Business Intelligence (BI) is a smart data analysis process. Businesses adopt them to boost their performance by gaining valuable insights into their critical operations by using BI reporting applications and analytics tools. A growing number of BI tools, software applications and infrastructures are being developed and deployed by enterprises around the world.
From the identification of inefficient practices within an organization and the discovery of new operating opportunities to better work management and a real competitive edge in the market, businesses have been reaping dynamic results from the use of BI tools and applications.
It is thus not surprising that, the cloud-based BI market will be worth around $2.94 billion in 2018, according to a report by the Redwood Capital.
Best BI Software Tools
The goal of everyday BI is to get the right information to the right person at the right time so that positive changes can be made to a business.
Choosing the right tool in changing the BI landscape is the key to realizing your BI goal every day, but it can be a matter of great confusion. A large number of BI tools have been launched in the market that is tailored to the specific data needs of large- and small-sized businesses.
Amongst the most popular and widely used BI software tools include Pentaho, Sisense, Board, Birst, Targit, SAP Crystal Reports, MicroStrategy, QlikView, Tableau, IBM Cognos, Quadbase Systems, Profitbase, and Microsoft Business Intelligence Technologies.
Microsoft’s Dominance in the BI Space
One of the reasons why Microsoft is dominating the BI space is that the solutions provided by Microsoft are flexible and relatively simple to deploy, as reviewed by a BI expert.
Its integrated reporting services have made it easier to deliver reports without any additional charges and can be placed on subscriptions with the Enterprise version of SQL Server.
Additionally, its reporting service is smart enough to allow different people to receive the same report with data that is tailored to their own perspectives.
Microsoft’s Stack of Business Intelligence Solutions
Image Source: BI analyst blog
Starting with Microsoft’s BI solutions that have made quite a name in the BI space for their tailored solutions and easy-to-deploy tools, let’s take a look at how these solutions help businesses achieve their desired results.
Microsoft’s BI stack typically consists of three layers:
- Data layer
- Transformation layer
- Presentation layer
The first layer is the data layer where data is stored, the second is where data is transformed into information through different processes, and the last layer is the presentation layer where analyzed information is delivered to the end-user. The following are the tools that are used to convert raw data into useful and actionable information for businesses.
SQL Server Analysis Services
Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) was developed to deliver online analytical processing (OLAP) and data mining functionality to BI applications.
SSAS allows users to analyze data with a host of tools, including SSRS and MS Excel and enables the discovery of data patterns that are not otherwise visible through data mining features built into the product. With SSAS, enterprises can build high-performance analytical models that can be used for interactive data analysis, reporting, and visualization.
SQL Server Integration Services
Next in the stack of Microsoft’s popular BI tools is SQL Service Integration Services (SSIS) which is a platform for building enterprise-level data integration tools and transformation solutions to unfold complex business problems.
Simply put, SSIS is an enterprise data integration, data transformation, and data migration tool that is built into Microsoft’s SQL Server Database and is used for analyzing and cleansing data as well as for ETL processes to update the data warehouse. By extracting, transforming and consolidating data from multiple relational databases, XML data files, and flat files, SSIS loads the processed information into the data warehouse.
SQL Server Reporting Services
SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a server-based report generation software tool that enables users to create, deploy, manage and deliver reports whenever these are needed.
With this reporting tool, you can create interactive, tabular, graphical, or free-form reports, from relational, multi-dimensional or XML-based data sources, that are easily readable and comprehensible and that provides clear visibility of everything you need to know to make better business decisions.
One of the most popular data visualization and reporting tools in the BI space is an MS SharePoint Server, which simplifies reporting and dashboard management by providing a fully integrated environment for enterprises.
As part of Microsoft Excel 2013 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Power View is an interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation tool that serves an enterprise’s needs for intuitive ad-hoc reporting.
2023 Update - Microsoft Power BI is now established as the corporate business intelligence application of choice for most corporations. It integrates seemlessly with other Microsoft applications and is simple to learn as it is supported broadly by classroom training providers.
From tables and matrices to pie, bar, and bubble charts, Power View lets you create intuitive reports and data illustrations to better present your data.
Although we’ve only discussed a few of Microsoft’s entire BI stack, it’s worth mentioning that the entire MS portfolio of solutions caters to enterprises’ data needs in one fell swoop and provides businesses with breakthrough insights to achieve efficiency gains and create a better competitive advantage.
So have you implemented BI yet? Please share your comments below.