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