From automated recommendations of what books to read, what credit card to get and what new musicians you will like, intelligent analytics are already embedded into our everyday lives.
It’s usually big digital business, with big budgets that deliver these intelligent interactions. But times have changed, and the business intelligence (BI) market has undergone a major democratization with the cloud. New tools and technologies are now open to companies of all sizes, across all industries. And with that comes the ability generate more revenues, make better decisions, and amaze your customers.
The big picture: All your data, all your people
This was the focus of a recent Softchoice webinar, hosted by our senior Microsoft Solutions Architect, Greg Treanor. In his presentation (which you can watch below), Treanor broke down what it means to be a modern BI business, and how to build it.
At the core of Treanor’s message, was the idea that true, modern intelligence relies on two things:
- All the Data: You must be able to collect and standardize all your disparate data, from cloud, on-premise and web sources. This spans big data storehouses, to third-party marketing and SaaS tools, to traditional data sets, such as CRM and ERP systems.
- All the Workers: Second, you must bring advanced BI tools, capabilities and reporting to all areas of the business, not just IT or analysts. This requires easily accessible, mobile and visual reporting, built on an intuitive front end.
Why BI should be in everyone’s hands – not just your analysts!
While the first criteria are simple enough (most would agree intuitively there’s value in combining disparate data sets), that second point is perhaps less obvious. Why would you benefit more, as you put BI tools in the hands of more end users?
It’s simple actually. As more lines of business get closer to BI insights, they will have more strategic, informed conversations, spot new opportunities and make decisions in ways that are faster, more fluid and collaborative. You simply can’t do that if a tight-knit, isolated group of data analysts controls your insights!
That’s not to say, analysts, Excel wonks or IT admins have no place in this new BI paradigm. Quite the opposite. Treanor detailed how each group of users, from sales to IT to developers, and everyone in between, has their own crucial role to play in making sure your BI strategy is a success. It’s not a matter of replacing legacy roles with a snappy, new, user-friendly technology. It’s about making those insights more relevant, useful and collaborative.
Comparing Microsoft’s Power BI to Tableau, Qlik and others
Naturally, as a Microsoft architect, Treanor is most familiar with the benefits of Power BI – Microsoft’s deeply integrated end-to-end BI tool. But he also pointed out the market seems to be consolidating the race to just a few key players, notably Tableau, Qlik and Power BI, as evidenced by the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant reports.
Most, if not all of these leading solutions will let your business consolidate data from across the business, including third-party cloud, on-premise and Azure-based systems and applications. Similarly, they offer extraordinary visualization, mobility, and front-end dashboard features, the key to empowering your digital workforce to work anywhere, anytime. Imagine having your sales reps able to get a crucial customer detail, delivered right to their Apple Watch, minutes before entering a client meeting. That’s the kind of wizardry these tools make possible.
But there are a few key differentiators, which Treanor says you should pay close attention to. First, economics. In most cases, Power BI is by far the most cost-effective solution. (For example, this price comparison shows Tableau at a $900 premium, versus the Microsoft per-user cost.) Second, he said businesses already investing in Microsoft cloud, such as Azure or Office 365, will be comfortable with Power BI right out of the box. There is less of a learning curve here, if any, which can be valuable when driving engagement and adoption.
Find out more about Power BI licensing and see it in action
Treanor ended the call outlining the major licensing options for Power BI.
At a high level, you have three options. Power BI is a “freemium” service, which means anyone, at any business, can go start using the free version right away. While this will certainly prove valuable and works instantly with numerous data workloads and apps, the true value comes with the upper tiers. Power BI Pro ($10/user subscription) gives you access to the Power BI Report Server, and crucially lets you share insights peer-to-peer and deliver on the vision of “all the data, for all the workers.” Microsoft also unveiled a new pricing option, called Premium, allows you to pay for “capacity licensing,” essentially putting a cap on your per-user costs, while bringing the same across-the-board insights to your business. It also makes it possible for businesses with sensitive data and cloud sensitivity to keep all your data in a private cloud.