Study Reveals Importance of BI-Microsoft Office Integration

Knowledge workers need a more productive document creation environment.

Streamlined integration connecting business intelligence (BI) and the Microsoft Office suite is critical for the efficient dissemination of information within enterprises. Ventana Research believes that the current model of creating and processing business intelligence documents through a sequence of applications involves inefficient information transfer processes. Recent Ventana research on the integration between BI and Microsoft Office suggests that organizations need to improve the integration of these tools before the demand for information publication accelerates further.

For business intelligence (BI), as well as for every other enterprise software segment, a pervasive theme today is integration. The need for broader enterprise visibility, more consistent data and a comprehensive understanding of customers and products—as well as pressure to reduce IT costs and ever-accelerating business cycles—all drive companies’ demand for a comprehensive, integrated view of their businesses. The prevalence of Microsoft Office and its role as a desktop authoring environment make its integration with other information systems critically important.

Office is the environment in which many users execute most steps of information publishing. They import data from BI tools or databases into Office applications, where it is processed through Excel, moved into Word or PowerPoint and then published. Each step in this process currently requires a different application, and data generally is moved between these different applications manually. These multiple steps are time-consuming and inefficient.

With those inefficiencies in mind, Ventana Research initiated a research effort to explore current customer satisfaction with the existing level of integration between Microsoft Office applications and a variety of BI systems. Our analysis identified gaps in satisfaction and areas of potential improvement. We also tested the hypothesis that organizations are using fewer desktop applications in the decision-making process.

The most significant insight from this study is that over the next 12 months, almost 50 percent of the respondents – the largest segment – expected to be using BI systems more frequently and Microsoft Office less frequently to publish their BI documents. From other surveys, Ventana Research infers several critical factors that combine to drive this trend. They include the inefficiency of existing methods of moving data into BI documents, continued user frustration with manual BI document publishing processes, the increasing amounts of data with which users must contend and an ever-increasing demand from consumers of BI documents for more and better information.

A primary source of user frustration with the BI document authoring process is how data is brought into such documents. Asked to identify the data source they used most often in preparing BI documents, 37 percent of the respondents cited data files extracted from databases, and another 37 percent cited ad-hoc query and analysis software. The dominant methods of data access are cutting and pasting, user-launched queries from within an Office application, usually Excel, and manually importing files. Each of these methods requires users to create or update BI documents one at a time.

Technology that can be used to simplify the importation of data into Office includes:

Excel “add-ins” – Most BI vendors offer software components that can be installed in Excel to allow direct connections to corporate data sources.

Report export – Many BI vendors allow the exportation of all or, more interestingly, portions of a report from within Excel.

Reports as spreadsheets – Some BI vendors offer the ability to create reports in the form of spreadsheets, eliminating the need to import data into Excel.

Still other BI vendors offer tools to create briefing books within their BI environments. Using these tools, data refreshment can be scheduled and done without cutting and pasting.

Ventana Research recommends that organizations analyze and assess the costs of and returns from their information workflow, especially for the creation of BI documents. Organizations should streamline the data transfer process used to populate BI documents, focusing particularly on replacing cut-and-paste data transfer and importation of extract files with tools that allow users to query the data they need directly from the appropriate data source. Since in many cases BI documents are created once but updated frequently, the automation of BI document data refreshment will shorten document publication time significantly. Inevitably, input must be manual for some BI documents, but automated data transfer and population should be applied where appropriate.

About Ventana Research
Ventana Research is the leading Performance Management research and advisory services firm.  By providing expert insight and detailed guidance, Ventana Research helps clients operate their companies more efficiently and effectively. These business improvements are delivered through a top-down approach that connects people, process, information and technology. What makes Ventana Research different from other analyst firms is a focus on Performance Management for finance, operations and IT. This focus, plus research as a foundation and reach into a community of over two million corporate executives through extensive media partnerships, allows Ventana Research to deliver a high-value, low-risk method for achieving optimal business performance. To learn how Ventana Research Performance Management workshops, assessments and advisory services can impact your bottom line, visit

© 2005 Ventana Research

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