In an ideal world, when you get a request to answer a question like, “How did the blue version of our product perform in these regions over this period?” you can just open Excel, drag a few items onto a blank sheet and get the answer. If you are in a small business you probably can do this today, and the rest of us are envious of you for it. For the rest of us, that question could be the start of the torrent of emails to people we think know where bits of that data are hidden, then we subsequently assembles those bits to finally answer the question.
Information is a hugely valuable asset to an organization, those that can empower their workers with this information and enable them to make smart decisions based on it, have a big advantage in the market. Business Intelligence (BI) has therefore become a key part of IT thinking. Finding the right platform that can, not only, gather and consolidate this data, but also deliver it in an easy to consume manor to allow your employees to make those smart decisions, is a critical decision in itself.
Microsoft understands this challenge; it has the same demands on its employees. Employees within Microsoft are expected to make smart decisions based on huge amounts of data, often stored in different locations. We know that any BI solution has to, integrate all these different sources, be able to scale to hold the volume of data, reduce the load on the IT departments generating reports, and finally integrate into the tools we use every day.
The new features within SQL Server 2008 R2, along with deep integration with the Office suite meet these requirements. SQL Server 2008 provided an enterprise ready database platform; Microsoft has run its business on SQL Server for years, the R2 version broadens this platform offering for both the datacentre and the end user.
By using SQL Server 2008 R2 Integration Services you are able to integrate large volumes of data into your data warehouse. Once you have this data, end users can use SQL Server PowerPivot Add-in for Excel to easily create powerful BI solutions, streamline the integration of data from multiple sources, and enable interactive modelling and analysis of massive amount of data, and share this information using SharePoint 2010.
Outside Excel, the updated SQL Server Reporting Services and Report Builder 3.0 enables users to create and share report components that can be accessed via the shared component library. This library, coupled with new geospatial visualization including mapping, routing, and custom shapes can help your end users create customized reports that leverage existing content and so enable the rapid assembly of comprehensive business reports.
Delivering a BI solution is a key IT function, until now that also put a huge burden on the IT department. Microsoft’s goal was to increase its BI offering for the end user, while also reducing the burden on the IT Department. With managed self-service BI, you can now empower your users to create and share BI solutions through familiar and intuitive tools, and take the path to our ideal world we started this posting thinking about.