On June 9th, 2014, I started a new job with Earley & Associates. Three days later, on June 11th, I had the pleasure of presenting with the Seth Earley (CEO) and Lisa Manning (CFO/COO) on Business Intelligence (BI). I have been around SharePoint since SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and seen it evolve over the iterations of SharePoint. One of the things that has always been fascinating to me was how BI has changed since then. Here we are on SharePoint 2013 with Office 2013 and this thing called PowerView has been unleashed to the masses.
I am a legend I my own mind when it comes to BI, but truth be told, I am a noobie when it comes to PowerView. I have done a lot of things with Excel Services since it was introduced in SharePoint 2007. I am proud to say, I was able to do a BI solution for Care New England when I was their SharePoint administrator all those years ago, on SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Many people did not know and still don’t, Microsoft released a solution package that allowed you to embed the pivot tables/charts of Microsoft Office 2003 into your SharePoint environment. You had to have Microsoft Office 2003 installed on the workstations to be able to render the pages, but it was very cool. After signing an NDA with McAfee, I was able to create a timer job that would run on the hour and gather all the data of virus’s that were found in the entire campus network that comprised Care New England. This allowed multiple views for the IT staff to combat possible attacks on the network before things got out of hand. Many years later, here I am getting to be like my kids at Christmas, playing with new toys again. I digress.
The first thing I was given was a SharePoint 2013 BI site in the cloud to build some sort of presentation. Due to time constraints, I did the go with what you know philosophy and used slides to go big picture over all the BI potential SharePoint 2013 has to offer, then demonstrated Excel Services with a few fleeting minutes at the end. You can find the entire web cast <place link here>. Because I had just come onto the scene, I had the rare opportunity to start to delve into this PowerView thing. One of the first things I notice when I browsed to my shiny new SharePoint BI site was a lovely welcome page with some helpful links. (See Image Below)
I must say, after the fiasco known as the launching of SharePoint 2007 where there was no documentation to be found, Microsoft has done a much better job at having documentation and more. Is there room for improvement? Yes… Yes there is, BUT I have to say some of these links on the home page of this BI site to online help files had “Hello World” videos etc. that were of great help. Wicked awesome! (Yes I am from Boston) With the 8 or so minute video on PowerView, I was able to very quickly put together an Excel spreadsheet with some dummy data that had addresses included. Make a pivot chart and a PowerView map that showed data from my spreadsheet onto the map itself. I could even interact with the table and chart by selecting filters and watch both change accordingly.
This is another tool in the arsenal of power users in your organization to make “Quick and Dirty” dashboards on the fly. It is very intuitive to someone who is well versed with Microsoft Excel. The interaction is amazing, the map tool ties into Bing maps, and just works. What is even cooler is the fact in the Microsoft App store, there is an app for download called PowerBI. This app will allow you to look at your PowerView reports from any device running Windows 8. This app will probably be released in time to other devices like your fruit pad, Android, etc. Now we are talking report viewing on the run. The decision makers in your company could be traveling, whip out their mobile device of choice and make educated decisions based on PowerView reports. That is a very cool ability in this extremely mobile day and age.
Thanks to the efforts of Seth Earley, he found an excellent comparison of PowerView to Tableau. The article was written by Jen Underwood and can be found here. Its still infantile in many aspects, but in the five months from when Jen wrote her article and this one you are currently reading, Microsoft has address at least one of the points she had made as a missing component. Microsoft is dedicated to growing and filling out PowerView. I am curious to see how things turn out in the next six months or so. PowerView is most certainly going to make many end users happy and quite productive with this powerful tool to make ad-hoc dashboards.