The Future of Business Intelligence: Like it or Not, Microsoft has Already Won the BI Battle

September 6, 2023
Tom Cangelosi 

Microsoft’s Power BI has won the scramble to become the standard in the Business Intelligence space. 

You might want to stop reading now but let me explain further.

I am not saying Power BI has the absolute best feature set. I am not saying Power BI is necessarily the easiest platform to learn. I am not saying other proprietary BI solutions will go away. I am saying Microsoft already has and will continue to win the hearts and minds of most organizations and individuals. This is not the first time this has happened.

History Repeats Itself

I am old enough to remember VisiCalc and Lotus 123. VisiCalc was the pioneer in the spreadsheet market. In 1985, Lotus Development purchased them and stopped selling their products, thinking they had just eliminated the formidable player in the industry. In the early days, the Macintosh was the PC of choice. Borland’s Quattro Pro challenged Lotus for a short amount of time. Microsoft released its first version of Excel for the Macintosh in September of 1985, and didn’t release a Windows version until 1987. It had a Lotus compatibility setting where you could use the familiar Lotus keystrokes within Excel. As Windows grew in popularity, so did Excel. IBM purchased Lotus and tried to compete with Microsoft’s Windows and Office Suite with OS/2 and the Lotus Symphony Suite. Eventually IBM withdrew the software from the market.

The Microsoft Standard

Over the last several decades, as companies have gone head to head introducing what are essentially un-differentiated solutions for spreadsheets, word processing, and email, only one company’s offerings became the standard. Microsoft’s. Why? Their offerings carry features that are in part unique to Microsoft and in part borrowed from other solutions, which convey greater end-user familiarity and require less training for users to adopt. And while Microsoft does continue to improve their product suite over time, the biggest objections to features and functionality typically occur when users move from other platforms. 

Ironically, it hasn’t been necessary for Microsoft to aim to be the pioneer. In fact, being a later entrant into the space has carried the advantage of being able to listen to how the market weighs in on feature sets, enabling valuable features to be included in later releases. 

Into the Cloud

As more of the applications we all use are in the cloud, we have become accepting of this deployment approach. Again, Microsoft was not the first entrant into the Cloud Computing arena. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was in before Microsoft. But because of what Microsoft can bundle, including within its Azure solution, it was able to close the gap quickly and offer end-to-process options like no one else can. This includes solutions to manage both virtual desktops and on-premise desktops, and flexible deployments of the ever-growing Office Suite.

Power BI for All

My point? The future of Business Intelligence is for the most part set, where Power BI will become the industry standard. What it doesn’t have today, it will soon have in the future. It doesn’t have to compete with the Tier 1 Business Intelligence solution. It will simply win because of how and where it is positioned, how it can connect to the rest of the Microsoft Suite, and because it will continue to add the best of breed functionalities that the market demands. 

Except for some of the Tier 1 solutions, where an organization already has invested heavily in customizations for their business, choosing anything but Microsoft Power BI should only be done as a short-term patch.  It makes more sense to focus organizational assets on a toolset that already is the standard. While no one can predict the future of Business Intelligence with absolute certainty, a bet on Microsoft Power BI becoming the standard is the safest play out there today.

Tom Cangelosi
A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Tom has 40 years of experience with system implementations in the manufacturing and distribution industries. In a career that began with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Tom has blended business and technical skills to create a practical consulting...
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