PowerBI & Other Data Visualization Tools

BIs = KPIs but only if they’re SOX, SCO, and ISAE compliant. If this looks like the start of an advanced calculus equation to you, stay with us. In this post we’re taking a look at Microsoft PowerBI and other tools you can use for data visualization. We’ll also cover how data visualization can help your organization grow, and where these tools are most useful.

What is PowerBI

Microsoft PowerBI is a cloud-based toolbox. It includes software and services to support complex data analysis for businesses, and helps focus that data into visual insights. We’ll cover some other data visualization options later on but first, here’s what we like about PowerBI (and also a good general list of what you want in a BI tool).

  • A variety of graphs and visualization types to choose from to fit whatever data you are visualizing
  • Data filtering
  • Customizable dashboard for branding and organization
  • Easy navigation between dashboards and visualizations
  • Detailed analysis reports and extracted insights from large datasets
  • Can create highly customized datasets with Python
  • Supports excel analysis
  • Create maps for interpreting geolocation data

BI means Business IntelligenceThe words “business intelligence” represent the tech assets and processes used to build powerful data analysis models and distill actual information from the massive amounts of data you may collect. PowerBI is about tactics and strategy and uses data management and interpretation solutions to make clear projections about where your data is headed, and what that means.

What data visualization tools will you need?

PowerBI is certainly one of the more popular BI tools, but it’s not the only one. Next, we’ll walk through the thought processes, and identify some of the markers you need to consider when selecting a business intelligence tool.

What data do you have?

Question one is always, “what data do you have?” What metrics are you tracking? And what questions are you looking to answer? Before you interpret your data you need to make sure you are observing and collecting the right data endpoints.If you’re missing data, you first need to create more opportunities to collect it. When you’re making plans for data it’s a good idea to simultaneously review your product or site and evaluate your current data collection methods. Some methods are:

  • Surveys
  • Online tracking (real user sessions)
  • Geolocational data
  • Transactional data tracking (password reset requests, newsletter sign-ups, etc.)
  • Online marketing analytics from campaigns or promo codes
  • Social media monitoring
  • Collecting Subscription and registration data
  • Evaluating product and service sales

Pro tip: Data is a popular topic in the world of legislation. Data analytics and tools like PowerBI can tell you a lot, just be sure you’re compliant with the latest requirements like SOC, SOX, ISAE, GDPR and CCPA.

What data features do you need?

With a plethora of software options to choose from, it helps to know what you want before you go shopping. Think about how you want to access your data, a centralized dashboard for all your tools would be handy. Next, think about the future. Are the types of data you collect now the only types of data you will ever collect? If you plan to scale your data collection and analysis programs, you need a business intelligence suite that will scale with you, and data visualization tools that can process changing or growing quantities.We mentioned compliance, but you also need to think about permissions. How many users will you need and what will they need to access? Many providers charge for additional user seats.Here are some things to consider when selecting a tool:

  • Intuitive UI: Oftentimes it’s marketers and execs that need projected data, you don’t want to pull engineering resources or what’s the point of paying for visualization tools?
  • A centralized dashboard: Easy access to all of your tools from a main portal.
  • Is compliant: Whatever tool you select will be a third party partnership, so you need to be very clear on their compliance in case it conflicts or does not meet your own company standards.
  • Understand how data is imported: what formats are compatible? SQL, Google analytics? Make sure the data you have can be imported and interpreted correctly before you buy.
  • Test the visual graphs - are they easy to understand? Are the colors and contrast customizable? This may sound like a cosmetic request, but the whole point is to be able to visualize your data (and present it) in a clear way, and sometimes that means being able to apply your branding.

The intention of all data visualization tools is to represent complex data that is hard to understand – not just without images or graphics – but without automation, and interactive capabilities like casting projections or detecting outliers.

Other data visualization tools

Now that we have a general outline for what to look for and why it’s important, let’s take a look at some of the other data visualization tools on the market.

Google Data Studio

If you use Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Google Search Console already, this might be a good place to start - and there’s even a free plan for individuals and small teams. Google Data Studio allows you to create branded dashboards and reports by adding in data sources. Google Data Studio is consistent with the UI of other Google products so there is next to no learning curve if you’re already a comfortable Google user. Some features we like:

  • Choose between graphics and bar charts
  • Select the data types and numbers you want to share
  • Customize appearance and add text
  • Add your logo

Because it’s Google, data from Data Studio is easy to share, even including an explainer video.


Tableau is a popular, collaborative data visualization tool, and a market leader in the space. At its core it is an analytics and data science platform with visualization features. It provides:

  • Real-time analytics
  • Customizable dashboard creation with UX
  • Assigned user permissions
  • Sharing and collaboration abilities for developing reports and managing data across teams
  • Accessible via mobile devices
  • R and Python integrations to support advanced calculations and querying

Tableau is highly scalable, and used by companies like Amazon to interpret their data.

Wrapping up: PowerBI & Data Visualization

Charles Babbage, a mathematician and inventor, said “Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.” The takeaway? If you’re just getting started with data visualization and business intelligence tools, there are many on the market that will help you - especially if you currently aren’t using anything.Selecting a data visualization tool can be challenging, interpreting and applying your data to improve your business can sometimes require more resources than you have. We can help you with both.Using staff augmentation does not mean having to use talent outside of the US; 100% of our technical talent is US Based. We have the PowerBI & Data Visualization experts ready to get to work on your project today. Email us your details at info@teckpert.com