Business Intelligence has become an essential weapon in the armoury of enterprises today that desire to compete with the best in their industry. Software vendors have been catering to the needs of these enterprises by providing power to them through their software. IBMs SPSS and Cognos are examples to cite here. Microsoft also has been providing power to its customers through its SQL database and its data analysis and reporting services for a long time now.
Providing the BI power to the common man who used very simple tools like Excel was Microsoft's long time aspiration. The data analysis tool pack that was available as add-on to the basic Excel was not enough to meet the demand of the already competitive market scenario. The data visualization features in Conditional formatting of Excel 2007 was a great leap from the traditional way by which data was presented. The acquisition of PerformancePoint was a shot in the arm for Microsoft. Excel Services was one of the first steps towards empowering the end-user with the capabilities of BI in the enterprise. It enabled the users to present dynamic visual reports like dashboards and KPIs in the SharePoint portal.
With the entry of PowerPivot in Office 2010 there happened to be a drastic change in the way the normal Excel user has been enabled to handle, analyse, interpret and present data. It accommodated millions of rows of data in Excel for analysis and interpretation. Data models could be built on such huge volumes of data extracted from various sources like database tables of SQL and Access apart from Excel Pivot tables. It also currently allows data to be imported from non-Microsoft databases like Oracle, Teradata, Sybase, Informix, IBM DB2 or any system or ODBC that could provide data through OLE DB.
PowerView in Excel 2013 enhanced the ease with which users could interpret data. PowerQuery and PowerMaps are currently in preview which will add to the kitty of BI tools from Microsoft.
I will post more about this topic in the coming days.