The concept of an i nformation publishing workflow is a central element of the analysis in this report. All information workers (executives, managers and individual contributors) follow an Information Publishing Workflow as they create documents for use by their organizations. Common elements of the workflow include the use of databases and of Excel, PowerPoint, Word and other Microsoft Office applications to create and publish BI documents. A key aspect of this workflow is how data moves through the various applications used to massage, format, analyze and publish it in the various media and to the various venues where the data is consumed.
This study shows that data movement between BI systems and Microsoft Office applications occurs quite often. More than 50% of the respondents stated that they either created or edited data-containing documents, presentations or other files on a weekly or daily basis. Users create briefing books, presentations and/or reports and they import, process and format the data used in these documents using both BI systems and their Office applications. The documents are then used during the course of monitoring enterprise operations and while making decisions.
The most significant insight from this study is that over the next 12 months, almost 50% of the respondents surveyed expected to be using BI systems more frequently and Microsoft Office less frequently to create their BI documents. From other surveys, Ventana Research infers that several critical factors combine to drive this trend. They include the inefficiency of existing approaches to moving data into BI documents, continued user frustration with the difficulties associated with manual BI document publishing processes, the increasing amounts of data with which users must contend and an ever-increasing demand from consumers of BI documents for more and better information.
A primary factor driving user frustration with BI document authoring is how data is brought into BI documents. Most data used in BI documents is drawn from databases, using either extract files or ad-hoc query systems. Three-eighths (37%) of the respondents identified data files extracted from databases as their most often used source of data for BI documents. Similarly, 37% of the respondents cited ad-hoc query and analysis software as their most frequent source of data for BI documents they authored. The dominant methods of data access are cut-and-paste, query from within Office (most likely from within Excel) and via file import. Each of these methods has manual aspects, contributing to scale-related inefficiencies. Ventana Research believes that organizations must mature further their integration between BI tools and Microsoft Office. Initiatives undertaken within enterprises to streamline data flow into Microsoft Office likely will yield significant productivity improvements.
Authors of BI documents indicated they would prefer to have the document creation process automated (35%) and that they considered BI systems (27%) as a preferred alternative for automation. At the same time, authors of BI documents are practical, declaring that they believed further enhancement of the integration between BI and Office systems is required. In fact, 59% of the respondents indicated that integration improvements are more important than any other BI or Office initiative within their organizations.
Respondents stated that they are inclined to question the comprehensiveness (26%), accuracy (15%) and sources of the data (17%) they see in BI documents they use. This is especially true when BI documents are presented to group audiences (e.g., in PowerPoint). Presenters were often queried for more data detail and survey respondents indicated that an interactive data access opportunity during the presentation was extremely valuable.
Enhancement of BI/Office integration cannot depend on the presence of a particular version of Microsoft Office. Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 were identified as the dominant Office versions by roughly equivalent-sized segments of the sample population. Furthermore, about one-third (33%) of the Office XP users and about one-half of the Office 2000 users reported they did not intend to upgrade within the next 12 months.
The desktop computer revolution provided independence from IT-controlled computing resources and unleashed extraordinary improvements in productivity. However, that independence has come at a price in the form of inefficient integration of computing resources. Vendors, especially in the BI domain, have worked to offset the isolation created by desktop computing, and they have delivered a range of integration approaches. Nevertheless, their integration efforts have been afterthoughts.
Ventana Research believes that most organizations, while recognizing that integration between BI and Microsoft Office is important, will reach a point where further information publishing workflow improvement will require a less organic and more systematic approach. Organization executives then will then step back, reconsider how information is published and ultimately deploy more tightly integrated information publishing solutions.
The need for technology to better integrate BI and Microsoft Office is present in most organizations. This translates into a significant market opportunity both for BI vendors and for Microsoft. Nevertheless, while Microsoft's influence is still quite large (via Microsoft Office), our analysis and market research reveals a growing shift to an enterprise-centric approach that relies on BI software as a critical mechanism for streamlining the information publishing workflow and for improving information publisher efficiency. Microsoft's potential role in this process is hindered by organizational reluctance to upgrade to the latest version of Office. This presents an opportunity for BI vendors that can enable Windows XP and Windows 2000 with add-ins that will streamline data flow into the Microsoft Office environment.