I've finally been to a Microsoft presentation (at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009) where Microsoft recognizes publically their play in the business intelligence space. Actually, Gartner was doing the speaking, not Microsoft, but I digress...

First, let me talk about what traditional BI challenges are:

  • Difficulty with large data sets
  • Data is difficult to parse and understand
  • Users don't know how to use the tools needed to really get value out of BI
  • Data isn't collected properly? or at all
  • Data is not collected for reporting purposes
  • Reporting isn't formed in a readable way
  • Data in Excel docs exits the company and causes chaos
  • It's difficult to know if you have the latest data

These problems are commodity problems. We're company with less than 100 people, and we have them (I'm not an Excel guru, so slicing a pivot table still troubles me). There are a lot of great things MS is coming up with that I think will address many of these issues (of course). SQL PowerPivot, previously named Gemini is an example of this. Faster data processing with 64-bit analysis is another. I'll say it here twice (I'll repeat it in another imminent blog posting). Microsoft's play with PowerPivot, and PerformancePoint and Excel Services improvements will be the #1 sales driver for SharePoint 2010.

But despite the fact that MS will have great game here, I don't think this is where they can kill the market. I'll explore where I think the key game of MS in Business Intelligence. Gartner calls it the "Collaborative Decision Making Environment."

Here are the challenges that *I* think MS already has game in:

  • Trying to intersect data and all of the unstructured information that provides an "insight"
  • Finding the right people that understand the data that can help analyze it
  • Collaborating with people on finding a solution for a key issue
  • Getting historical information about decision processes, the decision tree and outcomes
  • Providing views of information that can be consumed en masse to drive a cultural response (i.e. aligning the knowledge worker with performance)
  • Monitoring company workloads to ensure activity matches the necessary KPI response... are the people in your company working on the things that are going to impact the proper things?

Microsoft has huge game in this, and I'm excited about what's coming in SharePoint 2010 that will make this even better. FAST and SharePoint search can intersect data and unstructured data in search result views. People finding and the socialization of skills in the enterprise improve considerable in 2010. Enhancements in Performance Point in 2010 allow you to see historical trends in data and tracked against activities that impacted the data and Web 2.0 concepts like the Twitter-like feeds and tagging features allow you to get an organizational perspective on what's hot in your organization? ensuring that people really are working on things that matter most.

When MS shows numbers in 3 years that show a huge increase in market share around BI, you heard it here...