How Microsoft has been quietly pulling ahead in the BI market.
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report issues in February of last year was the early warning signal that the Microsoft’s long time effort to build the best of the best business intelligence (BI) platform has given them a leadership position in the space.
Part of the focus has been making BI more directly accessible via Office and SharePoint 2013 with the later picking up some very helpful features. For one thing administrators won’t need to configure Kerberos as its need is eliminated in SQL 2012’s SP1. In addition PerformancePoint Services that are build into SharePoint 2013 give support to “Analysis Services Effective User” once again eliminating Kerberos’ delegation when you are using a per-user authentication for Analysis Services data sources.
In April Technology Spectator contributor Fredrik Tunvall reported that Microsoft was working even harder to “simplify its BI platform from a technology and go-to-market perspective. In his opinion the major issue isn’t the tool set but rather Microsoft’s lack of “ability to clearly communicate its BI strategy.” He went on to point out that the big M’s latest offering is made up essentially of three core products; SQL Server, SharePoint and Excel.
Noting that SQL Server and SharePoint form the data management, governance, administrative insight, security, and of course collaboration capabilities but that it is Excel’s almost universal hold on end-user that is most critical. This is true primarily due to its long existence and user familiarity in the enterprise and is what really propels Microsoft’s BI solution above its competitors.
But the story gets even better if we fast forward only a handful of months.
Now comes Microsoft’s latest addition to its growing cloud, Office 365. And with it comes a set of BI tools and a few capabilities even its stand-alone products can’t deliver. SQL Server product marketing General Manager Eron Kelly was quoted in a recent piece from PCWorld saying, “Power BI for Office 365 brings together our entire BI stack and offers it as a service”.
This creates for end users a sort of self-service business intelligence system and, with an upgrade to the ProPlus version of the managed service offering, both Power View and Power Pivot all via an online edition of Excel. Now even within a complete cloud environment Microsoft is planting yet another flag in the BI field.
Still most small and mid-size companies will find these intricate systems difficult to get into and may risk wasting a dollar or two trying to do this themselves. Even more important is the fact that nearly every business regardless of size can benefit from careful analysis of their ongoing data stream and the well developed BI tools available to do it.
Many would benefit greatly from engaging an outsourced business analysis team specializing in both existing and emerging MS BI systems and tools. Often these teams are available in organizations who specialize in building database stacks, warehouses and have comprehensive programming knowledge which aids in smoothing system incompatibilities. “Big Data” and even “Small Data”, the kind that has been sitting somewhere in your database for years, when properly mined by a solid BI system will yield a positive return because in the long run it will be that knowledge that leads you into the future.