Power BI Tops in Spreadsheet Category - More Popular Than Everything, but Also More Popular than VBA


For Much of Last Week, Our Power Pivot & Power BI Book Topped the Spreadsheet Category on Amazon
(Think about it:  more people learning about DAX than learning about VLOOKUP or SUMIF is a MAJOR development!)

Awareness That’s Been a Long Time Coming

It’s hard to believe, but we launched this website in 2009. Let that sink in:  we’re nearly SEVEN YEARS into the “Modern Excel” era, the Power BI era, the DAX era, whatever you want to call it.  By early 2010, we were absolutely convinced, around here, that this stuff represented The End of the World as We Knew It – both traditional BI and traditional Excel-based reporting and analysis were going to be overhauled, emphatically, by the new tools – tools that convey enormous new capabilities and competitive advantage.

But the awareness of said tools has grown only slowly, year over year, due to a unique combination of factors particular to Microsoft and their many silos of products.  Being big is sometimes a disadvantage, particularly when it’s time to advertise/market groundbreaking products outside the consumer space.

We seem to have hit a major inflection point recently however, both with the (successful) Power BI marketing surge AND the Excel team fully awakening to the gift that is Power Pivot.

The Wisdom of Bill Jelen

I originally did not plan to write about this at all – it’s a bit too self-congratulatory for my taste, it being our book and all – but I was talking with Bill “MrExcel” Jelen the other day and he observed:

The fact that power BI is outselling the bestselling VBA books is news. Blog post worthy news. Major change in industry trend.

-Bill Jelen

Funny huh, how you can say it that way and it suddenly lands.  On one hand, well duh, of course if this book is #1 in Spreadsheets, it’s going to be ahead of the VBA books.  In an academic sense, the “beats VBA” claim is “less” of a claim.

Dilbert Salutes One Million VBA Developers…  Back in 2000

But on the other hand…  damn.  In my earlier days working at Microsoft, sometime around 2000, everyone on our team received free copies of a special edition Dilbert book:  Dilbert Salutes One Million VBA Developers was the title on the book jacket (or something similar).  I’m pretty sure the book itself (hardcover) was just one of the already-existing Dilbert books, but Microsoft and their publisher had teamed up somehow to produce this special edition jacket.

Dilbert and VBA.  One Million VBA Developers.  Crazy times.  (Boy do I wish I’d kept that silly book, can’t find a picture of it anywhere, since it was obscure and somewhat pre-internet).

VBA pretty much rules the world even today.  A quick glance at the MrExcel forums shows that about half the recent posts are about VBA.  Formulas, charts, and pivots combined account for the other 50%!

OK, so our Power Pivot and Power BI book isn’t #1 every day in the Excel category.  The fact that it sometimes is, well that’s pretty noteworthy, but every time I’ve checked, it’s been ahead of the top VBA books.

To see a book about DAX / Power Pivot clobbering the best selling VBA books on a consistent basis means that more people are learning Power Pivot and Power BI today than are learning VBA.  And if you understand how powerful and approachable and ridiculously widespread VBA is – how vibrant and crucial it remains to this day – this IS a big deal.


Use it as a Legitimizer, a “Did You Know?”

In the right crowd, the statement that Power BI knowledge is now a hotter commodity than VBA knowledge is a big legitimizer.  Gotta know your audience, because some folks (those who don’t realize they are standing on a mountain of VBA) will dismiss it as a low bar – “oh great it’s more popular than something invented in the early 90’s!” is not a retort you want to bait.  But yeah, there are definitely places where it’s an attention getter.

If you want to get just a little bit sly, you could drop hints that Power Pivot and Power BI might replace vast swaths of VBA in your organization.  That will get IT excited, even if it’s a bit of a white lie.  But in truth, the Power suite does VASTLY reduce the noise and chaos of a traditional Excel environment, so the net result is actually MORE impactful than if the original face value statement (replace VBA) came true (which won’t happen given all the crazy ways people use VBA – it’s a very long tail).  I’d forgive you for using this tactic, just don’t overplay the hand.

Go get ‘em.