Is Microsoft's Vision of Business Intelligence Really the Future?

Business Data and Intelligence Analyst

If Microsoft has anything to say about it, virtually any IT professional with a basic understanding of big data will also be capable of being a business data analyst. That is allegedly the goal of their Power BI software, according to a recent report from Forbes. Microsoft has just announced a premium edition of the software first released a couple of years ago.

Microsoft BAPI vice president James Phillips described the enterprise version of the software as being a tool that would enable "users across roles, disciplines and industries to sign up for the service in seconds and get business value by drawing insights from their data within minutes." To put that in plain English, Microsoft is offering business intelligence (BI) tools to IT professionals who don't necessarily have BI training. It is essentially DIY business intelligence.

The concept is a legitimate one and well worth exploring. As any experienced business intelligence analyst can attest to, making the best use of BI requires collecting and analysing as much data as possible. Microsoft's software is just one of many tools for that purpose. Having said that, it is hard to imagine that "everyone will be a business analyst" in the future, as Forbes asserts.

Data Is Never a Replacement

Over the last several decades we have come to appreciate the value of data for all sorts of BI applications. That data represents the facts by which analysts and executives make decisions. But that's all it is. Data is a collection of information that must be understood and utilised in a certain way in order to make wise decisions. Data is no replacement for those decisions.

To say that everyone will be a business intelligence analyst in the future is a lot like saying that content management systems like WordPress have made everyone who uses them a website developer. Sure, people without any formal web development training can put together fairly nice websites with very little effort. But those sites are rudimentary and limited. It takes real training and experience to get beyond what content management systems can offer. BI works the same way.

Microsoft's Power BI is a tool for collecting and analysing data. It is a tool that competes with others to offer companies a means of implementing big data for their own purposes. But the results it generates are just as rudimentary and limited. Somewhere along the line, a human mind still has to make decisions based on data collection and analysis.

At the end of the day, Microsoft's vision to make everyone a business intelligence analyst is not realistic. And in all likelihood, that's probably not their real goal at all. Their goal is to sell software and services to companies that would benefit from more complex data collection and analysis. Microsoft likely doesn't have any grandiose vision of eventually replacing human business analysts with training and experience. They know that the human mind will always be part of the equation.

Sources:

Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/adrianbridgwater/2017/06/13/microsoft-widens-business-intelligence-approach-is-everyone-a-business-analyst-now/#2f7543ca32ec

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Author: Chris Scanlon

Hullo.  I'm a graduate chartered accountant with 25 years experience in blue chip businesses and the last 15 years in owner manged businesses.  My particular skill is turning data into information. Bringing the performance management of the business alive so that ...