I am quite excited about the launch of SQL2012 and in particular PowerView, or Crescent as some of you may know it as. I am pleased that Microsoft are sharpening their In-Memory BI story and they have a drag and drop user interface that can compete with the likes of Qlik-View et al. Blimey, this has started off like a techy post – didn’t mean to. I’ll write more about our use of PowerView on a really interesting project, next time. Let me get to the point.
Microsoft now has Excel, ProClarity, PerformancePoint, PowerView, PowerPivot, Reporting Services, Visio and BingMaps interfacing with its dimensional model (Analysis Services) and now its BISM (BI Semantic Model) which seems to have replaced the Report Model. I am confused and so are my customers. This is also an issue that Gartner picked up on when they did the last magic quadrant review. In fact I remember being at a presentation on SQL 2012 (Denali as was) last year and a poor guy from Microsoft was mullered by the audience of technical guys who berated him for the lack of coherence in Microsoft’s BI message.
I wasn’t that worried actually because, as a partner, it’s my job to take the platform Microsoft gives me and manipulate it to meet my customers’ needs and vice versa – in fact, probably more vice versa.
In my mind I have this sorted out. This is what I do.
Firstly, I talk about the health and social care BI portal as a gateway to all the knowledge assets the organisation holds and my customers shout out things like EDRM / Collaboration / Search / BI / Unstructured Content / nice-looking web-site. We don’t really talk SharePoint. I don’t talk about the different platforms and their naming conventions. For example, trying to explain the evolution of Performance Point only distracts from the need it serves. The need it serves is to provide people who live in a one –five mouse-click world to go from a macro to micro view of organisational performance using a scorecard / dashboard. I think about Public Health Maps, organisational strategy maps and caseload reports (Reporting Services) in the same way – how many clicks does it take to get the information need and how can I, as an end-user be best connected with my data.
I would then think about Excel meeting the needs of analysts by providing direct access to data and I would tell the story of in-memory BI using PowerPivot.
Then I have to think about PowerView. That’s okay – in my first sentence I articulated the value to people who sit between Excel Pivot-table Gods and people who consume data via dashboards. So individually I can map each sort of user profile to a solution and to an underlying Microsoft technology. The problem comes when you step back and think about this strategically. I don’t mean as a programme of work because things like the UI are very similar and so the training overhead isn’t a problem. I think more about the coherence and I go back to that very hot room and the hot talk that made my mate at Microsoft sweat.
I don’t think that has been figured out. Maybe in the next iteration of SharePoint all the BI will be brought together and made into a seamless application so the alignment of function to “user need” doesn’t jar but emphasises the richness of the platform. Let’s see. Microsoft friends if you are reading, what do you think?
For now, I’ll keep on telling my tale – looking into the eyes of each of the different users that I pitch to and pointing out which application is exactly for them and emphasising how we, at Ascribe, understand that this can appear confusing but actually isn’t. So does it matter that when we step back it looks a little messy, when we are actually meeting the needs of our people. I don’t think it does, yet, but I think it will as the BI becomes more embedded.
Because that is the point of BI – to a large extent. You want people to come together to look at information and make sense of it and use it – we may be victims of our own success if we solve the “one version of the truth” issue (so they are all looking at the same data) but we create confusion through the range of tools we offer.
This one will run and run.