BI Everywhere: Microsoft Is Worth Your Attention

Updated: June 16, 2010

Microsoft's new offerings center around greater support for services in SQL Server 2008 R2; the ability of Excel users to use BI-type reporting tools on both their own and data-warehouse data, presented in an Excel-type user interface; and the ability to share reports over Microsoft SharePoint. Little or nothing of this goes beyond what IBM/Cognos and Oracle, in particular, have done already. Rather, the significance lies in the Microsoft installed base to which this is being offered.

It is already a truism that Microsoft Office is the almost universal tool of most business employees. In the last few years, Microsoft Sharepoint has been approaching that kind of penetration (by some estimates, approximately 70% of Office users now also use Sharepoint). This predominance represents not only mind share among IT buyers and corporate executives, but also dominance across businesses and industries among individual employees. In other words, Microsoft has the ear not merely of the business market, but of a consumer market looking for solutions that will be of use in their work.

This marks a fundamental difference between Microsoft and all other competitors in the BI market. An SAP/Business Objects or a Microstrategy sells to, designs for, and focuses on BI specialists using a central data warehouse. Even successful attempts by such vendors to design "BI for the masses" are crowded out of much of the business-user market by a work force that tends to learn and use only a few tools for all of their tasks - most of them Microsoft. By contrast, if Microsoft decides to focus on BI that all can use, it has a user interface (Excel), a way of collaborating (SharePoint), and other tools for displaying the results of the work (Word, PowerPoint) that are entirely familiar to most workers. It is far less of a stretch for the average worker to employ these tools for BI than it is to apply, say, Oracle OLAP tools. In Oracle tools, Excel is supported, but Oracle lacks control over look and feel and has a more distant relationship with the ultimate consumer/customer.

This is not to say that Microsoft's new offerings support a full "BI for the masses" solution. On the contrary, on both the BI and the "masses" end, functionality and integration is missing. Microsoft has only begun to use its services support to implement and encourage BI-type applications available through Excel or integrated with SharePoint. Nor do Microsoft's OLAP tools yet match Oracle's and IBM's in the ability to do fancy analyses. Governance and workflow are often left to IT; predictive analytics are not as feature-rich; and not all BI features available via SQL Server are fully integrated with Excel and Sharepoint.

Therefore, feature-by-feature comparisons and TCO/ROI studies that compare Microsoft to other BI vendors will often show the superiority of the other vendor. When it comes to the many potential BI users who will not use BI through another vendor in the next few years, however, Microsoft isn't superior: it's just the only possible game in town.

Featured Research
  • Executive Brief: Mitigate Avaya risk and future-proof your customer experience

    When Avaya filed for bankruptcy, it ended months of speculation. However, the company’s ongoing financial instability has left many businesses in a precarious position. If you’re concerned about your future with Avaya, don’t wait around to see what long-term options are available to modernize your customer engagement center. more

  • Harnessing the Power of Speech Analytics

    The conversations between your customers and agents contain invaluable insights—if you have the right tools to easily interpret and act on this dialogue. Unfortunately, most organizations waste time manually mining only a subset of customer interaction data, or worse yet, do nothing with it at all. Speech analytics is an incredibly powerful tool for contact center leaders. It easily delivers real-time visibility into the full customer journey and agent responses, which are essential for driving higher customer satisfaction and business success. more

  • Budgeting for BI in 2018

    Is your business ready for Business Intelligence (BI) software? As BI software continues to improve, more businesses are moving to adopt BI sooner rather than later. Before you make that commitment though, it pays to figure out exactly how much money it will cost you to implement. more

  • Gartner Report: Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure, Worldw...

    The 2017 Magic Quadrant provides Gartner’s annual analysis of the contact center infrastructure vendors. The report examines the innovations driving the market and compares vendors based on completeness of vision and ability to execute. more

  • Forrester Report: Artificial Intelligence with the Human Touch

    Artificial intelligence (AI) can’t replicate the human touch, but it can ease your agents’ burden by handling many simple, repetitive requests. A new Forrester Consulting paper offers a look at the strengths and weaknesses of both AI and humans independently, yet how blending them together can give your customers the seamless end-to-end experience they expect. more