In the world of modern analytics tools two big players are SAP and Microsoft and they both have as their main offering services that run in the cloud. Here is a quick blog that looks at where they differ in their approach.
Though the Microsoft Power BI service is cloud based, the starting point for most users will be the Microsoft Power BI Desktop tool, installed locally on their laptops. It is here where your first datasets and reports will be created and published from. Once published, other users can edit them in the cloud, but the Desktop tool is required to start the process.
It benefits from a large amount of RAM as all data and calculations are held and performed in memory – it can easily slow down an older laptop with less than 8GB!
SAP Analytics Cloud is purely web-based with no desktop tool. Only if you combine it with an on-premise SAP BusinessObjects server would you have any local tools, perhaps for universe design.
For organisations with an investment in SAP analytics already (specifically universes created with the Information Design Tool) then SAP Analytics Cloud is the only one of the two that can continue to use that resource.
Microsoft Power BI can connect to some SAP data-sources, but not universes, and it is not built from the ground up to work with them like SAC is. SAP Analytics Cloud is the primary analytics tool for SAP customers using one of their ERP, CRM or HR applications and integrates directly with HANA databases.
For users without a prior investment in SAP technology then SAC can also connect to databases directly, but perhaps doesn’t have the breadth of compatibility that Microsoft Power BI does.
If your requirement is for a tool that produces reporting around your business and finance planning processes, or you require predictive analytics to monitor account churn or basket analysis then SAP Analytics Cloud can, for an increased price, provide that for you as well.
In the same environment as standard reporting, the two additional functions of planning and predictive algorithms are available, and the results of these processes can be visualised and interrogated just like your other operational data.
Not surprisingly, just as SAP Analytics Cloud integrates with other SAP software, Microsoft Power BI integrates with other Microsoft productivity and database toolsets. Power Query, Power Apps and Power Automate are part of the same stack of software; Azure services such as AD, databases and data warehousing; Office 365 tools such as Excel and Teams; and SharePoint and OneDrive document sharing services all integrate seamlessly to Power BI and help make it more efficient for your business.
As the majority of organisations use Microsoft products already, Microsoft Power BI is likely to be a good fit for most users.
One of the great attractions to Microsoft Power BI is its low barrier to entry: it is free to start playing with (as long as you have an Office 365 account), it is easy to pick up the basics and it contains a copy of Microsoft Power Query.
Power Query is also an add-in to Excel, so you may have used it already, and it makes data-modelling and data-wrangling a relatively easy task for business analysts and business users. There is a coding language for it, but even without that its easy to use interface makes merging data, pivoting tables, replacing values, appending queries, and all sorts of other actions, simple to achieve.
For smaller implementations of Microsoft Power BI, Power Query can be the main tool that enables your datasets to be efficient and insightful.