But the Microsoft solution is looking just as big, bulky, expensive and complex and wont necessarily make sophisticated business intelligence pervasive in enterprises large and small because it is the most elegant solution on the market. It is counting on its ability to persuade at least a substantial fraction of the 500 million business people it claims are using the Office applications to implement its business intelligence tools. Read more here about how Office 12 will anchor Microsofts business intelligence strategy.Microsoft has said that it will introduce a new round of server products with the release of Office 12 due in the second half of 2006 that will provide even more sales and application integration opportunities. CRM is already much more pervasive in that most organizations already have some kind of computer tools in place to support sales, marketing and communicating with customers. And much of these are basic applications developed in-house using Microsoft Office spreadsheets, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. What might really help make business intelligence more pervasive is if enterprises had ready access to secure, on-demand BI tools where users could quickly run a wide range of analysis routines without having to worry about that massive upfront cost of acquiring, building and implementing BI tools running on top of a variety of specialized servers or data warehouses. Click here to read Charles Garrys commentary on why using Office 12 as a BI platform will perpetuate the "stealth IT group" and further compromise enterprise data management. IT and line-of-business executives might be appalled at the idea of moving proprietary market data offsite to a hosted application service. But if enterprises have gotten used to storing and processing the CRM data offsite, then it cant be that huge a leap to start running business intelligence applications offsite. Moving from on-demand CRM to on-demand business intelligence is a natural progression because all that good customer service data is just a mother lode of raw information just waiting to be mined by business intelligence tools. On-demand CRM service providers have already made some tentative steps in this direction, and it is a business opportunity that wont lie fallow for long. Once it catches on, it will be a strong alternative to Microsofts Swiss Army knife approach of integrating Office with BI and CRM functions. John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.
That represents a captive audience that Microsoft is counting on to upgrade to Office 12 and spend more to implement additional BI data management components such as SQL Server, SQL Server Analysis Services, SQL Server Reporting Services and the SharePoint Portal Server.