Power BI is designed to create standalone dashboard apps and Telerik Reporting creates reports. Learn why Power BI & Telerik Reporting are a powerful combination.
If you’re considering adding a dedicated, interactive data analysis tool to your reporting toolkit, you’ll be foolish not to look at Power BI. However, you should also be clear that, compared to other Reporting Tools, Power BI is a different kind of solution, designed to do a different task. Because of those differences, Telerik Reporting and Power BI complement rather than replace each other.
Of course, except at the extremes, there’s no clear distinction between “reports” and “business intelligence analysis” tools. At one end, we have printed, paginated reports, and, at the other end, we have highly interactive UIs, driven by expressive visualizations that allow the user to investigate the data represented by those visualizations. It would be difficult to pick a point on that continuum where “reporting” becomes “BI analysis.”
Telerik Reporting covers almost all of that space, integrating “reporting-on-demand,” data visualizations, interaction with data stores, and the ability to drill down from summary data to detail data. Power BI operates at the BI end, creating applications whose UIs consist of interactive visualizations that allow data analysts to explore an organization’s data in a variety of ways.
Or, to put it another way, Power BI is designed to create standalone dashboard apps; Telerik Reporting is designed to … well, create reports in the modern, electronic, interactive sense of the word “report.” That “app vs. reports” distinction is the essential difference between Power BI and Telerik Reporting and explains why, if you do need Power BI, you‘d continue to need Telerik Reporting.
With Telerik Reporting you use Report Designer to create both page-oriented reports and interactive dashboards. Telerik Report Designer includes over a dozen different graph types to provide easy visualization of complex data in either reports or dashboards.
Once a report is created in Telerik Report Designer, you have multiple options for distributing the report. You can use Telerik Report Viewers to integrate your report into your websites or desktop applications (Telerik Report Viewers support any web development toolset and all of Microsoft’s desktop toolsets). You can also export a Telerik report into one of the dozen or so output formats Telerik supports (PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, Image and more). If you’re using Telerik Report Server, users can simply view their reports from there.
With Power BI you’re actually creating an app for visually exploring a specific data model. Those apps can then be shared among analysts and decision makers (with the appropriate user licensing). Because you’re creating and sharing an app rather than distributing a report, you can’t share your Power BI dashboard with users outside your organization unless you implement a B2C or B2B relationship with your partners through Active Directory (again, with the appropriate user licensing).
It is possible for users running a Power BI app to export the app to one of three formats (PDF, PowerPoint or Excel), though, as Shawn Alpay at Senturus points out, the export experience is “painful” and “can take a weirdly long amount of time”—so much so that it may be easier just to display your Power BI report in Chrome and use Chrome’s print facility.
Because Power BI is designed to create standalone apps rather than standalone reports, integrating Power BI output into another application can be complex: It requires, for example, registering an Azure application, creating a Power BI workspace, publishing your Power BI report, and obtaining the necessary Client IDs/secrets, Workspace IDs and Report IDs before you can embed a Power BI app into your application (and licensing matters here, also).
Licensing also reflects the “apps vs. reports” distinction: To use a Power BI dashboard app, each Power BI user needs an end-user license. Embedded Power BIs are charged based on a metered license for analysis charges. And, because Power BI, is a cloud development tool, it’s subject to data limits.
Telerik licenses are perpetual rather than recurring, and are required only by developers embedding reports into applications or creating a report with Web Report Designer. There are no data limits or costs associated with either creating a report using the Standalone Report Designer or viewing a report, either from Report Server or in an application.
It’s also important to recognize that a Telerik Reporting solution can include Report Server, a central repository for managing reporting across the enterprise. There isn’t an equivalent solution with Power BI (the Power BI Admin portal is used to control enterprise-wide settings and monitor usage, not to manage the Power BI apps you create). This means, for example, that while the Telerik Report Server gives you the ability to manage user access to reports or recover earlier versions of reports, Power BI does not (you can find workarounds for managing versions of Power BI apps on the internet).
The “app vs. report” distinction matters here, also: Report Server supports generating reports either on a schedule or when data changes; Power BI users run the app to look for changes. While the Telerik Report Server lets you set up, manage and share data connections among reports centrally (including controlling which users see which data), Power BI data sources are set up on an app-by-app basis. This can make tracking down data source problems in Power BI apps challenging.
Every organization needs to be able to create reports; some organizations also require powerful apps that go beyond the visualization and data analysis tools included in Telerik Reporting, which is where Power BI becomes useful. In looking at Power BI, you’ll need to consider (1) whether you have a user community that needs those tools, and (2) if the overhead of managing all of the resulting apps and paying the per-user licensing costs makes sense for your organization. But that’s a separate decision from picking your reporting tool. If you’re using Power BI get a free trial of Telerik Reporting to see the difference for yourself.
Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter also writes courses and teaches for Learning Tree International.
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