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My Favorite PowerPivot Case Study to Date

We recently completed our second joint case study with Microsoft, describing the work we did with one of our Cloud PowerPivot clients, Building Materials Distributors.

This was a fun project to watch.  And that’s mostly what I did, was watch.  Because the good folks at BMD did the work – all we did was give them the environment in which they could do it.

A Quick Read, and Good Justification!

It’s basically a one-page case study and a very quick read.  I don’t want to just duplicate it here, so I highly encourage you to go read it real quick, then come back here for the points I want to emphasize.

Click here to view the case study

imageI know, you don’t want to go read some boring case study.  Clicking links to other sites (especially “official” sites) really kinda sucks in general, I know that.  It’s more fun, frankly, to read sites where the author is allowed to use the word “sucks.”

But I think this one will come in handy for PowerPivot Pros who are advocating broader adoption at their companies.  You may know in your bones that PowerPivot will revolutionize the way your organization operates, but convincing others (especially non-Excel pros) can be tricky.  And let’s face it, blog posts on a site that uses the word “sucks” and features pictures of Samuel Jackson aren’t the most convincing evidence are they?

But big money savings, quick deployments times, and successful examples of PowerPivot “defeating” much more complex and expensive solutions, all packaged up in an official case study – that counts.

The Points I Want to Emphasize

Quickly and succinctly, here are the four things I would like to call out…


  1. The PowerPivot authors at BMD are Domain-Expert Excel Pros.  In fact they are all members of the executive team at BMD, including the corporate controller.  This is a perfect example of that whole “unified domain and toolset expertise” that I’ve been hammering on forever.
  2. This goes WELL beyond “team” or “informal” BI.  BMD is using PowerPivot to instrument their entire business, from Sales to Inventory to HR to Accounting.  It frustrates me to see the “official” messaging sometimes that tries to pigeonhole PowerPivot as something that merely supplements a “real” BI solution.  This example shows that PowerPivot actually can be a full alternative to a “real” BI solution (where “real” actually means “real expensive” and “real slow.”)
  3. Saves $100K up front and each year thereafter versus a “real” BI solution.  Self explanatory.
  4. The quality of insights that the BMD team has produced with PowerPivot EXCEEDS the original goals for the BI project, even ignoring cost.  Let that sink in.  They originally thought they had to spend a lot more time and money, implementing Cognos, and were prepared to do it in order to achieve results of quality X.  But instead, they ended up spending much LESS time and money, and got results of quality 2X.  That is not something that happens often in this world, unless you work on Wall Street.
  5. Cloud Publishing.  They went completely “zero to sixty” in three months – from contacting us to having a robust suite of business-measuring applications.  And they were NOT a SharePoint shop.  In fact they still aren’t, except for their usage of their PowerPivot sites on our cloud platform.  Admittedly, a robust PowerPivot system like the one in use at BMD would not be possible without a place to publish, secure, and auto-refresh the applications/reports.  And PowerPivot-ready, on-premises SharePoint farms don’t exactly fall from the sky – the three month “end to end” timeframe would not typically accommodate a SharePoint rollout (and the budget would jump a lot too).  Only a cloud solution to the “server” aspect can keep costs and deployment times this low.

Rob Collie

One of the founding engineers behind Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, and creator of the world’s first cloud Power Pivot service, Rob is one of the foremost authorities on self-service business intelligence and next-generation spreadsheet technology.

This Post Has 10 Comments
    1. Wow, MS must have completely retired that case study from their website. No mention of BMD in their search results anymore.

  1. Is it possible to establish connection between Cognos and PowerPivot to derive data to a PowerPivot Model? No chances to connect directly to the Info Center.

    1. I’ve only seen a third party connector to get that done.
      Of course IBM still says that TM1 will work with all the familiar Excel capabilities…. cough, cough. Apparently what IBM considers to be familiar capabilities is from the “Excel for Dummies” books.
      We want the OLAP data available to directly Pivot On as well as bring into the Data Model (PowerPivot world) which “we” have been familiar with. (The OLAP part is even older, but still not much with TM1.)

      1. Thank you, Brian.
        I ended up with opinion that there is no way to query through the Cognos, only directly the Info Center (SQL Server in my case).

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