Posts Tagged ‘SharePoint’

Microsoft adds business intelligence to Office 365

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Microsoft is adding a set of BI (business intelligence) tools to its hosted Office 365 service, including some capabilities not yet offered in stand-alone Microsoft software products.

Power BI for Office 365 “brings together our entire BI stack and offers it as a service,” said Eron Kelly, general manager for SQL Server product marketing.

Power BI will offer users what Kelly calls “self-service BI,” or “the ability for the end user closest to the business problem to bring together data and information.”

Microsoft will unveil this service at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this week in Houston.

Office 365 already offers some BI capabilities. Office 365 ProPlus offers both Power View and Power Pivot through the online edition of Excel.

With this new service, users are given a landing page, provided by SharePoint, along with a catalog of data sources and a set of analysis tools. Excel serves as the starting point for analysis.

The data sources, chosen by an administrator, can be taken from either the organization itself, or from public data sources such as Wikipedia tables.

The user can load one or more data sources in an online Excel spreadsheet, and analyze them through a number of new tools.

One tool, called Power Query, formerly called Data Explorer, allows a user to pull external data into an Excel spreadsheet. A user, for instance, could create a spreadsheet from a Twitter feed, dividing the Twitter messages, dates, locations and users into separate columns.

Another tool, called Power Map, can place geographically coded data on a map, provided by Bing Maps. It could visually summarize, for instance, how many Twitter messages originated in each city in a country, indicating the number of messages by the height of a bar that rises above the location of the map. Power Map debuted as a beta Excel 2013 plug-in called GeoFlow.

Once a user creates a report, it can be published back to the organization’s data catalog, where others can view it. Microsoft is planning on releasing a Power BI mobile app for Windows 8 and iOS devices. Reports, which are published through Power View, can also be rendered in HTML5, in addition to Power View’s default Silverlight format.

Power BI will also come with a new natural language query engine. A user can type in a query into a search box, such as “How much revenue did product X generate last year?” and Power BI would return a graph, based on existing data, showing the revenue data for the past several years.

The natural language query engine “makes it easier for an average user who doesn’t know how to structure a proper SQL query,” Kelly said.

Pricing for Power BI has not yet been finalized, though it will be based on per-user, per-month model. Microsoft did not set a date for general availability of the service

Source:  computerworld.com

Forrester: SharePoint faces challenging future

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Mobile, social, and cloud are areas in which Microsoft’s collaboration server must improve to continue its growth

Despite strong support from IT pros, SharePoint faces increased skepticism from business leaders and it’s unclear whether the collaboration product will deliver cloud, social, and mobile advancements needed for future growth.

Those are some of the findings from a new Forrester Research study published on Tuesday titled “SharePoint Enters Its Awkward Teenage Years.”

“Microsoft SharePoint is the centerpiece of many enterprises’ collaboration and content strategies, but it isn’t clear to us that enterprises will continue to invest in SharePoint to provide a broader range of social, web content, and content delivery functionality,” wrote report authors Rob Koplowitz and John Rymer. The study was based on a survey conducted in August 2012 of 153 IT decision-makers involved with SharePoint implementations.

SharePoint has reached mature status as a content management and enterprise collaboration tool, used primarily by companies to corral documents dispersed among file servers, email inboxes and other content management systems, according to Forrester.

As such, its 2007 and 2010 versions are used by organizations of all sizes and in all industries to create and manage intranets, offer collaboration capabilities, and manage content, but there is less satisfaction with and usage of it for other scenarios, such as a custom application platform and as a business intelligence tool for data analysis.

The gap in satisfaction between IT pros and business managers — SharePoint met the expectations of 73 percent of the former, and of 62 percent of the latter — is of concern, according to the authors.

“While ‘if you build it, they will come’ might work in the movies, the approach has yielded neither wide adoption of SharePoint nor satisfaction with the product. Too often, IT provides the latest and greatest SharePoint release only to watch many users turn their backs on the solution,” the report reads.

Dissatisfaction is centered on several areas, including adoption challenges, a dislike for the SharePoint user experience, a preference for other tools like email and skepticism over its business value.

Also of concern is that takeup of SharePoint Online, the cloud-hosted version of the product, is very low — 4 percent of respondents reported using it exclusively, a rate expected to rise to 8 percent after the new SharePoint 2013 comes out at some point this quarter. However, 26 percent of respondents plan to have a hybrid on-premises/cloud deployment, according to the study.

There is also dissatisfaction with the enterprise social networking capabilities in SharePoint, but Forrester predicts that this component of the product will be much better in the 2013 version and beyond as the product gets more integrated with Yammer.

Microsoft also must improve its efforts to deliver SharePoint functionality via mobile applications to smartphone and tablet users of various platforms, the authors wrote.

Koplowitz and Rymer had words of praise for SharePoint 2013, pointing out that an impressive 68 percent of respondents said they plan to upgrade to that new version within two years after its release. Eighty-one percent of respondents are currently on SharePoint 2010, and the rest on 2007 and earlier versions.

In particular, the Forrester analysts like SharePoint 2013’s new development architecture, which is consistent with Web standards and is designed to simplify and make more flexible and secure the creation and deployment of applications.

This new architecture “makes the product a native Web citizen rather than a proprietary world of its own,” as has been the case until now, and will make SharePoint 2013 “more modular and open than any prior release.”

At this juncture, CIOs and other IT executives should rethink the role of SharePoint in their organizations. For example, if SharePoint is used only for document collaboration, it is an expensive proposition for which more affordable options exist, according to the authors. It’s also a good idea to monitor how Yammer is integrated with SharePoint, and assess how comfortable the organization is with providing enterprise social collaboration via a cloud model. In addition, CIOs must keep a close eye on SharePoint’s mobile capabilities.

For Microsoft, the challenges are substantial in areas like social, cloud and mobile, according to Forrester. “At stake is Microsoft’s ability to maintain the strong growth curve SharePoint has enjoyed over the past four years,” the authors wrote.

Dangerous competitors include IBM, Google, Jive Software, and Box. “Despite its rousing success in enterprises, circumstances have changed, and SharePoint must prove its value all over again.”

Microsoft declined to comment for this story.

Source:  infoworld.com