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Integrating BI and Microsoft Office

Integrating technologies is the next efficiency hurdle.

VentanaView™

Line-of-business workers in organizations now face inefficiencies and diminished effectiveness because of disjointed integration between Microsoft Office and server-based business intelligence applications. The current "export and cut-and-paste" are sub-optimal integration mechanisms between these two environments. Organizations are now actively spending their IT budget to streamline collection, processing, analysis, and presentation of information. IT departments need to understand the various integration options available, along with new alternatives on the horizon, to minimize investments in sub-optimal integration approaches. Ventana Research recommends that organizations re-assess their freelance use of Microsoft Office and evaluate how to streamline it into their enterprise computing BI efforts.

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Companies are under pressure to improve their business operations performance through improving individual worker efficiency. To do so, organizations are deploying business intelligence applications to workers that enhance daily decision making through better alerting, prioritization, and context. Independently, and for some time, line of business workers have also used Microsoft Office to perform common office functions. In fact, Microsoft Office is likely the most broadly deployed application suite worldwide.

When combined, business intelligence applications and Microsoft Office are, at best, a disjointed, inefficient information management system and, at worst, an information management headache. Microsoft, the largest software provider in the world, understands this issue and is actively working to integrate its BI and Office product offerings.

In the past, various BI vendors have done some integration with Microsoft Office, primarily with Excel (as in the case of Hyperion Essbase), but, with a few exceptions, these approaches have not changed significantly. Driven by the need to differentiate increasingly overlapping BI platforms, BI vendors now ponder how their products can integrate better with the Microsoft environment in general and with Microsoft Office specifically. In-market examples of differentiated integration with Microsoft Office are e.Spreadsheet from Actuate and the Office package from MicroStrategy.

While BI vendors often see Microsoft as benign within their industry, the advent of significantly improved integration between Microsoft’s BI products and Microsoft Office may prove to be a competitive turning point. An early indication of this is the repositioning of Office as a "system" rather than a "suite," implying that servers of various kinds are now part of the offering. For organizations, the important question is whether they are missing something in the tea leaves. Is the only valuable integration point with Excel? Or are there other emerging integration points that will be more strategic?

Ventana Research believes that improving operational performance is a leading initiative within most global organizations, especially via deployment of more and better information to their operational rank and file. Within the category of operational performance improvement, various applications specific to different industries and organizational roles are emerging. It will be important to BI vendors to understand what those applications are, because they may be the best candidates for integration with Microsoft Office.

Given the pervasive deployment of Microsoft Office, and Microsoft’s work to completely integrate it with its business intelligence software, organizations will need to understand the alternatives for integration of Office with BI technology. External factors such as regulatory compliance and internal factors such as an increased need for streamlined process coordination will provide driving forces for this integration. The trend will be away from the stand-alone computing paradigm established by the personal computer revolution to a more centralized approach of managing information and facilitating their workers.

Assessment

Given these issues, the best IT strategy can only come from having the facts about where the innovator, early adopter, and early majority market segments stand and at what rate Office integration innovations are defusing through the market. A thorough understanding of where, how, and why an integrated BI and Microsoft Office solution is marketed, sold and serviced is critical for success. As with any emerging market opportunity, IT organizations must understand the answers to the follow questions:

  • How influential is Microsoft in the evaluation and adoption of BI technology?
  • What is the market opportunity for BI/Office integration in the coming years?
  • What industry and role applications areas are hot spots for BI/Office integration?
  • Where are industries and organizational departments on the BI and Microsoft Office integration maturity curve?
  • Will organizations utilize or upgrade Microsoft Office to integrate Microsoft BI?

Ventana Research recommends that organizations fully assess their Microsoft Office and BI systems to determine how to best streamline these environments to find efficiency improvements along with a means to improve the effectiveness of their business.

Eric Rogge is VP & Research Director - Business Intelligence & Performance Management at Ventana Research (www.ventanaresearch.com), a research and advisory services firm.

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