27 Opinions and the Future of Excel 

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 “Excel is one of those applications that the business world cannot live without.”

So says one of 27 Excel experts commenting on Microsoft’s Power BI Suite and its effect on the great wide world of spreadsheet users.

As Excel lovers, we couldn’t agree more!

There’s a wealth of wisdom in the observations made by these 27 pros. Along with the main topic of what’s new in Power BI Suite, there’s excellent insight on the use of Excel and BI generally. (For a good post about what one expert calls a “running joke in BI communities—‘What is the most used feature in any business intelligence solution?’”, see But, Does It Export to Excel?, from PARIS Technologies.)

About what’s new with Power BI Suite, the experts agree that it delivers significantly powerful new capabilities: from connecting to enterprise data (Power Query) to aggregating differently sourced data (Power Pivot) to creating exciting visualizations (Power View and Power Map—watch out, “Visual Analytics” products!), this suite of tools signifies a whole new era of “self-service BI” for Excel users.

Smart guys and gals that they are, the experts point up some caveats. How will these new capabilities affect a company’s “B.I. workflow[s]”? And, mightn’t Power BI, by empowering Excel user(s), propagate more—and more complex—silos of data among disconnected groups of users? Will IT lose total control, if users feel it’s their Excel-given birthright to reach back to underlying data sets for BI solutions?  And as to collaborative work—will SharePoint be the answer, finally?

All the caveats and concerns are certainly worth considering … That said, from our standpoint: we begin with the premise that user-empowering technologies—Excel or otherwise—are a good thing! As for the caveats, won’t someone please invent a technology that addresses concerns about security and collaboration? And one that provides for other application needs, like planning, budgeting and forecasting?  Because that’s what people do in Excel! And while they’re at it, a solution that is inclusive of other non-Excel users?  (Hmmm, maybe someone has – see here for a description of PARIS’s Olation).

“The future looks very bright for Excel and BI,” says another expert.  Here’s to a future that’s bright for all BI users—and no caveats required!

Read the original article, from InvestInTech.com here: 27 Microsoft Excel Experts Predict the Future of Excel in Business Intelligence

 

 

The Problem and Solution in the BI Market

A recent post on the PARIS Tech Blog, The Problem in the BI Market, highlights a few key facts/issues in the BI market.  Some of these include disconnected applications, disconnected IT and front-end users, and slow processing times.

Most interesting is the emphasis on connectivity between applications becoming important in the BI market.  Presently, most firms struggle to move data collected in one system into another for reporting or delivering to upper management. PARIS suggests that software products will begin to prioritize more and more the ability to collaborate across platforms—sharing data smoothly from one place to another.

The PARIS Tech post discusses IT and end-users being able to use their preferred applications and a shared data set, which leads to the next interesting bit, their emphasis on collaboration and productivity.  The software products that will succeed in the future BI market will be those that allow people to easily collaborate because their applications will be connected.  They will also automate manual processes and calculations that are performed in Excel today.

Improved collaboration and productivity influence peoples’ lives for the better and makes them enjoy their work more, while they also drive the business towards profitability.

Read the full post on the PARIS Tech blog

Read about using your preferred application and a shared data set with Olation.

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Advice for CFOs: Invest in New Technology

Top Technology Trends for Today’s CFO’s” is another insightful post from a blogger we frequently feature, Timo Elliott. In it he admits that the CFO relationship with the CEO and other business executives leaves something to be desired.  He recommends that CFOs invest in the latest technology, which will increase productivity with real-time updates and continuous forecasting.

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{Image from Timo’s post, link to http://timoelliott.com/blog/2015/07/top-technology-trends-for-todays-cfos.html}

Elliott mentions a combination of new technology including: in-memory computing, big data, the cloud, and mobile.

He homes in on a key point—that finance staff at large companies are extremely bogged down with just the basics of maintaining their financial reports. As Elliott puts it, “Staff have to spend too much time on basic duties and have no time to improve their understanding of the operational measures that drive and impact financial measures.” This lack of insight or understanding of how the operational measures drive and impact financial measures is the root of the relationship problem between CFOs and other business executives.

Elliott suggests new in-memory computing technology because, “they reduce complexity by combining real-time actuals with budgeting and analysis in a single, integrated system. Financial data is stored just once, making almost every aspect of financial operations faster, simpler, cheaper, and more effective.” We couldn’t agree more, as developers of a new in-memory technology ourselves.

