Archive for July 30, 2015

4 Reasons Power BI is Better than Tableau, Qlik Sense


I enjoyed reading this article by Martin Heller in which the author analyzed three top Data Visualization products: Tableau, Qlik Sense and Power BI.  Heller does a nice job explaining how these products represent an evolution in BI, making real data insights attainable for non-IT business users.  Mr. Heller says that each of these make self-service BI “remarkably easy” for users throughout the organization, but that in his opinion Tableau stood out as the best of the three.

But if Heller’s analysis is correct, then his conclusion makes no sense.  He first cautions that none of these products is well suited for Enterprise Reporting;: an important point – if you are looking for financial reporting, you are looking in the wrong place.  He then details each product’s features at length, with a focus on ease of use and the breadth of visualizations available in each.  He notes that there is very little difference in mobile capabilities (the Android app for Power BI is an exception, slated for September release).  Finally, he concedes that Power BI offers the best value as compared to Qlik Sense, and significantly better value than Tableau.  My question to Martin is this:  if you cannot afford Tableau or Qlik Sense licenses, and therefore cannot truly democratize business insights from data in your organization – what difference does the rest make?

Here are four reasons why Power BI is the smart choice:

1. Better Value – I’m not talking about a few dollars here and there, I’m talking 4x – Power BI Professional is $10 per month per user, Tableau Online is $500 per year per user.  I’ll let you do the math.  Mr. Heller does state that Qlik Sense is less expensive than Tableau, but does not go into specifics.

2. SaaS model – who wants another server on-premises to publish BI reports and dashboards?  Business users love cloud services: they pay a simple monthly subscription for the insights and visualizations they need, and  they don’t need to ask IT for anything!  Further, they get accelerated product updates from the cloud – much faster than traditional IT shops can maintain.  The net result is that vendors inevitably achieve parity, and the question “which product has the best visualizations?” quickly becomes a zero sum game.

3. Q&A – Power BI is the only product with Natural Language Query capabilities.  You simply type a question (i.e. “What was our customer churn rate in the past 3 months?”) and Power BI selects a visualization for you to explore.  The visualization chosen may or may not have been created by the dashboard’s author.

4. Power Query – all of these tools offer simple connectors to databases, Hadoop, CSV files, cloud data providers, but neither Tableau nor Qlik Sense provides a data shaping tool with the capability of Power Query.  For real power data users, Power Query’s M Language has all the capability of an IT Pro’s data transformation package, with none of the IT headache.  Power Query can be used in Excel, and it can also be used in the Power BI Desktop application. In either case, analysts consume and shape data on the desktop, build reports and publish to the cloud.

But is Power BI easy to use?  Yes it is – I invite you to come see for yourself! Dashboard in a Day is a Power BI workshop which BlumShapiro Consulting is hosting in Hartford, CT on May 11, 2017. We are offering Dashboard in a Day sessions at No Cost to participants.


5 Reasons to Migrate to SharePoint Online



Over the past year, 60% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office365. Microsoft says it is their fastest growing commercial product ever. Businesses around the world are taking advantage of lower costs and the increased capabilities of the Cloud. As a decision maker for a business that leverages SharePoint, you’ve probably noticed the growth of SharePoint Online, which is available as part of Office 365 or as a standalone service. But with so much invested in your on-premises SharePoint environment, you may be questioning whether migration to SharePoint Online is the right decision. Below are five reasons why migrating to SharePoint Online is a good idea for your business.

1. Stop worrying about your farm’s performance. Let Microsoft handle it

It is regularly estimated that IT staff spends 80% of its time maintaining and supporting existing infrastructure and systems. This leaves only 20% towards technological innovation. An on premise SharePoint farm requires significant infrastructure and maintenance in order to ensure good performance. With SharePoint Online, Microsoft provides the infrastructure in their massive geo-redundant data centers with dedicated engineers monitoring and optimizing the performance round the clock. Who better to manage your SharePoint infrastructure than Microsoft? Migrating to the cloud cuts capital expenditures on infrastructure while also allowing IT staff to focus more on innovation. Cutting costs and increasing innovation is the best recipe for growing your business. If you aren’t doing it, you can be sure your competitors are.

