How the Microsoft BI Platform Stacks Up

Dashboard-ButtonsMicrosoft’s BI and analytics product suite provides the best of both worlds. It combines a highly structured IT supported data management environment with a business user friendly set of self-service tools based on Excel 2013 and Office 365. Microsoft also focuses directly on the business user with its stand-alone “freemium” Power BI product offering. Power BI can also be launched as a stand-alone solution for business without Excel 2013 or Office 365.

Microsoft enjoys a strong leadership position in what Gartner calls the “Magic Quadrant” of Business Intelligence and Analytics vendors driven by a strong product vision and support for systems-of-record requirements, easy-to-use data discovery capabilities, and commitment to business-user content and governance. Despite their leadership positions, Power BI has not gained widespread market acceptance due to the complexity of on-premises deployments but that is expected to change quickly as more companies move to the cloud.

With more companies implementing both public and hybrid cloud based data management systems,  Microsoft expects its BI product to gain widespread acceptance in its large customer base.  Gartner reports the following  fundamental strengths of the Power BI product:

  • Low cost of ownership – Microsoft has integrated BI and analytics into Excel for a long time and by adding cloud-based Office 365 on a low cost subscription basis, it is leading the industry in cost of ownership. For as little as $10 per month, business users have access to the full array of tools in the Office 365 suite.
  • Ease of use and rapid deployment – because so many business people already use Excel, there is virtually no learning curve. They may need to brush up on the use of Pivot Tables, but most business users will find themselves accessing and manipulating Big Data in ways that was nearly impossible before the cloud made massive amounts of data accessible to all authorized users.  The pervasive deployment of Excel gives Microsoft a huge advantage over others attempting to enter the Business Intelligence market.  Excel allows users to easily manipulate data using native tools like Power Query and Power Pivot. They can then share data via SharePoint and Office 365.
  • Experience with large databases – Microsoft’s customers report deployment sizes larger than any other vendor in the Magic Quadrant, with over 6,000 end users compared with the overall average of 1,554. With the release of the stand-alone version of Power BI, users can now access data directly using SQL Server Analysis Services cubes. Microsoft customers can now leverage existing data assets without having to move their data sets to the cloud.
  • Strong administrative and deployment strategy –  Gartner ranked Microsoft high above most other products in administrative and deployment, integration and collaboration.  They also outranked competitors in data mashup — a significant  area of investment for Microsoft with Power Pivot and Power Query.
  • Reorganization and new leadership at Microsoft – the company is firmly committed to BI and analytics, supporting all popular cloud based deployments and is supporting both Apple and Android devices.

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