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Integrating business intelligence software with Microsoft Excel

Business intelligence software vendors are embracing Microsoft Excel now that they've found they can't woo users from the ubiquitous spreadsheet program. Learn more about this recent partnership in this article excerpt from our sister site

IT Reseller Takeaway: Typically business intelligence (BI) software vendors try to woo users away from Excel and on to their tools. But a number of vendors have recently announced tighter integration with Excel and other Microsoft products. As a channel professional, what could this mean for you? Perhaps there are opportunities and services within this partnership that you can bring to your customers. This excerpt from an article on our sister site,, tells us how the partnership came about, why the vendors caved and its implications in the BI world.

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Business intelligence (BI) software vendors seem to be following the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

The "'em" in this case is Microsoft Excel, the spreadsheet program that some experts have called the king of BI, thanks to its analytical features, familiar interface and ubiquitous presence on desktops. BI software vendors have long been challenged by Excel's stranglehold and have typically responded by trying to get users off the familiar interface and onto their tools, according to John Hagerty, vice president of research with Boston-based AMR Research. But users still like Excel because they interact with Office daily, and they're comfortable with the interface.

For years, vendors had responded with basic Excel integration functionality. This often meant the ability to save BI reports in an Excel format, Hagerty explained. While this was helpful for some, it didn't do much to solve the integrity issues introduced by spreadsheets. The result of saving a BI report as an Excel sheet was often a spreadsheet with a point-in-time snapshot of BI data, disconnected from source systems, which could then be manipulated and emailed, causing the potential for data discrepancies, Hagerty said.

Recently, BI vendors have announced tighter integration with Excel and other Microsoft Office products. This year brought a spate of announcements from, among others, Ottawa-based Cognos, which unveiled Go! Office; Paris-based Business Objects, which introduced Live Office; and New York-based Information Builders, which recently introduced Quick Data for WebFocus at its user conference, piquing the interest of attendees. While there are nuances to the various products, most of them have similar functionality -- enabling users to access cubes, refresh data and do analysis from within the Excel interface without having to go into the BI system at all. It appears that BI vendors are now embracing Excel, Hagerty said, instead of trying to woo users away from it.

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