2. Always the latest features

Microsoft is constantly innovating with over 120 enhancements to Office 365 in the last year. With SharePoint Online, your business can begin to leverage new features as soon as they are released. There is no need to upgrade to a new version of SharePoint. Below are some notable enhancements to SharePoint online. Some of these are available now and others will be rolling out soon:

  • Integration with Delve, the personal search and discovery tool that fetches information you need before you even go looking for it (available now).
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) capability which allows you to discover sensitive data that is stored in SharePoint lists and libraries and create policies that can take appropriate actions (some features available now, others in development).
  • Document conversations which enable people to share ideas and expertise around Office documents, images and videos, directly in the context of editing or reviewing (rolling out).
  • More mobile/touch enhancements to ensure a consistent experience across all devices (in development).
  • User activity reports that will allow you to audit SharePoint and OneDrive for Business user actions such as views, edits, deletes, downloaded files, and sharing of files (in development).

To see the full roadmap for Office365, visit

 3. Heighten security

Yes. I said heighten. Some organizations are initially skeptical of the Cloud because it is new to them or because of concerns around privacy and security. The truth is your SharePoint environment is probably safer in Microsoft’s data centers and here are some reasons why:

  • Physical data center access is restricted to authorized personnel and multiple layers of physical security have been implemented, such as biometric readers, motion sensors, 24-hour secured access, video camera surveillance, and security breach alarms.
  • For Government customers, the Office 365 Government Community Cloud provides an isolated, US based cloud infrastructure that complies with certifications and accreditations that are required for US Public Sector customers
  • Data is encrypted both at rest and via the network as it is transmitted between a data center and a user.
  • Threat management, security monitoring, and file/data integrity prevents or detects any tampering of data.
  • Dedicated threat management teams proactively anticipate, prevent, and mitigate malicious access.
  • Office365 is verified to meet requirements specified in ISO 27001, EU model clauses, HIPAA BAA, and FISMA.
  • Your data is not mined or accessed for advertising purposes
  • If a government approaches Microsoft for access to customer data, they redirect the inquiry to you, the customer, whenever possible and have and will challenge in court any invalid legal demand that prohibits disclosure of a government request for customer data.

The measures taken by Microsoft to secure data exceed the capabilities of many businesses – particularly small to medium sized businesses. For many, the move to SharePoint Online results in a more secure SharePoint environment.

To learn more about Microsoft’s approach to security and privacy, visit the Office 365 Trust center at

4. It is not as hard as you might think

When I talk to clients that have large SharePoint implementations or significant customizations, they are often concerned about the complexity of migrating to the Cloud. In many cases, however, migration can be painless. Any migration project is simply a matter of having a plan and executing it with the right tools and the right people.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • There are great tools to help whether you are moving some file shares or a farm with 10,000 sites. For example, Metalogix offers a tool called Content Matrix which provides a zero-downtime solution for migrating your SharePoint sites.
  • Microsoft partners can help migrate your custom solutions and adapt them to the new “Add-In” model. You know – like that farm solution you are dreading to have to rewrite?
  • Hybrid is an option for what you have to keep on premise. Some IT managers face a lot of pressure from legal departments or customers to keep certain data on-site. For those situations, you can leverage the hybrid capabilities of SharePoint. Hybrid allows you to decide what goes to the Cloud and what stays. The on-site footprint only needs to be large enough to accommodate the content that stays. Microsoft’s hybrid option allows you to maintain both environments while providing a seamless experience for end users. A great example of this is the unified search coming in SharePoint 2016 (also will be available as an update to SharePoint 2013).

5. It will be the last SharePoint migration you have to worry about

Many SharePoint veterans can remember migrations between versions 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013 in order to leverage the latest innovations from Microsoft. The good news is that once you migrate to SharePoint online you are done with SharePoint migrations.

