Microsoft Campus
A building on the Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

We are fortunate enough to live in an era of intense technological innovation. The same era that has been bringing us life changing technology in various industries is now seeing that same path being directed towards the big data niche. With the overwhelming potential that big data presents for people, it’s no wonder that the industry is generating such a huge buzz.

Looking at the big picture, it’s easy to see why there is so much need for turning data into actionable information. Businesses worldwide are digitizing their processes, which means they are now receiving and dealing with more information than ever. Information that needs to be properly collected, formatted and analyzed before it can be applied. This has given birth to a wide array of Business Intelligence software services, which in turn has opened many doors for people within the industry. The fact is that, in the future, everything is big data and big data is everything.

Over the course of several years, we saw some big players venture into this evolving market. Microsoft, Tableau, Panorama Software, SAS and Yellowfin are just some of the companies courageous enough to step into BI’s high paced environment, giving their best shot to deliver a piece of all-encompassing technology that makes a complicated thing of translating data seem easy.

For example, Tableau’s and Microsoft’s BI suites are a prime example of what it means to understand your customers. Both competitors want their products to be intuitive, attractive and desirable, backed by a steady plan to innovate and expand their services.

Innovation pays off, and that can be easily seen in Tableau’s revenue growth, surpassing a total revenue of $400 million. Tableau’s ability to connect to almost any data source has contributed to much of its appeal to professional users. Not only that, but their pricing plans have followed the same bold and innovative path with both Tableau Public and Tableau Reader being free to use. Focusing on the right feature-pricing combination, Tableau undoubtedly manages to provide a seamless experience for people who want to take control of their data at an affordable price. With such an offering, Tableau will surely hold a firm place on the market for a long time to come.

On the other side, we have Microsoft. It seems that whatever they release comes out in a fog of hype and praise, followed by the product becoming a “household” name in no time. Their BI market philosophy is also a simple one: envision and implement. So far, with tools like Power BI, Excel, SharePoint and SQL Server they have managed to do exactly that.

Microsoft has, without a doubt, stepped up the game with their self-service BI tools in recent years. Out of their BI line of products, only SQL is solely developed as a corporate business intelligence tool. This isn’t by chance. Microsoft is aware of the fact that a lot of their users are SME’s who already use Excel and/or SharePoint, which is exactly why it makes sense for them to focus so much of their main attention on creating an intuitive BI tool with an interface that users already know.

And this strategy is exactly what is making Microsoft win as a leader. They surpass just one piece of software by intertwining their products with each other in order to cover the widest user range possible. Take Excel 2016 as an example. The most widely used spreadsheet software now has integrated Business Intelligence tools. For decades, we have been using it for everything from basic monthly budget tracking to calculating elaborate financial projections. And now, we can even use it for our improving our data workflows. Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map all represent a big leap forward while encouraging Excel users to explore the world of business intelligence. Or self-service business intelligence, at very least.

As soon as the Internet found out about the latest BI and Excel marriage, people started thinking about the next possible steps in Microsoft’s strategy. What lies ahead for Excel and BI?

Articles like this interview with 27 Excel experts attempts to provide some visionary feedback from authorities on the matter. While the answers themselves vary, they all have a common thread – Excel is here to stay and the integration will eventually take BI to a whole new level.

With the release of Office 2016, Microsoft has stepped with one foot towards the next innovative milestone. Now that they have packed Excel with the ever so useful BI toolkit, they have a chance to reach and empower an ever broadening range of users for business intelligence. They innovate and they execute. And they most definitely lead.

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