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Microsoft BI OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Microsoft BI is the #1 ranked solution in our list of top Business Intelligence Tools. It is most often compared to Tableau: Microsoft BI vs Tableau

What is Microsoft BI?

Microsoft BI is a business intelligence solution that turns data into insightful and useful business information that is relevant to all levels of the business.

Microsoft BI combines familiar Microsoft tools - Office, SharePoint, and SQL server, with extra features for end-users, such as Power View and Power Pivot. This powerful product gives businesses a competitive advantage by allowing end-users to better analyze their data, collaborate and better present their data.

Microsoft BI is also known as SSRS, SSAS, MSBI, MS Reporting Services, Power BI, Microsoft BI Tools, Microsoft Big Data, Power BI Pro, MS BI.

Microsoft BI Buyer's Guide

Download the Microsoft BI Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: October 2021

Microsoft BI Customers

Konica Minolta, Klout, Mahindra Satyam, The Weather Channel, Argus, Credit Suisse, NCR, and Sysmex.

Microsoft BI Video

Archived Microsoft BI Reviews (more than two years old)

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GG
Consultant at a consultancy with 11-50 employees
Consultant
Valuable dashboard and automated reporting features but should have better integration with RPA and Tableau platforms

Pros and Cons

  • "There was a lot of manual work involved with Excel, whereas once we moved on to Microsoft Power BI, it was a cleaner dashboard and it was faster too."
  • "I think because I'm moving more into RPA, I'd definitely like to see integration across the RPA, Power BI, or Tableau platforms, because that integration could then make automation and mundane reporting much faster."

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case was mainly to create dashboards and present them for reporting purposes. We use Microsoft Power BI to create dashboards, provide insights, and use its various analytical and insight functions to send to either the departmental manager or the general manager of marketing and sales or retail ops.

How has it helped my organization?

In short, we had to create sales reports. The sales reports needed to be emailed to the different sales managers all across New Zealand. The Excel file data had to be filtered manually, whereas, in Power BI, you can set restrictions. For example, if you have North, South, East and West branches, you can set corresponding restrictions, while allowing the national sales manager to view the entire data without having to do a lot of filtering, because of the restrictions involved.

It is time-saving for the person who creates the report and also a lot of that is automated, whereas with Excel you've got to keep working on it and keep filtering it all the time.

What is most valuable?

Our most valuable features are the dashboard and the reporting feature because, before that, our organization used to only use Excel. There was a lot of manual work involved with Excel, whereas once we moved on to Microsoft Power BI, it was a cleaner dashboard and it was faster too. The end user also had an opportunity to alter the reporting as per requirements with Power BI.

What needs improvement?

I haven't experienced any issues with it right now, so I can't really advise on that part.

I think because I'm moving more into RPA, I'd definitely like to see integration across the RPA, Power BI, or Tableau platforms because that integration could then make automation and mundane reporting much faster.

You'll always require some more complex reports that the analyst could work on, but the very standard sales reports could then be automated very quickly using Power BI and RPA together.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using this solution for one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is pretty good. I've been using other services from Microsoft and the support also has been really good so it's a very stable platform and the support services are excellent.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I've been using it for a year and it's only across my single department so I've not yet had to scale it to a very large level.

Across my department, there are two users. Across other departments at my company, there are many more. Most users are commercial or insights analysts.

Across our organization, Power BI is not extensively used, although I'm not privy to every department and their plans. I think it's being used moderately, but could be used more.

How are customer service and technical support?

In terms of Microsoft Power BI, if there was ever a query, you can find support online. There's a lot of help available but what I generally meant was I have been using Microsoft Office products through the Office 365 subscription business and the support of Microsoft Office, in general, has always been really good. They usually come back on the very same day and try and solve the problem. This is not something I've experienced with other platforms in the past.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We hadn't previously used another solution. We were just using Excel and decided to go to a much better platform.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was straightforward for me because as part of an organization, I didn't have to set it up myself. It was set up via the organization, through the IT department, so it was pretty straightforward.

What about the implementation team?

I adopted it in my team, but it was already being implemented across other parts of the company. I just brought it into my department, so I wouldn't be able to tell the time frame for the actual implementation strategy. For my team alone, it probably took me around two months or so.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

The other departments in my company were using Power BI, so it would not make sense to get another solution when they already had Power BI in other parts of the organization.

What other advice do I have?

Microsoft Power BI is definitely a good product and Microsoft has a good integration of a good suite of products across the range. I think if you take UI parts recent release, for example, I'm not sure that does it with Power BI but it definitely integrates it across the Microsoft Office activities, so I think it's only a matter of time before a majority of the Microsoft Office products start integrating with UI parts. That would take analysis, reporting, and automation to the next level and we could free up time for the general reporter.

I would rate this solution as seven out of ten because it's easy to use and there is a lot of support online. I think Microsoft Office itself has a lot of support being provided. In addition, I like its features and it's growing much faster than some of the other analytical tools out there, although it started off later.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Jorge Barroso
Consultor at Scitum
Consultant
Top 10
Works very well for updating indicator boards,and for quick visualizations in demos

Pros and Cons

  • "The uploading of information is very easy, as you just use an Excel sheet to start work right away and obtain the benefits of Power BI."
  • "I would like to see the product offer more graphics to impact different audiences."

What is our primary use case?

We use this for data analysis and the creation of indicators. It is one of the most powerful tools for BI in my experience. It works very fast, is intuitive, and useful. You just drag and drop, as soon as you download it.

How has it helped my organization?

This solution works very well for updating indicator boards, and for quick visualizations in demos. You can present results in many ways to improve the presentation.

I have used it on a variety of applications where it is important to show analysis and present information in a graphical perspective, and also to modify and present information to developers and executives.

What is most valuable?

One of the features I really like is that there are a lot of different graphics that are very nicely presented. The uploading of information is very easy, as you just use an Excel sheet to start work right away and obtain the benefits of Power BI.

When you start, right from the beginning it can help you. Once you upload the data you can start to play with the different options you have from the graphics available, and also from the different mathematical and logical conversions that it offers.

I also work with other data processors and the facilities that Power BI offer can help to better understand the traditional database tools such as SQL, or others.

Another advantage is that you don't have to have a lot of knowledge about databases. This is because you use Power BI knowing your goal and what you want to achieve with respect to the data that you are processing.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see the product offer more graphics to impact different audiences. Also, I would like more ease in connecting with the different database drives.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

This is different from other solutions in that Power BI offers ease of use. It is different from any SQL tool because you can use it right away.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

If you are looking for free tools to process data in different ways for an easy to medium analysis then you have the free version available. However, if you want a complex analysis from multiple sources of data then you should look for the charge and support version.

In my opinion, both options are good.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I evaluated some other tools but I think they had very different objectives. Power BI looked more generic and has an easy and quick way to present the information in different forms.

What other advice do I have?

It is important to say that the information cannot be confidential or secret. This is because the platform processes all data from the Microsoft cloud and you have to be certain of the security issues that someone could face if a security breach happens.

I very much recommend the free trial mode.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Learn what your peers think about Microsoft BI. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: October 2021.
541,708 professionals have used our research since 2012.
MC
Regional PDS - Director of Business Intelligence at JLL
Real User
I like it's ability to do almost anything to create the necessary calculated fields and measures (DAX)

What is our primary use case?

  • Running a team to build end-to-end BI solutions for large enterprises. 
  • Data typically stores in SQL Server. Some ad-hoc data pulled from SharePoint lists or Excel files.
  • Use of SSAS Tabular in some models.
  • Currently, no deployment of premium. A large deployment of PBI Pro.
  • We also use Tableau Desktop and on-prem server, but Power BI was a go-to product.

How has it helped my organization?

  • An easy learning curve for analysts. If they know how to use Excel pivot tables, then they can self-serve building visitations on curated data. 
  • Full stack end-to-end ETL and viz in one tool. 
  • Power Query for ETL, and externally easy to use. Majority of activities are low or no code.
  • Creating a model and augmenting with additional calculations and measures extremely easily. 
  • Viz layer build is super fast. Very much like a PowerPoint experience. 
  • All elements together allowed for the rapid deployment of PoC products that could be tested and validated by businesses before being deployed. 

What is most valuable?

  • Power Query: The data prep tool allows for very easy ingestion, shaping and prepping of the data before loading into the model.
  • DAX: Its ability to do almost anything to create the necessary calculated fields and measures. 
  • Viz layer: It's just easy to lay out a page.

What needs improvement?

The only real need is a lower tier pricing plan around premium. It’s a big step-up unless you have a very large user base (1000).

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
BR
IT & Projects Development at Mohamed Hilal Group
Real User
Quickly shares data from the source to business users

What is our primary use case?

Management BI/dashboard reporting Quick sharing of data from source to business users which is very useful.

How has it helped my organization?

Giving visibility to management/business users about the business by mobility. Easy to develop and manage.

What is most valuable?

Mobility. It's easy to use. Multiple data sourcing. Quick development and deployment. Mobility and ease of use.

What needs improvement?

Dependency on data warehousing and pricing. Clarity on the Power BI (free) compared to Power BI (pro).

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What is our primary use case?

  • Management BI/dashboard reporting
  • Quick sharing of data from source to business users which is very useful.

How has it helped my organization?

  • Giving visibility to management/business users about the business by mobility.
  • Easy to develop and manage.

What is most valuable?

  • Mobility.
  • It's easy to use.
  • Multiple data sourcing.
  • Quick development and deployment.
  • Mobility and ease of use.

What needs improvement?

  • Dependency on data warehousing and pricing.
  • Clarity on the Power BI (free) compared to Power BI (pro).

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
BW
ERP Consultant MS Dynamics Nav at Witteveen Logistics & IT
Consultant
Better insights, flexibility, and performance

What is our primary use case?

My primary use case is for the performance, compared to MS Dynamics NAV, and flexibility in data and dashboard building.

How has it helped my organization?

Better insights, flexibility, and performance.

What is most valuable?

Great performance.

What needs improvement?

Sharing reports with non-Power BI users  Use of ISO weeks (European) in relative date options.

What is our primary use case?

My primary use case is for the performance, compared to MS Dynamics NAV, and flexibility in data and dashboard building.

How has it helped my organization?

Better insights, flexibility, and performance.

What is most valuable?

Great performance.

What needs improvement?

  • Sharing reports with non-Power BI users 
  • Use of ISO weeks (European) in relative date options.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Alfonso Gordillo
Director Research and Development at Projects Factory
Real User
A comprehensive source for visualizations and analytics

Pros and Cons

  • "Because this solution is very easy, and very visual, you can have results in minutes."
  • "I would like to see a feature that connects with a Machine Learning platform like a RapidMiner or Azure Machine Learning Studio. It would be great to have a Machine Learning application link to connect."

What is our primary use case?

I primarily use this for creating dashboards and reports for the oil and gas industry.

What is most valuable?

Power BI is always updating. I receive multi mail from Power BI with new visualizations, new analytics, new webinars and I'm going to Microsoft here locally in order to have a updated presentation about the new features of Power BI. For me it's very versatile. I can publish on my iPad. I have a Power BI application in order to manage the visualization of my report and my dashboard. Also I can speak to Power BI and ask about production and Q&A. But, I don't have compilation with other tools yet. For me, Power BI is the best.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see a feature that connects with a Machine Learning platform like a RapidMiner or Azure Machine Learning Studio. It would be great to have a Machine Learning application link to connect. 

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

How was the initial setup?

It was straightforward. We had no problems with implementation.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The pricing is fine for our company. It is reasonably priced.

What other advice do I have?

Because this solution is very easy, and very visual, you can have results in minutes. 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
GJ
Software Engineer at a energy/utilities company with 51-200 employees
Real User
Good platform for data analysis, needs help with big data

What is our primary use case?

It is a good platform for data analysis, organization, and all of the other interim performances that are necessary.

What needs improvement?

It could have more of a hold on big data. Manipulating big data on this solution complicates things. This needs to be improved. Also, we post NGDP data and manipulating this kind of data could be better.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good but sometimes we need to validate the data. 

How is customer service and technical support?

Tech support helped us handle the implementation to completion. They were helpful.

How was the initial setup?

I did not find any complexities with the setup. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We are a Microsoft partner so we did…

What is our primary use case?

It is a good platform for data analysis, organization, and all of the other interim performances that are necessary.

What needs improvement?

It could have more of a hold on big data. Manipulating big data on this solution complicates things. This needs to be improved.

Also, we post NGDP data and manipulating this kind of data could be better.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good but sometimes we need to validate the data. 

How is customer service and technical support?

Tech support helped us handle the implementation to completion. They were helpful.

How was the initial setup?

I did not find any complexities with the setup. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We are a Microsoft partner so we did not look at other solutions.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
SM
Engineer at Jade Global
MSP
The Microsoft tech support blog is very helpful.

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case for this solution is mirroring it to the dock so we can match up different parts of Office like Excel, Word, etc. and then we can clear it.

How has it helped my organization?

Microsoft always believes in adding different features. We did have some issues building the Microsoft blog.

What needs improvement?

We were having trouble working with the icons.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

How is customer service and technical support?

The Microsoft tech support blog was very helpful to me. But, it supports the non-BI people also.

How was the initial setup?

I was not involved with implementation of the product.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I do not have a…

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case for this solution is mirroring it to the dock so we can match up different parts of Office like Excel, Word, etc. and then we can clear it.

How has it helped my organization?

Microsoft always believes in adding different features. We did have some issues building the Microsoft blog.

What needs improvement?

We were having trouble working with the icons.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

How is customer service and technical support?

The Microsoft tech support blog was very helpful to me. But, it supports the non-BI people also.

How was the initial setup?

I was not involved with implementation of the product.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I do not have a comment on the pricing of the solution.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Business Analyst, Big data at a manufacturing company
Real User
It has a nice integration with Office 365.

Pros and Cons

  • "My primary use is for view of the dashboard."
  • "It ingegrates nicely with Office 365."
  • "Powerpoints are not available in the report server."
  • "The report server feature is quite limited."

What is our primary use case?

My primary use case is for view of the dashboard. 

How has it helped my organization?

We did not previously have a BI platform before. This has helped us.

What is most valuable?

It has a nice integration with Office 365.

What needs improvement?

Once the report updated, we want the system to send a notification to user automatically. Especially if the email can imbed the dashboard data into the email, instead of a link. This does not necessarily happen.

In addition, importing the dashboard to a powerpoint is not available in the report server.  Even though we go to the public cloud service, the export is only the picture, or a snapshot of the dashboard. We cannot play the features or see the data we could change in a powerpoint. This is frustrating  because sometimes the finance manager needs to export the report to a powerpoint. Actually, we wanted to export because we wanted to do the presentation. We wanted to show the figures or something like that, but those figures are just static, and are only a picture.

Finally, an additional feature should be added to add a cost table.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Actually, it's a stable solution. But in some companies, based on my experience, my previous company, using the FAP solution for their IP solution. Then for our Powerband, the BI2, the data come from EIPCN, something like that, but actually it seems that the Powerband don't have very good integration with FAP interface. The integration from from FAP is not so convenient

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is quite good. 

How is customer service and technical support?

The technical support team is quite responsive and helpful. They are responsive to our questions in their forum.

How was the initial setup?

I was not involed with the initial setup of the solution.

What was our ROI?

We always review:

  • Scalability
  • Price

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is a cheap solution for our needs. 

What other advice do I have?

It is a solution that is easy for developers to be hands-on, even if they do not have prior experience with it. It is quite easy to learn.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
MH
Data Analyst at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
Real User
It is a powerful tool that helps our data analysis processes.

Pros and Cons

  • "It is a powerful tool that helps our data analysis processes."
  • "It would be nice to use other connectors to link with the data."

What is our primary use case?

We use Microsoft BI for all of our data analysis processes.

How has it helped my organization?

In comparison to Excel, this is a much more powerful tool. 

What is most valuable?

It is a very good software solution. It makes life very easy for us. It is easy to grasp, and it is useful. The set-up visualization format was very helpful.

What needs improvement?

I've been working with connecting with the right platforms and we need to use other connectors to link with the data. This would be a nice feature for BI to add in the future. For example, we needed another connector in order to make our Wordpress functional. More options for the connectors are really important for us.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

At times it is not stable, and we need to use other connectors to link with the data.

How is customer service and technical support?

We have not had a need for technical support for this solution.

What was our ROI?

When evaluating a new product, I would first ask my colleagues or other friends that I know based on what their opinions are about the product.  Also, I would be concerned with the level of crashes. The less they crash, the less problems and the easier our life will be. Furthermore, the level of support that the product provides is important, as well.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I used Excel and Rapidminer in the past. But, I really like the BI product.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ZA
Senior Programmer Analyst with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Data abstracting and good reporting features are keys for us

Pros and Cons

  • "It's user-friendly and provides data abstracting capabilities. We are also able to share reports with our colleagues very easily."
  • "The DAX features need some improvement. It's not as easy as Excel. They need more DAX formulas."

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case is for data prediction. We use our predictive model index, and then express the data to Power BI.

What is most valuable?

It's user-friendly and provides data abstracting capabilities. We are also able to share reports with our colleagues very easily.

What needs improvement?

The DAX features need some improvement. It's not as easy as Excel. They need more DAX formulas.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was straightforward.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The most important criterion for me, when selecting a vendor, is that the product is cost-effective.

What other advice do I have?

It depends on how you're going to use the reports, but when looking into this product or similar solutions, check the security side of things. If you don't want to share information with everyone, how does it deal with that?

So far, it's one of the best reporting tools I've found. They are improving the product every month. I would rate it at eight out of 10. The two missing points are to see what comes out in the future.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
SR
IT Specialist at a wholesaler/distributor with 1-10 employees
Real User
There is a lot of help and documentation on the Internet

Pros and Cons

  • "There is a lot of help and documentation on the Internet, so no special training is needed to use the source code."
  • "The reporting part of Microsoft BI is rather limited compared to other reporting tools."

How has it helped my organization?

  • It is free. 
  • SSAS and SSRS work great together. 
  • There is a lot of help and documentation on the Internet, so no special training is needed to use the source code.

What is most valuable?

It has the most secured database that I have ever used, which is the most important part of Microsoft BI.

What needs improvement?

The reporting part of Microsoft BI is rather limited compared to other reporting tools.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It works perfectly so far.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The information which we are working on is not that deep.

How are customer service and technical support?

We use information from the Internet everyday.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We previously used iFrame.

We did long studies about which tool to use in our company. We decided to use Microsoft BI because it was a complete product, and it is easier and cheaper than others.

How was the initial setup?

In the beginning, it was a rather complex because all the documents are in English. If it is in French, it was really complex, so then we would have to read the English documents. That was the most difficult thing here. It made the product difficult to use, because of the language, so Microsoft did provide help.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

In the beginning, we were about to choose Pentaho because it is an open source suite. The problem is that beyond the enterprise version of Pentaho, it is more expensive than Microsoft. We would always need to rely on an expert of Pentaho, instead of finding solutions on the Internet, and that was the reason why we did not choose it.

What other advice do I have?

Most important criteria when selecting a vendor:

  • Price
  • Ability to go on the Internet and locate support information.
  • Secure product
  • Easy interface to use.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
FM
Manager at a logistics company with 501-1,000 employees
Real User
Provides accurate data and easy navigation

What is our primary use case?

Using it, I receive financial information from the financial department.

How has it helped my organization?

It gives us accurate data and an easy way to navigate.

What is most valuable?

I get the information I need easily, and it's easy to read.

What needs improvement?

They should add mobile access.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is okay.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

For me it's okay, I don't have any issues with scalability.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

The decision to use Microsoft BI was made by the financial department.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

What is our primary use case?

Using it, I receive financial information from the financial department.

How has it helped my organization?

It gives us accurate data and an easy way to navigate.

What is most valuable?

I get the information I need easily, and it's easy to read.

What needs improvement?

They should add mobile access.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is okay.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

For me it's okay, I don't have any issues with scalability.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

The decision to use Microsoft BI was made by the financial department.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don't have any advice as I am not in a position to recommend it. I am just an end-user, I do not develop, I do not maintain it.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
SA
Group IT Manager with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Provides the user the ability to quickly look at data and focus on relevant information

Pros and Cons

  • "Its data visualization provides the user the ability to quickly look at data and focus on relevant information, allowing them to make an immediate decision."
  • "It should be easier to use when there are multiple system sources."

What is our primary use case?

It is a good solution. We use it for analyzing and visualizing data relating to warehouses and connections from other ERP systems, etc.

How has it helped my organization?

It helps the decision-maker to make decisions related to the data. Power BI is easy to use and user friendly. Because of that, we use it as a visualization tool for our data.

What is most valuable?

Its data visualization provides the user the ability to quickly look at data and focus on relevant information, allowing them to make an immediate decision.

It is a good product with great abilities and easy features to use.

What needs improvement?

It should be easier to use when there are multiple system sources, and simplify the connections to it.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is scalable.

How is customer service and technical support?

I watch videos and read training materials. I practice and apply them to circumstances of technical support.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is straightforward. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is part of our Office 365 license.

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend this solution to another user.

We are not dealing the vendor. We are using it directly from Microsoft as part of Office 365. 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Norbert Langewiesche
Interim Manager Supply Chain / IT with 501-1,000 employees
Real User
It is connected to every database: Whatever and wherever it is

Pros and Cons

  • "It is easy to work with and very chic."
  • "Its connection to every database: Whatever and wherever it is."
  • "The look is simple, and could be a little more professional."

What is our primary use case?

Its primary use case is for CIPs from the purchasing department. It performs perfectly. It is very quick and easy to use.

How has it helped my organization?

We approve it for use with SAP BI, so it has been more effective for our users and much cheaper. So, the costs are small and the benefits are high.

What is most valuable?

Its connection to every database: Whatever and wherever it is. 

It is easy to work with and very chic.

What needs improvement?

The look is simple, and could be a little more professional.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is very good. We have no problems.

We receive an update every month with new functions, so we are not missing anything.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is good. It works for a large community just fine.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have not needed to use technical support. We are able to do everything by ourselves. That is one of the main reasons that we like the product.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We have SAP BI working. It has cost us more than a million Euro, and it does not work. This was one of the reasons to change.

Power BI is very easy to use and much sleeker. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. 30 minutes, and it runs perfectly.

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend Power BI as the best working solution.

Most important criteria when selecting a vendor: Usability of the solution.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
DB
Founder with 1-10 employees
Real User
Users can access data much more easily than before, and it works with Excel

Pros and Cons

  • "Other people can access data much more easily than before. Its usability is the main advantage, people in the company are using it."
  • "With Power BI, you're able to store your data within spreadsheets and SharePoints, and then have Power BI pull the data out and report on it. So we actually saved a ton of money not needing to load the data into databases, which is a big prerequisite for many other reporting tools."

    What is our primary use case?

    It's primarily for reporting, and the performance has been very good.

    How has it helped my organization?

    Other people can access data much more easily than before. Its usability is the main advantage, people in the company are using it.

    What is most valuable?

    It works mostly with Excel, and it's a very good price.

    What needs improvement?

    The Report Server is pretty expensive on-premise. But as long companies are happy to use the cloud version, that's very cost effective.

    For how long have I used the solution?

    One to three years.

    What do I think about the stability of the solution?

    The stability is very good now; it was definitely really poor a year ago.

    What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

    Because it's cloud-based, it's very scalable.

    How are customer service and technical support?

    I haven't used tech support specifically for Power BI but, in general, for Office and Office 365, it has been very responsive.

    Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

    Before, we just had a whole bunch of spreadsheets lying around all over the place. So we really needed to get things tightened up but we weren't ready to invest in a database. But with Power BI, you're able to store your data within spreadsheets and SharePoints, and then have Power BI pull the data out and report on it. So we actually saved a ton of money not needing to load the data into databases, which is a big prerequisite for many other reporting tools.

    My most important criteria when selecting a vendor are usability and support.

    How was the initial setup?

    The initial setup was very straightforward.

    Which other solutions did I evaluate?

    The shortlist was, obviously, Tableau because they're in everyone's face and a couple of other smaller tools.

    What other advice do I have?

