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How does Office 365 business intelligence simplify analysis?

Office 365 business intelligence tools are designed so the average user can visualize and analyze data from a variety of sources with minimum hassle, according to one expert.

Power BI for Office 365 represents Microsoft's next step in that business-intelligence-for-everyone approach it...

took, starting back with SharePoint 2007. Microsoft has this history of trying to create or commoditize what used to be elite services, like business intelligence, and that continues with Office 365 business intelligence tools.

Power BI is giving individual business users the tools necessary to view data sets in a way that's very accessible. I can build a dashboard very easily by asking a natural language question about that data -- "How many products are sold in North America?" -- and Microsoft Power BI responds with a visualization. Then, through a combination of different steps within that dashboard, you can create different visualizations for different questions, then preserve that view and even share it. This idea of sharing it within Office 365 means it's exposed to the enterprise, and that's really compelling.

Microsoft's Cortana analytics, which recently became widely available, builds on this concept. It takes Power BI a step further by giving you more natural ways to interact with data and discover new insights, giving you the opportunity to make better decisions by creating that composite view of a number of different data sources. And they've exposed Power BI over mobile, so users can do that over their iOS device.

The really interesting aspect of Power BI is its accessibility to the average employee. A good technologist can quite literally get in and get most things done through some amount of code and customization, but most people aren't technologists. Microsoft's advantage in the Office 365 business intelligence space is its pure accessibility to the average individual -- the ease with which you can upload data sets from Excel and extract additional value out of those data sets.

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This was last published in November 2015

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