I attended this event a few days ago.
Its purpose was – “to give you a good understanding of Microsoft’s BI strategy and its platform consisting of Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, and SQL Server 2008 R2.”
There definitely seems to be a lot going on in the MS reporting/BI space with – and the guest speaker eluded to better things to come in the next release of SQL Server – Denali later this year.
Key take aways include:
- Users increasingly want to perform more self-service analysis and to ‘build their own’ BI solutions with minimal dependence on IT support. The ‘traditional’ approach of IT taking a long time to build these reporting/BI solutions is no longer sustainable – as often by the time the project is ‘finished’ business needs have changed so the solution no longer meets requirements. MS’s core message was the need for organisations to get the correct level of balance between – end user agility vs control.
- MS see the current set of vendors split between two camps. The traditional ‘control’ world with big vendors eg IBM, Oracle and SAP and the newer more end user focused – ‘agile’ – vendors eg MicroStrategy, QlikView and Tableau. They see their position (perhaps not unsurprisingly) as being unique in that they have the product stack that can stradle both camps. End users can have more ‘agile self service BI’ using tools such as Excel 2010/PowerPivot – whilst products such as Sharepoint and SQL Server can support the more the ‘control’ side of things.
- End users usage – how many people were accessing Excel/PowerPivot and how often they are refreshing their datasets from source systems – can be monitored via Sharepoint. This is potentially one of the core enablers for getting the balance right between agility and control. End users can start with self-service BI via PowerPivot and if it reaches a critical mass of usage across the organisation then it can be migrated to a corporate solution.
- A new Business Intelligence Semantic Model (BISM) that will power Microsoft BI front end experiences such as Excel, Reporting Services and SharePoint Insights. I wasn’t aware of this before this event – the following blog from the SQL server team gives a good overview about it.
An issue that I have with the self service BI visualisation tools space is the tendency to gloss over data management/quality issues that most organisations face. Better end user data access with dashboards with ‘slicing and dicing’ is a really good idea. But, if the underlying data structures, enterprise definitions and data quality are poor – how accurate a business insight will these tools really provide?
Therefore it was good to see that MS seem to be taking steps into the wider data management space. They already have Master Data Services and they mentioned that Denali would include “Data Quality Services for knowledge-driven data cleansing and Impact Analysis and Lineage”. Definitely an area to keep an eye on.