Technology Services • Published 12/01/2016 Have You Powered Up Your Use of Excel Lately?


Today organizations are inundated with data. Data is pouring in from every conceivable direction: from operational and transactional systems, from inbound and outbound contact points, from mobile media and the Web. The term “Big Data” has been coined as a way to describe a situation where the volume, velocity and variety of data exceed an organization’s storage or compute capacity for accurate and timely decision making.

Why Does Big Data Matter to Me?

The explosion of data isn’t new. It continues a trend that began 40 years ago. However, what has changed is the speed of growth, the diversity of data and the imperative to make better use of information to transform the organization. The real issue is not that large amounts of data are being acquired. It’s what is being done with the data that counts. The hopeful vision is that organizations will be able to take data from any source, harness relevant data and analyze it to find answers reducing cost and time, optimizing service offerings, and helping leaders make smarter decisions. Big data is used most extensively today with business intelligence and analytics applications.

What is Business Intelligence?

The term business intelligence (BI) represents the tools and systems playing a key role in the strategic planning process of an organization. These systems allow an organization to gather, store, access and analyze corporate data aiding in the decision-making process. As organizations seek newer, smarter ways to improve performance, grow revenue, develop stronger relationships and increase workforce effectiveness, they expect individuals in every role to contribute to these outcomes. Business intelligence is a key factor in achieving such results because it supports informed decision making at every level, enabling the most effective action to be taken in any given situation.

Business intelligence software is designed with the primary goal of extracting important information from an organization’s raw data revealing insights to help make faster and more accurate decisions. It connects people with the information when and where they need it, and provides capabilities far beyond traditional spreadsheets to deliver “one true view” of the organization.

How Can My Organization Approach Business Intelligence?

Organizations typically grow gradually in analytical sophistication as their business needs and demands evolve. An organization in the early phases of business intelligence can start with reports or dashboards for information on how the organization is performing. Next, analysis capabilities can be added to gain insights into why certain events or conditions are occurring. Planning functionality is then incorporated to link the insights gained from analysis. Lastly, what-if scenario modeling is integrated into the planning and analysis process so that action is immediate across the organization. With these capabilities in place, small to midsize organizations can deliver consistent, reliable information helping employees understand what happened and why, and what they should be doing to achieve desired outcomes, while creating and easy-to-following business intelligence growth path.

Microsoft Self Service Business Intelligence Provides New Powerful Tools

Microsoft’s answer to business intelligence is a product suite delivering the “one true view” with cost effective technology that in most cases leverages in-place investments and ensures broad and fast adoption by providing familiar tools and functionality. Microsoft self-service business intelligence tools are available as part of Microsoft Office Professional Plus, versions 2010 and 2013. Additionally, Microsoft added a set of business intelligence tools to its hosted Office 365 service.

The Microsoft self-service business intelligence product suite is comprised of four powerful tools that can greatly enhance your use of Excel for data analytics.

  • Power Query has a wide range of options to easily discover, extract and manipulate data from internal and external data sources. With a user friendly interface, it’s easy to go far with little to no programming knowledge.
  • Power Pivot enhances the use of Pivot Tables by bringing the power of in-memory analytics and flexible modeling into Excel. This tool virtually removes the limitation on the number of rows that can be analyzed. Data can be imported, merged and prepared from multiple data sources and formulas added to a pivot automatically adjust!
  • Power View and Power Map, available with Office 2013 only, allow you to see your data in new ways with bold, interactive visualizations.

It’s easy to get started with these tools. Office 2010 users may download Power Query and Power Pivot from Office 2013 users simply need to activate the tools which have already been installed.

Are You Ready for the Big Data Era?

Big data represents a new attitude by businesses, non-profits, government agencies and individuals that combining data from multiple sources lead to better decisions. Business intelligence tools help us find relevant data and analyze its implications. With these capabilities in place, organizations can deliver consistent, reliable information to help employees understand what happened and why, and what they should be doing to achieve desired outcomes.

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