Microsoft Using Excel to Win Some BI Love

Ann All

Ah, Microsoft Excel, the spreadsheet program so loved by users, so vilified by plenty of other folks.

 

When I wrote in August about how a real estate companyused unspecified business intelligence tools to shed some light on its cell phone expenses, trimming its telecommunications costs, an astute reader responded that his bet was on Excel being the "tool" in question. And that company certainly isn't alone. When I wrote about Ace Hardware's decision to swap out an overly complex BI system for simpler software from Information Builders, I noted that one of the software's strongest selling points was its easy integration with Excel.

 

Microsoft, which has yet to gain much traction in the BI market, is moving forward with a plan designed to tie Excel to its SQL Server and other back-end BI tools such as SharePoint Server or PerformancePoint Server, reports Computerworld. The idea, says Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus, is to make BI easier for "average" users by giving them an "in-memory, drag-and-drop, pivot-table-enabled" dashboard. In addition to Excel, users will also be able to access query results from Microsoft's Dynamics 2009 ERP application and from Internet Explorer.

 

And that's not all, Kobielus (who sure seems to know a lot about what Microsoft is doing) says it's using technology recently acquired from DATAllegro to build a BI-centric version of SQL Server 2008 called Project Madison. As IT Business Edge blogger Art Cole wrote in August, it's Microsoft's bid to take advantage of the massively parallel processing (MPP) capability of DATAllegro's platform, which far out-paces the offerings of rivals such as Oracle. The result, says Kobielus, will be a data warehouse that could store a petabyte or more of data.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 13, 2008 1:06 AM sammycliff edum sammycliff edum  says:
thanks Reply
Oct 13, 2008 11:09 AM Vijay Vijay  says:
Really an intresting article, looking forward to see more news on this space. Reply
Oct 13, 2008 12:57 PM sammycliff edum sammycliff edum  says:
i will love to be part of this development. the idea is a welcome one. Reply
Oct 15, 2008 1:02 AM Frits Bos Frits Bos  says:
Good thing I did not realize Excel was not supposed to be a BI tool. Too bad Microsoft jumps to the obvious conclusion that all it has to do is marry Excel to some backend server for the world to take notice.A couple of years ago I managed a project for a large Canadian Bank where legacy systems have become an equivalent to a suffocating tropical forest. The effort and complexity of getting any information to perform added-value operations like BI seemed overwhelming.To the point: I created a report image file harvesting tool (GRIDBEAST) that reverse-processed report page images with intelligent selection options to extract the data for various BI initiatives. One example was to find questionable loans: an effort that occupied 3 full-time staff who could never quite finish the job before the next monthly report cycle dumped another load of loans information on them. The extract/analysis process did the same job in less than 30 minutes and delivered each regional office a workbook with loans information that should be audited. Apart from the obvious headcount savings the value of the loan loss exposure reductions was significant.The GRIDBEAST process was all VBA macro code (ok, 80 pages of small print worth, but such is the power of Excel VBA that it can handle such applications). Using VBA meant an easy distribution of information into as many workbooks/worksheets as required. Reducing information to highlight that which is essential for BI is just that kind of use (we also applied the tool to many 6-Sigma initiatives). If people don't look beyond obvious Excel spreadsheet functionality then they will never be convinced that linking it to a backend server will make a difference. For people that know better it will make the VBA code that much more powerful. Microsoft is not doing itself a favor by not emphasizing how much power Excel actually has to offer, as most people seem to think it is nothing but Lotus-123 on steroids. Reply

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