    I rate it a nine out of 10 because it's very cost-effective, so it's very accessible in that respect, and a lot of folks do use spreadsheets so it helps ease the transition from using just spreadsheets to a more mature reporting environment.

    My advice is, speak to your users because, at the end of the day, if they don't use it, you've failed, which was the case with other reporting tools.

    Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
    it_user872265
    Professor of Private International Law with 1,001-5,000 employees
    Real User
    Flawless stability, integrates well with Access, Excel, but needs ETL functionality

    Pros and Cons

    • "It is very well integrated with other Microsoft products, including PowerApps and Excel, as well as Access, so it fits well into our workflow."

      What is our primary use case?

      Visualization and minor analytics. It has performed quite well thus far.

      How has it helped my organization?

      We've not used it enough to be able to speak to organizational improvements.

      What is most valuable?

      • Low cost - it's a free application
      • Ease of use - excellent user interface

      What needs improvement?

      Perhaps the inclusion of ETL functionality would help.

      For how long have I used the solution?

      One to three years.

      What do I think about the stability of the solution?

      Flawless. Absolutely flawless. The stability is excellent.

      What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

      Integrates really well.

      Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

      We did not have a previous solution. And we did not choose this solution. We actually inherited it. 

      How was the initial setup?

      There was no real set up, just install the application. No complications whatsoever.

      Which other solutions did I evaluate?

      On our short list, for future consideration: Oracle.

      What other advice do I have?

      Our most important criteria when selecting a vendor are cost, cost, and cost.

      I rate Microsoft BI at seven out of 10 and that's because I have not utilized it as much as I would have liked to. However, it is very well integrated with other Microsoft products, including PowerApps and Excel, as well as Access, so it fits well into our workflow.

      Consider very carefully what your requirements are and plan your projects well. This is a wonderful tool but it will not get the work done for you.

      Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
      it_user866316
      Director, Education Management Information Systems with 51-200 employees
      Real User
      Ease of integration with various data sources and the dashboards are key for us

      Pros and Cons

      • "Key features are its dashboard functionality and ease of integration with various data sources."
      • "It is definitely a wonderful analytics tool. However, database ETL, data integration functionality would be absolutely perfect in many cases. Currently, it doesn't get the job done and we need to extract, transform, and load the data from faulty data sets into something more suitable for the deployment of the analytics tool."

      What is our primary use case?

      We use it primarily to create visualizations, along with very light analytics of education performance data.

      How has it helped my organization?

      We cannot truly speak to improvements yet, as we are just exploring it. Potentially, it can provide instant access to a very current state of affairs for school performance.

      What is most valuable?

      • Dashboard functionality
      • Ease of integration with various data sources

      What needs improvement?

      It is definitely a wonderful analytics tool. However, database ETL, data integration functionality would be absolutely perfect in many cases. Currently, it doesn't get the job done and we need to extract, transform, and load the data from faulty data sets into something more suitable for the deployment of the analytics tool.

      What do I think about the stability of the solution?

      No issues with the stability.

      What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

      I can't speak about the scalability, but I can speak more towards the interoperability. There is a very rich capacity for sharing its functionality.

      How was the initial setup?

      It is a very simple application so there was no real setup. Just download it.

      What other advice do I have?

      My most important criteria when selecting a vendor are

      • cost
      • sustainability.

      I would rate it at eight out of 10 because of its ease of use, simple setup, and excellent integration. I would rate it a 10 if they provided free training.

      It's a wonderful application, it meets our needs.

      Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
      Arturo Laos
      CEO at a tech services company
      Real User
      Tool is easy to use, DAX coding language is good for creating formulae

      Pros and Cons

      • "The DAX coding language is good for creating formulae."

        What is our primary use case?

        We use it for visualization, to create presentations and dashboards. It works pretty well.

        How has it helped my organization?

        We are using Power BI because it is one of the best tools. It has been very good for all situations. The DAX coding language is good for creating formulae.

        What is most valuable?

        It is easy to work with. The tool is very complete.

        For how long have I used the solution?

        One to three years.

        What do I think about the stability of the solution?

        The stability is good, no problem. We haven't had any trouble with it.

        What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

        Our solutions are not for very many people, say 25 users. For them, it works very well. I don't know how it works with more users than that.

        Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

        The customers we work with didn't have very elegant solutions. They were using traditional ERP and were getting default reports. Now, with programming code, it is fantastic. They are very happy with our solutions with Power BI.

        Which other solutions did I evaluate?

        Qlik Sense and QlikView are very good tools, very close to Power BI. Tableau is also a competitor but we haven't used it.

        What other advice do I have?

        When selecting a vendor we look for expertise, a company that understands the problems and knows the market, solutions, tools; and one that creates successful products. That is the most important criterion. Also, when you are in front of your clients, you need to know who is supporting you from the back.

        I would rate Power BI at eight out of 10 because it enables us to do all the things we want to do. Moving forward, for more than 5,000 users, or for very complex dashboards, we don't know how it works.

        I always recommend Power BI. It's very good.

        Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
        it_user859623
        IT Director at a manufacturing company with 5,001-10,000 employees
        Real User
        Enables us to graphically view company-wide and departmental data

        Pros and Cons

        • "Easy to use. End-users can make changes to the graphics."
        • "I am a SAP user and I would like this tool to have more connectors - and to more easily connect to - the ERP or SAP environment."
        • "I would prefer that the solution not be shared. I'm concerned that if we make a mistake we could reveal information to people who shouldn't see it. I would like to have my own on-prem server, to buy my own server and have my own infrastructure for Microsoft BI, with only with my data."

        What is our primary use case?

        We are using this tool for different departments. Mainly, it's connected with the ERP to show our users information that comes from data in different areas. For example, we are using Power BI in production on quality and logistics. We have created the appropriate package of data that is connected with Power BI to show our end-users the graphics, the figures, the key indicators.

        How has it helped my organization?

        It has helped us to have the information in a visual format, using graphical tools. Until now, we had to view the information on paper or in Excel files. With this tool, we can view the company's and departments' situation graphically.

        It also gives us the flexibility to interact with the data. For example, we can see information for one year, or one month, or a given project, or two projects. And it produces the information very quickly.

        What is most valuable?

        • Easy to use. 
        • End-users can make changes to the graphics.
        • The tool runs very fast.

        What needs improvement?

        I am a SAP user and I would like this tool to have more connectors - and to more easily connect to - the ERP or SAP environment.

        Also, I would prefer that the solution not be shared. I'm concerned that if we make a mistake we could reveal information to people who shouldn't see it. I would like to have my own on-prem server, to buy my own server and have my own infrastructure for Microsoft BI, with only with my data. Power BI, this global solution from Microsoft, is shared with multiple companies. I would like that the content that I create, my data, be available only for me, not shared with other companies.

        What do I think about the stability of the solution?

        It's very stable. I'm very satisfied with the tool.

        What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

        For me, the scalability is sufficient.

        How is customer service and technical support?

        I would rate technical support for this solution at nine out of 10.

        How was the initial setup?

        As the IT manager in my company, I oversaw the resources and the setup of the solution but I was not involved on the technical side. But I think that it was really easy. It was not complex to set up.

        My team did have to read a lot of technical documentation. We also contacted a company that knows this solution, one that has implemented it for other companies, consultancy-based.

        Still, I have installed more complex tools in my company. This was one of the easier tools to put into production in my company in the last four or five years.

        What other advice do I have?

        When selecting a vendor or product, the most important criterion for me is the usability - it must be easy to use. It must be one that end-users can learn to use on their own, so that the IT department does not have to make changes or solve problems for the end-users.

        It's a good tool, easy to  use, Microsoft is adding more and more functionality.

        My advice would be, always compare with other tools. In part this is own our internal rule, we must compare with others, to make sure we have the best tool.

        Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
        EH
        Principal at a tech services company with 1-10 employees
        Real User
        Gives business power users the ability to do their own work, without help from IT

        Pros and Cons

        • "In the early stage of an implementation, it not only helps decision making, but it allows people to have insight into problems with data so that they can go and get it corrected."
        • "Allows business users with a mission to solve their own problems, without an IT person."
        • "One thing I would like to have is the scripting language, as they already have within Excel. It's already within a Microsoft business product, because Excel is the number one business product out there. So it would be nice to have the scripting capability in order to automate certain processes."

        What is our primary use case?

        I have started a consulting business. So my use case is typically what my clients are doing. I've used it for healthcare analysis, headcount analysis, financial and performance analysis.

        How has it helped my organization?

        One thing it's doing in the early stage of an implementation is, it not only helps decision making, but it allows people to have insight into problems with data so that they can go and get it corrected.

        What is most valuable?

        The ability for business users with a mission to solve their own problems, without an IT person.

        What needs improvement?

        One thing I would like to have is the scripting language, as they already have within Excel. It's already within a Microsoft business product, because Excel is the number one business product out there. So it would be nice to have the scripting capability in order to automate certain processes.

        What do I think about the stability of the solution?

        It's not only stable but it's constantly improving. 

        What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

        The scaling is dependent on the data source itself, so it's not dependent on the solution. SQL Server, which is one of the strongest enterprise databases, makes that a good thing.

        Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

        We were previously using Excel, and Excel did not have the ability to deploy nor did it have the ability to easily do some of the things that people were asking for. The switch was driven by being overwhelmed in the Excel world.

        My most important criteria when selecting a vendor are

        • usability
        • the ability to develop solutions in an agile fashion
        • the ability to have power users on the business side able to do their own work.

        How was the initial setup?

        It's very, very easy to get started. The complexity is the typical complexity in deployment, in that you have to have people make decisions on who has rights to what data. As far as the implementation, it's quite easy.

        What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

        Pricing, that's where Microsoft beats Tableau. It is priced much cheaper.

        Which other solutions did I evaluate?

        The short list was really only Tableau and Microsoft, and frequently clients have Microsoft products already installed so they have the security, the Active Directory, as well as the use of Excel, and the use of the collaboration tools like O365.

        What other advice do I have?

        I'd say that Microsoft and Tableau are both nine and a half out of 10, and it's per the requirements I already mentioned. They both are very high-quality, easy to use, stable, they both allow business users to do a level of development, and they're both highly deployable.

        My advice to a colleague would be that they actually do short trials with each of the products they're considering and the check the vendors' support.

        Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
        EH
        Principal at a tech services company with 1-10 employees
        Real User
        It allows individuals to do the analysis themselves​

        What is our primary use case?

        Consolidating data from multiple sources and providing dashboards to a broad set of users: Finance, Human Resources, Operations, and Leadership.

        How has it helped my organization?

        It allows individuals to do the analysis themselves. We are getting adoption beyond original expectations.

        What is most valuable?

        Most importantly, the dashboards. Recently, we are exploring vendor provided analysis/visuals and the use of R.

        What needs improvement?

        Drill-down in dashboards needs to improved. The capability only works in Power BI Desktop today. We need to have an alternative approach today.

        For how long have I used the solution?

        Three to five years.

        What is our primary use case?

        Consolidating data from multiple sources and providing dashboards to a broad set of users: Finance, Human Resources, Operations, and Leadership.

        How has it helped my organization?

        It allows individuals to do the analysis themselves. We are getting adoption beyond original expectations.

        What is most valuable?

        Most importantly, the dashboards. Recently, we are exploring vendor provided analysis/visuals and the use of R.

        What needs improvement?

        Drill-down in dashboards needs to improved. The capability only works in Power BI Desktop today. We need to have an alternative approach today.

        For how long have I used the solution?

        Three to five years.
        Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
        GS
        IT Director at VIC Dept of Health and Human Services
        User
        Provides data feeds for enterprise KPI reporting

        What is our primary use case?

        Enterprise reporting Enterprise BI Project reporting and BI Data integration Data collection Information management

        How has it helped my organization?

        We are running over 500,000 report annually. It provides data feeds for enterprise KPI reporting. It provides data feeds for AI.

        What is most valuable?

        Integration of DB and reporting Standardised SQL language Plenty of support Cloud options Continual improvement year-over-year

        What needs improvement?

        The data source definition is all over the place.  It needs a wizard that covers all its options.  It needs an AI which can choose the appropriate connection strings and provide options for connections.

        For how long have I used the solution?

        More than five years.

        What is our primary use case?

        • Enterprise reporting
        • Enterprise BI
        • Project reporting and BI
        • Data integration
        • Data collection
        • Information management

        How has it helped my organization?

          • We are running over 500,000 report annually.
          • It provides data feeds for enterprise KPI reporting.
          • It provides data feeds for AI.

          What is most valuable?

          • Integration of DB and reporting
          • Standardised SQL language
          • Plenty of support
          • Cloud options
          • Continual improvement year-over-year

          What needs improvement?

          • The data source definition is all over the place. 
          • It needs a wizard that covers all its options. 
          • It needs an AI which can choose the appropriate connection strings and provide options for connections.

          For how long have I used the solution?

          More than five years.
          Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
          it_user654243
          Business Intelligence Developer at a financial services firm with 5,001-10,000 employees
          Real User
          Self-service allows end-users to source information, but email-based subscription is needed

          How has it helped my organization?

          It cuts away the time spent to source some of this information. It saves a lot of time, and a lot of things have been automated. Things that used to take close to a week, now, in one day, we are done with it.

          What is most valuable?

          It's actually the self-service of Power BI, because we're on a lean structure here, the technical side. So we wanted them to push some of those things back to end-users.

          What needs improvement?

          For our reporting services, it would be good to have the capability for email-based subscriptions. I want to be able to change the sender dynamically, without having to rely on running through an exercise passage.

          I know for a fact that SAP can do this, dynamic sending for subscriptions. Also IBM Cognos can do it. Why Microsoft refused to do that, that you have to rely on add-on to be able to do that...

          Overall, it has performed to our expectation. It's okay for what we want to use it for. But because they keep changing, every now and then, there's a major shift in versions, so we are trying to catch up.

          What do I think about the stability of the solution?

          I've used the IBM suite, and I've used SAP, and Microsoft is fairly stable for me. And because there is a large community for issues that arise, for every bug that you encounter, you have a solution, just Google it, without having to go for special training like with SAS.

          What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

          From what I understand, it requires some level of expertise to even understand what it can do, how it can be used in a huge enterprise. That is not so easy for deployment. But for a medium sized organization, yes, it's scalable.

          How was the initial setup?

          It was straightforward. Very straightforward.

          You can just go to YouTube, somebody has done it before. Because it has GUI, just click, click, click, next, next, and you're done. And YouTube helped a lot in deploying projects: SSAS Projects, SSIS projects, and SSRS projects.

          Which other solutions did I evaluate?

          IBM Analytics. But the learning curve for IBM, that's what actually led us to pause on the implementation of the Cognos 10. Everything was pretty much difficult to do. Things that you could do in two clicks in Microsoft, you would be doing in five, ten clicks in IBM.

          What other advice do I have?

          When selecting a vendor, the most important criteria are affordability - because of the exchange in my country - and ease of use. 

          I would rate this solution a seven out of 10, because you can actually go from the common tools that you use, from your Excel, from your SharePoint... You can pretty much do everything with it. The little things that you can't do, you can customize it to do by writing code.

          I would say that, you should look away from the limitations. Focus on the positives of it, because it's cheaper to acquire than most of the big five. It's cheaper to acquire and easy to use.

          Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
          ITCS user
          Accountant at a government
          Real User
          Top 20
          Flexibility in analyzing data is helpful, but it needs to be simpler to use

          Pros and Cons

          • "The most valuable features are the flexibility, how many ways you can interrogate the data, and the the graphical visualization."

            What is our primary use case?

            I use it for budget analysis. I am in charge of budget analysis for the organization. I get figures from other units, and then I do a budget comparison with forecasting.

            The performance is very good.

            How has it helped my organization?

            For a long time I had to do everything manually, and it took a long time. At the moment, I just have to refresh and I get my report. A few clicks are needed. Once I get the data in the right format, then I have the report as quickly as it is required.

            It used to be stressful towards the month's end, to meet the deadline for reporting, especially when these reports are required by the board of the company. But now, as long as the other units give me my numbers on time, I don't waste a lot of time in preparing the numbers. I can now use my time in analyzing the outcome, rather than preparing the figures and cleaning up the data. It provides efficiency and saves time.

            What is most valuable?

            The most valuable features are the flexibility, how many ways you can interrogate the data, and the the graphical visualization.

            What needs improvement?

            They need to make it as user-friendly as possible. Make it as non-technical as possible. At the moment, if you are not a person who is familiar with modeling analysis, it might be a bit scary. So I think it should be a very simple user interface. It should be very easy to learn. 

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            It can be annoyingly slow at times, but I think it's because of the bandwidth, the connectivity we have. I've always believed if we had better connectivity, it would be perfect. Sometimes it's slow. But I really don't blame it on the solution. I blame it, but on my connectivity.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            I always just try to Google if I have issues, and a lot of time that is perfectly good. I just need to know the basics.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            I knew there must be a better way of doing what I was performing, so I searched. I did not have a previous solution, I just did things manually.

            How was the initial setup?

            It was easy. The only thing I noticed was that it was so slow. It took a long time to download, but again, I think that was my connectivity.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            At the moment I'm using a free version.

            What other advice do I have?

            When selecting a vendor, the most important criterion for me is, it should be something that is really user-friendly. By that I mean, I don't need to go through specialized training to learn how to use it; not in this day and age, when the solution should be really a solution. I don't need to be an expert to know how to use it. Just user friendly, click and go. Also, I think it should be something that assures me of its stability.

            For me, at the moment, it is the best thing that I've used. But I can't compare it to the other ones. It is the only one I know, apart from just normal financial modeling which I've used before. To me it is the best, but I can't really compared to any others because I don't know how the others work.

            Do your research. For me, this is the only one I know. But I know there are others which are better.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Head of IT at a construction company with 10,001+ employees
            Real User
            Users already using Excel can generate new reports and dashboards within minutes

            Pros and Cons

            • "It is in the cloud, which makes it easy for mobile access of reports and data."
            • "Users already using Excel can generate new reports and dashboards within minutes."
            • "Initial setup was very straightforward. Users can get up and running reporting on databases within minutes."
            • "Real-time refreshing for SAP BW would be nice. We know its on the radar for the development team at MS. ​"
            • "Not having to login again after a mobile app upgrade. A simple login on mobile would be great."

            What is our primary use case?

            Microsoft Power BI gives a true self-service tool to the user. The IT team can focus on ensuring that the database is in a good place. It is also in the cloud, which makes it easy for mobile access of reports and data. 

            How has it helped my organization?

            The business users have taken to Microsoft BI like a duck to water. It requires a low amount of training. Users already using Excel can generate new reports and dashboards within minutes.

            What needs improvement?

            • Real-time refreshing for SAP BW would be nice. We know its on the radar for the development team at MS. 
            • Not having to login again after a mobile app upgrade. A simple login on mobile would be great. 

            For how long have I used the solution?

            One to three years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            None.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            None.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            They are fabulous.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            The previous products include Tableau, Cognos, BusinessObjects, and Sisense. All of them have high price tags! Why pay and get ripped off for these products when you have Power BI? It will give you just as much, growing every month at an acceptable cost model.

            Want to waste a lot of money? Then go for the others, I can recommend BusinessObjects as a great way to burn your money.

            How was the initial setup?

            Initial setup was very straightforward. Users can get up and running reporting on databases within minutes. I can read a number of databases including a good old Excel spreadsheet. 

            What about the implementation team?

            Internal Team. It is that easy. However, we did get a third party to do the training to key users for us. The course was tailored to our business. 

            What was our ROI?

            Paid for itself in the first month. 

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            Make it low in cost. It is a no-brainer! 

            Remove the cost of a licence to show a dashboard within SharePoint. Why should readers of a dashboard have to pay to view? 

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            Globally, we evaluated a number of products, including Salesforce's product, Microsoft won on the ground of simple functionally and cost. 

            What other advice do I have?

            Love that fact that we have a great development team that is moving the product forward every month. 

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user825114
            Senior Manager with 10,001+ employees
            User
            Ease of development and maintenance

            What is our primary use case?

            P&L Revenue Logistics IT services Stock control Costs Sales

            How has it helped my organization?

            Established a culture of management by indicators. Improvement of services Greater visibility of results

            What is most valuable?

            Predictable cloud environment High performance Ease of development and maintenance

            What needs improvement?

            Delta update More than 10 GB of space Single sign-on More than 30 Windows to update by Power Bi gateway.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            One to three years.

            What is our primary use case?

            • P&L
            • Revenue
            • Logistics
            • IT services
            • Stock control
            • Costs
            • Sales

            How has it helped my organization?

            • Established a culture of management by indicators.
            • Improvement of services
            • Greater visibility of results

            What is most valuable?

            • Predictable cloud environment
            • High performance
            • Ease of development and maintenance

            What needs improvement?

            • Delta update
            • More than 10 GB of space
            • Single sign-on
            • More than 30 Windows to update by Power Bi gateway.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            One to three years.
            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            PV
            Project Manager with 51-200 employees
            User
            It helped identify bad data

            What is our primary use case?

            Our primary use cases for this solution are Health and Wellness claims and short-term and long-term disability data.

            How has it helped my organization?

            It helped identify bad data, enabling the corrections needed to the data for management.

            What is most valuable?

            Ease of use Dashboard Easy access to databases and spreadsheets Multi-table access

            What needs improvement?

            More graphics and overlays More analytic tools More interfaces to databases, especially multi-table management

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Three to five years.

            What is our primary use case?

            Our primary use cases for this solution are Health and Wellness claims and short-term and long-term disability data.

            How has it helped my organization?

            It helped identify bad data, enabling the corrections needed to the data for management.

            What is most valuable?

            • Ease of use
            • Dashboard
            • Easy access to databases and spreadsheets
            • Multi-table access

            What needs improvement?

            • More graphics and overlays
            • More analytic tools
            • More interfaces to databases, especially multi-table management

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Three to five years.
            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            Dung Dinh Tien
            Database Expert & BI Developer at a outsourcing company
            Real User
            Top 20
            We were able to improve the performance of our reporting system. Monitoring features and SSIS Connectors need improvement.

            Pros and Cons

            • "Provides a full platform (database, ETL, reporting, analysis, and so on)"
            • "I have to write scripts to query data for analyzing performance."
            • "Microsoft needs to provide more drivers to connect other data sources in a native way."

            How has it helped my organization?

            By building the multi-dimensional database with Analysis Services, we were able to improve the performance of our reporting system. Now, our end-users can see the data stories quickly through Excel, Power BI tools, etc.

            What is most valuable?

            It provides a full platform for our BI solution (database, ETL, reporting, analysis, and so on).

            What needs improvement?

            • Monitoring features: I need Microsoft to provide a set of tools to help me monitor Microsoft's products. For example, when I need to investigate the performance issues of SSIS packages, I do not have a tool, instead I have to write scripts to query data for analyzing performance.
            • SSIS Connectors: Microsoft needs to provide more drivers to connect other data sources in a native way, which they are doing very well in Power BI, and that we can connect and process data from JSON, SOAP, SAP, Salesforce, and so on.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            No.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            No.

            How is customer service and technical support?

            It is not excellent, but enough to resolve our issues.

            How was the initial setup?

            It is quite easy to setup.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            There are a lot of factors which we analyze and consider before we choose any product. In case we need a solution that we can develop, deploy quickly, and adapt to our business changes, Microsoft is the best candidate.

            What other advice do I have?

            Microsoft offers us a full platform, which we use to develop and deploy our BI solution quickly and easily. It also provides both of these infrastructure for use: On-Premise and Azure Cloud. They are very flexible.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            PerHemström
            Partner at a consultancy with 11-50 employees
            Real User
            Competitors' products have more functionality, though the self-service aspect is good

            Pros and Cons

            • "We can see that it's really improved the way end users can do their own graphs and pick their own fields of information and present that in a nice way."
            • "The way you navigate the product, compared to other products in this industry, that could be improved a bit."

            What is most valuable?

            The self-service part.

            How has it helped my organization?

            We are a consultancy firm, helping our clients with billing and business intelligence solutions. We can see that it's really improved the way end users can do their own graphs and pick their own fields of information and present that in a nice way.

