Tag Archives: bi

Is Microsoft Excel the Next Great Business Intelligence Tool?

Credit: http://www.pbi2.com/images/img_businessIntel.jpgWith Microsoft’s release of Office 2013now fully equipped with features such as PowerPivot and PowerView, news outlets and blogs are abuzz speculating this is a push to make Excel the next Business Intelligence (BI) tool. Software Advice sat down with Rob Collie, CTO of PivotStream and one of the founding engineers of PowerPivot, to get his perspective on how the new Excel will affect Business Intelligence and Excel professionals.

[Read the full interview here.]

Takeaways from the interview:

1. More adoption of PowerPivot in the Excel community. PowerPivot has yet to receive a lot of attention among the Excel audience. 

“Unlike programmers, BI specialists, and other IT pros, the Excel audience doesn’t congregate at conferences and they don’t closely monitor what Microsoft is saying about the next version of their toolset. Overwhelmingly, the way they learn about new Excel capabilities is by inspecting the latest version once it lands on their desktop.”

All of that is about to change now that Office 2013 has more tightly integrated PowerPivot into Excel. Originally a separate download, PowerPivot is now part of the original package upon purchase.

2. The PowerPivot community is growing.

“Using PowerPivotPro traffic as a guide, I’ve seen the PowerPivot audience double in size every year since 2009. But I’d still estimate that less than one percent of the eventual PowerPivot target audience has been exposed to the product as of today.”

3. All Office users now data analysts? Continue reading

Photo credit: Google+

Stories from the WIT Trenches: Jen Stirrup

[This is the eighth in a series of posts exploring the personal stories of real women in technology. Every woman in tech overcame, at the very least, statistical odds to be here; this blog series aims to find out why, and what they found along the way. Author of a prestigious BI blog, Jen Stirrup (t|ln), runs a small Business Intelligence company (Copper Blue Consulting) with Allan Mitchell (t|ln) and is an active member of the SQL Server community. If reading her story inspires you to share yours, please email me.]

Meet Jen:

“I have been a SQL Server Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for nearly one year, in the SQL Server discipline. This allows me to connect more deeply with the great minds and kind hearts in the MVP community and at Microsoft. One day, I hope that I won’t be as tongue-tied when I meet the other MVPs that I’ve admired for such a long time!”

1) Can you take us back to your “eureka!” moment—a particular instance or event that got you interested in technology?

When I was eight years old, my Uncle gave us a computer that he’d fixed. It was a little Sinclair ZX81, and I loved it. I learned to program in BASIC, and my love of technology has been with me ever since.

2) Growing up, did you have any preconceived perceptions of the tech world and the kinds of people who lived in it?

My perception of the tech world was shaped by older males in my family, who took the time to involve me in all things electronic and computer-focused. For example, my grandfather was one of the first television engineers, and continued to be impressed and excited by technology until he passed away in his mid-eighties.  One of my great uncles was a spy during the Second World War, and worked to code-break Japanese codes. Their experiences combined to influence me, and continue to do so until this very day.

3) When did you first consider a career in technology? What did you envision doing?

Initially, I wanted to train as a psychologist and I had a specific interest in cognitive psychology. I used my programming skills in order to set up psychological experiments and I found that I preferred it to psychology.

I moved into Artificial Intelligence, moving from my cognitive psychology and programming background. I was fascinated by the algorithms that attempted to further research into human cognitive processes. I still see Artificial Intelligence alive and well, but in a different guise (e.g. search technologies).

4) Did you experience any personal or systemic setbacks at any point of your academic or professional career?

In the first two years of my son’s life, he was critically ill on occasion. At some points, he was given an hour to live. His illness was a constant stress, and I obviously couldn’t work as he recuperated. I’m glad to say that he survived, partially due to his own tenacity and zest for life. I’m very grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved him, despite the odds.

5) Whom do you look at as mentors and/or sources of inspiration in your field?

I am inspired every day by people in the community, particularly the Professional Association of SQL Server (SQLPASS) community. There are a huge number of selfless volunteers who give up their time to create training material, give presentations, and provide help and support to people who are on the path to learning SQL Server.

6) How has your participation in both the on- and offline SQL Server communities changed the way you look at and work with these technologies?

I’ve learned a lot about business benefits and perspectives from interacting with people in the community. Someone might ask a question which seems strange, but when you start to understand the ‘why’ of the question, it becomes clear that there may be a strong business reason for doing something, even if the proposed technical response seems strange.

I’ve met members of the Analysis Services, Excel and Reporting Services teams, and I’m hugely impressed with their dedication and innovation to provide high-quality products and solutions that SMEs can afford.

7) Why do you think the rate of attrition for women in software engineering is higher than that of women in most other tech fields?

I’m not sure if this is the case, cross-culturally. From my own experience, the issue is perceptions about returning to a technical role after maternity leave. Women leave the field for awhile, and then lose confidence to come back to technology since the tech world has moved on so fast. I have to say that, after returning to work after having had my son, women should not lose confidence in coming back to technology after having had a child. Remember most of the guys you work beside are also parents. The technical skills are transferable to newer versions and editions.

8) Do you have any suggestions for how to get more girls interested in computers and computer science? Is this important to you?

I think it is important to show girls that technology can help people. For example, Microsoft uses technology to help girls across the globe, in partnership with UNESCO.

Don’t dismiss girls from technology, at an early age. Teachers need support in the classroom to make sure that girls also get attention and equal education in subjects such as math, computing science and so on.

Jason Thomas Reviews OfficeWriter’s SSRS Integration

The following is a review of OfficeWriter written by Jason Thomas, a BI consultant specializing in SSRS.  Read the full review here.