Imagine you have a lease on a sports car that allows you to get the newest model whenever it is released. It always has the latest in-dash technology, gets the best gas mileage, has the most horsepower, and now it drives itself because…well… that’s the latest innovation. Once you migrate to SharePoint Online, it is like you are driving that car. Your business will always have the latest content and collaboration technology from Microsoft.

In this article, I’ve covered five reasons why migrating to SharePoint Online is a good decision for many businesses. The next step is to get to work on your migration plan. Need help? Call a Microsoft partner so they can help you plan and implement your migration with the many tools that are available.

As a manager with BlumShapiro Consulting, Joe Werner leads our Content and Collaboration Practice area. He helps businesses leverage technologies such as SharePoint and Yammer to innovate and improve business processes.

5 Things to Know About The Internet of Things

If you haven’t yet heard of “The Internet of Things”, or just “IoT”, then you may not have much interest in technology. Or business, for that matter – Gartner’s latest report on the IoT Hype Cycle stated that we have reached the peak of the hype. So we’d better get you up to speed.

The Internet of Things refers to a new kind of technology solution whereby connected devices (e.g. mobile, sensors, wearables, drones) transmit data continually about the Real World around them. This data can be sent from device to device, device to machine, or device to cloud.

What makes this phenomenon different from past models? Cloud Computing, working together with tools for processing Big Data, have made this data valuable. Without cheap cloud storage, on-demand processing and the Big Data tools which allow us to aggregate petabytes of data for analysis, the costs of this data would outweigh any benefits. The cost model has shifted and there is no going back.

What do we need this data for? Great question. Before I answer it, let’s acknowledge that we (and I mean “the human race”) are in the process of systematically digitizing our entire physical world. Don’t believe me? Have you ever checked out your home address on Google Maps? I remember being startled that anyone would take the time to do that kind of data collection. Today, we collect data about ourselves, mapping our vital statistics, with wearables such as Fit-Bit. Map apps and Wearables are two mainstream examples of products which are continually mapping the real world. The question remains: why are we building these digital maps?

Let’s take a simple example: the common incandescent light bulb. It has a certain shape, wattage; attributes which have been recorded by the manufacturer, and consumers can get this data today from the manufacturer by simply opening the box. Now, once the lightbulb is in the real world, it begins to do other things which can be measured. How much energy does it emit? How bright is the light? Does the resistance fluctuate? How do these measurements vary during a power surge? This is “Internet of Things” data which, in order to capture, we need sensors capable of capturing and transmitting data for things out of the box and in the Real World.

So why don’t we have sensors on our generic incandescent light bulbs? Maybe because they are cheap to manufacture, burn out quickly, and will soon be replaced with better technology. But, Home Automation systems do measure lights in the real world. They measure climate, time, humidity and a variety of different things which, depending upon the consumer, make for an intelligent system. An Intelligent System is one which can automate adjustments to the real world based upon data collected from it. So, in fact, we are measuring lightbulbs, in aggregate, when a business model calls for it. The Internet of Things is about a convergence of technology and new business models.

What sort of business models do I mean? This is just a miniscule sample of business models being written about in business and technology journals.

Predictive Maintenance – What if machinery could broadcast data about conditions in the real world, and “predict” an impending failure, saving costs. That’s how ThyssenKrup Elevator gained a competitive advantage:

Personal Retail Experiences – What if a convenience store, where customers get in and get out, could overcome that intrinsic anonymity? They’d be able to deliver differentiated customer services and financial services:

Public Safety – What if firemen could review the schematic of a building before entering and while navigating a burning structure? What if EMT professionals could see current medical records of victims as they encounter them in a triage situation? Mutualink, together with Google Glass, are making these scenarios a reality:

In closing, before you engage in a serious discussion with your team about how your company can get into the Internet of Things, keep these things in mind:
1. The Internet of Things represents a convergence of Technology and New Business Models
2. It’s about devices measuring and mapping the Real World
3. You’ll need to get into Cloud, because Cloud Computing delivers the cheap storage and on-demand processing that makes this viable.
4. IoT devices will generate Big Data.  You’ll need Big Data processing tools and Big Data people.
5. You’ll need to ask yourself – What If?