            What needs improvement?

            The navigation. The way you navigate the product, compared to other products in this industry, that could be improved a bit. It's user friendly, but you would like to have it even more user friendly.

            When you do selections in one tab in Report, and then you move to the next tab, then you have to do your selections again. So one tab as a global, central selection possibility would help.

            If you compare to QlikView, there's still a lot of functionality that QlikView has that Power BI doesn't. For most companies, Power BI is good enough, especially if you consider the price tag it's an easy choice. But it still has some catching up to do to match the functionality in QlikView.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Eight to 10 months.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            It feels very stable. A bit slow sometimes when you change stuff and you want to refresh data and apply it to the data model in your queries. You want to apply that to your reports and dashboards and it can be a bit slow sometimes.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            We don't have that experience yet. We still don't know how it is to deploy it in larger scales. So, that's my concern, but I haven't seen the scalability issues at our clients.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            No, not yet. There are a lot of self-training videos and such out there on the internet and on the Microsoft websites.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            QlikView and Qlik Sense. We felt demand in the market for Microsoft Power BI. Also, within my company we are selling services around Microsoft Dynamics, and Microsoft Power BI hooks very well into the other Microsoft products.

            How was the initial setup?

            It was pretty straightforward. Not much to set up. Cloud service and desktop client that you need to download and install, but if you have worked with other similar tools then you and know about that.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We are constantly looking for what is hot in the market and this has really come up as a rising star on the BI market, so it was not so much of a question about it at all. Quite obvious.

            What other advice do I have?

            There are some limitations in regards to the navigation part.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Principal Business Intelligence Analyst at a logistics company with 1,001-5,000 employees
            Vendor
            The ability to perform complex business modeling through DAX calculations stands out in a crowd

            Pros and Cons

            • "SSRS and the Tabular server/Vertipaq engine/DAX are probably the two most valuable components."
            • "The visualization aspect, while being the most visible to business users, also happens the be the weakest point in the entire Microsoft BI stack."

            What is most valuable?

            SSRS and the Tabular server/Vertipaq engine/DAX are probably the two most valuable components, leaving out SQL Server (and Azure versions of it, including the Azure warehouse and big data technologies). SSRS's display functionality is resoundingly flexible, and by comparison to other vendors, relatively easy to learn. SSAS Tabular performs very well with modest effort in design, and the ability to perform complex business modeling through DAX calculations stands out in a crowd.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Microsoft BI really entails a whole catalog of products. The relative ease with which these products work together is where the primary value comes into play. When you buy SQL Server Enterprise, you automatically have access to SSAS, which can handle Tabular or multidimensional cubes and data mining, SSIS offering a pretty comprehensive integration toolset, SSRS, covering just about any paginated and subscription-based reporting, and of course all of the in-built features of SQL Server, the individual useful features of which there are too many to spout out here. Each of these components work well enough in isolation, or as part of a larger ecosystem with other vendors, but together are a well-integrated machine that can handle end-to-end needs on the entire lifecycle of data. Being one of the more popular vendors, Microsoft products are also the first compatibility for other vendors' products. The breadth of products do a fine job at enabling the delivery of data and insights to the right people, in the right format, at the right time. Doing so efficiently/quickly is where a huge amount of value comes in. Many other enterprise vendors are capable, but are either slower to execute, more work to maintain, cost much more to find talent and skills for, or some combination of all of the above.

            What needs improvement?

            No product is perfect, and the Microsoft stack is no exception. The first things that come to mind are Microsoft's recent shift in strategy to focus on cloud first. While this makes sense for them, it leaves the on-premise products lagging in support and new features, while the vast majority of users (mid to large corporations) are still using on-premise solutions and/or are cloud-averse. For example, the announcement that the pricing model for Power BI would change, simultaneously rolling out both Power BI Premium and Power BI Report Server created a great deal of confusion for people who were very enthusiastic about the product. The failures to address concerns with the speed and nature of the changes were felt by users across the spectrum, and it was a situation created by their cloud-first strategy. Similarly, if you look at the tried and true on-premise options for data processing, interfacing with emerging technologies, especially big data technologies, lags behind. This is considerably less true for Azure users, but that is specifically a cloud offering, which again, many corporate entities are not yet ready to embrace.

            It's easy to think of BI as only the visualization aspect of data, and that point of contact between users and data is absolutely where the rubber meets the road in BI. In reality, there are a whole stack of tools and concepts behind the visualization that enable that interaction - from security, data governance, integration, performance, network and infrastructure, and automation... there are many facets to BI as a system. The visualization aspect, while being the most visible to business users, also happens the be the weakest point in the entire Microsoft BI stack. The PowerBI visualization experience is underwhelming in almost every way compared to many alternatives.

            Another difficulty is navigating the many products within the suite. There are many components, and each component has many versions. Dealing with feature and compatibility issues with so many versions of so many products can be very frustrating at times. Microsoft does not do itself any favors on this front with the way they name their products. "PowerBI", for example, could be in reference to the desktop design tool, a cloud-based service for publishing and administering data models (which comes with three distinctively different pricing models, the features of which are different and not interchangable), or an on-premise server solution replacing SSRS. You'll make yourself dizzy looking at the Azure services offered. The good news is the sky's the limit, the bad news is you'll have to navigate some pretty cloudy areas to make heads or tales of what to actually use.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Four years, using largely SQL Server 2012 and related versions/components.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            In general, no. Most stability issues encountered have been more related to network or infrastructure, and not the products being used.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            As with any system, good design is paramount. I have certainly run into times when performance suffers, or changes and enhancements are slow and expensive. In every case, redesign has solved the issues. As hardware improves, and the many options (especially in the Azure and big data space) continue to evolve, designing for scale has become easier and easier. One of the difficulties that naturally occurs in this ecosystem is simply knowing how to design with so many options that can potentially do the same or similar task.

            How is customer service and technical support?

            I have experienced mixed results on this front. We have had some very available and supportive account reps at times, and other times not so much. My biggest complaint would have to be that the disorganization from Microsoft's side makes the results on this front inconsistent.

            How was the initial setup?

            Depends on which components we are talking about. For reference, however, I don't think there is a single Microsoft component that was as painful as any given Oracle component to work with.

            What other advice do I have?

            Do your homework when deciding what components to leverage. The worst thing you can do is try to use them all. The gamut of products under the Microsoft BI banner enables every form of BI - choose the ones that serve your specific purposes, and leave the rest on the table until a new need arises.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            TW
            Managing Director at a tech services company with 1-10 employees
            Real User
            It reduces the time needed to generate reporting and provides an overview of company performance

            What is most valuable?

            Standardized solution that comes with data warehouse and BI cubes straight out of the box for deployment for both Dynamics NAV and AX products. Enhanced wizard allowing for customization of BI Solution without having to go through SQL scripts to generate additional measures and dimensions.

            How has it helped my organization?

            It reduces the time needed to generate reporting for an organization, allowing management to have an overview of how the company performs. Afterwards, it allows the company to formulate strategies to improve itself.

            What needs improvement?

            To add-in the functionality of AI into the reporting, so this can improve further on the product as it is currently. The BI reporting still relies on historical transactions.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Five years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            No. It works on all versions of NAV and AX.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            The current deployment of the solution is up to 2TB. Do note that it still is not to the “Big Data” level.

            How is customer service and technical support?

            We have our own technical team who supports the BI solution. We usually solve 95% of the issues encountered. For those that can’t be resolved, it is escalated to our HQ.

            How was the initial setup?

            It is fairly straightforward. As long as there is a connection to the server which houses the NAV/AX database and all the data warehouse, since bi cubes are generated from the BI solution, without any need for user intervention.

            What other advice do I have?

            For the first project, we will advise using consultants to assist on the implementation, so the dos and don’ts of the solution can be known in the first instance without having to trial and error the solution.

            Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are a direct distributor of the solution in Asia market.
            Khumbulani Chikura
            Business Intelligence Architect at a tech services company
            Real User
            Data integration enabled my organization to easily pool data from our varied system into one data warehouse.​

            Pros and Cons

            • "Data integration enabled my organization to easily pool data from our varied system into one data warehouse."
            • "SSMS & SSRS."

            What is most valuable?

            Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View & SQL Server Data Tools comprising of (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS).

            How has it helped my organization?

            Data integration enabled my organization to easily pool data from our varied system into one data warehouse.

            SSRS improved our report delivery timings and the Power BI feature empowered the data users.

            Power View improved the visualization of our reporting and dashboards.

            What needs improvement?

            SSMS & SSRS.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            For over five years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            Yes.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Yes, SSRS reporting portal cannot run on tablets, iPads and all other mobile devices. But SQL 2016 has been shipped with this capability.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Microsoft has a lot of products, hence some products are given little attention and VS is one of them, so I would say their technical support for the BI suite is average.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            No.

            How was the initial setup?

            The initial setup was fairly simple and straight forward, I must say.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            To others, I would advise that Microsoft BI products are rightly priced and the licensing is easy to follow and to fulfill.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            Yes, Tableau.

            What other advice do I have?

            For users intending to use the product in exclusively Microsoft environment, this product will meet most of your requirement if not all.

            If there is a need for integration with other vendors’ products precautionary measures must be taken.

            SQL 2016 is bringing and offering that support for mobile BI, so it would be great to give it a try.

            If you are comfortable with MS Excel spreadsheets, then Power BI is your thing as it has the same look and feel of Excel, actually, it is embedded in Excel.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Presales Architect at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
            Real User
            With the Data Platform and Business Intelligence ecosystem, you get the entire platform with a single license

            Pros and Cons

            • "With the out-of-the-box Data Platform and Business Intelligence ecosystem, you get the entire platform with a single license."
            • "It is getting better but still, there are opportunity areas in some aspects, especially the Windows OS dependency."

            What is most valuable?

            With the out-of-the-box Data Platform and Business Intelligence ecosystem, you get the entire platform with a single license.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Previously, I was working for a retail company and when I got there, there weren't any analytics implemented yet.

            So, what I did was, firstly, I implemented an EDW solution so as to gather all the possible data in a single repository.

            After that, I developed a self-service model so the company could take advantage of their ad hoc analysis.

            Then, I implemented some standard reports to understand some basic indicators, together with the delivery subscriptions so that all the organization's levels could receive this valuable information, i.e., for more than 500 users.

            Lastly, I connected this platform to the cloud (Power BI) together with a top BI solution (QlikView) so as to take full advantage of the second data insights' step journey.

            What needs improvement?

            The Windows OS dependency needs to improve. There are some bugs with the new features that have released.

            It is getting better but still, there are opportunity areas in some aspects, especially the Windows OS dependency.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this solution for 10 years and still counting.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            There were no stability issues.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Technical support is very good.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            I was using Oracle before, we switched to Microsoft because Oracle is very expensive for the benefits that they offer.

            How was the initial setup?

            The setup was easy, actually, a single instance installation can be installed by clicking next and next. Maybe a cluster installation could be a little more complex, but it is still easy.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            This is one of the best out-of-the-box solutions on the market. Microsoft has to improve their Data Governance solution, but for a data platform and BI solution, it is very good.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We evaluated products such as Oracle, MySQL, and Postgres.

            What other advice do I have?

            It is very straightforward. Maybe you won't like the Windows OS dependency, but, in the 2017 version, you can install the engine on Linux.

            Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: My current company is a Microsoft Partner.
            it_user553431
            Chief Tecnical Officer at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
            Consultant
            ​​All in all, for the price, this is an excellent tool for helping your organization turn mounds of data into useful insights.​​

            Pros and Cons

            • "PowerBI – Self-service BI."
            • "People without private emails cannot publish and, frankly, this doesn't allow for easy training."

            What is most valuable?

            Microsoft BI Stack's best features are as follows:

            SSRS – Self-service reporting and powerful subscription service

            PowerBI – Self-service BI

            MDS – Master data management

            SSAS – OLAP Cube

            How has it helped my organization?

            Microsoft BI Stack improved the way our clients in the beverages (manufacturing and distribution) and the agro industrial sectors manage their financial reporting and board pack preparation, from one week to five minutes.

            What needs improvement?

            The following areas could be improved:

            Publishing and sharing data using PowerBI.

            People without private emails cannot publish and, frankly, this doesn't allow for easy training.

            It's not always easy to speak directly with a MS Power BI expert.

            You have to sign up to the Power BI service using an email address to share and view Power BI reports and dashboards, but Microsoft doesn't yet support personal (.cox, .gmail, et.) or government (.gov, .mil, etc.) email addresses.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have been using the Microsoft BI Stack solution for over five years in the beverages (manufacturing and distribution), agro Industrial, and telecommunication sectors.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            I have not yet encountered any issues with stability.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            I have not yet encountered any issues with scalability.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            I would rate the level of technical support as 7/10.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            I did not previously use a solution.

            How was the initial setup?

            The initial setup of the Microsoft BI Stack environment is complex, has many moving parts, and you need to know what you want for outputs to make effective use of it.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            All in all, for the price, this is an excellent tool for helping your organization turn mounds of data into useful insights.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            The following products were evaluated:
            • QlikView
            • Dundas

            What other advice do I have?

            If you want to dazzle your audience and, at the same time, show meaningful insights, then this is the best tool.

            Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer:
            ITCS user
            Business Intelligence Consultant at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
            Real User
            Helps to create the board report pack for financial reporting. The graphical and dashboard reports must have tabs.

            What is most valuable?

            It is good for highly formatted reports.

            How has it helped my organization?

            It helps to create the board report pack for financial reporting.

            What needs improvement?

            There is need to improve the graphical and dashboard reports; they must have tabs. This gap is usually compensated by QlikView.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this solution for five years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            The product is stable. At times, it is slow when you use relational database as a data source, however it is fast when you use multidimensional cubes for high volume data.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            It’s easy to integrate with the other Microsoft products. However, it is not as easy when connecting to other data sources like SAP ERP.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Technical support is good, I would give it an 8/10 rating.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            As implementors or consultants, we use different tools.

            How was the initial setup?

            The setup was straightforward.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            It’s free if you have MS SQL database license. It comes together with SSIS, SSRS, SSAS and other tools.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We looked at other solutions, namely Crystal Reports and Oracle BI Publisher.

            What other advice do I have?

            It’s cheaper to implement in terms of the licensing.

            It works well, especially when implementing the whole stack of Microsoft BI solution including SSAS for data modeling and SSIS for ETL.

            Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are a consulting company. We implement projects on behalf of the clients and provide support.
            ITCS user
            Data Analyst at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
            Consultant
            Users with Excel experience can use this tool to work with larger than Excel data sets. It is not very intuitive to find any functionality.

            What is most valuable?

            Pivoting is the most valuable feature.

            How has it helped my organization?

            It is good for users who have experience with Excel but are looking to work with larger than Excel data sets. For experienced users, it is more of a hassle because of its lack of usability; it is not very intuitive to find a given functionality.

            What needs improvement?

            Its ease of use feature is not very intuitive and needs to improve.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this solution for six months.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            We often experience stability issues.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            There were scalability issues. It does half the work like any other product in the market.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            This product was used during tests.

            How was the initial setup?

            It is easy to set up.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We looked at Tableau and Qlik; we are using Qlik.

            What other advice do I have?

            It seems to be good for extending the capabilities of Excel but I wouldn't recommend it as a standalone setup.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            Farhan Ahmed MCTS/MCITP/MCC SQL Server
            Senior Software Engineer - Business Intelligence at a tech consulting company with 51-200 employees
            Real User
            The interactive reports, DirectQuery and integration with the other Microsoft services are valuable features.

            What is most valuable?

            The interactive reports, DirectQuery and integration with the other Microsoft services are valuable features.

            What needs improvement?

            There needs to be support for more data sources in DirectQuery.

            DirectQuery is a method of connecting your data directly, i.e. any changes in data source will reflect in report immediately. (This is very great feature if you are doing live analysis of your data). As of now there are limited number of Data Sources such as SQL, SQL Azure, which are supported by Power BI with DirectQuery. Although Microsoft keeps working on adding different data sources in DirectQuery (currently only six data sources in this method and three more in Preview), that's why I feel that still DirectQuery (method of connecting your data) has more room for improvement because there are many other data sources that are commonly used by different organization like (MySQL, Access, etc.)

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this solution for two years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            In the beginning, we did encounter some stability issues; now, Microsoft is doing great things to make this product more stable and enhanced.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            We were using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS reports), now we are moving towards Power BI due to its Publish on web part, as well as the interactive cross-filtering throughout all the visuals (i.e., if you need).

            How was the initial setup?

            The setup is easy. It is very easy to use. If you are an Excel and SQL user, then it is very easy to get a grip on this product.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We tried Tableau. Although Tableau itself is a great product, we chose Power BI due to its pricing and Microsoft's focus to make it a better product.

            Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are Microsoft Gold Partners.
            ITCS user
            Head of Information Systems Department at a government
            Vendor
            It made data correlation between the agencies fast. Our expectation is to get real-time data collection systems in the maritime environment.

            Pros and Cons

            • "It provides easy integration with Office tools."
            • "Our expectation is putting BI to work in real-time data collection systems in the maritime environment."

            What is most valuable?

            • It provides easy integration with Office tools.
            • It is easy to understand BI architecture.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Microsoft SQL Server BI made data correlation between the agencies so fast, that the simple POCs for the dashboards let the decision-makers to migrate our so-called enterprise architecture. Enterprise architecture is the integration of ETL, CDC, DWH, reporting, and forecasting tools.

            What needs improvement?

            Our expectation is putting BI to work in real-time data collection systems in the maritime environment.

            The Automatic Identification System is a great source of data regarding the ships from around the world. From kinematic to static including some commercial data, it streams to the maritime monitoring stations. So, collecting and processing of this data and also, creating useful information are the key factors for our government entity. However, this data is real-time data which means that the process should be done in seconds for thousands of ships. We are forcing the boundaries of the Microsoft BI product right now and wish to see some stream data processing methodologies in the future.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this product for a year and a half.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            The product was pretty stable but when it comes to collecting real-time data we encountered some data dropping issues.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Sometimes, the scalability becomes an issue; instead of horizontal scaling, we always need vertical scaling.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            The technical support in Turkey is very good.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            We were using some open-source BI tools. It was very difficult to get support for open-source and that is why we switched to Microsoft.

            How was the initial setup?

            The setup was okay because Microsoft integrated BI to the SQL product. Instead of using a special product, you get the sense of using native add-on libraries for BI. It is a part of the database process. Training is the key here.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            I don't want to speculate but there is room for at least 45% discount as compared to the initial price. So bargain wildly with Microsoft.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We evaluated other open-source alternatives.

            What other advice do I have?

            You will need training personnel and powerful servers.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Consultant MOA BI at a manufacturing company with 1,001-5,000 employees
            Vendor
            ​MS BI comes with all the tools and it is to the best of my knowledge the most affordable solution​.​

            Pros and Cons

            • "MS SQL & SQL Server Analysis Services."
            • "SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is not user friendly."

            What is most valuable?

            MS SQL & SQL Server Analysis Services.

            How has it helped my organization?

            We provide BI solutions to the users at every level in order to monitor business. We can deploy DWH, cubes and reports from scratch within weeks of implementation.

            What needs improvement?

            SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is not user friendly, requires development. Power BI will surely provide a huge boost to MS BI in terms of self-service BI. Then again, SSRS developers are plenty, thus not so expensive.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Ten-plus years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            Stability issues are due to bad hardware sizing, bad forecast of volumes, or bad data modeling.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Only when data models were faulty of when the infrastructure was not compliant to MS recommendations.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Tech support from Microsoft, when needed, is as efficient as can be.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            Worked in different technical environments but never saw a switch from MS BI.

            How was the initial setup?

            Developers and architects are easily available for this technology.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            MS BI comes with all the tools and it is, to the best of my knowledge, the most affordable solution.

            What other advice do I have?

            Watch your data model, use data marts when possible, set your archiving/purge policy from the beginning, size your hardware well (unless on cloud).

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Customer Data Analytics Specialist at Allianz Turkey
            Vendor
            You can work easily to upload and model big data.

            What is most valuable?

            Power Query and Power Pivot are the most valuable features. You can easily manage your data on Excel. İf you have a professional version, you can do it. However, if you don't use Power Query and Power Pivot, then your raw number is limited. The Unpivot specialty is useful because you can't do it in the front-side of Excel.

            How has it helped my organization?

            If you don't have any analytical tool and you don't have any budget, then Power BI can be the best product in terms of the price-quality index. This is because you can work easily on big data; you can upload and model it.

            What needs improvement?

            Performance can be better; of course, it depends on your hardware but it can also be improved.

            Once I tried to upload 5 million rows on Power Query from a CSV file but I got an error about my personal computer, i.e., my RAM was not enough for uploading. Also, sometimes this process takes a long time.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this solution for about three years.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            There were no stability issues.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            The product is scalable.

            How is customer service and technical support?

            Once I asked a question to the technical support team and they answered clearly. I would give them a 9/10 rating.

            What other advice do I have?

            It is a user-friendly tool, but the data size is important, i.e., you have to check your data size and how you can use it effectively.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Business Intelligence Analyst & Developer at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
            Consultant
            With drill-through reports, links in the data presented take a report viewer to related reports. Reports look terrible on mobile screens.

            What is most valuable?

            Since its integration into SQL Server 2005, Microsoft has made a number of improvements and added many new features. It had a big overhaul in 2008 and acquired a bunch of new features with 2008 R2: KPIs, maps, sparklines, new functions, published Report Parts, and more.

            Let me highlight some of the advanced features that keep people on the platform:

            1. Drill-through reports. These are ones where links in the data presented take a report viewer to related reports. Information Builders is another BI platform where this is available, but not as customizable as in SSRS.
            2. Highly customizable charts. The data-driven custom colors. The fact that almost every attribute of a component of a chart can be tweaked. Try doing some of those customizations on your flashy new cloud BI platform. Reports within reports. Sub-reports within tables of data and sophisticated charts within tables within sub-reports within reports. Go as deep as you want. See as much detail as you want.
            3. User-accessible parameters. Reports can offer report users parameters like no other platform. This makes linking to and from reports easy and allows you to integrate SSRS reports into other business applications. Try sending parameters to an Excel spreadsheet, a Power View report, or a cloud-based dashboard – impossible.
            4. Extensible. Programmers can extend the tool’s functionality. Custom data sources can be coded. Custom delivery extensions can be built. External DLLs can be referenced from within reports. Many companies do take advantage of these features.


            What needs improvement?

            The few things I mention below constitute very strong reasons why Microsoft has essentially abandoned the platform and why I agree with them.

            • Lack of mobile support. Reports look terrible on mobile screens. They don’t have the ability to redraw themselves as with responsive UIs. Security remains a hassle on mobile because SSRS relies heavily on Active Directory.
            • Speed of development is too slow. To be fair, each SSRS report has the potential to be its own business application, aware of who is viewing the report and customizing the output accordingly. Those that take advantage of the advanced features are in for a surprise – developers will spend countless hours squinting at the screen getting every pixel to fall exactly where they want it. Setting up data sources is still a thing for advanced SQL developers. It’s not like other modern BI platforms where stores of data sets are easily converted to dashboards.
            • Antiquated IDE for code developers extending it. I really wish that the custom code windows provided richer programming assistance (like auto-complete, object-oriented constructs, Intellisense…) and support for other programming languages.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used it for two years.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            We have not encountered any deployment issues.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            • Long-running queries could take your system down. The desire of "I Want It All In One Report" should be avoided. All users should tune their reports and use parameters to get their reports in a light way.
            • Internet Explorer could be tricky sometimes.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service:

            Customer service is 7/10.

            Technical Support:

            Technical support is 7/10.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            I switched from 2005 to 2008 in order to get more features.

            How was the initial setup?

            It is easy to install and to integrate in an enterprise setting.

            What about the implementation team?

            An in-house team implemented it.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            The SQL Server Reporting Services works as a part of SQL Server license. If we have a licensed copy of SQL Server, we can run Reporting Services on the same server for no additional license fee. However, if we run Reporting Services on a separate machine that is not yet licensed for SQL Server, such as a Web server, we will need to purchase an additional SQL Server license.

            https://www.microsoft.com/en-u...

            https://www.brentozar.com/arch...