“As a BI consultant specializing in SSRS, I have had lots of frustrations and hard times because of Excel. Every now and then, I have some or other business user coming up to me and asking for some feature which is there in Excel but not in SSRS. If you have been following my blog, you would already know that I am more of a work-around man, trying to find some alternative for features which are not supported out of the box. But when it comes to Excel related features, most of my attempts end in disappointment. So naturally, my ears perked up when I was asked to review a plugin which claimed to build SSRS reports using Excel and Word.

So I downloaded OfficeWriter v8 and spent close to a week playing around with it. Even though I encountered some minor quirks (v8.0 doesn’t run on the 64 bit version of Office 2010 yet – luckily I had a home pc with a 32 bit version of Office; got some minor issues when editing and deploying an existing SSRS report with shared data sources – got around it by setting the data sources once again from the report manager), overall I have been very pleased and of course, excited at the different prospects that this plugin opens up.”

[Click here to read the full review]

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Stories from the WIT Trenches: Stacia Misner

[This is the sixth in a series of posts exploring the personal stories of real women in technology. Every woman in tech overcame at the very last statistical odds to be here; this blog series aims to find out why, and what they found along the way. Those of you who work in the SQL Server BI arena are mostly likely familiar with Stacia Misner-- the consultant, instructor and prolific author is one of  the MS BI stack’s greatest champions. Here, she talks tractors, the SQLBI community’s collective consciousness and growing up in the stars. For guidance and in-depth tutorials on all things SQL Server, SSRS, SharePoint and BI, check out Stacia’s blog and books! And if reading her story inspires you to share yours, please feel to email me.]

I’m Stacia Misner, a business intelligence consultant, author, and instructor specializing in the Microsoft business intelligence stack. I have been working in the business intelligence field since 1999 and started my own consulting company in 2006.

1)      Can you take us back to your “eureka!” moment—a particular instance or event that got you interested in technology?

I’ve always been interested in technology in one way or another. My parents were both programmers, although I don’t recall growing up thinking that I would follow in their footsteps. I was always very good at math and science, and was properly encouraged in those areas. I had the privilege of growing up in Houston, in the heart of the space industry, so all my friends’ parents (mostly fathers at the time, I suppose) were engineers or scientists. Technology seemed a normal part of life, and my friends and I grew up expecting that it would become more and more like Star Trek as time went on. Continue reading

Boston SharePoint Salon Recap: Powerview and Fall in a Glass

Cross-posted from bostonsharepointsalon.com:

Last night’s Salon was, by I want to say all accounts, a rather smashing success. (Perhaps a smashed success for a few philosophes.) About twenty locals, newbies and visitors braved the seriously odious weather to talk about, among a few many other things, Power View and the revamped BI Stack. Many many thanks to Sean Boon (b | t), from Microsoft’s Power View team, for coming all the way from Providence on a tweet’s notice—your inside expertise was much appreciated!

If you’d like to come to the next Salon, consider this your invitation! It’ll happen sometime in mid-December–stay tuned for specifics!

Everything You Wanted To Know About Power View—But Were Afraid to Ask

Before you decide whether Power View is the best damn thing to happen to self-service BI since graph paper or is just a smoke and mirrors, CamelCaseless extension to PowerPivot, you need to know its gist. The following blog posts and videos will give you just that, from a (mostly) business user perspective. Read ‘em, and then get cracking with the CTP3 version, available for download here.

  • Dan English’s (b | t) “Intro to BI Semantic Model & Delivering Self-Service Reporting with Power View (Crescent)” video and slide deck

A comprehensive MSBI presentation that covers the BI Semantic Model concept, Power View and SQL Server Analysis Services with Power Pivot in SQL Server 2012.

Continue reading

Boston SharePoint Salon: Power View and Visualization

PowerPivot, Windows 8 Metro tiles, Office 365, Power View… if there’s one category of user Microsoft seems to building its future upon, it’s the business user. And by business user, I mean a given employee who needs to analyze and interpret data without writing a single query. Without even needing to know that “query” has a technical definition. For years, Excel was the only answer MSFT provided, but many of today’s business users want to be able to not only analyze but interact with data; and the data needs to be dynamic, and thus is optimally accessed from the browser. Enter: visualization, which is an interactive, abstracted visual representation of a given data set.Power View, née Project Cresent, is Microsoft’s new visualization application, and it sits inside SharePoint Server 2010. With Crescent, users can turn tables of data from PowerPivot workbooks or SQL Server 2012 instances into interactive charts, tiles and other vizualizations.
At the October Boston SharePoint Salon (BoSS), we’ll be talking Power View and the dataviz trend in general, its impact on database devs and admins, how it may play out in Office 15 and the next version of SharePoint and how many Euros, approximately, it takes to smuggle 20 kilos of guanciale past customs. Cool? Cool.
BoSS is happening at Eastern Standard, home of the Frobisher. If you want in, invite yourself on Facebook or @ me on Twitter.  See you there!

Andrew Brust on OfficeWriter: “Enhanced Integration for Microsoft Business Intelligence”

[Click here to read the full review!]

To many of you, the name Andrew Brust might ring a bell. After all, this is a man who’s been working with, shaping and talking about Microsoft technologies for twenty years. Maybe you’ve seen him speak or read his columns on Visual Studio Magazine and Redmond Developer News. Maybe you’ve heard of his new Microsoft consulting firm, Blue Badge Insights. Maybe, like me, you follow his personal blog. I started reading Brust Blog in the beginning of the year, and it quickly became my de facto source for objective analysis of Microsoft developments. A few comments led to an email exchange that, a few months later, lead to what has got to be one of the most cogent and comprehensive summaries of an advanced technological product out there. Continue reading