“Insights in SharePoint 2010” (featured article on Technet Flash Magazine, UK)

I was recently asked to write a feature article on the UK TechNet magazine, published in Feb this year.

Business intelligence has always been a key business problem for which Microsoft has sought to provide rich tooling. From a client point of view, Excel has been in the market since the early 1980s, and the SQL team released SQL Reporting Services in 2004. By acquiring ProClarity, and releasing Performance Point to the market with the Office 2007 wave, Microsoft’s dedication to the BI market has been clear.

2010 sees a clear step forward in making it easier to build business intelligence applications by unifying the technology stack. The Office, SharePoint and SQL teams have been working together to make it easier for end-users, developers and IT Pros to gain insight into how their business is running.

Familiar client tools
End users are creatures of habit, and thankfully the new Office 2010 suite of products includes enhancements to Excel and Visio to help users build their own self-service reports and dashboards, while leveraging data from line of business applications securely.

SharePoint investments
SharePoint has become the de facto corporate development platform to build business intelligence solutions on. As well as new features, within areas such as Excel Services, Visio Services, and the Chart Web Parts and Performance Point Services, the team has worked hard to make the process of deploying these solutions easier for IT Pros. How?

  • Simplifying management by providing Powershell interfaces for IT Pros to use to manage their deployments.
  • SharePoint now has a Secure Store Service which allows users to have confidence that their system credentials are well secured.
    Performance Point, Excel Services and Visio Services are all first class citizens leveraging the new Service Application architecture, and are configured from a central place within your SharePoint Farm.
  • Connecting to Line of Business applications is made easy and secure via Business Connectivity Services

SQL Server 2008 R2
The SQL team have provided some key enabling technologies for building more powerful BI solutions.

  • PowerPivot is a joint effort between the SQL, Excel and SharePoint teams to allow large amounts of data to be manipulated in pivot tables and reports.
  • Reporting Services Add-In provides a simple way of displaying Reporting Services assets within a SharePoint deployment.

The best of both worlds?
The 2010 wave of products is a major step change in creating business intelligence solutions. It gives end-users the power to create rich self-service solutions, while at the same time giving IT the governance and tools it needs to ensure quality of service and data security.

All of the products mentioned in this article are now in public beta, downloadable from TechNet.

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