Microsoft BI - A good all around suite of products for the traditional data environment
September 14, 2014

Microsoft BI - A good all around suite of products for the traditional data environment

Mashhood Syed | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version

BIDS 2008

Modules Used

  • SSRS
  • SSIS

Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft BI

The reports I put together in SSRS were used by multiple departments totaling over 50 business users. SSIS was used by 3 individuals in the IT department including myself. I deployed reports to the SSRS Report Server which were viewed in a browser on the company's intranet. The reports could be viewed, downloaded in multiple formats (PDF, XLS, CSV, TIFF), subscribed to via email, scheduled to be received on a interval of the user's choosing.

The business problems that it addresses are:
1. How do our customers feel about us (based on customer satisfaction surveys)
2. How well are we managing our operations?
3. How well are we utilizing our resources?
4. How well are the salespeople doing (based on daily rankings)
5. How profitable were we last week, month, quarter, year...
The list goes on...
  • The interfaces of the products are familiar to most people that currently use Microsoft products so its comfortable in that respect
  • Creating a report is easy to do with drag/drop functionality. You also have alot of dropdowns. You can use formulas the same way you do in Excel. They have "expressions" which are like formulas with a mix of SQL.
  • Publishing a report to the server is simple as well. You go to the server and upload the file from your file directory.
  • Setting up subscriptions is simple as well. Anyone can do it with minimal knowledge. Its sort of like creating a recurring calendar event.
  • The hierarchy within SSRS is intuitive. A Project is the top level item. You can add as many reports as you want to a project. Similar to any other IDE where you keep all your files in one project (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JSP, Servlet) except in the case of SSRS its all reports.
  • Whether you choose to use 2008 or 2012 the interface is layed pretty much the same. So if you start of in 2008 and then upgrade, you dont have to re-learn anything. Their are slight differences in the two versions but it wont hinder your ability to build a report.
  • Its not a web based application yet. So you have to install the client application on your local machine. In addition, you pretty much have to install a the full SSMS package. Its a heavy weighted suite of products
  • Compared to Tableau you are limited in your dashboard building ability. In SSRS you have to build a master report along with a subreport where these two items have to have a key that links them together. From there you can break up the screen into multiple quadratics with your visualization.
  • If someone wants to view the report on their iPad, you have to make sure that the subscription for their report is in PDF or CSV format. If its in Excel and they dont have Excel on their iPad, they cant view it. If its in CSV, I believe the report will open up in the iPads native spreadsheet app.
  • When you are stuck while building a report, the forums for Microsoft pretty much suck. Their technical articles suck also. Microsoft support is pretty much non-existent.
-Tableau is clearly more cutting edge when it comes to data visualization and connecting to multiple data sources (support for MongoDB, Hadoop, etc).
-Assuming your data is not that sophisticated, Microsoft BI is a great product. I would say its a good "all around" BI tool. It does a good job in building operational reports. The reports run very fast on the report server. Most IT folks and alot of business folks can get comfortable with this product and build their own reports. You can create a semantic layer for the business users to pull their own data from (and its drag and drop).
-Microsoft BI pretty much smokes Crystal Reports, SAP Business Objects and even IBM Cognos (I have limited experience with Cognos but from what I saw, it was pretty horrible to use). When I say "smokes" I mean that Crystal Reports, SAP Business Objects IBM Cognos are like using Internet Explorer 6.0 and Microsoft BI is like using Firefox 2013. Why would you bother using such old products that haven't kept up with the needs of today's analysts? It's not so much about functionality as it is about UI design and a certain level of intuitiveness.
Assuming that I will continue to have a need to monitor and report on the operational aspects of the organization using transactional data, Microsoft BI is a solid choice. Its kind of like how you still have legacy applications that serve a strong need that is critical to the day to day operations. The fact that the tools are similar to stuff the users have already been using makes the adoption and buy in that much easier.
I think that Microsoft BI products are suited well for companies that have traditional data needs. To be more specific, if your data is organized nicely into a RDBMS (SQL Server, Oracle) and you want a way to distribute it easily across your organization, then SSRS can get the job done very well for you. The best situation is where you are purely a Microsoft shop. In that instance, all these products work seamlessly with SQL Server. If you have really specific needs like real time visualization, dashboarding, ability to blend data from multiple data sources then Microsoft BI may not be the right product for you as of yet.