            What other advice do I have?

            SQL Server Reporting Services is one of the most popular components of SQL Server, but it has always been surprisingly difficult to get from one place all the basic facts you need to get up and running from scratch, to the point of producing reports. My overall experience with Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services is that it is easy to install and to integrate in an enterprise setting. Developing sophisticated reports, however, can be slow and tedious. Ultimately, getting information to business users is the name of the game. Doing it fast and doing it intuitively trumps fancy features.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Senior Consultant | Architect at DHL
            Consultant
            We have the ability to connect separate services like CRM, NAV, Facebook, Exchange, etc. and make data integration and transformation based on these data connections in a few clicks.

            What is most valuable?

            Firstly there was the wow effect, as when I saw the number of connectors which were made for this product/service. It is quite fantastic to have the ability to connect separate services like CRM, NAV, Facebook, Exchange etc. and make data integration and transformation based on these data connections in a few clicks. Also, the ability to download new visuals is quite nice. The effect of new graphics for higher management is magical and this is the good way not only for a pre-sale/sale or up-sale, but also for good impressions. Another great feature is, for example, the collecting of data in concrete folder on disk. If there is, for example, 100 csv files from other information systems, these should be automatically merged, analyzed and transformed into great graphical report.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Because the product is based the ability to quickly produce BI insights and reports, it’s really useful on a daily basis. Another improvement is definitely the possibility of browsing the dashboards on smartphone using an app, and another is the ability to quickly produce reports.

            What needs improvement?

            Well definitely the connectors, which is always a huge space for improvement in configurations, especially the amount of connectors etc. Also, the graphic designs of the reports needs work as they are still really strictly defined, and with the amount of output, there isn’t space for such a design realization. 

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I have used this solution since it was released (a few years ago) and I am using it on a daily basis at work and at university where I work as a researcher and am a PhD student. I use it on mobile, laptop and tablet as well. Also, it has its own app for viewing the reports and dashboards, own app for creating and editing.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            There have been no issues with the deployment.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            There was no issue with stability.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            We have been able to scale it for our needs.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            Personally, I used Excel Services/Visio Services.

            How was the initial setup?

            Really straightforward. The most complex part is defining the data gateways between the cloud part and the on premises part of the infrastructure. Another bigger task is to define security model of all the datasets and reports with correct audience, data refresh etc.

            What was our ROI?

            It's too soon to calculate. I think, that for the correct ROI value, you need to have it in place for more than three years. But, it saves a lot of time and not only developers time, but also management time etc. Things are easier when there are functionalities like “quick insight” for auto-creating of data based on machine learning algorithms, or Q&A for using natural query language. 

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            I played with Tableau. I see many similarities in Power BI to other products, so there is no reason to combine many different vendors/third parties to build such a complex BI solution.

            What other advice do I have?

            It's a tool for a new kind of business intelligence from Microsoft. Tool for quick modeling of data structures and for visualizing almost everything you have in mind at the moment. There is still a lot of room for improvement and there is also a huge space for new functionalities. But it’s a simple and great tool for everyday use. 

            You should get it and implement it. However, you should get a trial version, and contact a partner who can provide some sales presentation with the live session (CIE for example) and show, what the possibilities are of Power BI.


            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            Nigel Magson
            Founder at a tech consulting company with 11-50 employees
            Real User
            Top 5Leaderboard
            SQL Server 2016 delivers built-in mobile BI capabilities.

            Valuable Features:

            Microsoft SQL Server Report Publisher

            Microsoft SQL Server Report Builder

            Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (Web Portal)

            SQL Server 2016 delivers built-in mobile BI capabilities.  The above tools give professionals the ability to deliver business insights quickly and easily as well as enabling a quick way of presenting the data/charts/reports over a web portal.  The portal is compatible for cross platform, from desktops to major mobile devices.

            Overall a great way of delivering your insights to your data.

            Improvements to My Organization:

            Works with data, systems and tools we already have. They are "additional" tools rather than complete replacement software.  Easy to upgrade / install.  The new SSRS tools in particular give us an easier way to share insights and reports to our clients and within our own teams.  Security is easily managed within SharePoint.

            Room for Improvement:

            License fee structure.  Mobile reporting Services is only available for the "Enterprise" addition of SQL Server 2016.  This comes with a hefty price tag.  Would be better if you could pick and choose the features you require and then the price tag is set accordingly.  Rather than paying for the full Enterprise addition and getting a lot of features we do not need/use.  

            Use of Solution:

            We have been using Microsoft's extensive software library for years.  But at the time of writing this review, SQL Server 2016 Enterprise is pretty brand new.  We knew of the latest reporting services offering and were eager to trial it.

            Deployment Issues:

            Deployment isn't rocket science, but it isn't child's play either.  There were a fair few standard issues getting everything to talk to each other.  Nothing to worry about though.  Microsoft has worked well to make sure the latest SSRS is an "add-on" feature that integrates seamlessly. 

            Initial Setup:

            Straightforward easy setup.  Typical Microsoft software (familiar).

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Web Developer at a energy/utilities company with 10,001+ employees
            Vendor
            We switched from Crystal Report Server because it was crashing regularly.

            What is most valuable?

            The ease of implementation and reliability of SQL Server Reporting Services far exceeded the solution originally implemented with Crystal Report. The Crystal Report Servers (3 of them) were crashing on a weekly basis at one of the companies where I worked.

            How has it helped my organization?

            We were able to reduce costs by consolidating the 3 Crystal Report Servers down to just one server running SSRS (with one backup just in case). The time it took to run some reports in Crystal were exceeding 5 minutes. The same report in SSRS not only was significantly faster (down to 30 seconds) and the licensing cost savings allowed for a quicker return on investment (less than one year).

            What needs improvement?

            The build in Report Builder for end users needs improvement. But for someone that has some training on SSRS, its very straightforward.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            The solution was implemented and still in use to this day to my knowledge.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            No. Following the installation guide was a help with setting up SSRS to use single sign on as well as SQL accounts. The overall setup of the server took about an hour. The conversion of over 200 Crystal Reports to SSRS took some more time but was done with one user and completed within 3 months.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            No. SSRS has been rock solid and the server never needed rebooting unlike the Crystal Report Servers.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            No. In fact we were able to decommission servers and switch to using a virtual server for SSRS.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service:

            Never had to use their support. But, the few times I have had to contact Microsoft, there were very knowledgeable and able to resolve the problem quickly.

            Technical Support:

            9, see above.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            Yes. We used Crystal Reports, see above.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            MSBI Technical Lead at a tech company with 10,001+ employees
            Vendor
            Top 20
            It's been stable for over eight years, but is lacking a data warehouse manager.

            Valuable Features

            • It's a user-friendly tool
            • Very stable
            • It always helps us to achieve organizational goals

            Improvements to My Organization

            It's been stable for over eight years, and all the latest products/versions have backwards compatibility, or an upgrade facility. It has helped to fetch many projects, and to deliver them on time, as well as helping to resolve complex business challenges. The product has continual updates so we can stay on top of the market.

            Room for Improvement

            • Data warehousing manager is not available, which can be introduced
            • Reporting or SharePoint needs a lot of learning so you can build reports

            Use of Solution

            I've used it for 10 years.

            Deployment Issues

            No issues encountered.

            Stability Issues

            No issues encountered.

            Scalability Issues

            No issues encountered.

            Customer Service and Technical Support

            Customer Service:

            Microsoft has a great level of customer service.

            Technical Support:

            There are great public forums available for tech support.

            Initial Setup

            • Straightforward - installation, development, deployment, and maintenance
            • Little complex - Learning the tool

            Implementation Team

            We did it in-house.

            ROI

            I am not sure how to calculate this. The solution significantly improved BI and reporting capabilities. Without this solution, the business can’t think of successful operations.

            Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

            It is not costly when compared with other competitor products. This is a rock solid solution for any BI organization.

            Other Solutions Considered

            We didn't do much evaluation as our dev teams experience is with Microsoft BI.

            Other Advice

            This product is hassle free to utilize for your BI environment.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user221220
            Analyst in XBRL Projects at a financial services firm with 1,001-5,000 employees
            Vendor
            Poor support for XML, but it has good integration with other Microsoft products.

            What is most valuable?

            All the features are valuable.

            How has it helped my organization?

            We empower users with Enterprise BI and Self Service BI by Microsoft BI.

            What needs improvement?

            Microsoft has poor support for XML.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I've used it for four years.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            There were no issues, and it has good integration with other Microsoft products.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            We do have issues, but we can solve them ourselves.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            We do have issues, but we can solve them ourselves.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service: It's good. Technical Support: We are more expert than they are. …

            What is most valuable?

            All the features are valuable.

            How has it helped my organization?

            We empower users with Enterprise BI and Self Service BI by Microsoft BI.

            What needs improvement?

            Microsoft has poor support for XML.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            I've used it for four years.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            There were no issues, and it has good integration with other Microsoft products.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            We do have issues, but we can solve them ourselves.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            We do have issues, but we can solve them ourselves.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service:

            It's good.

            Technical Support:

            We are more expert than they are.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            We used Infobeacon and then we added Microsoft BI to Cognos. We are currently looking for a better product and are evaluating Tableau.

            How was the initial setup?

            It is easy to implement Microsoft BI.

            What about the implementation team?

            Several projects we implemented through vendors and most we implemented in house. We are more expert than they are.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            We didn’t have another option.

            What other advice do I have?

            Quality of data, flexibility and the performance of the tool(s) are the critical aspects of BI. Test the critical aspects by doing a proof of concept using a huge amount of data.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user194682
            Database Analyst at a financial services firm with 10,001+ employees
            Vendor
            This is the most compatible solution for medium sized organization but the robustness of the stack could be improved

            What is most valuable?

            The integration tool in Microsoft BI stack is one of the best in terms of understanding and together with the script component can make most data imports pretty simple and accurate. Also, the ease of use of the product.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Prior to using the Microsoft BI stack the organization was using a lot of Access and Excel applications which became cumbersome as the organization grew. These tools helped us to streamline the reports and data integration.

            What needs improvement?

            The robustness of the stack could be improved as it fails when we import/extract large amounts of data.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            Four and a half years.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            No issues encountered.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            Yes, when the volume of data is large.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Yes.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service:

            Excellent with online social help and customer care from Microsoft.

            Technical Support:

            There is a lot of room for improvement in technical support.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            I used other reporting platforms along with the Microsoft BI stack, but never switched.

            How was the initial setup?

            The initial setup is pretty simple for most starting users.

            What about the implementation team?

            It was an in house implementation.

            What was our ROI?

            Very high, as it is a very cost effective application compared to any BI tools in the market.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            It is setup by the organization, so I am not sure about the exact cost and renewal cost.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            No, I did not have an opportunity to do any evaluations.

            What other advice do I have?

            It is a great, cost effective solution if the size of the organization is only medium and easy to use and cost of finding a resource is low.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user181869
            Microsoft BI Architect at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
            Consultant
            Despite vague error messages, some functions were cut down from 90 seconds to about less than one second

            What is most valuable?

            • SQL Server Integration Services
            • SQL Server Management Studio

            How has it helped my organization?

            There have been occasions when a certain application would work very slowly on other DB platforms and once we migrated to SQL Server the response times improved dramatically. For example, I recently migrated an application from TeraData to SQL Server and the response times for some functions were cut down from 90 seconds to about less than 1 second! This obviously speeds up the work that gets done within a day.

            What needs improvement?

            The SQL Server Reporting Services can certainly use some more help. Within SSIS, I see room for more connectors and easier debug messages that would speed up the process of development. The biggest hurdle that any developer comes across is vague error messages.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            About eight to nine years.

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            No. The installation and deployment process has always been smooth and simple.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            No. Product is very robust and reliable.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Adding extra machines to the cluster environment is not difficult but certainly needs experienced developers/implementers to do that.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service:

            Excellent. They usually turn around within good time and you can also request new features directly from the group that is responsible for the product.

            Technical Support:

            9/10

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            A different solution was not used previously.

            How was the initial setup?

            I have been to many projects and usually the setup is pretty straight forward. But even when it comes to complicated setups such as multiple clusters, the product still seems easy once understood.

            What about the implementation team?

            In-house implementation.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            It varies from place to place. But a typical license would cost anywhere from a few thousand bucks to the upper $20k-$30k range.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            • MicroStrategy
            • TeraData
            • Informatica.

            What other advice do I have?

            Look at the amount of data that you have and the amount you anticipate in the future. If you have multiple sources of data and multiple applications consuming it, sticking to a single solution might not be the best idea.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            MSBI Technology Architect/Developer at a pharma/biotech company with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Very stable tool with some improvements needed in SSIS

            What is most valuable?

            SSIS is the most valuable. Individually I would rate features out of 10 as SSIS: 9, SSAS: 8, and SSRS: 7.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Automation. With MSBI, we realized automation from data loading, transformation and reporting.

            What needs improvement?

            The aggregate functions in SSRS.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            5 years

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            Not much with appropriate configuration design.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            None encountered.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Data set is not big enough to tell.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service: Good. Also easy to find solution by Googling. Technical Support: Haven't…

            What is most valuable?

            SSIS is the most valuable. Individually I would rate features out of 10 as SSIS: 9, SSAS: 8, and SSRS: 7.

            How has it helped my organization?

            Automation. With MSBI, we realized automation from data loading, transformation and reporting.

            What needs improvement?

            The aggregate functions in SSRS.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            5 years

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            Not much with appropriate configuration design.

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            None encountered.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            Data set is not big enough to tell.

            How are customer service and technical support?

            Customer Service:

            Good. Also easy to find solution by Googling.

            Technical Support:

            Haven't been using it due to the ease of getting answers on the internet.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            No previous solution used.

            How was the initial setup?

            I was able to figure out the setup by doing some research and it's not too complex for experienced user.

            What about the implementation team?

            In-house implementation.

            What was our ROI?

            The company spent less than $100k to switch from SSAS to MSBI, which saved the company at least one SAS programmer.

            What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

            Not sure.

            Which other solutions did I evaluate?

            Not sure.

            What other advice do I have?

            It's a proven stable tool.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user171969
            Microsoft BI Consultant with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Good product for End Users but there are some problems with huge chunks of data.

            What is most valuable?

            Data Integration and Cleansing & Warehousing are the most valuable

            What needs improvement?

            End-user tools such as Excel is not good enough for all business scenarios.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            8 years

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            There are some issues with 2005/2008 releases, but most of them were fixed starting with 2012 release

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            Sometimes in the starting few months of every new release.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            There are some problems with huge chunks of data. Some of these can be addressed with appropriate hardware appliances and a lot of tweaking.

            Which

            What is most valuable?

            Data Integration and Cleansing & Warehousing are the most valuable

            What needs improvement?

            End-user tools such as Excel is not good enough for all business scenarios.

            For how long have I used the solution?

            8 years

            What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

            There are some issues with 2005/2008 releases, but most of them were fixed starting with 2012 release

            What do I think about the stability of the solution?

            Sometimes in the starting few months of every new release.

            What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

            There are some problems with huge chunks of data. Some of these can be addressed with appropriate hardware appliances and a lot of tweaking.

            Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

            I do work on projects to switch clients to MS BI usually due to its attractive pricing and tight integration with MS Office suite. Also the learning curve for users is flattened due to their fluency with Excel.

            How was the initial setup?

            MS products are great but security is always a concern to make the whole ecosystem work smoothly. The latest BI suite is tightly integrated with SharePoint which is great; but the set-up process and deployment is still painful.

            What other advice do I have?

            Have knowledgeable people to make the right choices for you.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Developer at a tech consulting company with 51-200 employees
            Consultant
            It offers high performance & low cost BI solutions with ability to integrate with other third party tools.

            Valuable Features:

            Microsoft SSRS biggest advantage is its ability to integrate with other third party components. You could integrate it with Share Point web part or you can access it from a Web browser, depending on your existing scenario you don’t need to change much to be able to integrate SSRS with your existing application. Microsoft SSAS offers low cost BI solutions comparing with IBM Cognos, licensing for SSAS is core-based or you could opt for server + CAL-based license which is very low in comparison with IBM Cognos. Microsoft SSRS & SSAS suite is uncompromising when it comes to performance. It provides very high performance and it could be connected to many different data sources. It requires very less time to build Microsoft SSRS & SSAS solution.

            Room for Improvement:

            Microsoft SSRS is unable to provide a mechanism where poor performance reports could be prevented to run on production environment. In case if a user creates a report which can cause huge impact on server resources / performance it should not be allowed to run on production server during normal working hours. Alternative that is provided is to use subscription option to deliver reports to particular directory or email them at scheduled time (preferably non-working hours).Microsoft SSRS does not offer any interoperability with Andriod or iPad at this time (need to consider this if you are planning to develop reports for these environments) Microsoft SSRS & SSAS suite is very easy to configure and maintain. You don’t need any license if you are looking to try out Microsoft SSRS; you can simply download and use Microsoft SQL Server Express (with Advanced Services). You can create dashboards, drill through reports, charts, graphs, maps, dynamic grouping using Microsoft SSRS.

            Other Advice:

            It offers a very vibrant MSDN community along with Microsoft support staff for assistance.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            BI Junior consultant at a tech services company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            Excel in BI mode provides an excellent approach to the BI world for end users

            Valuable Features:

            Power BI (except Power Query)

            Improvements to My Organization:

            Reduced time to develop and deployment projects.

            Room for Improvement:

            PowerQuery (so long) + smt exists in SSAS cube but cannot do the same in tabular.

            Use of Solution:

            2 years

            Deployment Issues:

            Yes. Language DAX

            Stability Issues:

            No

            Scalability Issues:

            No

            Valuable Features:

            Power BI (except Power Query)

            Improvements to My Organization:

            Reduced time to develop and deployment projects.

            Room for Improvement:

            PowerQuery (so long) + smt exists in SSAS cube but cannot do the same in tabular.

            Use of Solution:

            2 years

            Deployment Issues:

            Yes. Language DAX

            Stability Issues:

            No

            Scalability Issues:

            No
            Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: partner
            ITCS user
            Information System Manager with 501-1,000 employees
            Vendor
            We evaluated both SSRS and Business Objects. We chose SSRS and currently use Cognos as well.
            I've been using Microsoft SSRS for 2 years. For me, the most valuable feature is the integration feature with our ERP. SSRS has room for improvement including drill down and graphs. Although I am happy with the products, I have experience performance degradation at times.  We're currently running both SSRS and Cognos. We ended up choosing SSRS after evaluating it alongside Business Objects. Once we chose to go with SSRS, we implemented through the vendor and found their level of expertise to be high which made the process very easy. I would say that our ROI is 200%. I would recommend SSRS to others.

            I've been using Microsoft SSRS for 2 years. For me, the most valuable feature is the integration feature with our ERP. SSRS has room for improvement including drill down and graphs. Although I am happy with the products, I have experience performance degradation at times. 

            We're currently running both SSRS and Cognos. We ended up choosing SSRS after evaluating it alongside Business Objects. Once we chose to go with SSRS, we implemented through the vendor and found their level of expertise to be high which made the process very easy. I would say that our ROI is 200%. I would recommend SSRS to others.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7626
            BI Expert at a tech company with 10,001+ employees
            Real User
            Popular
            Comparing BO Webi vs SSRS
            Webi from BO and SSRS from Microsoft are always in competition with each other. Both of them are good products catering to similar business needs in different styles. I have been using Webi and SSRS for my projects and i always think first which one should i use before starting a new one. Here i would be doing this comparison that may help others to opt between the two Formatting - SSRS provides you good flexibility in formatting your reports but Webi does it better. In webi you can align your components charts with better look and feel than SSRS. Also formatting is easier in webi as its all gui based while in SSRS its all visual studio like environment so bit of complexity. Hence i would give webi 5 and SSRS 4 Rendering - SSRS rendering is really bad when it comes to PDF, they don't…

            Webi from BO and SSRS from Microsoft are always in competition with each other. Both of them are good products catering to similar business needs in different styles. I have been using Webi and SSRS for my projects and i always think first which one should i use before starting a new one. Here i would be doing this comparison that may help others to opt between the two.

            1. Formatting - SSRS provides you good flexibility in formatting your reports but Webi does it better. In webi you can align your components charts with better look and feel than SSRS. Also formatting is easier in webi as its all gui based while in SSRS its all visual studio like environment so bit of complexity. Hence i would give webi 5 and SSRS 4
            2. Rendering - SSRS rendering is really bad when it comes to PDF, they don't give bookmarks for tabs in report. Also quality of formatting in Webi generated PDF is better. Here SSRS looses and webi wins. Hence Webi gets 5 and SSRS 3
            3. Ease of use - Again webi takes advantage here. SSRS is too complex for a new beginner. Like tablix concept, conditional formatting and all, everything is expression based which makes it too much to code. i will give webi 4 and SSRS 3
            4. Flexibility - Here SSRS is champ. you have got every thing to be modified as per your requirement. You can use custom functions, custom codes, colors, borders, text, and any property can be made dynamic using expressions. While in Webi only limited things are there to be modified. so Webi gets 2 and SSRS gets 5
            5. Error reporting - When you schedule webi and if it gets failed, Webi gives you error details specifically. While, in SSRS error details is mostly generic. Webi gets 5 and SSRS gets 3
            6. Managing History Instances - SSRS have tried to do a lot but less when comparing to Webi. Webi is better. Webi 5 and SSRS 4
            7. Error prone - While working with webi, there have been many instances where you just cant explain the erroneous behavior of Webi reports. Some times your report tabs goes away, some times you formatting your webi formatting is corrupted. And most of all java creates a lot of problem while working with webi. In case of SSRS its completely free of such errors. So SSRS 5 and webi 2

            Finally total scores : Webi - 28 and SSRS - 27

            Over all if you are looking for better formatting and easy to use gui Webi is for you. But if you want better flexibility and less rework then SSRS can be the choice.

            Please Note: these are my views based on my experience. Some people may have different opinions.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7845
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            My 30 tips for building a Microsoft BI solution, Part VI: Tips 26-30
            This is the last part in my series of things I wished I knew about before starting a Microsoft BI project. I’ll be taking my summer vacation now so the blog will be quiet the next month. After the break I will revise a couple of the tips based on feedback so stay tuned. #26: Decide how to source your data in Analysis Services and stick with it. Ideally you will source your data from a correctly modeled star schema. Even then you may need to massage the source data before feeding it into SSAS. There are two ways of accomplishing this: Through views in the database or through data source views (dimensional) or queries (tabular). Unless you are unable to create views in your database (running on a prod system etc) I would strongly suggest using them. This will give you a clean separation…
            This is the last part in my series of things I wished I knew about before starting a Microsoft BI project. I’ll be taking my summer vacation now so the blog will be quiet the next month. After the break I will revise a couple of the tips based on feedback so stay tuned.

            #26: Decide how to source your data in Analysis Services and stick with it.

            Ideally you will source your data from a correctly modeled star schema. Even then you may need to massage the source data before feeding it into SSAS. There are two ways of accomplishing this: Through views in the database or through data source views (dimensional) or queries (tabular). Unless you are unable to create views in your database (running on a prod system etc) I would strongly suggest using them. This will give you a clean separation of logic and abstraction between the SSAS solution and the data source. This means that clients connecting to the data warehouse directly will see the same data model as the SSAS solution. Also migrating between different front-ends (like dimensional and tabular) will become much simpler. In my solutions I never connect to tables directly I always bind to views for everything and never implement any logic in the DSV or via queries.

            #27: Have some way of defining “current” time periods in your SSAS solution

            Most SSAS solutions have a time dimension with dates, months, years, etc. In many ways its the most important dimension in your solution as it will be included in most reports / analyses as well as form the basis for a lot of calculations (see previous tips). Having a notion of what is the current period in your time dimension will greatly improve the usability of your solution: Reports will automatically be populated with the latest data without any user interaction. It can also simplify ad-hoc analysis by setting the default members to the most current date / month / year so that when users do not put these on one of the axes it will default to the most recent time period. There are a number of ways of implementing this including calculated members and named sets (for dimensional) and calculations for Tabular and the internet is abundant with sample solutions. Some of them are fully automated (using VBA time functions) and some require someone to manually set the current period. I prefer to use the latter if possible to avoid reports showing incorrect data if something went wrong in the ETL.