The result of improved systems, improved speed, and better data is ultimately a better working relationship between business executives, and a more productive, effective workplace.

Read Timo Elliott’s post here

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Business Intelligence Evolves to Serve Users

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Business data and BI software are currently beginning a new phase of evolution. In this new phase, users of business data will be able to collaborate and connect with other colleagues and team members without multiple spreadsheets and laborious processes.

The BI user experiences of past decades are being re-thought and fast collaboration and crossover functionality are the way of the future.  Southard Jones, in the May 9th Venture Beat article Blurred lines: Reimagining the user experience for business intelligence, details how companies are developing new ways of delivering business data and what companies will be looking for in the future.

The article is of interest because it discusses that the business intelligence space needs to evolve to meet the needs of modern businesses.  Currently, there is little crossover functionality between products, and products are rigidly aligned to arbitrary user “roles” like information consumers vs. producers. But, people are not rigidly defined in their roles; they need to be able to answer questions quickly, using their business data. “Blurring” the line between consumers and producers of information is one example of how business intelligence products need to evolve, because blurring that line will make everyone more productive.

Crossover functionality is another topic this article broaches. To quote Jones, “Ensuring success with BI and analytics also means recognizing that different people prefer different tools.”  We whole heartedly agree! People in business should be able to access relevant, informative data quickly, and from whichever tool seems appropriate to them.

His article feels very validating because at least someone in the BI industry sees the status quo is no way to continue.  Jones also writes, “The modern business landscape demands a new approach to the user experience. […] And one that allows interoperability between different products. Our work styles have evolved. BI and analytics should do the same.”

One such software, developed by PARIS Technologies, is taking on this new, modern business crossover and collaboration and use of multiple products with their newest product Olation®. With this kind of technology, companies can eliminate inaccurate data and time-consuming processes that stem from data located in various applications, spreadsheets and databases.  With Olation, data is centralized in a non-proprietary database and access to that information is permitted simultaneously by multiple users in their different applications.  It’s is a game-changer, especially if you’ve been struggling with a typical or limited BI tool. With everyone in the business working from the same source data set, and Olation’s calculation engine doing the formula and calculation work, there is little manual spreadsheet work to be done. Which means analysts can actually answer questions quickly and spend time getting to the meat of data discovery.

Learn More About Olation

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Fast Data: How to Gain Insights from Big Data

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In this Forbes.com article, Making Big Data Fast, Howard Baldwin makes a great point about data needing to be FAST in order to deliver value.  Big data has a historical focus, whereas Fast Data seeks to enable action.  For us at OLAP.com, we have seen “fast” as an important qualifier since the early definition of OLAP—FASMI, or Fast Analysis of Shared Multidimensional Information. Baldwin emphasizes the increasing importance of moving at the velocity of data; being empowered to gain insights from data, and; being able to react immediately with an action or other response. We couldn’t agree more with his stance, and kudos to him for drawing attention to it.  It will be increasingly important in 2015.

We also love the “I Love Lucy” reference at the beginning of the article.  The sponsors of OLAP.com, PARIS Technologies, are long-time experts at super fast data delivered for actionable insights.  Explore our website.

Why Excel isn’t Enough for Businesses

Why Excel isn't enough

The article, The File-less Organization: Why Excel Isn’t Enough for Businesses, from Dataversity.net is quite astute in the way it identifies Excel as a problem–noting that each manager gathers his or her own version of the numbers to bring to a meeting.  And so in the meeting everyone has a different version of the state of affairs, and things can easily devolve into an argument over whose numbers are the “most right”.  Sound familiar?

I was so excited when I began reading because this article gets it exactly right in the beginning, but at the end, it seems to recommend dashboards as the solution to this problem. Except that dashboards are usually representations of those same error-prone, manually compiled spreadsheets. The ‘replace-Excel-with-dashboards’ scenario is more of a band-aid theory: once you get past the pretty graphics, you’ll discover that you traded one problem for another! Don’t get us wrong, we love dashboards, but we think they should be real-time, fed from the data source directly. This requires a sophisticated BI solution, which the article confuses a little bit with dashboards.  Typically, dashboards have limited calculation capability. With the newest, advanced business solutions, like Olation, the relational data source is combined with a data calculation engine and modeling solution that, yes indeed, works with Excel, not against it.