Wrapping up the series of Five Things the ‘Pro Wants You to Know (About the Show)…
#4 Endless BI Solution Possibilities
Andrew Brust beat me to it on this one, prompting me to add him to my Blogroll at right, but I want to amplify it here: there really is no end to the BI solutions that can be built on SharePoint 2010. So many developments surprised me. Here are a few.
Every data source now has a great API
SharePoint Lists. Excel Services. Business Connectivity Services. Reporting Services reports. Access Services. PowerPivot itself. All of those are now exposing rich API’s for fetching data (the Excel Services session alone blew me away – beefed up Web Services, a brand new REST API, and a brand-new client side jscript OM???).
And you are going to want to fetch you some data. Because there are so many things you can do with it…
So many visualizations, so little time
Web parts, ok, we’ve always had those, and they are getting better. But take stock of all of the choices, and suddenly it’s staggering. Reporting Services. Excel Services. Visio Services (another in the “where did that come from” department – web-rendered, data bound Visio graphics, including Map controls). PerformancePoint Services. Bing Maps.
Mix and match
I’ve long envisioned a “data highway” in SharePoint, where all data sources (some read-only, some read/write) and all applications plug in, and suddenly you get that “n-squared” benefit of near-infinite mix and match. After one failed attempt back in Office 2003, I realized the problem was too big for one team to tackle, so I moved on to other things.
Well, it’s become a reality while I wasn’t watching. I left the conference knowing that we will see solutions on SharePoint which evoke a first reaction of “That’s not SharePoint!” and then a second reaction of “OK, how did you do that???”
And the answer will be surprisingly simple.
#5 SharePoint Will Eclipse SQL as BI Center of Gravity
In a way this is just a summary of my other 4 observations. But here is how it played out for me personally:
I decided to attend the SharePoint conference kinda at the last minute. Mostly, it was because I knew SharePoint was important to the PowerPivot story, and it couldn’t hurt to learn more – both about SharePoint and its customers. I expected it to add just another piece of data to my personal puzzle. “This won’t be as crucial as a SQL conference for me, but I’ve been to a number of those now…” was essentially my thinking.
Boy was I wrong. The SharePoint community is where it’s at, folks. BI pros take note: there’s a new world opening up to us. Demand for solutions and consulting has historically grown slowly compared to what is coming. We’ve all been coming at this from the back end side for so long that we almost forget that it’s the end users, the business units, that drive things. And the backend BI technologies that many of us deliver are just incredibly distant from the biz users’ problems. It takes too much explanation. Not only is it hard for them to see the benefit, but it’s hard for them to offer meaningful input on data architecture as a result.
But show them a picture of a map, with conditionally formatted pushpins indicating the sales growth of those stores, where the expressions are defined in Excel, and suddenly, you have an enthusiastic partner/supporter/collaborator/sponsor. This is going to be a big change for BI pros, but also for the MS SQL Server team itself. I think most of my colleagues are due for the same revelation that I am sharing here.
Now, I am not in any way saying that SQL Server is fading away as a BI technology. What I am saying is, the way we will all be talking about it 3 years from now will be in regards to SharePoint. In other words, SQL now has the rich front-end complement that it has always needed. And the front end is the way to reach the all-important business users.