I grouped sessions I wanted to attend at SPC 2011 into three waves:
- Overview/roadmap sessions from Microsoft about areas important to me
- Expert “best practices” sessions
- Customer case studies
This is the start of the first wave: Microsoft overview/roadmap sessions.
The first session I attended Monday was SPC249, “Microsoft’s Vision and Strategy for the Future of Business Intelligence [BI],” featuring speakers Steve Tullis and Kamal Hathi. In addition to the themes of creativity and discovery, and their clear vision about “democratization” of BI (not new, but clearer and closer than ever), the most interesting things they presented in the session were demonstrations:
- A demo of Microsoft’s “Pivot” technology for information visualization using images. The demo showed a sales performance dashboard mashed up with Facebook-style avatar and profile information so that salespeople’s pictures are grouped into red/yellow/green groups based on performance vs goal, and a dashboard user can “pivot” to dynamically regroup the pictures by data elements such as time, region, product line, sales manager, etc. The Pivot technologies add an element of fun to the act of discovering trends in data in a very “self-service” way. I nevr get tired of seeing these demos, and would love to see KMA’s Mekko Graphics product mashed up with “Pivot” to incorporate rich image data into really advanced charts, like Marimekko charts, in the future.
- A demo of report creation using “Crescent,” Microsoft’s new tool for ad hoc visual reporting that will ship with SQL Reporting Services in the next version of SQL Server, code-named Denali. Easy “drag and drop” reporting and time series animations were some of the highlights of this demo.
Steve and Kamal also presented a final illustration of their vision of “democratization” of BI by likening it to slides:
When we more, ahem, “senior” folks needed presentation slides years ago, there was a whole complicated process around creation of artwork, sending them out to professional preparers, and use of specialized equipment such as carousel projectors to show them. Creation of slide decks has now been simplified enough by products like PowerPoint that most 9 year-olds would have no problem creating a slide deck for a school project. This is Microsoft’s vision for business intelligence: rather than having to submit requests to the “report Gods” on high with access to the data warehouse and specialized tools, users are being empowered to work with large data sets themselves, create models and reports quickly and easily, slice and dice the data, and to play with the data to see what they can learn.
If the business intelligence tools Microsoft is putting out there live up to their promise of insight through promoting play, fun, and discovery, I’m really excited about what business users are going to be able to do with them in the future.