Microsoft Speeds BI with Two New Accelerators

Microsoft unveils two downloads geared toward simplifying and speeding the analysis of business performance.

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced two new business intelligence accelerators geared toward easing access to data and speeding scorecard creation.

The first, Microsoft Office Business Scorecards Accelerator, is a Web-based application designed to simplify the collection and measurement of performance metrics. According to Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server at the Redmond, Wash., company, the tool is aimed at customers who are looking for a dashboard view of their business.

The tool is designed to aid customers who are seeking to measure business-critical metrics such as revenue generation, customer satisfaction and manufacturing defects, for example. Many enterprises have such information stored in back-end systems, such as in Microsofts SQL Server database management systems or in other databases.

The Scorecard Analyzer contains what Rizzo referred to as lots of "widgets" that users can drag and drop onto a SharePoint Portal Server Web site. Such widgets include a scorecard viewer and a scorecard creation tool with a simple interface that requires no custom coding.

The Scorecard Analyzer employs an engine that pulls data from user-determined sources using user-determined measurements. Such automatic data collection replaces traditional manual collection and analysis of data and also supports personalization by organization, business unit or user.

The free download will be fully supported by Microsoft, Rizzo said. Product licenses for Office 2003, SharePoint Portal Server 2003, SQL Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003 are required.

The second download is the Excel Add-in for Analysis Services, a reporting and analysis tool for accessing and analyzing data in Excel databases. This tool is designed to shape Excel into a BI tool for higher-end users who employ pivot tables and/or connect to multiple data sources, Rizzo said.

The Excel Add-in for Analysis Services tool adds a simple interface to create reports against Analysis Services in Excel by using a drag-and-drop environment. It can connect to multiple data sources from within an Excel worksheet. It employs the OLAP (online analytical processing) functionality of SQL Server Analysis Services to help users create customized reports.

The Add-in also supports the idea of write-back. This will enable information pulled out of Analysis Services to be changed and then written back into Analysis Services, thus enabling actions such as "what if" analysis.

The Add-in supports Excel 2002 and 2003; a license for one of those two products is required for use. The tool is localized in five languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese. The free download is available here and also will be fully supported by Microsoft.


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