PowerPivot ROI Quadrant2

Thanks for All the Emails!

I really appreciate everyone who took the time to send in their thoughts on the first iteration of the ROI Quadrant.  Your input has encouraged me to keep refining and updating the chart. 

Based on your feedback, there are now a few additions in the version above:

  1. Desktop-Only PowerPivot
  2. QlikView
  3. Birst
  4. PivotLink

I’ll briefly explain the rationale for each.

Desktop PowerPivot vs. “Full System” PowerPivot

This is a distinction I often fail to make and you guys rightly called me on it.

Let me be clear:  PowerPivot on your desktop is an amazing tool, but it does not offer the ongoing robustness benefits that you get when you deploy it as part of a full system.

What does the full system entail?  Some of it isn’t software or hardware, but a social system.  People in different roles cooperating.  How your toolset blends in with your people and your organization is important – another theme I keep emphasizing.

  1. PowerPivot for SharePoint.  Without this, you don’t get security, auto-refresh, one version of the truth, cross-platform reach, nor the simpler usability of the web interface.  This is a big reason why people come to us for Cloud PowerPivot – to gain these benefits without large IT investments.
  2. Database Support
    1. I’ve spoken at length about how much better PowerPivot is when paired with a database – here and here for starters.
    2. ETL technically means “extract, transform, and load” but in general I just use this to refer to data shaping – something that is difficult (often impossible) to perform in PowerPivot.
    3. Even more clearly though, PowerPivot authors can deliver much better results when they have the cooperation of a database pro.  A two-person team of PowerPivot “Excel Pro” plus a “Database Pro” can accomplish things that much larger teams will actually never accomplish using other tools.  Whenever I conduct one of my two-day training sessions on PowerPivot, this cooperation is a theme that I stress repeatedly.

If you’re just running PowerPivot on the desktop, you still get dramatically increased robustness and agility over regular Excel, thanks to portable formulas and multi-table mashups.  But the lack of DBA support reduces your agility quite a bit compared to adopting a complete system, and the lack of SharePoint impacts both your robustness and agility.

The difference between having a full system versus just the desktop is night and day.  If all you have right now is the desktop version, don’t sweat it – you are learning all the right things and gaining tremendous benefit already.  Look at this as a positive – there are still further amazing capabilities to leverage.


I’ve heard a lot of good things about QlikView over the years and that continued in the emails I received.

Basically the theme I saw was in line with my long-simmering theory:  if you are in the market for a BI tool, but want something a bit more approachable than traditional BI platforms, QlikView is a very appealing choice.  The feature set is very rich, quite competitive with “big box” BI vendors, while presenting to its users a level of complexity that resembles that of Access development rather than heavyweight BI.

Still, I’ve met a number of people who who’ve been using or reselling QlikView and decided that it wasn’t broadly-useable enough.  The scripting language can put people off, and there’s a rich community of QlikView consultants, which is another sign of complexity.

Again, that theme that it’s like Access development in terms of complexity and less like Excel.

So QlikView gets a larger dot than traditional BI, similar robustness level (greater than PowerPivot), but a smaller dot than PowerPivot and lower agility score.  The Excel Army has soldiers everywhere, ready to engage.  To adopt QlikView you need to teach people a brand new language.

Note that if I did start to include feature depth using color intensity, QlikView would do very well on that scale.  But features don’t drive ROI nearly as much as the way it fits the people in your organization, so PowerPivot’s “ROI Rectangle” would still be quite a bit larger:

Comparing ROI of Traditional BI, QlikView, and PowerPivot

Comparing the “ROI Rectangles” of Traditional BI, QlikView, and PowerPivot


I know very little about Birst personally but I received a few suggestions in terms of where to place it, and those suggestions were consistent, so here it is.  Let me know if you disagree.


At Pivotstream we have a great deal of experience with PivotLink.  Or at least, my colleagues do.  My acknowledged first mission when I joined the company was to replace PivotLink with PowerPivot.  We did that quickly and we never looked back.

I realize that my placement of their dot is inconsistent with their marketing, as they were one of the early “self-service SaaS BI” firms.  Good ideas and courage are excellent ingredients, and I salute them for that, but we have firsthand knowledge that the execution is lacking.

I don’t have a problem being particularly harsh here because the notion of friendly BI tools is very much a reality – I live it every day.  So anyone that purports to be that but then under-delivers on usability AND robustness could unfairly give the entire space a bad name.


Tableau is a very popular tool in the data visualization crowd.  Those of you who have used it as well as PowerPivot, please drop me a note with your thoughts.  Your anonymity will be protected.  I’m rob.  At a place called Pivotstream.  Dot com.