Editor’s Note: Be an Instant Hero with Better BI

Integrating the data and the tools to deploy a pervasive and trusted enterprise business intelligence solution can make you an instant hero, and Microsoft can help.

By Mitch Irsfeld

Arming decision makers with the information they need in a form they can use requires a consistent and accurate view of your organization’s information, often from multiple data sources. It’s no easy task since the users and their requirements can be as disparate as the data itself.  The hard work of integrating the data and the tools used to deploy a pervasive and trusted enterprise business intelligence solution can make you an instant hero to business colleagues.

This edition of TechNet ON brings together a collection of articles and resources to help you build, deliver and manage your enterprise BI solution.

As Joshua Hoffman points out in his TechNet Magazine article, “Empower Your Users with Business Intelligence,” supporting your organization’s BI initiatives starts with the right data structure, and SQL Server 2008 R2 provides that foundation by housing the data used for analysis. To be effective, the database component of a BI solution should let you spend your time analyzing the data, not tracking the data down. SQL Server 2008 R2 provides a rich set of services including integration, analysis, and reporting services.

But SQL Server is only the first step.

Next, you must make it easy to extract, visualize and share the information, and Microsoft makes it easy to integrate familiar tools such as SharePoint, PowerPivot and Excel, and even build let your users build their own dashboards and scorecards.

If you are looking to start integrating the components of a BI solution, TechNet Magazine’s Planning Your First Microsoft BI Solution provides insight into the process. Then get your feet wet with Building a Data Foundation for a BI Solution, which shows how SQL Server 2008 Integration Services (SSIS) to perform the extract, transform and load (ETL) processes for your BI system.

Beyond these critical foundational issues, BI solution needs to do more than access data; it must also support specific decision-making efforts.

The self-serve model

An increasingly popular way to support decision makers is to let them create their own reports, dashboards and models with easy-to-use tools. At Microsoft, we call this approach “self-service BI,” which enables users to access literally any data source they need too, from cloud based services like Azure or relational systems like SQL Server, IBM, or Oracle, or web services to create, analyze and share their insights in SharePoint 2010.

To find out how Microsoft enables self-service BI, we’ve included a recent video on TechNet Edge, Enabling Self Service BI from EDW using SharePoint 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2. You can then dive deeper with a free lesson from Microsoft Learning, Implementing Self-Service BI with PowerPivot for Excel 2010.

Speaking of PowerPivot, if you’re looking to build a self-service BI solution, this fundamental component of self-service analytics gives your users the power to drill into very specific aspects of their business. We’ve lined up several great resources on PowerPivot technology, starting with the virtual lab Exploring PowerPivot for SharePoint and the TechNet Edge video SharePoint and Office 2010-Part II-An Inside Look At PivotTables and SharePoint BI Integration. check out the TechNet Library article Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot Planning and Deployment, too.

Finally, if you are looking to deploy aspects your BI solution as a web service, PerformancePoint is now included with SharePoint 2010, and enables you to author key performance indicators, scorecards, analytics, reports, dashboards, and more surfaced as a web part page. For more on how that works, read Business Intelligence (BI) with PerformancePoint in SharePoint 2010.

No matter your BI need, from enterprise decision support to self-service BI, Microsoft provides a complete platform to scale from individuals to teams and throughout the organization.

Mitch Irsfeld

Mitch Irsfeld*, Editor of TechNet, is a veteran computer industry journalist and content developer who managed editorial staffs at several leading publications, including* InformationWeek, InternetWeek and CommunicationsWeek*. He is also an editor for* TechNet Magazine and managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.