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Foreword

Foreword

At no time in the past have organizations had the capability that they do today to gather and store such vast amounts of data: customer information and operational data are collected routinely, flowing into an enterprise from multiple sources with increasing speed. More than ever before, organizations are turning to business intelligence as the means to derive value from the volumes of data warehoused in their computer systems.

Organizations use business intelligence to interpret the data they’ve collected, providing them with insights that are critical to competing in the new economy: a deeper understanding of customer and partner relationships, key performance indicators, and a consistent view of the organization from the executive level to the front lines. These insights have a direct impact on profitability, increase a business’s agility, and can lead to better accountability by providing an accurate view of an organization to all its employees.

A successful business intelligence initiative requires significant investment in software applications, tools, and technologies for reporting, querying, and analysis. It also requires the infrastructure to collect and manage large volumes of business data. Now that business intelligence is a competitive requirement, organizations aren’t focusing on whether to invest in it, but on ways to obtain maximum value from their investment. To lower the cost of entering the business intelligence arena, or to stretch their current investment in business intelligence, companies need to leverage the systems and infrastructure they already have and extend the reach of their business intelligence solutions by making analysis tools and skills available to a wider base of users.

Many organizations discover that even with a data management infrastructure in place, business intelligence remains out of reach of the greatest segment of their users—the information workers on the front lines of the company. Traditionally, analysis and reporting of enterprise business data has been the realm of dedicated analysts. With increasing pressure to shorten decision cycles and decrease expenses, these tasks are becoming part of the daily routine of information workers in every facet of an organization. The information workers who are called upon to make fast and accurate decisions can benefit most from access to business intelligence. Access to information empowers users; by extending access to business intelligence to all employees, an organization realizes a higher return on its investment in data management and business intelligence as well as an increased competitive advantage through faster, more informed decision making at all levels.

Analysis solutions that are tailored to meet specific business needs help these employees be productive, allowing them to focus on their line of business rather than on learning or implementing new technologies and tasks. The Microsoft business intelligence platform includes the building blocks for flexible solutions designed to meet the needs of a company or a subset of users within a company. These tailored solutions deliver intuitive tools that enable information workers on the front lines to blend advanced decision-making processes into their daily routines. This approach delivers rapid benefits as employees identify and respond to trends in product performance, respond to marketing campaigns, and take account of other patterns in customer behavior.

The purpose of this book is to enable organizations to realize the full potential of their investments in Microsoft technology. Many of the capabilities of Office tend to be ignored by the majority of users, yet they offer significant business value to an organization. Companies spend thousands of dollars on specialized data analysis tools when the majority of the capabilities they seek are already available in the productivity applications on their users’ desktops.

This book covers the core business analysis capabilities of the Office products and demonstrates how you can go beyond traditional reporting to deliver sophisticated data analysis solutions to your organization. You will learn not only about the features available in the products but, more important, how to apply those features in real business scenarios.

The book starts with a clear overview of the key capabilities for data analysis in Microsoft Office. The features are clearly explained so that you can quickly use them for your own analysis needs. It then moves on to more advanced topics to cover enterprise-wide analysis solutions that will enable you to spend more time solving business problems and less time writing reports for every user request.

Paul Cornell has spent the last few years demystifying the capabilities of Microsoft Office to make them more useful to the broad set of users in an organization. He’s done a great job of explaining the features and how to apply them. He uses these same skills in this book to introduce the data analysis features in Office and explain how to use them in day-to-day situations. Having this information will enable you to deliver rich analysis solutions more quickly and with a higher rate of success.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy this book and use it to realize the full potential of your investment in Microsoft Office.

Francois Ajenstat
Senior Product Manager, Business Intelligence
Microsoft Corporation

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