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PowerPivot


PowerPivot

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Steve Jones
Steve Jones
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item PowerPivot

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Carolyn Richardson
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Like you I have seen a demo of PowerPivot and was impressed by what it can do, but I find it a little scary. Its very easy to design a bad data warehouse and because of the design incorrect figures get churned out as a result, how much easier is it now going to be to produce bad results.

I hope that common sense rules when rolling this product out, but I've been in IT to long and doubt that will happen, I can see moderately capable users using this product believing that they are now Data Warehouse specialist and lots of bad statistics resulting.

Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable - Mark Twain
Carolyn
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I'm hoping it will work quite well for us as the biggest consumers for this information is the accounts department and you know how accountants love excel...

As they are quite sceptical about reports on data that they haven't written themselves, they tend to be rigorous in their scrutiny of the report cross checking against their own systems. You can't really complain with that level of testing and as the poster above says it will be easy to make a bad data warehouse hopefully this will lower the risk somewhat.

Plus it stops them using enormouse spreadsheets with vlookups all over them that take forever to run and use up vast amounts of disk space...
Gary Varga
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I think Carolyn has a point. It is something that long term developers and DBAs know only too well. MS Access anyone?

There is a place for user tools (I am no advocate of the locked down business environment). There also needs to be an understanding that somewhere down the line instances of ad hoc analysis and reporting will become well known, required to be shared and reportable in a common and repeatable manner.

Just like with MS Access apps, I can see that some PivotPoint work will remain ad hoc (and so it should) whilst other work will go through a natural progression to being an IT department maintained BI utility for the whole business (or part thereof).

As an industry we should be embracing the self-service attitude of businesses and be ready and willing to rationalise, commoditise and standardise those parts that graduate to that level of requirement. That also means we need to understand that we need to keep our hands off the rest.

Gaz

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meyer.richard.s
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After seeing a demo of PowerPivot, I was reminded once again that no matter what "BI-for-the-masses" tool selected, business users won't benefit that much w/o a strong understanding of their own data as well as basic data relationships (cardinality, granularity, etc.). The ability to "mash-up" data from disparate sources is challenging enough for IT people with expertise. To expect that the garden variety end-user will easily be able to do this is a bit optimistic.
Gary Varga
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I think that when users reach the limit of their understanding that these so called data "mash-ups" will provide an excellent way of communicating understanding of the business to IT practitioners.

I also think each organisation will have to understand what level of support they will offer their PivotPoint users just like they do with Excel now.

Gaz

-- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!
GSquared
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I've maintained for years that pivot tables in Excel were as close to BI-nirvana as humanity is likely to get.

This looks like a good addition to that toolset.

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Steve Jones
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The ideas I've heard, and what has been built into Powerpivot with Sharepoint 2010 integration is a way to watch and see which applications are heavily used and they can be rewritten as a true SSAS application or enhanced.

Great points raised above, and I don't think this eliminates DWs as there is still a need for those large, clean sets of data. Without them, it is a tool to allow someone to make mistakes much, much quicker and with more confidence.

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RBarryYoung
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GSquared (12/14/2009)
I've maintained for years that pivot tables in Excel were as close to BI-nirvana as humanity is likely to get.

Actually, Gus, I don't think that I could disagree more. Now if you were to move the words "in Excel" from the middle of that sentence to the end, then I would be in sad agreement (though with the sincere hope that PowerPivot will change that forever).

The thing is, even when Microsoft added Pivot Tables to Excel some 15 years ago, it was already obsolete BI-UI technology by at least 5 years. You see the height of End-User BI-nirvana was actually just starting then in a set of products going by the terms "Executive Information Systems" or "Decision Support Systems" or just DSS. This software tried to marry the easy end-user customization and interface of spreadsheets with the high-power analysis and data integration of that time's data analysis tools like RS/1, SAS and Minitab. Although it did have some success, it's hugely complex hardware, software, enterprise integration and the need for extensive customization to adapt it to each different corporation kept its cost in the stratosphere and thus the need to market and sell it only to executive teams. This also made it essentially a background player for years to come.

However, two very important things did come out of it. The first and most obvious is the whole field of Data Warehousing (DW) and Business Intelligence (BI). The second is that *some* companies at that time were able to successfully adapt the analytical techniques (though generally not the data integration) to reasonably priced end-user tools. These were called Multi-Dimensional Analysis tools (MDAs). Several of them even went the one additional step of adapting them too the most sucessful end-user analysis metaphor of all time, the spreadsheet.

The one that I am most familiar with is a wonderful product that was called Lotus Improv. Although it only ever got to version one (AFAIK), it is still my favorite spreadsheet product, ever. It's biggest shortcomings were that it was not integrated into Lotus 1-2-3 and that it did not have full spreadsheet capabilities. (Again, it also lacked real data integration) But what you colud do with the data that you got into was a dream for end-users, BI-nirvana, truly.

Now what was obvious at the time was that Lotus intended to integrate these features and capabilities into Lotus 123, either as and add-on in the next edition of Improv or directly in the next release of 1-2-3. And IMHO that would have forced MS to add similar capabilities to Excel. Unfortunately this was when Lotus started its implosion, and Improv was lost to history

And instead of any real MDA tools in Excel, we got Pivot Tables, whose only relationship to a real MDA tool is it's appearance, it has virtually none of the real features of an MDA. Comparing Pivot Tables to an MDA would be like taking Excel, removing every feature, formula and function except the Aggreagates (Sum, Avg, etc..) and cell formatting and calling *that* a spreadsheet.

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Miles Neale
Miles Neale
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I see this as exciting and very valuable. Any advancement into BI is great for business, Data Quality, and End Users. And any way to make it easier, faster, or better is excellent.

I could say that they are still out of date, but would rather celebrate that they are doing something about it.

i could also say that this will make the bad DW more available to the user and expose more problems with the data. But I choose to say that this will allow those building the DW and tending the data more rapid and better access to the data for better data mining and cleaning. Thus the better and easier the tool the easier it should be to raise the data quality. By the way we do not know we have bad data till we find it and if this new toolset helps us find it sooner, this is wonderful.

In the past I have built small BI solutions that do not see the light of day as far as the end user is concerned but have caused the quality of the data to rise considerably.

The new tools will make the job of the data professional better if they dig in and use them. Good step forward, and using Excel allows us to use a toolset that we know already and build on the success of a commonly known tool. It is a good idea.

Have a great day!

Not all gray hairs are Dinosaurs!
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