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5 Ways to Business Intelligence (BI) in SharePoint 2013

Chella - Vice President (Client Servicing), SharePoint Practice Head
Chella – Vice President (Client Servicing), SharePoint Practice Head

SharePoint 2013 provides numerous ways to get Business Intelligence done. They vary   from simple Excel based data presentation to PerformancePoint to Visio Services. Here is a simple overview of what is available. 

Conditional formatting and charts in Excel services
Conditional formatting and charts in Excel services

Excel Services: If the data is relatively small, and you have traditionally used Excel to organize, filter and present data, then this is the easiest way to a centralized BI. Instead of distributing your Excel documents via email or central file share, publish the Excel document with appropriate security controls to a SharePoint document library. Users can easily view and interact with the workbooks and data in ways that suit their needs. These SharePoint hosted Excel documents retain live data connections and the viewer is presented with the up-to-date data. Workbooks may contain data model that combines data from Access, SQL Server, XML, etc. With Excel web access web part, you can control the view of the Excel document to a single PivotChart or a range of cells – bringing the attention of the user to a specific content within Excel. With Office Web App – either on-premises or on cloud, users can visualize and interact with the data from within the web browser.  See a brief video that shows how you can interact with data, charts, and graphs right in the browser.

As questions of data in natural language
As questions of data in natural language

Power BI: If you are using SharePoint Online as part of Office 365, then Power BI enables you to gather data, visualize data, and share information with people in your organization across multiple devices. You can easily collect and organize the data in an Excel workbook through Power Query and Data Model. You can use a number of visualization mechanisms (charts, KPIs in Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map, etc.) to present the data to users. Power BI for Office 365 can support large Excel workbooks (250MB). Users can use Power BI app (from the Windows store) to interact with the Excel workbooks on Surface tablets. Using Power BI Q&A, users can query data using natural languages.

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS): Many organizations have made considerable investment in building reports in SSRS. Using the Report Builder or Report Designer, IT teams, programmers and skilled users have created and used a variety of preformatted, structured reports. These investments can be leveraged by hosting these reports and distributing them in a controlled environment through SharePoint sites, and with better user experience.

Interactive filters in PerformancePoint
Interactive filters in PerformancePoint

PerformancePoint:  PerformancePoint for SharePoint continues to be the Cadillac of BI in Microsoft world.   The deep integrations with the data warehouse and analysis cubes in SQL Server, powerful visualization and data interaction tools such as decomposition trees, KPI indicators, weightings, scorecards help users make informed decisions that are aligned with organizational goals.  PerformancePoint allows users and developers to build reusable items that can be used across a number dashboards and pages.  SharePoint 2013 has a number of improvements for PerformancePoint, most important of which is the improved look and feel of BI Center and the consistent look of BI dashboards, following the theme of the SharePoint site.

BI using data graphics in Visio diagram
BI using data graphics in Visio diagram

Visio Services: If you are in need of presenting data that is better represented in a diagram, Visio Services can help. As an example, you can easily plot the network throughput and the available bandwidth on a corporate wide-area network diagram. Visio provides number of shapes, data graphics, icons that can be added to data connected diagrams to visualize the data. The diagrams rendered are of high resolution, full fidelity and the users can view and interact with them across devices without a need for a local Visio installed. As before, data can be from multiple external sources, and can easily be configured using Data Linking Wizard on the Visio client. Visio diagrams maybe further extended using web parts connections and JavaScript on the site pages to create a compelling user experience.

In summary, there is more than one way to reach your business intelligence goals using SharePoint 2013. Here is a poster that shows all the Business Intelligence capability in Office and SharePoint

Chella Palaniappan

I help clients with their new technology initiatives, help with their software development and QA needs across a variety of technologies, including Microsoft, Java, opensource, cloud and mobile. I often write about SharePoint and related technologies.