Microsoft’s Power Pivot Opens the Door to Agile, Self-Service, Low-Cost BI

In my last blog, I reviewed the benefits of Power Pivot and Power View for Sharepoint. This time I’d like to share more thoughts on how Power View further realizes the “self-service” promise of the Microsoft BI stack.

What do I need to know about Power View?  Is it the same thing as Power Pivot?  Where does SharePoint fit in?
Power View is a way for the average business user to create Silverlight dashboards and presentation-ready reports, change them at will, and make them (and the underlying data models) available to others on the SharePoint platform.

Power View dashboards and reports (which look a lot like PowerPoint slides) use Power Pivot as their data source. As I mentioned in my last post, Power Pivot enables you to bring together multiple data sources into a single pivot. The data model you create in Power Pivot then becomes available through the SharePoint Power Pivot Gallery not only to Power View but also to other tools such as SQL Reporting Services (SSRS), Report Builder, and other Excel workbooks.

With the PowerPivot extensions installed in SharePoint, once you upload a PowerPivot workbook to the Power Pivot Gallery, you can then leverage the Power View online report creator to create highly-interactive visualizations. Just click the PowerView icon to get started. You can drag and drop fields from your pivot to the presentation area and select from a variety of chart and table options. Drop on fields as filters, and by default they control all the charts in your view.  You can also just click on a chart element to filter the rest the data in your view.

Who should be interested?
If you’ve ever made a presentation to an executive or key stakeholders and spent hours copying and pasting in reports, only to learn the data changed the morning of your presentation, you’ll appreciate how PowerView exports to PowerPoint and retains live data connections. Your deck always has the latest data.  And if you thought you had your slide deck nailed, but a minute into your presentation your CVP asks for a different slice of the data, you’ll be interested to know you can easily change filters and rearrange your data on the fly.

A few weaknesses – the choices for customizing color schemes, displaying more than a primary axis on charts, and other cosmetic limitations are pretty obvious as you start to play with the different chart options. And the integration with SharePoint was far from a snap (thankfully Microsoft recently released a comprehensive “how to” on Power View & SharePoint configuration). You’ll also need to install SQL 2012, which can be challenging to get right for this set up.

To be honest, I’ve made more polished-looking dashboards in Excel and Report Builder for SSRS than in Power View, but not as quickly. And what I love about Power View is how it pushes the edge even further into domains that previously only top-end developers dabbled in. Silverlight tables and charts in the hands of business users are, well, pretty darn cool (and rumor has it that it won’t be long before Power View goes HTML5).

I’m excited about what this release of Power View has to offer, but even more so about where Microsoft seems to be taking their BI stack.  With PowerPivot integrated to SharePoint, and Power View available to design reports, as well as Report Builder to create more sophisticated views in SSRS, users have the power to generate reports at the speed of their business, rather than wait for an IT cycle or pay for a dev resource. And IT teams can rest assured that data is secure by being empowered to manage security on the SharePoint platform.

About a year ago, my IT colleagues questioned how the average Excel user could do things that previously only developers could do. Microsoft’s Power Pivot opens the door to self-service, agile, low-cost BI that may give the skeptics (and developers) a run for their money.

Interested in Learning More?
If you’re interested in learning more about the business intelligence options available, reach out to us. We can help you optimize your business intelligence strategy, create a plan for managing your data, and develop user tools and data infrastructure that will drive higher levels of business performance.

Phone: 312-602-4000
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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