            #28: Create a testable solution

            This is a really big topic so I will emphasize what I have found most important. A BI solution has a lot of moving parts. You have your various source systems, your ETL pipeline, logic in the database, logic in your SSAS solution and finally logic in your reporting solution. Errors happen in all of these layers but your integration services solution is probably the most vulnerable part. Not only do technically errors occur, but far more costly are logic errors where your numbers don’t match what is expected. Luckily there are a lot of things you can do to help identify when these errors occur. As mentioned in tips #6 and #7 you should use a framework. You should also design your solution to be unit testable. This boils down to creating lots of small packages that can be run in isolation rather than large complex ones. Most importantly you should create validation queries that compares the data you load in your ETL with data in the source systems. How these queries are crafted varies from system to system but a good starting point would be comparisons of row counts, sums of measures (facts) and number of unique values. The way I do it is that I create the test before building anything. So if I am to load customers that have changed since X, I first create the test query for the source system (row counts, distinct values etc.) then the query for the data warehouse together with a comparison query and finally I start building the actual integration. Ideally you will package this into a SSIS solution that logs the results into a table. This way you can utilize your validation logic both while developing the solution but also once its deployed. If you are running SQL Server 2012 you might want to look into the data tap features of SSIS that lets you inspect data flowing through your pipeline from the outside.

            #29: Avoid the source if you are scaling for a large number of users

            Building a BI solution to scale is another very large topic. If you have lots of data you need to scale your ETL, Database and SSAS subsystems. But if you have lots of users (thousands) your bottleneck will probably be SSAS. Concurrently handling tens to hundreds of queries with acceptable performance is just not feasible. The most effective thing is to avoid this as much as possible. I usually take a two pronged approach. Firstly I implement as much as possible as standard (“canned”) reports that can be cached. Reporting Services really shines in these scenarios. It allows for flexible caching schemes that in most circumstances eliminates all trips to the data source. This will usually cover around 70-80% of requirements. Secondly I deploy an ad-hoc cube specifically designed and tuned for exploratory reporting and analysis. I talked about this in tip #17. In addition you need to consider your underlying infrastructure. Both SSRS and SSAS can be scaled up and out. For really large systems you will need to do both, even with the best of caching schemes.

            #30: Stick with your naming standards

            There are a lot objects that need to be named in a solution. From the more technical objects such as database tables and SSIS packages to objects exposed to users such as SSAS dimensions and measures. The most important thing with naming conventions is not what they are, but that they are implemented. As I talked about in tip #24 changing a name can have far reaching consequences. This is not just a matter of things breaking if you change them but consider all of the support functionality in the platform such as logging that utilize object names. Having meaningful, consistent names will make it a heck of a lot easier to get value out of this. So at the start of the project I would advise to have a “naming meeting” where you agree upon how you will name your objects. Should dimension tables be prefixed with Dim or Dim_? Should Dimension names be plural (CustomerS) or singular (Customer), etc.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7845
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            My 30 tips for building a Microsoft BI solution, Part V: Tips 21-25
            I might just get all 30 done before summer vacation #21: Avoid using discretization buckets for your dimension attributes Discretization buckets lets you group numerical attributes into ranges. Say you have a customer dimension including the age of the customer you can use this feature to group them into age clusters such as 0-5, 6-10 and so on. While you can tweak how the algorithm creates groups and even provide naming templates for the groups you still have relatively limited control over them. Worst case scenario: A grouping is removed / changed by the algorithm which is referenced in a report. A better way of grouping these attributes is by doing it yourself either in the data source view or a view in the database (there will be a separate tip on this). This way you have complete…
            I might just get all 30 done before summer vacation :)

            #21: Avoid using discretization buckets for your dimension attributes

            Discretization buckets lets you group numerical attributes into ranges. Say you have a customer dimension including the age of the customer you can use this feature to group them into age clusters such as 0-5, 6-10 and so on. While you can tweak how the algorithm creates groups and even provide naming templates for the groups you still have relatively limited control over them. Worst case scenario: A grouping is removed / changed by the algorithm which is referenced in a report. A better way of grouping these attributes is by doing it yourself either in the data source view or a view in the database (there will be a separate tip on this). This way you have complete control over the distribution of values into groups and the naming of the groups.

            #22: Do not build a SSAS solution directly on top of your source system

            SSAS has a couple of features that enable it to source data directly from a normalized data model typically found in business applications such as ERP systems. For instance you can “fake” a star schema through queries in the data source view. You can also utilize proactive caching to eliminate any ETL to populate your cube with data. This all sounds very tempting but unfortunatly I have never seen this work in reality. Unless you are working with a very small source system with impeccable data quality and few simultanous users you should avoid the temptation for all the usual reasons: Proactive caching will stress your source system, data quality will most likely be an issue, integrating new data sources will be nearly impossible,etc. There is a reason BI projects spend 70-80% of their time working with modelling and integrating data.

            #23: Deploy SSAS cubes with the deployment tool

            If you are working with multiple environments (dev/test/prod) do not use the deployment functionality of visual studio to deploy to another environment. This will overwrite partitions and roles that may be different between the environments. Use the deployment wizard.

            #24: Remember that your SSAS cubes are a single point of failure

            Keep in mind that most client tools do not cope well with changes to SSAS data models. Any renames or removals you do in the model will most likely cause clients that reference those entities to fail. Make sure you test all your reports against the changed model before deploying it to production. Also, if you allow ad-hoc access to your SSAS solution be aware that users may have created reports that you do not know about. Query logging may help you a little here (it gives you an indication of which attribute hierarchies are in use). The best way to avoid all of this is to thoughtfully design your cube and the naming of your SSAS objects so that there is no need to change or remove anything in the first place.

            #25: Avoid “real time”

            “Real time” means different things to different people. Some interpret it as “simultaneous to an event occurring” while others have more leeway and have various levels of tolerance for delays. I prefer the term “latency”: How old can the data in the BI solution get before it needs to be refreshed?. The lowest latency I have ever implemented is two hours. That is hours not minutes. I know this does not sound very impressive but that is honestly the best I have been able to do at a reasonable cost. When doing “real time” you need to consider a lot of factors: Partitioning, changes to dimensions, ROLAP vs MOLAP / direct query vs xVelocity, source system access, how to administer it, etc., etc. These things add up quickly to a point where the value simply does not justify the cost.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7845
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            My 30 tips for building a Microsoft BI solution, Part IV: Tips 16-20
            A note about the SSAS tips: Most tips are valid for both dimensional and tabular models. I try to note where they are not. #16: Implement reporting dimensions in your SSAS solution Reporting dimensions are constructs you use to make the data model more flexible for reporting purposes. They usually also simplify the management and implementation of common calculation scenarios. Here are two examples: A common request from users is the need to select which measure to display for a given report in Excel through a normal filter. This is not possible with normal measures / calculations. The solution is to create a measure dimension with one member for each measure. Expose a single measure in your measure group (I frequently use “Value”) that you assign the correct measure to in your MDX…
            A note about the SSAS tips: Most tips are valid for both dimensional and tabular models. I try to note where they are not.

            #16: Implement reporting dimensions in your SSAS solution

            Reporting dimensions are constructs you use to make the data model more flexible for reporting purposes. They usually also simplify the management and implementation of common calculation scenarios. Here are two examples:

            • A common request from users is the need to select which measure to display for a given report in Excel through a normal filter. This is not possible with normal measures / calculations. The solution is to create a measure dimension with one member for each measure. Expose a single measure in your measure group (I frequently use “Value”) that you assign the correct measure to in your MDX script / DAX calculation based on the member selected in the measure dimension. The most frequently used measure should be the default member for this dimension. By doing this you not only give the users what they want, but you also simplify a lot of calculation logic such as the next example.
            • Almost all data models require various date related calculations such as year to date, same period last year, etc. It is not uncommon to have more than thirty such calculations. To manage this effectively create a separate date calculation dimension with one member for each calculation. Do your time based calculations based on what is selected in the time calculation dimension. If you implemented the construct in the previous example this can be done generically for all measures that you have in your measure dimension. Here is an example for how to do it tabular. For dimensional use the time intelligence wizard to get you started.

            #17: Consider creating separate ad-hoc and reporting cubes

            Analysis Services data models can become very complex. Fifteen to twenty dimensions connected to five to ten fact tables is not uncommon. Additionally various analysis and reporting constructs (such as a time calculation dimensions) can make a model difficult for end users to understand. There are a couple of features that help reduce this complexity such as perspectives, role security and default members (at least for dimensional) but often the complexity is so ingrained in the model that it is difficult to simplify by just hiding measures / attributes / dimensions from users. This is especially true if you use a “reporting cube” which I talked about in tip #16. You also need to consider the performance aspect of exposing a large, complex model to end user ad-hoc queries. This can very quickly go very wrong. So my advice is that you consider creating a separate model for end users to query directly. This model may reduce complexity in a variety of ways:

            • Coarser grain (Ex: Monthly numbers not daily).
            • Less data (Ex: Only last two years, not since the beginning of time).
            • Fewer dimensions and facts.
            • Be targeted at a specific business process (Use perspectives if this the only thing you need).
            • Simpler or omitted reporting dimensions.

            Ideally your ad-hoc model should run on its own hardware. Obviously this will add both investment and operational costs to your project but will be well worth it when the alternative is an unresponsive model.

            #18: Learn .NET

            A surprisingly high number of BI consultants I have met over the years do not know how to write code. I am not talking about HTML or SQL here but “real” code in a programming language. While we mostly use graphical interfaces when we build BI solutions the underlying logic is still based on programming principles. If you don’t get these, you will be far less productive with the graphical toolset. More importantly .Net is widely used in Microsoft based solutions as “glue” or to extend the functionality of the core products. This is especially true for SSIS projects where you quite frequently have to implement logic in scripts written in C# or VB.net but also applies to most components in the MS BI stack. They all have rich API’s that can be used for extending their functionality and integrating them into solutions.

            #19: Design your solution to utilize Data Quality Services

            I have yet to encounter an organization where data quality has not been an issue. Even if you have a single data source you will probably run into problems with data quality. Data quality is a complex subject. Its expensive to monitor and expensive to fix. So you might as well be proactive from the get-go. Data Quality Services is available in the BI and Enterprise versions of SQL Server. It allows you to define rules for data quality and monitor your data for conformance to these rules. It even comes with SSIS components so you can integrate it with your overall ETL process. You should include this in the design stage of your ETL solution because implementing it in hindsight will be quite costly as it directly affects the data flow of your solution.

            #20: Avoid SSAS unknown members

            Aside from the slight overhead they cause when processing, having unknown members means that your underlying data model has issues. Fix them there and not in the data model.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7845
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            My 30 tips for building a Microsoft BI solution, Part III: Tips 11-15
            #11: Manage your own surrogate keys. In SQL Server it is common to use an INT or BIGINT set as IDENTITY to create unique, synthetic keys. The number is a sequence and a new value is generated when we execute an insert. There are some issues with this. Quite often we need this value in our Integration Services solution to do logging and efficient loads of the data warehouse (there will be a separate tip on this). This means that sometimes we need the value before an insert and sometimes after. You can obtain the last value generated by issuing a SCOPE_IDENTITY command but this will require an extra trip to the server per row flowing through your pipeline. Obtaining the value before an insert happens is not possible in a safe way. A better option is to generate the keys yourself through a…

            #11: Manage your own surrogate keys.

            In SQL Server it is common to use an INT or BIGINT set as IDENTITY to create unique, synthetic keys. The number is a sequence and a new value is generated when we execute an insert. There are some issues with this. Quite often we need this value in our Integration Services solution to do logging and efficient loads of the data warehouse (there will be a separate tip on this). This means that sometimes we need the value before an insert and sometimes after. You can obtain the last value generated by issuing a SCOPE_IDENTITY command but this will require an extra trip to the server per row flowing through your pipeline. Obtaining the value before an insert happens is not possible in a safe way. A better option is to generate the keys yourself through a script component. Google for “ssis surrogate key” and you will find a lot of examples.

            #12: Excel should be your default front-end tool.

            I know this is a little bit controversial. Some say Excel lacks the power of a “real” BI tool. Others say it writes inefficient queries. But hear me out. Firstly, if you look at where Microsoft is making investments in the BI stack, Excel is right up there at the top. Contrast that to what they are doing with PerformancePoint and Reporting Services and its pretty clear that Excel is the most future proof of the lot. Microsoft have added lot of BI features over the last couple of releases and continue to expand it through new add-ins such as data explorer and geoflow. Additionally, the integration with SharePoint gets tighter and tighter. The Excel web client of SharePoint 2013 is pretty on par with the fat Excel client when it comes to BI functionality. This means that you can push out the new features to users who have not yet upgraded to the newer versions of Excel. When it comes to the efficiency with which Excel queries SSAS a lot has become better. But being a general analysis tool it will never be able to optimize its queries as you would if you wrote them specifically for a report.Please note that I am saying “default” not “best”. Of course there are better, pure bred, Business Intelligence front-ends out there. Some of them even have superior integration with SSAS. But its hard to beat the cost-value ratio of Excel if you are already running a Microsoft shop. If you add in the fact that many managers and knowledge workers already do a lot of work in Excel and know the tool well the equation becomes even more attractive.

            #13: Hug an infrastructure expert that knows BI workloads.

            Like most IT solutions, Microsoft BI solutions are only as good as the hardware and server configurations they run on. Getting this right is very difficult and requires deep knowledge in operating systems, networks, physical hardware, security and the software that is going to run on these foundations. To make matters worse, BI solutions have workloads that often differ fundamentally from line of business applications in the way they access system resources and services. If you work with a person that knows both of these aspects you should give him or her a hug every day because they are a rare breed. Typically BI consultants know a lot about the characteristics of BI workloads but nothing about how to configure hardware and software to support these. Infrastructure consultants on the other hand know a lot about hardware and software but nothing about the specific ways BI solutions access these. Here are three examples: Integration Services is mainly memory constrained. It is very efficient at processing data as a stream as long as there is enough memory for it. The instant it runs out of memory and starts swapping to disk you will see a dramatic decrease in performance. So if you are doing heavy ETL, co-locating this with other memory hungry services on the same infrastructure is probably a bad idea. The other example is the way data is loaded and accessed in data warehouses. Unlike business systems that often do random data access (“Open the customer card for Henry James”) data warehouses are sequential. Batches of transactions are loaded into the warehouse and data is retrieved by reports / analysis services models in batches. This has a significant impact on how you should balance the hardware and configuration of your SQL Server database engine and differs fundamentally from how you handle workloads from business applications. The last example may sound extreme but is something I have encountered multiple times. When businesses outsource their infrastructure to a third party they give up some of the control and knowledge in exchange for an ability to “focus on their core business”. This is a good philosophy with real value. Unfortunately if you do not have anyone on the requesting side of this partnership that knows what to ask for when ordering infrastructure for your BI project what you get can be pretty far off from what you need. Recently a client of mine made such a request for a SQL Server based data warehouse server. The hosting partner followed their SLA protocol and supplied a high availability configuration with a mandatory full recovery model for all databases. You can imagine the exploding need for disk space for the transaction logs when loading batches of 20 million rows each night. As these examples illustrate, it is critical for a successful BI implementation to have people with infrastructure competency on your BI team that also understand how BI solutions differ from “traditional” business solutions and can apply the right infrastructure configurations.

            #14: Use Team Foundation Server for your BI projects too.

            A couple of years ago putting Microsoft BI projects under source control was a painful experience where the benefits drowned in a myriad of technical issues. This has improved a lot. Most BI artifacts now integrate well with TFS and BI teams can greatly benefit from all the functionality provided by the product such as source control, issue tracking and reporting. Especially for larger projects with multiple developers working against the same solution TFS is the way to go in order to be able to work effectively in parallel. As an added benefit you will sleep better at night knowing that you can roll back that dodgy check-in you performed a couple of hours ago. With that said there are still issues with the TFS integration. SSAS data source views are a constant worry as are server and database roles. But all of this (including workarounds) is pretty well documented online.

            #15: Enforce your attribute relationships.

            This is mostly related to SSAS dimensional but you should also keep it in mind when working with tabular. Attribute relationships define how attributes of a dimension relate to each other (roll up into each other). For example would products roll up into product subgroups which would again roll into product groups. This is a consequence of the denormalization process many data warehouse models go through where complex relationships are flattened out into wide dimension tables. These relationships should be definied in SSAS to boost general performance. The magic best-practice analyzer built into data tools makes sure you remember this with its blue squiggly lines. Usually it takes some trial and error before you get it right but in the end you are able to process your dimension without those duplicate attribute key errors. If you still don’t know what I am talking about look it up online such as here. So far so good. Problems start arising when these attribute relationships are not enforced in your data source, typically a data warehouse. Continuing with the example from earlier over time you might get the same product subgroup referencing different product groups (“parents”). This is not allowed and will cause a processing of the dimension to fail in SSAS (those pesky duplicate key errors). To handle this a bit more gracefully than simply leaving your cube(s) in an unprocessed state (with the angry phone calls this brings with it) you should enforce the relationship at the ETL level, in Integration Services. When loading a dimension you should reject / handle cases where these relationships are violated and notify someone that this happened. The process should make sure that the integrity of the model is maintained by assigning “violators” to a special member of the parent attribute that marks it as “suspect”. In this way your cubes can still be processed while highlighting data that needs attention.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7845
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            My 30 tips for building a Microsoft BI solution, Part II: Tips 6-10
            # 6: Use a framework for your Integration Services solution(s) because data is evil I know how it is. You may have started your ETL project using the SQL Server import / export wizard or you may have done a point integration of a couple of tables through data tools. You might even have built an entire solution from the ground up and been pretty sure that you thought of everything. You most likely have not. Data is a tricky thing. So tricky in fact that I over the years have built up an almost paranoid distrust against it. The only sure thing I can say is that it will change (both intentionally and unintentionally) over time and your meticulously crafted solution will fail. Best case scenario is that it simply will stop working. Worst case scenario is that this error / these errors have…

            # 6: Use a framework for your Integration Services solution(s) because data is evil

            I know how it is. You may have started your ETL project using the SQL Server import / export wizard or you may have done a point integration of a couple of tables through data tools. You might even have built an entire solution from the ground up and been pretty sure that you thought of everything. You most likely have not. Data is a tricky thing. So tricky in fact that I over the years have built up an almost paranoid distrust against it. The only sure thing I can say is that it will change (both intentionally and unintentionally) over time and your meticulously crafted solution will fail. Best case scenario is that it simply will stop working. Worst case scenario is that this error / these errors have not caused a failure technically but have done faulty insert / update / delete operations against your data warehouse for months. This is not discovered until you have a very angry business manager on the line who has been doing erroneous reporting up the corporate chain for months. This is the most likely scenario. A good framework should have functionality for recording data lineage (what has changed) and the ability to gracefully handle technical errors. It won’t prevent these kinds of errors from happening but it will help you recover from them a lot faster. For inspiration read The Data Warehouse ETL Toolkit.

            #7: Use a framework for your Integration Services solution(s) to maintain control and boost productivity

            Integration Services is a powerful ETL tool that can handle almost any data integration challenge you throw at it. To achieve this it has to be very flexible. Like many of Microsoft’s products its very developer oriented. The issue with this is that there are as many ways of solving a problem as there are Business Intelligence consultants on a project. By implementing a SSIS framework (and sticking with it!) you ensure that the solution handles similar problems in similar ways. So when the lead developer gets hit by that bus you can put another consultant on the project who only needs to be trained on the framework to be productive. A framework will also boost productivity. The up-front effort of coding it, setting it up and forcing your team to use it is dwarfed by the benefits of templates, code reuse and shared functionality. Again, read The Data Warehouse ETL Toolkit for inspiration.

            #8: Test and retest your calculations.

            Come into the habit of testing your MDX and DAX calculations as soon as possible. Ideally this should happen as soon as you finish a calculation, scope statement, etc. Both MDX and DAX get complicated really fast and unless you are a Chris Webb you will loose track pretty quickly of dependencies and why numbers turn out as they do. Test your statements in isolation and the solution as a whole and verify that everything works correctly. Also these things can have a severe performance impact so remember to clear the analysis services cache and do before and after testing (even if you have cache warmer). Note that clearing the cache means different things to tabular and dimensional as outlined here.

            #9: Partition your data and align it from the ground up.

            Note that you need the enterprise version of SQL Server for most of this. If you have large data sets you should design your solution from the ground up to utilize partitioning. You will see dramatic performance benefits from aligning your partitions all the way from your SSIS process to your Analysis Services cubes / tabular models. Alignment means that if you partition your relational fact table by month and year, you should do the same for your analysis services measure group / tabular table. Your SSIS solution should also be partition-aware to maximize its throughput by exploiting your partitioning scheme.

            #10: Avoid using the built-in Excel provider in Integration Services.

            I feel a bit sorry for the Excel provider. It knows that people seeing it will think “Obviously I can integrate Excel data with my SSIS solution, its a MS product and MS knows that much of our data is in Excel”. The problem is that Excel files are inherently unstructured. So for all but the simplest Excel workbooks the provider will struggle to figure out what data to read. Work around this by either exporting your Excel data to flat files or look at some third party providers.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7845
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            My 30 tips for building a Microsoft BI solution, Part I: Tips 1-5
            Having worked with Microsoft BI for more than a decade now here are the top 30 things I wished I knew before starting development of a solution. These are not general BI project recommendations such as “listen to the business” or “build incrementally” but specific lessons I have learned (more often than not the hard way) designing and implementing Microsoft based Business Intelligence solutions. So here are the first five: #1: Have at least one SharePoint expert on the team. The vast majority of front-end BI tools from Microsoft are integrated with SharePoint. In fact, some of them only exist in SharePoint (for instance PerformancePoint). This means that if you want to deliver Business Intelligence with a Microsoft solution, you will probably deliver a lot of it through SharePoint. And…

            Having worked with Microsoft BI for more than a decade now here are the top 30 things I wished I knew before starting development of a solution. These are not general BI project recommendations such as “listen to the business” or “build incrementally” but specific lessons I have learned (more often than not the hard way) designing and implementing Microsoft based Business Intelligence solutions. So here are the first five:

            #1: Have at least one SharePoint expert on the team.

            The vast majority of front-end BI tools from Microsoft are integrated with SharePoint. In fact, some of them only exist in SharePoint (for instance PerformancePoint). This means that if you want to deliver Business Intelligence with a Microsoft solution, you will probably deliver a lot of it through SharePoint. And make no mistake: SharePoint is very complex. You have farms, site collections, lists, services, applications, security… the list goes on and on. To make matters worse you may have to integrate your solution with an already existing SharePoint portal. There is a reason there are professional SharePoint consultants around, so use them.

            #2: Do not get too excited about Visio integration with Analysis Services.

            Yes, you can query and visualize Analysis Services data in Visio. You may have seen the supply chain demo from Microsoft which looks really flashy. You might think about a hundred cool visualizations you could do. Before you spend any time on this or start designing your solution to utilize it, try out the feature. While its a great feature, it requires a lot of work to implement (at least for anything more than trivial). Also, it (currently) only supports some quite specific reporting scenarios (think decomposition trees).

            #3: Carefully consider when to use Reporting Services.

            Reporting Services is a great report authoring environment. It allows you to design and publish pixel perfect reports with lots of interactivity. It also provides valuable services such as caching, subscriptions and alerts. This comes at a cost though. The effort needed to create SSRS reports is quite high and needs a specialized skill set. This is no end user tool. There are also issues with certain data providers (especially Analysis Services). But if you need any combination of multiple report formats , high scalability (caching, scale-out), subscriptions or alerts, you should seriously consider Reporting Services.

            #4: Use Nvarchar / unicode strings throughout the solution.

