Microsoft Excel now on big data steroids


Face it, business users love their spreadsheet. They do! Many have strongly resisted learning new big data tools believing the old familiar spreadsheet did the work just as well or at least performed at levels deemed good enough. While Excel did perform well within its limitations, it didn't really deliver on par with the new tools. And it certainly wasn't ideal for large data use. Still, users hung on to it in large numbers. Their hold-out wasn't in vain as it turns out. Microsoft infused Excel with extra oomph with the general availability of Power BI and a slew of new features for the spreadsheet. Bottom line, Microsoft just hit the sweet spot in corporate data democratization and BI adoption at the user level.

Power BI is an online service attached to Office 365 for enterprise users that provides access to a cloud-based suite of business intelligence tools. And new features in Excel just rocketed the spreadsheet from antiquated dinosaur to a powerful and fast analytics, visualization and data modeling tool. You can take it for a trial run yourself in the free trial mode.

For awhile now IT has been busy shifting its focus from delivering pre-packaged analysis, reports and visualizations to simply pushing the raw data down for customized, self-service use. That met with mixed results because it was often the case that users didn't understand the new tools, didn't like them because they thought them cumbersome for one reason or another, or they wanted to shoehorn the data flow into their familiar and comfortable spreadsheet. New features in Excel including Power Query, Power View, Power Map and Power Pivot seemingly solve all that in one fell swoop.

Of all the moves Microsoft has made of late, this one appears to be the big winner. I'll report back once I have a chance to put the new and improved Excel fully through the paces. I'm sure it has limitations somewhere, as all tools do.

One thing I would dearly love to see is for these Excel features to come available beyond the enterprise market. Small businesses in particular could really benefit from these too.

I'm attending Gartner's BI & Analytics Summit this week in Vegas where I can observe and learn before reporting to you on a bevy of new products. But if you would like to read what other writers think about this development as well, then check out the articles on InfoWorld and TechTarget.

Stay tuned to FBD on this and other emerging developments. As always, we'll figure everything out together. In that vein, please share your thoughts, experiences and questions on the new powered-up Excel below.

For more:
- see the Microsoft Power BI site
- read the InfoWorld article
- read the TechTarget article (free reg. req.)

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