Home > Uncategorized > Insight – Hard to Come By, Invaluable When Connected to Your Business Strategy

Insight – Hard to Come By, Invaluable When Connected to Your Business Strategy

An associated topic to the world of CRM, is gleaning insight from the operational data in CRM and associated business systems. In this blog entry, I explore the concept of business insight and expose what I believe to be a major breakthrough in this area that is coming very soon with the release of Office 2010. Read on to discover!

How much value can an Microsoft Excel user derive from Microsoft’s Business Intelligence stack without having to pick up a book on OLAP, Dimensional Modelling or SQL Server Analysis Services? Users and managers want to derive insight from their business systems. This is often a tough thing to do. It doesn’t have to be. It can actually be a fun exercise by allowing your curiosity to drive you through operational information to discover amazing things happening, or not happening, in the business. This new found insight can then support business strategy and measure execution of that strategy.

Microsoft Excel has long been the dominant data analysis tool in the enterprise. Despite the availability of alternative solutions, employees and decision makers continue to favour Microsoft Excel because the user interface is familiar and the analysis features are comprehensive and intuitive. Workbooks and spreadsheets are easy to use. Without having to wait weeks or months for IT to deliver BI solutions, users can import data from virtually any source directly into a workbook, process the data using Excel formulas and other data manipulation capabilities, and analyse the data in a variety of ways using PivotTables. In the 2007 release, Excel increased the row support from 64,000 to 1 million rows. This was fantastic, and has meant that Excel has grown in use as the dominant data analysis tool, but that isn’t enough for all the myriad of insight that needs to be gleaned from the volumes of operational data, from CRM and other systems, available in many organisations today.

PowerPivot for Excel 2010 takes the self-service BI capabilities of Excel to an unprecedented level. As a separate add-in, PowerPivot exploits the familiarity of Excel while adding an in-memory BI engine and new compression algorithms to load even the biggest data sets into memory. Users can process enormous quantities of data with incredible speed. Processing millions of rows takes about the same time as processing thousands, and by using Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) in addition to standard Excel features, power users can easily create advanced workbook applications that rely on data relationships between tables as in a database, include calculated columns and measures, and aggregate over billions of rows. In many cases, PowerPivot for Excel 2010 can establish the table relationships automatically. Workbooks can become more powerful and more mission-critical than ever.

PowerPivot integrates with SharePoint Server 2010 as a reliable platform for building the managed BI collaboration environment. Among other capabilities, SharePoint facilitates seamless and secure sharing and collaboration on user-generated workbook applications, while PowerPivot provides the management tools and usage data that put IT in control of “spreadmarts”.

The success of BI in the enterprise depends on the ability of the BI environment to satisfy user needs, IT needs, and business requirements. Users want to work with familiar tools and need clear and accurate answers to their questions. A great example is below. After spending a few minutes formatting and laying out controls just the way we want them, we end up with a very functional, self-contained workbook which acts as an application:

PowerPivot for Excel 2010 is an application-level Excel add-in that implements advanced data analysis features, enhances the user experience through ribbon customisations and spreadsheet templates, and overrides the default PivotTable field list to implement its own task pane, thereby enabling the functionality of OLAP PivotTables and PivotCharts without requiring SQL Server Analysis Services cubes.

The PowerPivot for Excel 2010 architecture relies on an add-in assembly, a VertiPaq engine, and a VertiPaq database module. The VertiPaq engine performs query processing and implements a column-based data store with efficient compression algorithms to get massive amounts of data directly into memory. With all the data in memory, PowerPivot can perform its query processing, data scans, calculations, and aggregations without having to go to disk. As a consequence of working with column-based data and avoiding the overhead of disk I/O operations, PowerPivot for Excel 2010 achieves a very high analysis performance.

In summary, PowerPivot for Excel 2010 is a data analysis tool that delivers unmatched computational power directly within the application users already know and love—Microsoft Excel. You can transform enormous quantities of data with incredible speed into meaningful information to get the answers you need in seconds. You can effortlessly share your findings with others. PowerPivot can even help the IT department improve operational efficiencies through SharePoint-based management tools.

Are you already using the beta of Office 2010? Start your PowerPivot for Excel adventure today. Learn more about PowerPivot for Excel 2010 and download the free add-in at www.powerpivot.com. If you haven’t got the beta of Office 2010 installed, then get it from here: http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/en/default.aspx

Cheers, Ross

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