The Death of Business Intelligence

Microsoft updates Power BI for Office 365

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence, Microsoft by neilwilson1984 on September 27, 2013

Microsoft has announced the addition of significant new features to the Power BI for Office 365 preview. Although not fully released, it will offer the ability to mine data using natural language through question-and-answer-type queries.

The software giant said the update includes “natural language search with Q&A”, as well as improved experiences in two preview add-ins for Excel with 3D mapping visualizations through Power Map and improved data search in Power Query.

Introduced in July and currently in preview, Power BI for Office 365 is a self-service business intelligence (BI) service delivered through Office 365 that complements Excel. It delivers data analysis and visualization capabilities, enabling workers to identify deeper business insights either on premises or within a trusted cloud environment.

With Power BI for Office 365, customers can connect to data in the cloud or extend their existing on premises data sources and systems to quickly build and deploy self-service BI solutions hosted in Microsoft’s enterprise cloud.

“We’ve had the preview open to an initial wave of customers for the past month and are encouraged by the enthusiastic response we’ve received. Today we’re excited to share some of the new features we’ve added recently to both Excel and the Power BI for Office 365 service,” Microsoft said on the TechNet Blog.

A highlight is the Q&A function, which the firm says takes enterprise data search and exploration to a “whole new level”. Microsoft said: “With Q&A, we looked at how consumers experienced Bing search and used that knowledge to enable customers to query their enterprise data and generate stunning visual results. The search experience is instantaneous and uses natural language query – Q&A interprets the question the user is asking and serves up the correct interactive chart or graph.”

Power Map, formerly GeoFlow, is another cool tool. This is an add-in for Excel which gives users the ability to plot geographic and temporal data visually on Bing Maps, analyze that data in 3D, and create interactive tours to share with others.

“This month, we made some significant updates to Power Map on the Download Center including immediate geo-coding of geospatial elements of data coupled with new region-based visualization that color-codes these geo-political areas: zip code, county, state, country/region,” Microsoft explained.

Users can also take the interactive tours designed in Power Map to create videos optimized for mobile, tablets/computer, and HD displays. These videos can be shared anywhere, including social media, PowerPoint slides, and Office 365.

Microsoft also updated Power Query, which is an add-in to Excel which helps customers easily discover, combine and transform their data. “We have improved the online search experience and expanded the number of available datasets including popular datasets from and the Windows Azure Marketplace, in addition to Wikipedia,” said the firm.

Power BI for Office 365 is designed to enable as many people as possible in an organization gain actionable insights from big data. “With Power BI we are providing access to powerful business analytics tools, built into our existing products including Excel and Office 365 to make data analysis engaging and impactful,” says Microsoft, which has yet to announce an official launch date for the set of cloud-hosted tools.


One Response

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  1. Very nice article, I used some of your useful concepts to write my own article: Self-Service Business Intelligence and Natural Language Reporting. I’d love to get your feedback. Don’t you think that Natural Language Business Intelligence is the next step of Business Intelligence’s evolution?

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