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Home > BI for Excel

BI Products for Excel


Several software products combine with Excel to create a powerful
Business Intelligence system. All of them work for medium and
large companies, and one also works for small companies.

by Charley Kyd
November, 2007

Business Intelligence (BI) is the systematic use of information about your company and its business environment to analyze, report, predict, and manage business performance. Several products with OLAP databases enhance the way Excel gets its data, turning Excel into a powerful and flexible BI system.

I know of three such products: PowerOLAP from PARIS Technologies, TM1 from IBM, and, to some degree, Analysis Services from Microsoft. As far as I know, none of these products works with Excel on the Macintosh.

PowerOLAP offers more than 60 Excel spreadsheet functions that read from and write to an OLAP database. You will use only a few of these regularly. However, with so many functions to choose from, PowerOLAP provides Excel users significantly greater spreadsheet power for reporting and analysis than do the two products that follow.

Although PowerOLAP's features are roughly equivalent to those of IBM's TM1, PowerOLAP offers two significant benefits for small and medium companies and divisions. First, PARIS sells a single-user version of their product. This allows small organizations and laptop warriors to use Excel BI. Second, PowerOLAP costs significantly less than the other two products to purchase, install, and maintain.

TM1 was the first OLAP database, and has been on the market for about 25 years. The product ships with its own Excel add-in, which offers about 25 Excel spreadsheet functions. In late 2007, Cognos acquired Applix, the owner of TM1. Several weeks later, IBM announced that they were acquiring Cognos.

Analysis Services is an OLAP database that's bundled with Microsoft SQL Server. Microsoft also provides an Excel add-in that links Excel spreadsheet formulas to Analysis Services. Although the add-in offers only a few spreadsheet functions, several third-parties offer Excel add-ins with additional functions. Additionally, Excel 2007 provides functions that can read (but not write) Analysis Services data.

These products are similar in many ways. All enable Excel formulas to return values from multidimensional data. All can use the same dimension in any number of cubes. All are programmable. And all have many additional features.

However, the products are designed for different types of use. Analysis Services is designed to be administered by an IT Department. In fact, I hesitate to use "Analysis Services" and "friendly" in the same paragraph.

On the other hand, TM1 and PowerOLAP both were designed to be administered either by users or the IT department. In fact, most TM1 and  PowerOLAP installations I've seen were created and maintained by Excel users, not the IT department.

Because PowerOLAP offers Excel users the most functionality for the least cost, ExcelUser.com uses PowerOLAP to illustrate Excel-friendly OLAP applications.


 
 
 
 


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