            Unless you live in the US (and are pretty damn sure you will never have “international data”) use unicode. Granted, varchars are more efficient but you do not want to deal with collations / codepages. Ever. Remember this is not only an issue with the database engine but also with other services such as Integration Services.

            #5: Check if it exists on codeplex.

            Do not build anything before you have checked codeplex. Chances are someone has already done the same or something similar that can be tweaked. If you are skeptical of including “foreign” code in your solution (like me) use the codeplex code as a cheat-sheet and build your own based on it. There is a lot stuff there including SSAS stored procedures, SSIS components and frameworks and much more.

            Disclosure: The company I work for is a Microsoft Partner
            [Syndicated from www.peterkollerbi.wordpress.com]

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7683
            Head of Data Analytics with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Why would you choose Microsoft as your BI platform?
            This morning I was on the train going to a briefing session and I was compelled to look again at the Gartner Magic Quadrant paper on BI – in the same way as mid-exam you might go back and look at the question to make sure you are answering it. Here are the things I pulled out for my slides. You might find them useful. I see Gartner as the arbiters of good-taste in matters informatics. They explain the market and solutions, they rate vendors and they offer thought-provoking insight to people making technology choices – whether you are buying or making. I love ‘em. I’m making no apologies for my promotion of Microsoft. I believe it to be the most complete in terms of the company’s vision, the easiest to execute and I buy into the visionaries in Redmond and beyond (especially Cambridge in…

            This morning I was on the train going to a briefing session and I was compelled to look again at the Gartner Magic Quadrant paper on BI – in the same way as mid-exam you might go back and look at the question to make sure you are answering it. Here are the things I pulled out for my slides. You might find them useful.

            I see Gartner as the arbiters of good-taste in matters informatics. They explain the market and solutions, they rate vendors and they offer thought-provoking insight to people making technology choices – whether you are buying or making. I love ‘em. I’m making no apologies for my promotion of Microsoft. I believe it to be the most complete in terms of the company’s vision, the easiest to execute and I buy into the visionaries in Redmond and beyond (especially Cambridge in the UK) as Microsoft tries to lead the market. I bet my house on this a few years ago and I still live there. Phew.

            Thinking about what BI is. It’s really about getting people with the right tools for their job to work effectively and collaboratively in managing the flow of information across an integrated infrastructure (so the flow doesn’t break), an integrated data architecture (so that when you blend the liquids flowing through the pipes they taste nice), without IT being constantly in their homes / offices / cars / clients houses. It’s about delivering the information to people who need it to make good business and clinical decisions in the right way at the right time. It’s about being able to find information and getting information to find me – I want to hear the erudite information shouting loudest at me amid the tumult of data chatter. It’s about the information being structured so that I can plug tools into it and predictive model, run SPC and do all the other things that I want to do in order to improve the safety, quality and cost-effectiveness of my services.

            The Microsoft stack does this for me – see previous posts. This is recognised. Gartner points out that the Microsoft solution set is wide in scope – there is something in the toolset for everyone, however the set is integrated and so it works. See my article on why you wouldn’t buy reporting solutions for example – in and of themselves they don’t solve your problems.

            Clearly the Microsoft Bi stack is designed with Gartner’s feedback in mind, he said smilingly, as we can directly map what they have done, to the above description of good BI.

            Microsoft BI is recognised as being wide in scope and deep in functionality so that it ticks all of the above boxes and the UI has something in it for everyone in terms of the abilities of the combined tools to enable access to data. Some might say they have too many tools – see previous post – however the partner eco-system of people like us in Ascribe should be able to line up features and functions to roles and so that shouldn’t be a concern. The eco-system is actually another reason why people buy Microsoft. As the technology giant creates a giant platform niche (and even scale) vendors build targeted solutions on the platform – which is why it’s as good for banks as it is for hospitals. Giants feed themselves on R&D and Redmond leads the biggest R&D budget in the world which means the platform that Ascribe work upon is always the best. The scale makes it cheap – particularly if you invest in Microsoft across your enterprise and then sweat BI out of the asset with marginal cost. You can also use a range of resources to help, whether its software vendors with Microsoft powered software or consultancies who configure BI solutions or contractors or your own staff. Finally there is the architecture. The software is designed to align with industry standard methodologies such as Agile, so you can build solutions quickly, and Kimball so you can have a concrete data management strategy but a rubber implementation plan. Thanks Simon M for the concrete and rubber….

            The other big play is cloud – I’ll post on that later. All in all then it’s easy to see why I bought into the platform, as the foundation to my business. It should have clear benefits for you too.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7683
            Head of Data Analytics with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Does Microsoft Have Too Many BI Products?
            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…

            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.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            BI Expert with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            We’ve Got The Power: “Power BI”, New Microsoft BI Suite Announced
            Power BI: a new suite of Business Intelligence tools Over the past few months, teams at Microsoft have made several new Business Intelligence tools available for preview; some only privately and some to the public.  The entire suite will soon be available for either public preview or release under the new name: “Power BI”.  All of the components of Power BI are listed below but the big news is a new hosted offering called “Power BI for Office 365” and “Power BI Sites”.  The announcement was made at the Worldwide Partner Conference this week.  Users can sign-up to be notified when the new offerings are available for general availability, apparently in the very near future.  I’ve had an opportunity to work with early, pre-released versions and it has been interesting to see the gaps…

            Power BI: a new suite of Business Intelligence tools

            Over the past few months, teams at Microsoft have made several new Business Intelligence tools available for preview; some only privately and some to the public.  The entire suite will soon be available for either public preview or release under the new name: “Power BI”.  All of the components of Power BI are listed below but the big news is a new hosted offering called “Power BI for Office 365” and “Power BI Sites”.  The announcement was made at the Worldwide Partner Conference this week.  Users can sign-up to be notified when the new offerings are available for general availability, apparently in the very near future.  I’ve had an opportunity to work with early, pre-released versions and it has been interesting to see the gaps being filled a little at a time.  On the heals of the new suite, some of the names of existing products are also being changed.  It’s hard to have a conversation about the collection of Microsoft’s “Power”/”Pivot”/”Point”…named tools and not get tongue twisted but these changes bring more consistency.

            Bottom line: this is good news and a promising step forward – especially for smaller businesses.  Larger, enterprise customers should know that this move is consistent with Microsoft’s “cloud first” philosophy and these capabilities are being introduced through Office365/Azure platform with required connectivity.  Read the commentary on community leaders’ sites below.  I have no doubt that there will be a lot of discussion on this in the weeks to come with more announcements from Microsoft in the near future.

            Power BI for Office 365 and Power BI Sites

            When Power View was released with SQL Server 2012 Enterprise and Business Intelligence Editions, it was available only when integrated with SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition.  This is a good solution for enterprise customers but it was complex and expensive for some to get started.  Power View was also offered only as a Silverlight application that wouldn’t work on many mobile devices and web browsers.  For this reason, Power View has really been viewed as a “Microsoft only” tool and only for big companies with deep pockets and very capable IT support groups.  Even the new Power View add-in for Excel 2013 ProPlus Edition requires Silverlight which is not a show-stopper for most folks but a hindrance for multi-platform and tablet users.  This all changes with this new offering as the Power View visualization tool in the hosted product come in 3 new flavors: native Windows 8 app (runs on desktop, Surface RT & Pro), native iOS (targeting the iPad) and HTML5 (works on practically any newer device).  This means that when you open a Power View report on your Surface or iPad, it can run as an installed app with all the cool pinch-zoom and gestures you’ve come to expect on a tablet device.  For now, this is good news for the cloud user as no on-premises option is currently available.  An interesting new edition will be the introduction of a semantic translation engine for natural language queries, initially for English.

            Power Query

            Formerly known as “Data Explorer”, this add-in for Excel 2013 allows you to discover and integrate data into Excel.  Think of it as intelligent, personal ETL with specialized tools to pivot, transform and cleanse data obtained from web-based HTML tables and data feeds.

            Power Map

            This Excel 2013 ProPlus add-in, which was previously known as “GeoFlow”, uses advanced 3-D imaging to plot data points on a global rendering of Bing Maps.  Each data point can be visualized as a column, stacked column or heat map point positioned using latitude & longitude, named map location or address just like you would in a Bing Maps search.  You can plot literally thousands of points and then tour the map with the keyboard, mouse or touch gestures to zoom and navigate the globe.  A tour can be created, recorded and then played back.  Aside from the immediate cool factor of this imagery, this tool has many practical applications.

            Power Pivot

            The be reveal is that “PowerPivot” shall now be known as “Power Pivot”.  Note, the space added so that the name is consistent with the other applications.  We all know and love this tool, an add-in for Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 ProPlus (two different versions with some different features) that allow large volumes of related, multi-table data sources to be imported into an in-memory semantic model with sophisticated calculations.  On a well-equipped computer, this means that a model could contain tens of millions of rows that get neatly compressed into memory and can be scanned, queried and aggregated very quickly.  Power Pivot models (stored as an Excel .xlsx file) can be uploaded to a SharePoint where they become a server-managed resource.  A Power Pivot model can also be promoted to a server-hosted SSAS Tabular model where data is not only managed and queried on an enterprise server but also takes on many of the features and capabilities of classic SSAS multidimensional database.  Whether a Power Pivot model is published to a SharePoint library or promoted to a full-fledged SSAS Tabular model, the data can be queried by any client tool as if it were an Analysis Services cube.

            Power View

            For now, Power View in Excel 2013 ProPlus and Power View in SharePoint 2010 Enterprise and SharePoint 2013 Enterprise remain the same – the Silverlight-based drag-and-drop visual analytic tool.  With the addition of SQL Server 2012 CU4, Power View in SharePoint can be used with SharePoint published Power Pivot models, SSAS Tabular models and SSAS Multidimensional “cube” models.  There has been no news yet about a non-Silverlight replacement for the on-premise version of Power View.  The Microsoft teams and leadership have heard the requests and feedback, loud-and-clear, from the community and we can only guess that there is more is in-the-works but I make no forecast or assumptions about the eventual availability of an on-premise offering similar to Power BI for Office 365.

            Here’s a demonstration that Amir Netz did of the new Power BI features at the World Wide Partner Conference this week

            Additional thoughts and information from the community can be found at:

            Chris Webb: Some Thoughts About Power BI

            Andrew Brust: Microsoft Announces Power BI for Office 365

            SQL Server Blog: Introducing Power BI for Office 365

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            BI Expert with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Taking the Tabular Journey
            A Getting-Started and Survival Guide for planning, designing and building Tabular Semantic Models with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services. by Paul Turley This post will be unique in that it will be a living document that will be updated and expanded over time.  I will also post-as-I-go on the site about other things but this particular post will live for a while.  I have a lot of good intentions – I know that about myself and I also know that the best way to get something done is to get it started – especially if I’m too busy with work and projects.  If it’s important, the “completing” part can happen later.  In the case of this post, I’ll take care of building it as I go, topic by topic.  Heck, maybe it will never be “finished” but then are we ever really done with IT…

            A Getting-Started and Survival Guide for planning, designing and building Tabular Semantic Models with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services.

            by Paul Turley

            This post will be unique in that it will be a living document that will be updated and expanded over time.  I will also post-as-I-go on the site about other things but this particular post will live for a while.  I have a lot of good intentions – I know that about myself and I also know that the best way to get something done is to get it started – especially if I’m too busy with work and projects.  If it’s important, the “completing” part can happen later.  In the case of this post, I’ll take care of building it as I go, topic by topic.  Heck, maybe it will never be “finished” but then are we ever really done with IT business solutions?  I have been intending to get started on this topic for quite some time but in my very busy project schedule lately, didn’t have a concise message for a post – but I do have a lot to say about creating and using tabular models.

            I’ve added some place-holder topic headers for some things that are on my mind.  This list is inspired by a lot of the questions my consulting customers, students, IT staff members and business users have asked me on a regular basis.  This will motivate me to come back and finish them and for you to come back and read them.  I hope that you will post comments about your burning questions, issues and ideas for related topics to cover in this living post about tabular model design practices and recommendations.

             

            Why Tabular?

            SQL Server Analysis Services is a solid and mature platform that now serves as the foundation for two different implementations.  Multidimensional models are especially suited for large volumes of dimensionally-structured data that have additive measure values that sum-up along related dimensional attributes & hierarchies.  

            By design, tabular architecture is more flexible than multidimensional in a number of scenarios.  Tabular also works well with dimensional data structures but also works well in cases where the structure of the data doesn’t resemble a traditional star or snowflake of fact and dimension tables.  When I started using PowerPivot and tabular SSAS projects, I insisted on transforming data into star schemas like I’ve always done before building a cube.  In many cases, I still do because it’s easier to design a predictable model that performs well and is easy for users to navigate.  A dimensional model has order and disciple however, the data is not always shaped this way and it can take a lot of effort to force it into that structure.

            Tabular is fast for not only additive, hierarchal structured data but in many cases, it works well with normalized and flattened data as long as all the data fits into memory and the model is designed to support simple relationships and calculations that take advantage of the function engine and VertiPaq compression and query engine.  It’s actually pretty easy to make tabular do silly, inefficient things but it’s also not very hard to make it work really well, either.

            James Serra has done a nice job of summarizing the differences between the two choices and highlighted the strengths and comparative weaknesses of each in his April 4 blog post titled SQL Server 2012: Multidimensional vs Tabular.  James points out that tabular models can be faster and easier to design and deploy, and that they concisely perform well without giving them a lot of extra attention for tuning and optimization.  Honestly, there isn’t that much to maintain and a lot of the tricks we use to make cubes perform better (like measure group partitioning, aggregation design, strategic aggregation storage, usage-base optimization, proactive caching and cache-warming queries) are simply unnecessary. Most of these options don’t really exist in the tabular world.  We do have partitions in tabular models but they’re really just for ease of design.

             

            What About Multidimensional – Will Tabular Replace It?

            The fact is the multidimensional databases (which most casual SSAS users refer to as “cubes”) will be supported for years to come.  The base architecture for SSAS OLAP/UDM/Multidimensional is about 13 years old since Microsoft originally acquired a product code base from Panorama and then went on to enhance and then rewrite the engine over the years as it has matured.  In the view of many industry professionals, this is still the more complete and feature-rich product.

            Both multi and tabular have some strengths and weaknesses today and one is not clearly superior to the other.  In many cases, tabular performs better and models are more simple to design and use but the platform is lacking equivalent commands and advanced capabilities.  In the near future, the tabular product may inherit all of the features of its predecessor and the choice may become more clear; or, perhaps a hybrid product will emerge.

             

            Isn’t a Tabular Model Just Another Name for a Cube?

            No.  …um, Yes.  …well, sort of.  Here’s the thing:  The term “cube” has become a defacto term used by many to describe the general concept of a semantic model.  Technically, the term “cube” defines a multidimensional structure that stores data in hierarchies of multi-level attributes and pre-calculated aggregate measure values at the intersect points between all those dimensions and at strategic points between many of the level members in-between.  It’s a cool concept and an an even cooler technology but most people who aren’t close to this product don’t understand all that.  Users just know that it works somehow but they’re often confused by some of the fine points… like the difference between hierarchies and levels.  One has an All member and one doesn’t but they both have all the other members.  It makes sense when you understand the architecture but it’s just weird behavior for those who don’t.

            Since the tabular semantic model is actually Analysis Services with a single definition of object metadata, certain client tools will continue to treat the model as a cube, even though it technically isn’t.  A tabular Analysis Services database contains some tables that serve the same purpose as measure groups in multidimensional semantic models.  The rest of the tables are exposed as dimensions in the same way that cube dimensions exists in multidimensional.  If a table in a tabular model includes both measures and attribute fields, in certain client tools like Excel, it will show up twice in the model; once as a measure group table and once as a dimension table.

            (more to come)

             

            Preparing Data for a Tabular Model

             

            Data Modeling 101 for Tabular Models

             

            Are There Rules for Tabular Model Design?

             

            Tabular Model Design Checklist

             

            What’s the Difference Between Calculated Columns & Measures?

             

            What are the Naming Conventions for Tabular Model Objects?

             

            What’s the Difference Between PowerPivot and Tabular Models?

             

            How to Promote a Business-created PowerPivot Model to an IT-managed SSAS Tabular Model

             

            Getting Started with DAX Calculations

             

            DAX: Essential Concepts

             

            DAX: Some of the Most Useful Functions

             

            DAX: Some of the Most Interesting Functions

             

            Using DAX to Solve real-World Business Scenarios

             

            Do I Write MDX or DAX Queries to Report on Tabular Data?

             

            Can I Use Reporting Services with Tabular & PowerPivot Models?

             

            Do We Need to Have SharePoint to Use Tabular Models?

             

            What Do You Teach Non-technical Business Users About PowerPivot and Tabular Models?

             

            What’s the Best IT Tool for Reporting on Tabular Models?

             

            What’s the Best Business User Tool for Browsing & Analyzing Business Data with Tabular Models?

             

            Survival Tips for Using the Tabular Model Design Environment

             

            How Do You Design a Tabular Model for a Large Volume of Data?

             

            How Do You Secure a Tabular Model?

             

            How to Deploy and Manage a Tabular Model SSAS Database

             

            Tabular Model Common Errors and Remedies

             

            Tabular Model, Workspace and Database Recovery Techniques

             

            Scripting Tabular Model Measures

             

            Simplifying and Automating Tabular Model Design Tasks
            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7683
            Head of Data Analytics with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            How does the Microsoft stack help me drive BI adoption?
            You drive adoption of BI through three approaches; firstly you set adoption as a goal, secondly you make your content compelling and ONLY THIRDLY do you think about tools.  Too many people focus on item 3 and their BI doesn’t penetrate the organisation like they wanted it to and therefore doesn’t deliver the benefits they sought. It may sound strange to set adoption as a goal, however we have all worked in organisations that have taken an IT-led or procurement-led approach to BI without sitting back and working out what the BI is for.  In the NHS we have a lot of BI projects that work like that.  The goal might be to recreate the old reports on a new platform that looks more shiney and therefore will be used.  The goal might be to implement something the CEO saw at a trade fair.…

            You drive adoption of BI through three approaches; firstly you set adoption as a goal, secondly you make your content compelling and ONLY THIRDLY do you think about tools.  Too many people focus on item 3 and their BI doesn’t penetrate the organisation like they wanted it to and therefore doesn’t deliver the benefits they sought.

            It may sound strange to set adoption as a goal, however we have all worked in organisations that have taken an IT-led or procurement-led approach to BI without sitting back and working out what the BI is for.  In the NHS we have a lot of BI projects that work like that.  The goal might be to recreate the old reports on a new platform that looks more shiney and therefore will be used.  The goal might be to implement something the CEO saw at a trade fair.  Sometimes the goal might be to implement something that should deliver a performance framework (people, processes and technologies) that will show how a division is making a contribution to a national strategic agenda, local operations or delivery of service line responsibilities.

            When you get into this area you are starting down the right road but the wheels come off if this top-level intention is not enshrined in operational delivery methods.

            I often meet organisations that bought a reporting solution because they were going to implement service line reporting.  There is a particular reporting application vendor that is doing quite well out of this trend just now, with a high number of wins but a questionable level of adoption.  Their software looks cool. It has in-memory BI and therefore you can get going with it pretty quickly.  The licensing model means it is quite attractive for PoC work.  Moreover the pitch really talks to the value of self-service BI as an enabler of behavioural change and therefore performance improvement.

            Obviously I am not talking about the Microsoft stack here.

            Contrast this with the perception of the Microsoft stack, though, for a minute.  Enterprise-class solution, feature rich and therefore perceived as expensive, not nimble and therefore not suited to quick PoC work – often we here this story.  Not true, my friends.  Not true.  We have done a fair few PoCs on the platform and scaled them out quickly and relatively inexpensively – so it can be done.  But in terms of this blog the point is that the reporting solution I was talking about is very costly to scale and therefore that is a barrier to adoption.

            So, we agree.  The best way to achieve adoption is to set it is a target and focus on delivery.  Put information in the hands of decision makers and they will make better decisions – give them a shiney tool and they may or may not.

            The key point is achieving the link between the evidence and the decision – in other words creating compelling content.  Compelling content will provide decision-makers with what they feel they need in order to do their job.  It’s not difficult to understand that.  I favour the agile software development approach of collecting a user story, such as:

            As A I want to So that
            Theatre scheduler
            • Prevent session over-runs
            • Monitor session utilisation
            • Help Consultants keep their log book of work done in theatre
            •  Sessions do not cost more money than they should
            •   The available time is used to treat the most patients, to the highest   quality, in a way that maximises Trust revenue
            •   I can help them with their professional development

            This tells me what the Theatre Scheduler considers to be compelling so that I can work out the data he needs (session times, staff, work done etc) and then how to render it in the fewest clicks.

            After all that I can then worry about tools……guess which ones I would use blog-readers!

            Disclosure: The company I work for is a Microsoft Partner

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7680
            Director of Data Analytics at a tech company with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Microsoft BI on iPad
            I know that Microsoft have promised that they will be playing catch up later this year in terms of Mobile BI, and for sure they need to. Offerings available right now from the likes of Cognos, QlikView, Business Objects and Microstrategy (current personal favourite) far outstrip what you can do with the current Microsoft stack. But what does work? Well, from what I can see, anything Sliverlight based is out, so that rules out PowerView and Decomp Trees in PPS. It seems that most of the other things work though, so there’s much you can still do. Having managed to blag a company iPad in my new role as Reporting & Analytics lead, I figured I’d hook it up to the MSFT 2008R2 demo server I built that currently hosts some of Logica’s Spark Centre demos. Having installed Junos Pulse, a VPN…

            I know that Microsoft have promised that they will be playing catch up later this year in terms of Mobile BI, and for sure they need to. Offerings available right now from the likes of Cognos, QlikView, Business Objects and Microstrategy (current personal favourite) far outstrip what you can do with the current Microsoft stack. But what does work?

            Well, from what I can see, anything Sliverlight based is out, so that rules out PowerView and Decomp Trees in PPS. It seems that most of the other things work though, so there’s much you can still do.

            Having managed to blag a company iPad in my new role as Reporting & Analytics lead, I figured I’d hook it up to the MSFT 2008R2 demo server I built that currently hosts some of Logica’s Spark Centre demos. Having installed Junos Pulse, a VPN app that allows me to securely connect to my work network, I found that the Sharepoint “pretend Telco” site renders quite well on the iPad.

            Firstly, I checked out SSRS… There’s no right click on iPad so you need to hit the screen over any drop downs and wait a moment for the selections to pop up.

            Looks pretty good… Next was PPS – remember, no Silverlight and doesn’t look like drill downs are fully working, but still able to do things like selecting chart items, changing from chart to grid and most impressively, export to Excel and PowerPoint works just fine (providing you have an Office programme installed such as QuickOffice, Docs to Go etc). Click Export to Excel and you get a choice..

            And here’s the report in QuickOffice

            Last thing to try was Excel services. Here, the Open in Excel function does not work. Apparently, there is no fooling it in to accepting being opened in a cheap substitute ;) but the charts look OK…

            So, not perfect, but not all despair, and I’m assured that there are lots of goodies to come later in the year once the SQL2012 launch is out of the way. Still, it will need to be good to match my current favourites… If you get the chance, have a look at the Microstrategy iPad app….

            And the nice app from RoamBI

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Consultant with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Mapping Business Intelligence Developer’s Tools: Microsoft SQL server & SAP Netweaver BW
            This Post is not about Microsoft BI VS Sap BI. NO. NO. NO. Then What is it? well, I have been playing with SAP’s Netweaver BW Tools for past three months now as a part of a Business Intelligence class that’s about to conclude – Also, I have been involved with work on Microsoft’s SQL server Business Intelligence Tools. So I thought – it would be FUN to map  SAP Netweaver BW Tools (that I got to play with in an academic capacity) and Microsoft’s Business Intelligence Tools (which is currently what I am working on) – so, here you go: Tool in Microsoft BI Tool in SAP Netweaver BW ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) SAP Netweaver BW: Data Warehousing Workbench Cube SQL Server Analysis Services – Multidimensional…

            This Post is not about Microsoft BI VS Sap BI. NO. NO. NO.

