Archive for July 27, 2010

Excel Services as Business Intelligence Integration Layer

I am currently enjoying a Business Intelligence project which focuses on Sales Force Management, CRM and Dashboards. Managing a sales force is tricky business. Over the past few years, organizations have developed a number of tools to help sales people record activities and supply evidence to support an Opportunity Pipeline. Often, driving adoption to use these tools involves using a carrot and stick – so what are you going to offer your sales force to incentivize them?

From my perspective, the answer is to provide them with better and deeper visibility into the information which you are asking them to enter. The idea is to help them avoid having to repetitively enter information into a number of required reports. However, this can present a problem: BI tools and Data Warehouses do not always keep up with the latest Line of Business initiative. In other words, the President of Sales says “I need a CRM” – which leads to a vendor selection, implementation and separate reporting silo. Or worse, a custom application is built to address an urgent need. However, the director of reporting is not included in the requirements phase, and so no provisions for reporting via the Data Warehouse are defined. In the end, an organization looking to deliver more accurate and more timely and relevant reporting is faced with a technical dilemma – how can I bring data from various grains and non-conformed dimensions into a single data source for reporting?

We are currently helping a client bridge the gap by introducing Excel Services as the Integration Layer over several data sources (OLAP and otherwise). This allows us to quickly create Dashboard Mash-ups of data, and even manage department and personal goals which have been defined at levels incompatible with one or more data source.

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This is proving to be an extremely efficient tool for developing useful BI tools which can be used NOW – while the larger Master Data Management and Data Warehouse issues are designed and developed.

Brian Berry is a Director of Technology Consulting with BlumShapiro, focusing on Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions, with a strong focus on Systems Integration, Master Data Management and PerformancePoint Services. He has been helping companies optimize their investments in Microsoft technology for over 12 years.