calculations in a range of business settings.

Power BI, on the other hand, is not as widely used. It is a set of business intelligence tools that is specifically designed for analyzing business data and creating reports and visualizations.

Both pieces of software have their benefits and drawbacks, but which is best? Read on to find out which platform you should use and what the relative benefits of each are.

Organizing data – Excel

When you are faced with an unorganized collection of data that needs to be categorized, Excel is the best tool to use. It has over 400 functions you can perform, so it is very customizable and allows you to organize the data in whatever way suits you. This includes changing the format of the data (dates, currencies, etc), categorizing and color coding, and making automatic calculations using simple formulas.

Although Power BI has other strengths, it does not offer as many options for initial organization of the data.

Performing data visualizations – Power BI

One of the major benefits of Power BI is the data visualizations that it allows you to create. Using your Power BI dashboard, you can condense a complicated dataset into a simple visual that everybody in the business can understand. Often, the reason that businesses fail to use data to their advantage is that there is a disconnect between the raw data and the way that it relates to the everyday running of the business.

You can create a variety of different charts, track KPIs, and use maps to give a more intuitive demonstration of what your data actually means. Excel does have some excellent graph features too, but Power BI is better for comprehensive data visualizations.

Performing mathematical operations – Excel

Excel is excellent for performing mathematical operations. There are numerous formulas that can be used for finding averages and percentages, totalling sales figures, calculating targets, and much more. Learning how to use these features opens up a lot of possibilities that you don’t have in Power BI.

Handling big data sets – Power BI

Excel is good for organizing data and making calculations, but it struggles with very large data sets. If you try to open a file that is larger than 500MB in Excel, it will struggle to handle the data. Power BI, on the other hand, is more than capable of handling big data because it has more effective compression algorithms. So, if you are trying to process large amounts of data on a regular basis, Power BI is your best option. 

When deciding which piece of software is right for you, consider your future needs and how much data you will add to sets.

Processing speed – Power BI

The processing speed of Power BI is much better than Excel. When handling large datasets, Excel may struggle and generating graphs etc. will be very time-consuming. For a business that has a lot of data to manage on a regular basis, these inefficiencies can be very costly.

Power BI also has automatic updating features. This means that when data is added, it will automatically be processed and incorporated in visualizations, so you always have the most up-to-date information.

User experience – Power BI

Power BI also wins where user experience is concerned. Excel does have a lot of excellent features but the interface is not always the most intuitive. Using things like mathematical calculations, for example, can be fiddly and requires practice. The learning curve for the more advanced features tends to be quite steep too. Power BI is designed to make complicated data analysis accessible, so it has a simple user interface. It does still require some practice but the user experience is better than Excel.

Variety of operations – Excel

Excel is less accessible but it does have a wider variety of operations available. This means you can perform more specific functions and arrange data in unique ways. If you are performing simple functions like tracking sales figures, for example, Power BI is adequate. But if you want to combine different metrics and create more complicated graphs, Excel gives you more options.

Creating tables – Excel

The features for creating tables in Power BI are not that user friendly or intuitive. Excel, on the other hand, is built for creating tables and it’s very simple. The layout is already in table format and it’s easy to start adding in data, but Power BI is a blank space and building tables from scratch is not as quick or easy. One thing to note is that Power BI lets you connect sata from separate tables, while Excel doesn’t. However, Excel is best for creating tabular reports in the first place.

Automation – Power BI

Automation is one of the major benefits of Power BI. Once you have created data visualizations, you can input new data and the reports will update automatically without any extra input. There are also options for automatically generating and distributing reports by creating an automated flow. So, after some initial input, you can then start sending out weekly or monthly reports without dedicating much time at all to it.

Developing KPIs – Power BI

Developing KPI visuals in Power BI is excellent. Instead of relying on templates as you would with Excel, you can build customized visualizations based on your performance indicators.There is a large range of KPI visualizations to choose from, so you can always find one that suits your needs. By using automation features to update data and distribute visualizations, it is easy to track KPIs.

Connectivity – Power BI

One of the major disadvantages of Excel is that it does not integrate with other applications very easily. Power BI has great connectivity features and can import data from a variety of sources including Excel, Azure SQL, or text files. When using database applications, Power BI can connect directly via the cloud and import data seamlessly. This connectivity makes it easy to get the most out of Power BI by combining it with other useful applications.


There is no simple answer here because both applications have their pros and cons. Ultimately, it depends what you want to use it for and what your business intelligence needs are. Excel is better for organizing data, creating tables, and performing complex mathematical functions. It has a bigger variety of operations once you get to grips with it, but it does have a steeper learning curve.

Power BI is better if you need to manage large datasets and set up data visualizations and KPIs. It also offers better automation and connectivity features. Although it has a more intuitive user interface, it does have some limitations in terms of functionality.

Overall, Excel is less accessible but has more advanced technical features while Power BI is easier to use and better for simple data visualizations.

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