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Post by Rob Collie


The Three Primary Benefits of Power Pivot vs. “Traditional” Excel
(Click for Full-Size Version, and Please Share Your Thoughts in Comments!)

Changes Afoot

Some exciting things in the pipeline here at PowerPivotPro HQ.  Most of those will remain secret until next month, but one of them is a website overhaul – with Power Pivot adoption continuing to grow, website traffic also continuing to grow (more records fell last week!), and the site’s 5-year anniversary approaching, it’s time.

So today I’d like to get your feedback on some of the new content.

It’s all pictures, so I promise it’s light Smile


The Questions

As always, the intent of our site’s content is to be educational – whether you are new to Power Pivot (and Power BI in general) or relatively veteran, our #1 mission here is to give you the knowledge you need to “suck the marrow out” of these tools, to paraphrase one of Robin Williams’ celebrated characters.

So these are the questions I’d like you to ask yourself when looking at these graphics:

  1. Does this content help you, today, to understand the landscape?
  2. Would this have helped you when you were just beginning your Power Pivot / Power BI journey?
  3. Will this content help you explain to others – sell it up the chain, help other departments understand, etc.?
  4. Does any of this surprise you?  For instance, highlighting something that you never knew before, or even just a way of explaining things that is novel to you.
  5. Could it be better, and if so, how?

And Now, More “Infographics.”

First, a light-hearted “visualization” of life before and after Power Pivot:


Life with Data:  Before and After Power Pivot

Benefits of the Server

I recently described the Server (SharePoint or Power BI Subscription, etc.) as YouTube for Workbooks, but here is the next level of detail:



Comparison of Spreadsheets, Traditional BI, and Power Pivot

Longtime readers will recognize these visualizations, but they are being given a fresh coat of paint:


Before Power Pivot:  Suffer Now or Suffer Later


Power Pivot Blends the Agility of Excel with the Ongoing Benefits of Traditional BI

…that’s enough for today I think.  Please let us know what you think! Smile

Rob Collie

One of the original engineering leaders behind Power BI and Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, Rob Collie founded a consulting company in 2013 that is 100% devoted to “the new way forward” made possible by Power BI and its related technologies. Since 2013, PowerPivotPro has rapidly grown to become the leading firm in the industry, pioneering an agile, results-first methodology never before seen in the Business Intelligence space. A sought-after public speaker and author of the #1-selling Power BI book, Rob and his team would like to help you revolutionize your business and your career.

This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. Rob, great visualizations! Agility is the word I can think of that best describes the value inherent in Power BI (and by association, PowerPivot). We’re seeing our ability to prototype and develop Production solutions drop from months to weeks. And the insights are amazing. Being able to iteratively modify the model and the visualizations right inside Excel is an incredible tool when working with other users who don’t get Entity Relationship Diagrams (nor should they). I love what you’re doing here Rob. Keep up the Power BI evangelism!

  2. Looking good Rob. This seems unconventional and needs to be that way. I think everyone is tired, real tired of the barrage of standard messaging they get around BI (The 3 Big Lies of Data captured that so well).

    Primary Benefits of Power Pivot: One more I think; Power Pivot data model also essentially drives other cool tools that Microsoft is churning out: Power View, Natural Language Q&A etc.
    Those only run on Power Pivot Data Model. I had created a PowerPivot Infographic covering essentially the same points a) Capacity b) Modeling/Linking Data sets c) Smart Formulas d) Drives other tools (Power View…). What can I say, great minds think alike 😉

    Power Pivot Infographic: Learn why Power Pivot is the next best thing since sliced bread for Excel Professionals

    Benefits of the Server: I hope one more is coming real soon. Ability to use uploaded PowerPivot workbooks as a data source. OMG, that is so basic, is supported in On-Premesis SharePoint and is being offered by all the third part as far as I know (, PivotStream, Excelerator). And is absolutely critical for the Thin and Core (or Hub and Spoke) model.

    Comparisons…: probably some emphasis would help pop out the message. Say show large green $$$$$ signs up top, and maybe a single $ below for Power Pivot.

  3. Rob, I think these are great, especially the four elements in your “Benefits of the Server”. I currently work as a cog in a reporting machine, and it will be really interesting to see the shift from how it’s done today (multiple people on multiple levels gather information, massage it, and prepare fixed content (ppt deck, fixed/printed dashboard, etc.)) to the vision laid out in those 4 boxes.

