Microsoft Office as Part of the BI Tool Layer
Every organizations uses spreadsheets to produce or present numbers, with the most popular being (of course) Excel. This is a fact of life and it's nice to see the BI vendors are finally realizing that part of their role is to provide a conduit for information, even if it means they don't own the final presentation layer.
I've been looking at a few to see how they work, and how well they do or don't hide the underlying data warehouse infrastructure. The latest releases are doing a much better job of this.
Instead of exporting to Excel or copying and pasting charts into Powerpoint, the integration now works fairly well. You can set the data to auto-refresh when you open a presentation, or tie a report into a tracking spreadsheet and refresh the numbers monthly. No more pasting data and moving formulas around manually to do the job.
The two that I've looked at a little more closely, since I use one and I'm considering the other, are Microstrategy Office and Business Objects Live Office. The thumbnail link to the screenshot (above) is for Microstrategy, showing the pull-down menu for reporting within Excel.
When Business Objects unveiled this at their annual conference, it highlighted some of the complexity behind the scenes. When Bernard Liautaud (the CEO) did a demo with Powerpoint he talked too long and the connection to the BI server timed out. Because you still have to maintain the login information in the BI environment, it's not a seamless integration to the user. They are still required to log in to the BI tool when getting data via Excel. If you email that spreadsheet to someone who isn't in the system, they can't refresh the data and in some odd edge cases, can't view the data that's already there.
Applaud the CEO who demos beta code at a conference. He was zero for three at this one. After the login timeout and a bug, he showed the new dashboard software. It's so easy an executive like Bernard can pull metrics and set up the format desired with a few clicks and drags! It was only a few clicks and drags, but this is web-deployed. Whoever designed the software disabled the back button in the browser and didn't provide any links off that page. It was like watching a mastodon sink into a tar pit.
More executives should demo their companies' products.
Posted by Mark Friday, March 25, 2005 12:33:00 PM |