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Posted Nov 5, 2009

PASSion Award and Tom Casey's Keynote Address - Pass Summit 2009

By Gregory A. Larsen

At this morning’s keynote session, Rushabh Mehta (executive vice president) was the first on the speaker platform. He talking about what makes PASS run. A big part of it is the people like the attendees at annual PASS summit, and of course all the volunteers that make this organization tick. But PASS could not operate without it great sponsors. CA and Microsoft have been great sponsors for PASS from the beginning and haved help run the organization by having a seat on the board.

This past year the PASS board has been more focused on the user community. One of the decisions the PASS board made was to increase the funds they spend on community projects and events. This year the board increased their community spending by 40%. Hopefully, all of you have noticed and gotten value out of the additional PASS support that has been provided to the user community.

The next part of the PASS content for the keynote address was to present the PASSion award. Wayne Snyder came out to hand out this award. The PASSion award is presented to an individual that has shown unselfish commitment to spending their own time to support PASS. This year PASS decided to give out two awards. The first award was an International PASSion award. This award was presented to Charley Hanania. The second was a North American PASSion award that was given to Allen Kensel. A number of other individuals were identified for their commitment to supporting PASS, they were Tim Ford, Grant Fritchey, Amy Lewis, and Jacob Sabastian.

Click for larger image
Charley Hanania getting his PASSion award from Wayne Snyder, with Rushabh Mehta in the background

Charley Hanania getting his PASSion award from Wayne Snyder, with Rushabh Mehta in the background

Click for larger image
Allen Kensal getting his PASSion award

Allen Kensal getting his PASSion award

After the PASSion awards Tom Casey of Microsoft was introduced. Tom Casey’s topic of the day was Business Intelligence (BI). He stressed how BI can bring agility to your business, and how it can enhance the decision making process. He stated that only 20% of business decision makers have the information and the tools they need to make sound business decisions.

Tom Casey explaining how Microsoft plans to provide tools that will drive business decisions
Tom Casey explaining how Microsoft plans to provide tools that will drive business decisions

Microsoft’s direction is to provide BI tools that help the power user and IT professional. They are doing this by leveraging those tools that people already know, like Excel. By adding additional functionality to a familiar tool like Excel, Microsoft will provided an enhanced experience for reporting and querying against business data. By doing this the users will not need to learn new tools, but only need to expand their horizons a little by exploiting the enhancements added to the familiar tools. This is how Microsoft is leveraging current technology and growing it into the next generation. These discussions then lead to a demo of PowerPivot.

The PowerPivot demo showed how you can create Excel workbooks with billions of rows. Yes, I said billions of rows. With this new enhanced capability of Excel you can now work on workbooks that contain really, really, large volumes of records locally on your machine. You might think these workbooks must be excessively large in size. Wrong! Microsoft has done a fantastic job of compressing these workbooks down to a manageable size. You can even share the large Excel spreadsheets with other power users easily.

Microsoft realizes formatting of data into a nice usable format is a thing that can be time consuming for Power users. They have now created report templates to help improve the user experience in developing well-formatted reports. . These templates allow Excel users an easy drag and drop environment to create very user friendly, nicely formatted and readable reports.

Microsoft has made some great enhancements for incorporating these large Excel spreadsheets into SharePoint. With SharePoint, users can now publish their reports and allow other users to discover these feature rich reports. The demo showed how you could leverage Silverlight to present these reports in many different presentation formats. I have to admit, I’m a DBA and not a BI person, but these demos really showed some sexy looking reports, and cool report presentation formats.

One of the other demos shown was a tool for the IT professional. They introduced a tool named PowerPivot Management Dashboard. This tool allows the IT professional to monitor the usage of all the different SharePoint PowerPivot Excel workbooks. With the dashboard, IT professionals will be able to see aggregated numbers related to the reports. These statistical numbers show different aspects of each report, like the number of times the report has been used, the CPU consumption, etc. Having a dashboard with this kind of usage information allows administrators the information they need to better control and manage all these different PowerPivot reports.

Microsoft has come a long way in the BI space. With these new enhancements that are coming out with the next generation of Microsoft products, Microsoft will bring self-service reporting to the next level. Raising the bar, so to speak. If you are an IT professional for your organization, Tom suggests that you consider downloading the November CTP for PowerPivot, and “kick the tires”. They really want your feedback. You can find out the latest information about PowerPoint by checking out the following website: http://www.powerpivot.com. Be a visionary for your company by downloading and building reports using these new BI capabilities available in this CTP. This way as your organization starts to deploy these tools, you can help shed some light on how best to deploy these new technologies across your enterprise architecture. Be a leader not a follower.

» See All Articles by Columnist Gregory A. Larsen

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