            Then What is it?

            well, I have been playing with SAP’s Netweaver BW Tools for past three months now as a part of a Business Intelligence class that’s about to conclude – Also, I have been involved with work on Microsoft’s SQL server Business Intelligence Tools. So I thought – it would be FUN to map  SAP Netweaver BW Tools (that I got to play with in an academic capacity) and Microsoft’s Business Intelligence Tools (which is currently what I am working on) – so, here you go:

            Tool in Microsoft BI Tool in SAP Netweaver BW
            ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) SAP Netweaver BW: Data Warehousing Workbench
            Cube SQL Server Analysis Services – Multidimensional Mode (SSAS) SAP Netweaver BW: Data Warehousing Workbench: Modeling
            Report Design Tool and Reporting Layer(It’s not an exhaustive list and does not include third part tools)
            • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
            • Report Builder
            • Excel (Excel Services/Pivot Tables)
            • PerformancePoint
            Business Explorer (BEx):
            1. BEx Query  Designer
            2. BEx  Analyzer (Excel Add-in)
            3. BEx web Analyzer

             

            Data Mining Data Mining Projects in SQL Server Analysis Services SAP Netweaver BW: Data mining – Analysis Process Designer

            Note about SAP BusinessObjects: I mapped the Tools in Microsoft BI with the tools that I got to study in my SAP class. Then I was searching what’s the current scenario in SAP world (I know about Microsoft’s!)– I learned that SAP BI world is comprised of TOOLS in SAP Netweaver BW + SAP BusinessObjects (BO). And in the course I studied the following components of Business Objects:

            1. Web Intelligence for ad-hoc query and reporting
            2. Crystal Reports for enterprise reporting
            3. Xcelsius (BO Dashboard) for Dashboard designing

            For those interested I am also mapping few terms used while cube development in Microsoft BI and SAP Netweaver BW

            Microsoft: SSAS Multidimensional mode
            SAP Netweaver BW
            Cube InfoCubes
            Dimensions Characteristics
            Measures Key Figures
            Data Source Views (DSV’s) Data Source

            Note:

            1) I have not mapped the Tools in Self Service BI space.

            2) This comparison is not for deciding between Microsoft BI vs. SAP Netweaver BI/SAP BusinessObjects – this post is just meant for mapping tools available in Microsoft BI and SAP Netweaver BW and so if you are an expert in say Microsoft BI – this post will help you see what corresponding tool are available in SAP Netweaver BW world. Consider it as a starting guide for your research.

            3) Note the date the post was written – the name of the products may have changed in future. refer to official sites for latest & greatest!

            Thanks for reading.

            This post was republished from Mapping Business Intelligence Developer’s Tools: Microsoft SQL server & SAP Netweaver BW

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7659
            Consultant at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
            Consultant
            Report Builder … the Red-Headed Stepchild of Self-Service BI Tools?
            A conversation on Twitter earlier this week has inspired me to pose this question…Is Report Builder the “Red-Headed Stepchild” when it comes to the Microsoft Self-Service BI toolset?  Report Builder doesn’t get much attention these days, for various reasons we’ll discuss below. (Note:  The perspective of this blog entry is Self-Service BI so Report Builder is the reference – however, everything stated is applicable to full-fledged Reporting Services as well.) Is Report Builder Deprecated? Nope!  Report Models, however, are deprecated.  As of SQL Server 2012, you can no longer create or update Report Models (SMDL files).  You can continue to use Report Models currently, but it is recommended to move away from them as time allows.  Report Builder itself is at version 3.0 and is a…

            A conversation on Twitter earlier this week has inspired me to pose this question…Is Report Builder the “Red-Headed Stepchild” when it comes to the Microsoft Self-Service BI toolset?  Report Builder doesn’t get much attention these days, for various reasons we’ll discuss below.

            (Note:  The perspective of this blog entry is Self-Service BI so Report Builder is the reference – however, everything stated is applicable to full-fledged Reporting Services as well.)

            Is Report Builder Deprecated?

            Nope!  Report Models, however, are deprecated.  As of SQL Server 2012, you can no longer create or update Report Models (SMDL files).  You can continue to use Report Models currently, but it is recommended to move away from them as time allows.  Report Builder itself is at version 3.0 and is a mature product.

            Self-Service BI Tools

            The primary set of Microsoft Self-Service BI tools includes Excel (+ add-ins for data modeling such as PowerPivot), Power View, and Report Builder.  Some people actually wouldn’t include Report Builder in this list, but I do believe it has a valid place as one of the Self-Service BI tools (albeit, a smaller audience & used for specific purposes).

            Drawbacks of Report Builder

            • Learning curve / ease of use for report designer.  There are a significant number of properties and options.  This offers significant control over the output – the cost for this significant control is ease of use because all the options in Report Builder can be a bit overwhelming for the casual business user.  However, it’s not overly difficult to use for technically adept users who enjoy working with reporting tools and data.
            • Limited interactivity.  While there are some interactive features (such as drill-down, drill-through, sortable columns), each has to be explicitly defined by the report designer.  Report Builder isn’t dynamically interactive like Power View or even Excel – rather, Report Builder is far more suitable for fully formatted reporting needs.
            • Longer to develop.  There’s some things that can be done with Power View or Excel that are inherently more work to do in Report Builder.  The first example that comes to mind is hierarchies – with Power View or Excel, you drop a hierarchy onto the row & the navigation up/down works; with Report Builder you’d have to set up what is shown vs. hidden and the toggle properties.  This is not overly difficult to set up, but could be frustrating for someone just getting started with Report Builder.
            • GUI support is limited.  There is a drag & drop graphical interface for SQL Server and Analysis Services data sources (plus a couple of others).  This limited support leaves the report designer writing query syntax sometimes – which is obviously not the most user-friendly for non-technical folks.  Currently the nicest way for users to work with Report Builder is using a BISM data source (i.e., the data is stored in Analysis Services or PowerPivot).  SQL Server (relational) can be ok for users to work with if the data sources are made to be understandable & easy to work with (ex: with reporting views or stored procedures) – this takes some effort from the IT Dept. or BI Center to make sure it’s made suitable for self-service.

            Positives of Report Builder

            • Native connectivity to many data sources, including BISM.  The Microsoft BI framework is very different from other BI tools (such as Cognos or Business Objects) which require a metadata layer – i.e., a report model between the data source & the reporting tool.  Microsoft permits tremendous flexibility here – in fact, you can natively send queries from Report Builder to a variety of databases including non-Microsoft.  Power View is very limited in terms of accepted data sources, and Excel can be somewhat limited (unless you bring the data into an intermediary PowerPivot model first – PowerPivot offers great flexibility in this regard, but do realize you are storing the data redundantly). 
            • Significant formatting control.  If you need a pixel-perfect highly formatted report, Report Builder is the tool for you.  Ironically, this is the inverse of the “learning curve / ease of use” drawback listed above.  With Excel you can exercise a lot of control over the look & feel of your report (except Pivot Tables – you have to use formulas if you need to "break” out of the Pivot Table).  Power View has some text size control and some color schemes to choose from, but overall offers minimal user control over formatting (after all, it’s a data discovery tool meeting an entirely different need – and it is purposely trying to remain simple).
            • Consistent RDL file format.  If a business user starts a report in Report Builder and needs some help with it, one of the IT or BI folks can open the report using their tool of choice (BIDS or SSDT in Visual Studio), make some updates, and send it back to the user with the file format intact.  The consistent format is also helpful if a report is being promoted from the Self-Service environment to the Corporate BI environment.
            • Reusable elements.  To facilitate Self-Service BI using Report Builder, things such as shared data sources (reusable data connections) are obvious but there are others as well.  Shared datasets (reusable queries) can be really helpful to handle common things like Dates and Geography.  Report parts (reusable charts, graphs, tables) can be helpful to display commonly used elements.  Images can also be stored centrally for reuse.  Setting up reusable elements does take some effort from the IT Dept. or BI Center though, but can improve the Self-Service user’s experience tremendously.
            • Parameterization.  Reports with a number of parameters (within reason of course) can sometimes be thought of as “guided ad-hoc analysis” because one report can yield many different combinations of results depending on parameter values.  Report Builder handles parameterization well.
            • Subscriptions and alerts.  If you wish to have reports delivered to you at a predefined frequency or based upon a condition, then Reporting Services is the tool to make that happen.
            • Export and RSS capabilities.  Report Builder can export to many different file formats.  It can also publish an RSS feed – this can be very useful for a business user to consume existing aggregated/calculated data that has been rendered by Report Builder without recalculating or reinventing anything.  Utilizing published report data via RSS also helps with the elusive “one version of the truth” that’s a constant challenge.
            • Integration with SharePoint.  With a Report Builder report, you can view or edit the report directly from the SharePoint document library (with appropriate permissions of course).  Alternatively, a Report Manager portal can be used (although it would be used in isolation from other BI tools and reports).

            So, even though sometimes Report Builder seems to be the “Red-Headed Stepchild” I very much appreciate having the tool in our toolbox.  I hope it’s alive and well for a long time. 

            Got any thoughts on this subject?  Leave a comment … I’d love to hear your thoughts.

            Disclosure: The company I work for is a Microsoft Partner

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            BI Expert with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            SSAS Tabular Models: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & the Beautiful
            After working on a couple of serious tabular model projects, I’ve been talking to other BI practitioners lately about their thoughts regarding tabular model technology and I’m finding that there is little consensus among all these industry experts about which option to recommend for new BI projects.  At SolidQ, I work with some of the most experienced Business Intelligence experts in the industry.  At conferences and in discussion groups, there has been a lot of discussion about the choice between Analysis Services multidimensional models and the newer tabular semantic model technology introduced in SQL Server 2012.  There are pros and cons for either side but I think there are some important factors to consider.  Among some of the most experienced Analysis Services consultants, I have…

            After working on a couple of serious tabular model projects, I’ve been talking to other BI practitioners lately about their thoughts regarding tabular model technology and I’m finding that there is little consensus among all these industry experts about which option to recommend for new BI projects.  At SolidQ, I work with some of the most experienced Business Intelligence experts in the industry.  At conferences and in discussion groups, there has been a lot of discussion about the choice between Analysis Services multidimensional models and the newer tabular semantic model technology introduced in SQL Server 2012.  There are pros and cons for either side but I think there are some important factors to consider.  Among some of the most experienced Analysis Services consultants, I have heard that some are primarily using and recommending tabular for most new projects and others are arguing that tabular offers little significant value over the tried-and-true multidimensional cubes and MDX script solutions.

            As is typical for a newer product, the usability experience for the model designer isn’t perfect.  In some ways, it’s different and just may take some getting used to, but in other ways there is clearly room for improvement.  The question now is; do the advantages of tabular vs multidimensional outweigh the somewhat rocky design experience?  I’m not taking sides in this comparison but merely offering an objective analysis of the state of tabular model option in SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services, Service Pack 1.  I expect this product to go through changes so for future reference, this information is for the released product at the time of this posting in June of 2013.

             

            The Good

            • The core VertiPaq (or xVelocity) query and aggregation engine is stable & reliable.  Originally developed about five years ago and released with PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint in SQL Server 2008R2 over three years ago, this technology has proven to be ready for serious use.

            • Under most conditions, for analytic reporting, data scanned and aggregated from an in-memory data structure performs faster than other conventional options; including relational and multidimensional storage.

            • Tabular can be less complex than multidimensional, OLAP SSAS.  The core design and usage concepts are easier for both those who design models and for those use use them for analysis and reporting.

            • Tabular models can be easier & faster to implement because the model structure is simpler and there may be fewer steps in the design process.

            • DAX, the core calculation expression language for tabular models, is fairly easy to learn.  Fundamental DAX expression concepts can be easier to understand than equivalent MDX commands used in multidimensional modeling and calculations.

             

            The Bad 

            • Comparing features, tabular can be hard to justify when compared to multidimensional.  Traditional SSAS cubes still have more capabilities than tabular models and for someone who already has OLAP skills and background, tabular design is a new learning curve.

            • PowerPivot is a version 2 product.  As such, it’s simple and fairly reliable in the majority of design scenarios.  In some, mostly rare, cases, error handling and debugging capabilities aren’t as mature and robust as more tenured technologies like SSAS multidimensional or relational.

            • Tabular SSAS is a version 1 product.  As such, it has a list of well-known design annoyances and features that could (and should) improve in the next product go-round.

            • The recommended design patterns & best practices, both from Microsoft development and support teams and from members of the expert practitioner community,  are still emerging.                         

            • One model.bim file = one developer working at a time.  A departure from the long-time SSAS project development environment where every object (such as data sources, dimensions and cubes) were defined in isolated files managed by the project; SSAS tabular manages all of the database objects in a single model definition file.  The model designer treats the model is more of a black box than a solution comprised of independent objects.  However, the fact is that most of the same objects we work with in multidimensional/cube projects are all defined as XML elements in this file.   It can be opened and properties manipulated,and there are a growing number of third-party tools to provide enhancements.  Regardless, it is one big project file tat would need to be checked-out in source code management as a single project asset.

            • The tabular SSAS support community is thriving but still small.  A core group of trusted professionals from all over the world are the loudest voices right now.  They promote tabular solutions and provide active and collective support for one another.

            • The DAX expression editor in PowerPivot & the Visual Studio-based SSDT designer is quirky.  You have to know is strengths and weaknesses and be willing to use it in that context.  It attempts to assists with code completion but in the end, it doubles-up brackets and duplicates, rather then replaces old code, that it suggests.  No doubt that the experience will get better as enhancements are developed and released but we must live with a product today that is useful and reliable a lot of the time but, it leaves plenty of opportunity for improvements.

            • The entire tabular model must fit in memory.  There’s no caching, swapping or distributed processing option for large models.  This means that very large models need very large hardware and there is currently no scale-out option to distribute work loads or fail-over.  Got a lot of data?  Get a lot of memory.

             

            The Ugly

            • After you get into serious data with 30, 40 or 50 tables and some complexity to your model, the version 1.0 SSDT tabular model designer can be cumbersome and error-prone.  I’ve seen it stop responding and throw errors when there were no errors.  I will say that it’s helpful and reliable most of the time but on occasion, when it falls down, I often save and close my work; shut down Visual Studio all together and the fire it back up.

            • My biggest peeve about the SSDT model designer is that all design work is performed while connected to the workspace database.  This means that for every table and column rename,and for every single property setting change, this information is written to the model workspace database on the local SSAS tabular server, and after the changes have been committed, control is given back to the model designer.

            • Some key SSAS features are not currently supported.  These include things like parent-child hierarchies, many-to-many relationships, cube actions and display folders.  Actually, this is not entirely true; actions and display folders can be added using after-market tools (like BIDS Helper, available in the CodePlex library) and by hand-writing the XMLA script, but they are not currently supported through the SSDT model designer.  There is simply a category of features that didn’t find their way into this first version of the product.  There are work-arounds and methods to enable these capabilities but they’re not supported, or at least not to the the same degree as they are in multidimensional SSAS.

             

            The Beautiful

            • There is no doubt that in-memory, tabular model technology is the promise of the future.  It just makes sense.  Several vendors have come to the same conclusion and are developing products following this paradigm.  Oracle just made a big announcement about adding in-memory column store to their future 12C product. 

            • Data residing and processed in memory is faster than data residing in disk.  This is what VertiPaq does; whether implemented as PowerPivot, an SSAS tabular model or as a SQL Server column store, it works efficiently and elegantly without the complexities and overhead of indexes, partitions, file groups and other techniques typically used to optimize on-disk data stores.

            • Even though tabular is fairly new, many useful & valuable features are supported today and work well.

            • PowerPivot models upgrade seamlessly to tabular models.  This provides a path for business users and IT professionals to author models in familiar tools (Excel or Visual Studio) and then promote them to a server hosted environment.

            • Tabular models are managed and stored by SQL Server Analysis Services!  Although some components of the tabular engine and the designer are new and still have wrinkles to be ironed-out, the core product is based on the solid and time-tested foundation of SSAS.  This means that many of the features not implemented now will be available in future builds.

            • Client applications that support SSAS multidimensional will also support tabular.  In fact, any application built to work with SSAS cubes will natively work with PowerPivot and tabular as if it were a cube.  This is because SSAS tabular uses the same data provider that understands both MDX & DAX queries.

              Disclosure: The company I work for is a Microsoft Gold Partner

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user7509
            Consultant at a tech consulting company with 51-200 employees
            Consultant
            Business Intelligence Forecasting in SQL and Cognos
            Note: This article is an update of a presentation given when I was at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center. At that time, I was using Cognos version 7.3. This article is updated for Cognos 10 and SQL Server Analysis Server 2012.  Revisiting this subject ten years later, my opinion is that Microsoft has finally surpassed IBM Cognos. Most businesses, including medical clinics, want some method for forecasting business trends. The Cognos BI powerplay presentation tools contain the tools needed for basic forecasting.  The trick in getting accurate forecasting is select the correct algorithm. I recommend trying the model against only a portion of your data, to see how closely forecasts the remaining data.  For example, if you have 2 years worth of data, try entering only 18…

            Note: This article is an update of a presentation given when I was at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center. At that time, I was using Cognos version 7.3. This article is updated for Cognos 10 and SQL Server Analysis Server 2012.  Revisiting this subject ten years later, my opinion is that Microsoft has finally surpassed IBM Cognos.

            Most businesses, including medical clinics, want some method for forecasting business trends. The Cognos BI powerplay presentation tools contain the tools needed for basic forecasting.  The trick in getting accurate forecasting is select the correct algorithm.

            I recommend trying the model against only a portion of your data, to see how closely forecasts the remaining data.  For example, if you have 2 years worth of data, try entering only 18 months of data into the model and let it predict the final 6 months.  Then you have some actual data with which to measure ‘fit’ of the prediction.  The new Microsoft SQL tools mentioned below, allow training data and measuring fitness.

            Forecasting SSAS vs Cognos

            Microsoft SSAS
            Models
            IBM Cognos Models
            Microsoft
            Association Algorithm
            Microsoft
            Clustering Algorithm
            Microsoft
            Decision Trees Algorithm
            Microsoft
            Linear Regression Algorithm
            Auto
            Regression Model
            Microsoft
            Logistic Regression Algorithm
            Growth
            Forecast
            Microsoft
            Naive Bayes Algorithm
            Microsoft
            Neural Network Algorithm
            Microsoft
            Sequence Clustering Algorithm
            Microsoft
            Time Series Algorithm
            Time
            Trending

             

            IBM Cognos Forecast Models:

            The old Cognos website used to list more details about each model, but that has long since been eaten by IBM’s user un-friendly website.  I’m sure a few of my friends still enjoy ‘Recreational Math’ magazine, so here are some algorithms to play with in your spare time.

            For more details,  read about the terms of service and limitations of liability on their forecasting algorithms pages.

            Microsoft SQL Analysis Services

            If you are using the Microsoft Business Intelligence stack, there are several data mining options in Analysis Services (SSAS).  The SQL team has worked hard to lower the barriers to entry and learning curves for data mining.   The Excel add-in makes the SSAS data mining models easily accessible to business users at the desktop.  I will have more about these tools soon.

            Again, for details and limitations, see the Microsoft articles on each algorithm.

             

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user6858
            BI Expert with 501-1,000 employees
            Vendor
            Taboo? Microsoft in Higher Education
            In a recent post, I discussed the changes in the business intelligence landscape as outlined by Gartner in their 2013 Magic Quadrant.  Today, I wanted to focus solely on Microsoft as a vendor in this space.  Yes, I mentioned Microsoft – and I work in Higher Education! In working with a number of higher education institutions over the years, I often hear direct concerns about “Microsoft.”  In the academic world, we are concerned about the most open way of doing things.  We like to share – and you may have noticed by the adoption of Sakai and the Open Source Portfolio (OSP). The emergence of open-source tools was prevalent over the last few decades.  You now see many organizations running miscellaneous versions of Linux, open source wiki tools, Drupal-type content management systems –…

            In a recent post, I discussed the changes in the business intelligence landscape as outlined by Gartner in their 2013 Magic Quadrant.  Today, I wanted to focus solely on Microsoft as a vendor in this space.  Yes, I mentioned Microsoft – and I work in Higher Education!

            In working with a number of higher education institutions over the years, I often hear direct concerns about “Microsoft.”  In the academic world, we are concerned about the most open way of doing things.  We like to share – and you may have noticed by the adoption of Sakai and the Open Source Portfolio (OSP).

            The emergence of open-source tools was prevalent over the last few decades.  You now see many organizations running miscellaneous versions of Linux, open source wiki tools, Drupal-type content management systems – and now many have implemented Google (Google Drive, Google Docs, GMail).  If you mention “Microsoft” – you’d better start running.  You’ll have someone from IT chasing after you pretty quickly – and not in a good way!

            Ok – you’re not Jack Sparrow, so you can relax a bit!  But, you can imagine the feelings of many of these IT organizations when you start to implement enterprise-level software that holds a significant cost and the source is proprietary.  Think Sungard’s Banner (now Ellucian), or PeopleSoft, and maybe even Workday now in some cases.  Somehow, Oracle has slipped through the cracks as many of these large ERP vendors require Oracle’s database platform.  Oracle was also smart and acquired mySQL – so they have an almost natural support of the open source community.  Oracle is an investment, too.

            You’re probably asking – what’s your point?  My point is that Microsoft isn’t bad.  It’s actually very, very GOOD!  Besides the educational licensing, and the obvious love for Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, et al) – let’s look at some of the benefits of Microsoft’s SQL Server platform.  Let’s start with a basic point that is often overlooked.  It is a suite of tools, not simply a database platform.   I have listed a basic table below, but you can read more on Microsoft’s website.

            Server components Description
            SQL Server Database Engine  SQL Server Database Engine includes the Database Engine, the core service for storing, processing, and securing data, replication, full-text search, tools for managing relational and XML data, and the Data Quality Services (DQS) server.
            Analysis Services (SSAS) Analysis Services includes the tools for creating and managing online analytical processing (OLAP) and data mining applications.
            Reporting Services (SSRS) Reporting Services includes server and client components for creating, managing, and deploying tabular, matrix, graphical, and free-form reports. Reporting Services is also an extensible platform that you can use to develop report applications.
            Integration Services (SSIS) Integration Services is a set of graphical tools and programmable objects for moving, copying, and transforming data. It also includes the Data Quality Services (DQS) component for Integration Services.
            Master Data Services Master Data Services (MDS) is the SQL Server solution for master data management. MDS can be configured to manage any domain (products, customers, accounts) and includes hierarchies, granular security, transactions, data versioning, and business rules, as well as an Add-in for Excel that can be used to manage data.

            The great part of purchasing Microsoft SQL Server is that these tools come out of the box – and are included with the license for the database platform.  There are several different editions which provide more or less horsepower as your project requires, but this is an added bonus that Microsoft bundles these tools.

            Here are a few thoughts from my experience and why I enjoy working with Microsoft BI tools:

            Technical Benefits:

            • Relatively easy to deploy and installation is wizard-based
            • Learning curve to adopt SSRS and SSIS is reasonable in comparison with other tools
            • Direct integration with Windows operating system and Active Directory (this is great if you have a nice active directory structure already in place; not so helpful if you do not).
            • Direct integration with Team Foundation Server (TFS) for version control
            • Platform is sophisticated enough to handle complex tasks (i.e. stored procedures, SSRS data driven subscriptions)

            Functional Benefits:

            • All-in-one solution (combine with SharePoint for full functionality)
            • End-user tools are intuitive and within a familiar Microsoft interface
            • SharePoint can be used to pull information together in a one-stop-shop
            • Office integration (i.e. Excel, PowerPivot)

            Cost Benefits:

            • Educational and non-profit discounts are a nice way for Microsoft to give back.
            • License costs, on average, are lower than combining multiple tools from multiple vendors (this always depends on your situation and the license agreements that you have in place).
            • Total cost of ownership (TCO) tends to be lower.  This is due to the license fees and also the availability of technical resources that are familiar with the Microsoft platform.  Again, this is completely dependent on your situation, but this is what I have seen with other clients.  It may also be indirect, but by having all of these tools with one vendor, you spend less time managing 4 or 5 invoices for maintenance and renewals as well.  And, if you need to renegotiate anything – it is again done with a single vendor not 4 or 5.

