Microsoft are investing heavily in tools that allow companies to analyse their data and produce compelling and informative reports and dashboards. Here we explain some of what is on offer.by Duncan Pryde, Lead SQL Server and Business Intelligence ArchitectPowerPivot
PowerPivot is part of what Microsoft are referring to as “self-service BI”. It is a free add-in for Excel that brings powerful data analysis capabilities to the familiar environment of Excel. It uses a built-in Tabular Analysis Services engine, so you are no longer limited to 1 million rows but can work with datasets that are tens of millions of rows long. You can work with the data in the normal ways: sorting, pivoting, filtering and so on – all in memory.
Where PowerPivot really comes into its own, is when it is uploaded to SharePoint or Office 365. With Excel Services, reports can be created in Excel, Power View or Power BI and viewed in a web browser without the need for Excel to be installed on the viewer’s device.
SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is part of SQL Server. It allows us to create, deploy, and manage complex online reports to allow business end-users to view and interact with data in the form of tables, graphs, matrices and so on. It makes it easy to control who has access to what, and for end-users to even design and deploy their own reports. The reports can be viewed and interacted with online (either directly or through SharePoint), or downloaded in many familiar formats – whether in Excel for further analysis or in PDF for printing and distributing.
SSRS reports can also be scheduled to run automatically and emailed or sent to a SharePoint library.
Both cubes and tabular models can easily be analysed within the familiar environment of Excel. We can create tables, charts and other visualisations within Excel, using slicers to interact with the data. The resulting workbooks can be uploaded to SharePoint or Office 365 so that they become accessible via a web browser to anyone that needs to view them. Because all workbooks can connect to the same data model, and be viewed across the whole organisation, there is much less chance of different people coming up with different numbers giving us the single version of the truth that we would not normally associate with Excel workbooks developed by different analysts and shared via email.
Power View arrived with SQL Server 2012 and is a fabulous tool for creating simple yet engaging visualisations. Users can easily slice, drill down and even create beautiful animated charts. The visualisations can be viewed through SharePoint or Office 365, or incorporated into PowerPoint for sharing at meetings and presentations.
Power BI is available for Office 365, and combines and extends the features of PowerPivot, Power View and Excel to allow us to create interactive dashboards, charts and visualisations. These can be viewed through a web browser, or through a stand-alone application on a user’s device.
Interactive charting with Power BI
PLEASE NOTE:AMT is a Microsoft Partner company, therefore, for any enquiries regarding account issues, login information, subscriptions and technical support, please contact Microsoft directly as we will not be able to assist.
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