    The only thing I might add would be explicitly mentioning just how much faster the information is reaching decision makers. A steering committee that only meets monthly only sees information once a month, and if they want to see any portion a different way or anything not previously provided, they are (probably) going to wait another month before seeing what they want how they want it. Now they can independently view the information after each time its updated and play around to see whatever slice they want (on any mobile device, as you pointed out).

    My only question would be on the 2nd graph. I would’ve thought that solving the “nobody in our organization knows how to do this” problem would lead to higher initial time and money costs, and that it should be flipped upside down. But I do think you absolutely nailed it on the first graph and that most people who have been hearing about BI for years will agree with.

    Love reading your stuff, keep up the great work!

  4. Rob, as always great thoughts made easy to grasp. The one thing that I would like to see more explicitly spelled out is Productivity.
    Decision makers love Productivity and with Power BI that is what you get, but in the early stages only Excel-crunchers see it and understand it. Your visuals (Dark Ages) do make the point but I would like to see the word used. Productivity and Speed are the twins of success and they are an integral part of Power BI. Enterprises not yet ready to take the “Spreadsheet-You-Tube” trip will still get a lions share of the productivity and speed benefits already in the Office 2010 versions since both Power Query and Power Pivot work with 2010.

  5. Great site, great look – a huge congratulations. I’ve been circling the PowerPivot pool for about 2 years and have finally taken the plunge, your posts have been invaluable, thanks..

    The power of PowerPivot/View etc for personal BI is incredible and seductive – and ‘free’ ! Having realised the power of personal BI and now looking to the incredible potential for our business, the costs of ‘the Server’ are looking nasty and difficult to figure out.

    I’m wishing there was a basic infographic on ball-park costs for the Power BI vs Server. (Office 365 subscripton – which one?, SharePoint Enterprise licensing, SQL Enterprise vs BI licensing).

    Maybe there’s too many variables to come up with a simple overview (even just for 2013), but it would be very helpful.

  6. Looking FFT my friend, Fanfunkintastic

    We are data geeks. We get off on this stuff. Don’t forget FUN().

    We have more FUN now, PP makes it so much easier to whistle while you work…

  7. To answer your questions:

    1) Yes, your content helps me, today, understand the landscape. Like the “Youtube for Workbooks” analogy, which for me painted in a whole new light something that I thought I already knew and understood.

    2) It may have helped me when I was a beginner. I’m not sure. I come from an IT world, so there’s no doubt when I first came across Power Pivot my first reaction was: this brings me nothing I can’t already do. Now, of course, I see it does.

    3) YES, without a doubt your materials help me explain Power Pivot, especially to Excel users.

    4) No surprises, but it’s always good to get a reminder of some pros & cons that I might forget about

    5) Two thoughts on whether this could be better:

    a) I for one like it as-is. Don’t change a thing unless you feel it will be better. They’ll be differing opinions, but ultimately you stand behind it so you need to agree whole-heartedly with every single part. License it under CC and let other people create their own versions if they wish. I bet some people will.

    b) Perhaps an infographic on the IT case for Power Pivot? Focusing on the “ball and chain” spreadsheets that occasionally get thrown to IT to “automate” and how much easier that can be if they were built in Power Pivot. That end-users are always going to use Excel to do crazy things, but with Power Pivot those things become scaleable. That it allows people to do their own analysis rather than relying on IT for every single little thing. That this allows IT to focus on providing the right data to the right people, instead of report writing. After all, resistance from the IT department can be a big factor in people not being able to get 64-bit Power Pivot installed or Office upgraded.

  8. Bob,

    Excelent review! Brief and graphically self explanatory.
    Great work.
    By the way, is there a road map for PowerBI, PowerPivot, PowerWhatever for the near future (from microsoft)?


      1. I also heavily leverage and all of the free clipart included in PowerPoint (via And THEN slice that stuff up with Paint.NET, because it’s never quite right “as-is” and I often dissect the clipart into pieces, recombine, modify, etc.

        iStockPhoto has become a lot more expensive lately though, so I am exploring other sources for “raw material” clipart.

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