            My Favorite Features:

            1. SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) – it seems silly, but this a great tool and I enjoy testing my queries within SSMS prior to loading them into SSRS.  It has some really nice features built-in for ETL developers as well (i.e. the ability to script the creation/deletion of a table with a mouse click)
            2. SSIS Package Variables – I use them frequently to make dynamic filenames in my SSIS routines.  They are flexible and allow SSIS routines to handle a number of complexities that would otherwise be very difficult to address.
            3. Data-driven subscriptions – this is a great way to deliver tailored content to your user base.  Same report…different content.  In a previous consulting organization, I used data-driven subscriptions to improve internal processes and implementation times for external projects.
            4. PowerPivot – Let’s be honest.  It’s just cool!  In-memory BI is a hot topic.  We also like tools like Tableau and Qlikview.
            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user6858
            BI Expert with 501-1,000 employees
            Vendor
            Cost-effective, all-in-one package for business intelligence
            Pros SQL Server is flexible and relatively straight-forward to deploy. It is fantastic that reports can be delivered via Report Manager without any additional license fees. Reports can also be placed on subscriptions with the Enterprise version of SQL Server. This allows different people to get the same report with data that is tailored to their perspective. Cons The product would be better if it came bundled with Microsoft SharePoint. Some of the more advanced business intelligence dashboards must be run through SharePoint (SharePoint dashboards, PowerView, etc.). We also found that SharePoint Dashboards are time intensive to design. My experiences Getting back to the license costs, we have found SQL Server to be an effective tool at a very good cost. Compared to…

            Pros
            SQL Server is flexible and relatively straight-forward to deploy. It is fantastic that reports can be delivered via Report Manager without any additional license fees. Reports can also be placed on subscriptions with the Enterprise version of SQL Server. This allows different people to get the same report with data that is tailored to their perspective.

            Cons
            The product would be better if it came bundled with Microsoft SharePoint. Some of the more advanced business intelligence dashboards must be run through SharePoint (SharePoint dashboards, PowerView, etc.). We also found that SharePoint Dashboards are time intensive to design.

            My experiences
            Getting back to the license costs, we have found SQL Server to be an effective tool at a very good cost. Compared to purchasing 2 or 3 other products, SQL Server is a very nice all-in-one package (SQL Server database platform - MS SQL, SQL Server Integration Services - SSIS, SQL Server Reporting Services - SSRS, SQL Server Analysis Services - SSAS). The educational discount is also very helpful for K-12 or Higher Education customers. Installation and deployment was relatively straightforward. There is a slight learning curve on SSRS, but easy to pick-up.

            Business Metrics
            If you are looking at cost savings alone, Microsoft SQL Server will pay for itself when compared an Oracle/Informatica/IBM Cognos solution. In a direct comparison of one-time software fees and ongoing annual support fees, Microsoft SQL Server will come out much cheaper. I would also argue that the software features are similar between the tools as well - so you're not foregoing functionality to save cost. We have found that BI developers are also easier to find on the Microsoft platform - which over time - may lead to lower TCO.

            What needs improvement?
            It would be nice if the Report Manager portal interface were more updated. It is much nicer to deploy the reports through the "shiny" SharePoint interface, but it is not as integrated with SSRS as the Report Manager.

            Alternatives Vendors
            Oracle, IBM Cognos, Informatica
            Which others did you consider?

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            Ariel Lindenfeld
            Director of Content at IT Central Station
            Community Manager
            The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence says that Microsoft BI's overall costs are consistent with other Megavendors. Do you agree?
            The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence says that most companies chose Microsoft BI because of low license cost and overall low cost of ownership. However, while the total ownership costs is low for a per user basis, because of implementation and ongoing development costs it is consistent with other large vendors. Are you a Real User of Microsoft BI? Have you found this to be the case in your organization? If you are a user or are evaluating Microsoft BI, add your comment below or write your own review. Share your opinion with our community!

            The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence says that most companies chose Microsoft BI because of low license cost and overall low cost of ownership. However, while the total ownership costs is low for a per user basis, because of implementation and ongoing development costs it is consistent with other large vendors.

            Are you a Real User of Microsoft BI? Have you found this to be the case in your organization?

            If you are a user or are evaluating Microsoft BI, add your comment below or write your own review. Share your opinion with our community!

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user6897
            Marketing at a tech consulting company with 51-200 employees
            Consultant
            Microsoft BI vs. QlikView
            Disclosure: My company is a Microsoft Partner. The use of databases has long been an art of managing information and creating informed practices in the computing world. But in recent times, with the advent of Data Warehouses, new methods of intelligence have been possible to embed into these erstwhile databases and make them extremely productive meeting a host of Business intelligence purposes both in the Government and Corporate Information worlds. However, here it is important to go a little into the history of Database Management and how Databases have said to be have been evolving over the years. The first known databases, existed as i) File systems then came the ii) The Network Models then the iii) Hierarchical models and then the iv) The Relational Models and so on v)…

            Disclosure: My company is a Microsoft Partner.

            The use of databases has long been an art of managing information and creating informed practices in the computing world. But in recent times, with the advent of Data Warehouses, new methods of intelligence have been possible to embed into these erstwhile databases and make them extremely productive meeting a host of Business intelligence purposes both in the Government and Corporate Information worlds.

            However, here it is important to go a little into the history of Database Management and how Databases have said to be have been evolving over the years. The first known databases, existed as i) File systems then came the ii) The Network Models then the iii) Hierarchical models and then the iv) The Relational Models and so on v) Object oriented Databases and finally vi) Object Relational Database Systems.

            Database gurus, in the United States, now believe that Object Relational Systems are here to stay especially with modern data-sets that are very huge and or that which, are growing very fast! Can only or usually be best comprehended alone using Data Visualization (DV).

            Again, having an ability to interact with data through visual drill-down capabilities and dashboards make it absolutely necessary for the latest Data Visualization systems to make ample use of Object Relational Database Systems as their back bends.

            When it comes to assuming intelligence from a business warehouse, there are a multitude of interests that these Systems will have to cater to the business owner and or designated authorities in companies as the business world increasingly moves into a transparent and hectic horizon of new age realities, where always intelligence is key.

            Some of the options that managers would want the BI systems to cater include new ways of drilling down on keywords, Key Performance Indicators (KPI), metrics leading to better searches, be able to easily comprehend data, preference on visual drill down capabilities, able to monitor Business transactions and being a highly interactive platform with all the right Data Visualization protocols set to make them enabled for use over the Internet.

            However, in this document we are attempting a comparison between two of the very famous Data Visualization tools namely, QlikView and Microsoft BI mainly focusing on their salient features with brief comments.

            There is a wide spread confusion amongst people in the DV markets in confidently answering as to which tool is the best Data Visualization product?

            The below are 2 key factors for tool selection that are immediately obvious:

            - Which makes it easy to comprehend the data

            - Price-performance

            Here it is important to remind ourselves that products only vary in their reasons for importance in comparison to other products, for e.g.

            a) A product may have the best web client and analytical functionality.

            b) The other may have the best ability to interact with the back end i.e. the data sets or the OLAP cubes etc.

            So, facts about the product comparison between QlikView and Microsoft BI tool go about highlighting the features of both the products one after another as described below:

            To being with, QilkView is seen by many as the best visualization product for interactive drill-down capabilities. But, QlikView is increasingly seen as expensive with a third of its customers according to a survey feeling this as a hindrance to its wide spread use.

            There are serious flaws in the pricing model as also a larger deployment necessary to more users that are not rendering it possible for the investment of RAM required to support the increasing numbers of concurrent users.

            Also, users find QlikView’s strengths lie in its user-driven approach to BI and say that, its ease of use lies in its intuitive interface. However, critics feel that QlikView has no expansive product strategy beyond its current offering.

            Though it has a roadmap for incremental improvements to the current product, many feel that QlikView has not laid out a clear vision elucidating how it will maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.

            Despite all this, analysts believe that QlikView still delivers one among the best performance in the market.

            On the other hand, Microsoft BI platform provides better price-performance ratio and works good as a backend for DV (with release of SQL Server) or for people who wish to build own frontend DV. It also performs excellently on Enterprise readiness and long-term viability.

            Since the Partners are key to SMB market it is always safe when it comes to Long-term viability with Microsoft as they are 35+ years into the Global market which is a direct advantage over other tools.

            Microsoft is also the pioneer of the Visualization business in the IT industry, being the original inventor of Windows and so when it comes to business Interactive Visualization, they have an edge.

            Again, most users value Visualization over Modeling Development – therefore, the Visual environment of consulting excels in interest over their competitors, i.e. their UI & set of Visual Controls that integrate Data Visualization components in toto.

            It also scores a point when it comes to interactive visualization to match standards and metrics set as necessary by global delivery model along the above lines.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user6819
            BI Expert with 1,001-5,000 employees
            Vendor
            Each solution has its pros and cons which are largely dependent on the target organisation’s existing software, infrastructure and skill set
            Last year ServiceNow released ODBC access to their database, enabling customers to produce their own high quality reporting. As direct reporting from ServiceNow is in increasing demand, I thought I’d put together a brief overview of the more popular choices of Reporting Software on the market. Of course, if anyone has experience of any others, or wants to add to (or contradict!) my views, please feel free to post. MS SQL Reporting Services (SSRS) MS SQL Reporting Services is part of the MS BID package of Business Intelligence software but is a capable piece of reporting software in its own right which produces professional results. But its main selling point is that it is not sold!  If you already have MS SQL Server, it is free.  This…

            Last year ServiceNow released ODBC access to their database, enabling customers to produce their own high quality reporting.

            As direct reporting from ServiceNow is in increasing demand, I thought I’d put together a brief overview of the more popular choices of Reporting Software on the market.

            Of course, if anyone has experience of any others, or wants to add to (or contradict!) my views, please feel free to post.

            MS SQL Reporting Services (SSRS)

            MS SQL Reporting Services is part of the MS BID package of Business Intelligence software but is a capable piece of reporting software in its own right which produces professional results.

            But its main selling point is that it is not sold!  If you already have MS SQL Server, it is free.  This is fantastic news for software of this calibre.  And because SSRS belongs to a suite of programs within SQL Server, there is no extra cost to schedule reports to run at set times automatically.

            Report development in SSRS is quite SQL heavy, which is great for DBAs and programmers, not so much for people used to Excel as a reporting tool.

            Of course, the flip side of it being free if you already have MS SQL Server is that it is expensive to buy a database just to get the free reporting software.

            Because SSRS is intended for use with a suite of other software, it can struggle to do some of the more complex things that other programs in this list can as it is not a full solution in its own right.  This can lead to a ‘bitty’ architectural solution with functionality being spread out without any apparent order.

            SSRS is primarily designed for use with MS SQL Server.  As a result, pointing it at over databases can be trickier than the other software in this list (who were created independently of any particular database).

            Hiring SSRS expertise can be difficult as consultants tend to be DBAs, rather than SSRS specialists and are in high demand.

            Business Objects

            ‘Business Objects’ tends to refer to an actual suite of software which together form an impressive toolset for data manipulation and display.  The Business Objects component itself is focused on taking the tables from a database and transforming them into a structure ideal for reporting: called a Universe.

            With the latest version of Business Objects there is a choice of Web Intelligence (WebI) and Crystal Reports for Enterprise to actually cut and display the data gathered in the Universe.

            (Older versions of BO have Desktop Intelligence, but I strongly recommend avoiding this option, it is not future proof and produces reports that just look dated.)

            Crystal Reports is covered as a separate solution later, but viewed purely as a means to report on a Universe, it is a match for WebI and arguably better in some respects.  But Business Objects and WebI have been used together for longer and most BO developers are also WebI developers, whereas Crystal Reports is often a separate skill set.

            Most of the shortcomings in WebI functionality is covered by the work already done when developing the Universe.

            One of the best things about a Universe is that all the statistics you want to create can be done in one place and then included in reports as needed.  There is no duplication of effort that tends to occur in standalone reporting and a standardisation of reporting metrics is enforced automatically.

            Scheduling reports is not a problem, as the scheduling software is included within the standard Business Objects suite of products.

            However, this standardisation can also be a hindrance.  Professional level ITIL reporting often requires a very flexible approach to data interrogation to cover certain measures.  Often some measurements are at logical odds with other measures based on the same data.  This is where Business Objects can get mired down trying to accommodate all requirements in one place.

            Even with free software (and Business Objects is far from free!) implementing an ITIL reporting solution costs money.  Expertise usually has to be hired in, time and money is spent on requirements gathering, hardware and so on.  Setting up a Business Objects Universe and then a complementary suite of reports can take weeks or even months.

            This can be too long a wait for a business eager to give their managers the information they need to work at full capacity.  This is a shame, as the table structure of the ServiceNow database is so well thought out there is almost no need for a Universe anyway beyond the aforementioned efficiency of effort.

            Crystal Reports

            Crystal Reports can report from virtually any data source including of course, the ServiceNow ODBC, is quick to develop with and can produce a wide variety of reporting styles.

            Crystal’s inbuilt scripting language allows a huge amount of control though can take some time to learn for those new to programming.

            Crystal Reports is hugely popular and used across all business sectors and is versatile enough to do just about any job.  This versatility can also be a problem and without proper work practices in place a suite of Crystal Reports can become an unmaintainable mess.

            The main negative thing for Crystal Reports is that it requires a separate piece of scheduling software to automate reporting.  Whichever scheduling software is chosen, be sure to thoroughly test it within your business before deployment, especially the security if you intend distributing reports outside your own intranet.

            The charting can also be a bit limiting and is starting to look a little dated now, but still crisp and clear.

            Another possible minus for Crystal Reports is that if you do not have the skills in-house already, it can be tricky to hire an effective consultant.  Unlike SSRS and Business Objects developers, who tend to come from a DBA or programmer background, a large percent of Crystal Reports consultants started in office admin jobs and tend not to have the technical experience needed to solve the more difficult questions.

            Xcelsius / Crystal Visualation / SAP Dashboards

            This product of many names was originally developed as an add-on to MS Excel and still uses Excel for much of its underlying functionality.

            The result is reporting software with a shallow learning curve which produces gorgeous, interactive looking Dashboards that can be easily exported and distributed online.

            Of course, there is a downside, or two.

            The main one is that plugging Xcelsius directly into databases is a pain.  It does not have that underpinning ODBC foundation like the other products in this list and data must either be piped in via another product entirely or through a third party component that plugs straight into Xcelsius.

            The good news on this front is any company using ServiceNow probably has some good Java developers at their disposal that can develop Web services to connect Xcelsius to the database.

            On a final note, anyone using Business Objects and/or Crystal Reports should add Xcelsius to their arsenal.  It integrates well will both software and is definitely worth the effort in this case, both for dashboard designs and more flexible/nicer looking charting in standard reports.

            JasperReports

            This software is not really in the same league as the above products in many respects and may look like the odd one out.

            But it does have a number of strong benefits in its favour:

            1.  Very capable software and produces professional results to challenge any other product in this list.

            2.  It is free.

            3.  Very, very similar to Crystal Reports, so similar that a Crystal Reports expert can quickly get to grips with JasperReports.

            4.  Java based and can be distributed through your organisation with relative ease.

            JasperReports is definitely worth a look for any serious ServiceNow reporting implementation.

            Summary

            All of the above software has its own pros and cons which are largely dependent on the target organisation’s existing software, infrastructure and skill set.  With this in mind, I cannot recommend a specific piece of software, but am happy to answer any questions I can.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user6663
            BI Expert at a transportation company with 51-200 employees
            Vendor
            Microsoft BI vs. SAP Business Objects
            A quick look at the whole idea on another weblogs gives you a sense that all of them just talked about very brief things like report refresh feature in BO or cube feature in MS Analysis Service. I choose MS BI and I want to share my reasons and opinions on why I choose it and give you another quick but a little deeper compare on these two Business Intelligence platforms. As we all know both Business Objects and Microsoft are big companies who are working on BI solutions and both have their own advantages. It’s not true to compare them in term of which one is better, we have to check what is our requirements and then depend on requirements take the decision whether MS or BO. A vision like this could help us relief from religious decisions against a software or technology.…

            A quick look at the whole idea on another weblogs gives you a sense that all of them just talked about very brief things like report refresh feature in BO or cube feature in MS Analysis Service. I choose MS BI and I want to share my reasons and opinions on why I choose it and give you another quick but a little deeper compare on these two Business Intelligence platforms.

            As we all know both Business Objects and Microsoft are big companies who are working on BI solutions and both have their own advantages. It’s not true to compare them in term of which one is better, we have to check what is our requirements and then depend on requirements take the decision whether MS or BO. A vision like this could help us relief from religious decisions against a software or technology.

            In a BI architect first of all we have the data store level, I mean the storage of the raw data not the stage or olap cubes or universe data source, I mean the first place of our data. This is important to know that where your raw data is and what is the type of storage used to store them. Whether file system or Access or Fox database or a complex database solution like oracle, sqlserver or a web service can made our place of raw data. We have to check our tools against them; check to see which one gives us a smooth way to transfer them among ETL process to destination. So take a look at what Business Objects gives us.

            There is a Data Integration platform in Business objects but the problem is that you have to buy that separately because it is not shipped with the BI system. In Microsoft sqlserver enterprise you have all the services and features needed for this part of the game. SSIS is the service that sqlserver deliver for data extract, integration and load. Both product gives you the ability to enhance the data quality and data cleansing portion of your integration phase, but when we down to details things change a little to the Microsoft side, because of the ability of using your Dot.Net knowledge to write complex parts of ETL process you have more room to think and do whatever you want in your process, and in BO side it is always look simple and it’s really not easy to take complex situation into it. There are advantages and disadvantages on this. First you can do many things with the ability of dot.net code but it could give you complexity in your development so you have to decide on your situation, if things looking normal both could fit your need, but if the situation is not stable and you have to make yourself ready for the changes in future it’s better to get the power of SSIS and spend a little more time development today to create a powerful and easily changeable mechanism that could help you in future. You can also do that with Business Objects Data Integration but you have to spend more bucks for the development and changes of ETL processes because development cost in Business Objects solutions is always a nightmare for a project.

            At this point we have a brief understanding of differences in ETL process between two vendors, so it’s good time to take a look back to the source database. Here is a very quick answer, if you use mostly MS products to store your transactional data then take your decision and move to MS for a robust and compatible BI platform. Business Objects don’t have a database system and it always used other database solutions to store data for its universe.

            So guess what happen ! from an administrator perspective performance tuning is somehow problematic ! since we should use other database systems we should use different technics for each database systems. And this is one of the areas that MS wins the competition because when you use Microsoft platforms there lots of joint mechanism for performance considerations.

            Before the SQL Server 2012 we have SSAS with its famous aggregated cubes, because of the nature of SSAS in previous versions we couldn’t call it a semantic layer, here is a little why. A semantic layer provides translation between underlying data store and business-level language(Business semantic that business users familiar with). There was no actual translation in previous release of SSAS. Perhaps we had some difficulties over SSAS to understand for a business user. So Microsoft change its approach in SSAS 2012 from delivering a complex understandable solution to end users to a true semantic layer like what we has in Business Objects that called Universe. So from now MS BI users can use a powerful toolset like Microsoft Excel and use their existing knowledge to interact with semantic layer. What Microsoft do in backyard is to create aggregations in memory so the performance of this approach is really high ! I don’t want to deep dive into what Microsoft do in backyard in this post but it would be one of my next topics. (sounds like advertisement

            I talked about aggregations so know that in BO there are no facility for aggregation tables, so you have to deal with DBAs to create aggregation tables manually and integrate them into the Universe.

            One of the important aspects of a BI system is the learning curve of the solution, it was always the slogan of the Business Object that learning curve is very low ! yes for end users it is not hard to interact with Universe. BUT ! the thing that I say here is the problem of every BI platform from Microsoft to BO or Cognos that deliver Semantic layer, it is very easy for a user to get the wrong answer, because everything is behind the Universe or Semantic Model and know that tracking from report back to the base data is a Non-trivial task. So be aware about letting users create whatever they want with their own knowledge. There should always an IT professional observing the whole process. So never think about a fully out of the box solution, because you will shortly find it on Mars ! or your users may have the chance to take decisions based on wrong calculations and find their way to Mars again

            Another important aspect of a BI systems is the cost of it, about the Business Objects we can definitely say that it is expensive and for sure Microsoft could be expensive ! but how can we decide ' the answer is to compare the detail parts, there are 4 main parts Database, ETL, Semantic Layer and Reporting or user interaction layer. If you choose to go over BO you have to find heads for your data warehouse, database solution and Java skills or tomcat or other J2EE platform professionals for ETL and development phase and BO specific heads for Universe Modeling, Design, Implementation, perhaps you need security administration and if you want to integrate your Active Directory with this platform it is problematic and integrating with other LDAP platforms is a nightmare ! so be aware of these costs. The point of Microsoft solution is that we can use our in house knowledge like Dot.Net and SqlServer, SharePoint, Windows Server and these knowledge are transferable to other skills. But with BO we need headcount dedicated to BO (Universe Design, Implementation, Maintenance, Security) since BO skills are not transferable to other skills, those extra heads blow the project’s budget ! Microsoft BI platform is a more manageable, more secure and less expensive solution, I see the BO as a consultant dream, as an endless font of billable hours

            Conclusion

            I decide to go over Microsoft BI platform but I would not suggest anyone at first place to choose Microsoft. This is really depend on the nature and scale of the project and what you did and what technologies you have used in past but a quick look gives an idea that Microsoft’s platform is looking more robust and coherent in different parts so it can be a very good and convenient choice and perhaps after the release of SQL Server 2012 and its BI Semantic layer the answer is more easier and acceptable than before.

            I also would like to hear about your experience on either of these solutions.

            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            it_user6414
            CEO at a tech services company with 501-1,000 employees
            Consultant
            Great wizard that is valuable in designing and implementing complex queries

            Valuable Features:

            • SQL Reporting and Analysis services provide me with a suitable way of analyzing queries and data objects. • Automated reports can be generated using SQL Reporting and Analysis in XML and PDF formats which are easier to read and understand. • Reports can be generated on demand using Reporting Services or can be delivered based on a subscription.

            Room for Improvement:

            • Reporting and analysis tools require additional skills rather than basic database programming such as Reporting Definition Language which may be a challenge for inexperienced developers. • The installation requirements are quite demanding and only computers with relatively high processing power and large primary memory are able to run some SQL Reporting and Analysis tools.

            Other Advice:

            I'm a big fan of the Report Server Project Wizard which comes with the development studio - very helpful as I become more advanced in BI. I find such help valuable in designing and implementing complex queries as well making it look simpler.
            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            ITCS user
            Founder & Principal Architect at a tech services company with 1,001-5,000 employees
            Consultant
            Most complete business intelligence suite for the least money

            Valuable Features:

            Microsoft SSRS is a fantastic means for end users to access, run, and schedule delivery of reports. - Core functionality is simple to use for business users of all skill levels - Report models even allow end users to adjust their own reports using a model of your data - Report builder provides an even easier method for users to build their own reports - Report data can even be scheduled for periodic delivery with the report data as an attachmentMicrosoft SSAS is one of the best BI suites on the market. It is also one of the least expensive, and the features bundled rival competitors with prices many more times as expensive. - This feature is one of the most exciting areas of database technologies today - Very powerful and relatively easy to use when compared to other Bi suites

            Room for Improvement:

            - Active Directory authentication requires an additional login for users without Internet Explorer - Learning curve behind any business intelligence package is quite steep - Price of the SQL Server bundle is potentially cost prohibitive for smaller businesses

            Other Advice:

            I am quite passionate about the SQL Server suite of tools, and am a fervent user of SSRS. I use SSAS less, only because I am focused more on administration and have not moved into the SSAS space - yet. I am looking to head into the BI arena later on this year, and SSAS is my BI suite of choice!
            Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
            Buyer's Guide
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