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Partner Sees Opportunity with Power BI for Office 365

With this month's release of Power BI for Office 365, cloud-based business analytics without an expensive barrier to entry is now available to your customers. Providing access to self-service data analytics directly through Excel, Power BI for Office 365 levels the playing field of business intelligence for the SMB market. Smart partners are seizing the opportunity to give those businesses a hand.

BI for SMB
Since the announcement of Power BI for Office 365 at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference last year, forward-thinking partners have been using the preview version to understand the value to customers. Mike Gilronan, SharePoint practice director for the Northeast region at McGladrey LLP, has already been showing clients the potential of the new service.

"There is definitely a wow factor with the visualizations in Power View and Power Map. The demos are immediately striking to our clients," Gilronan said.

As Phil Sorgen, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group, suggested to partners in his recent post on Digital WPC, the opportunity has broad implications.

"This is a business opportunity with customers of all sizes, not just large enterprises," Sorgen wrote. "In fact, in a Gartner survey, 'Analytics and BI' was the #1 ranked technology priority when small and midsize businesses were asked to list their top 3 issues."

Gilronan confirms the shift in market opportunity. "In the past, the upfront cost of BI was a huge hurdle for much of the SMB market. With Microsoft's subscription model, it's much easier to get started," Gilronan said. "Power BI is going to democratize BI, which has been out of reach for a lot of organizations."

Service Opportunity for Partners
While the home page of Power BI for Office 365 proclaims "Self-service Business Intelligence for all your data," that doesn't mean that partners aren't needed. (Note to Microsoft, though: There is currently no link on to PartnerPoint on the Power BI home page.) 

Small and midsize businesses, especially those without internal IT departments, will need someone with a clear understanding of data sources to help them get the most value from Power BI. Combining internal and cloud-based data sources will still seem daunting to most of your customers. And, hence, your value.

"There is tremendous opportunity in working with clients to understand the business process, where the data is coming from and how it fits together, especially if the data is coming from multiple source systems," Gilronan explained. "Data integration and data normalization work will be required. That is real data architecture work and qualified partners should reap a windfall."

Power BI for Office 365 gives all partners a better set of tools to support their customers' business processes through the data flow and reporting requirements. For MSPs and pure technical partners, the cloud BI service can be the avenue to move from infrastructure support team to business systems advisor. As usual, Microsoft has put tremendous effort into building training opportunities for partners.    

As with any new release, working with the software yourself is key in building expertise and knowing what it can do for your customers. Gilronan noted that McGladrey has been using the Power BI for Office 365 preview internally to build familiarity and learn the potential.

"We are using it for some of our internal staffing dashboards," Gilronan said. "We're giving people the opportunity to look at and play with the data through Power View -- something that you can't do with a static report."

Every one of your customers is collecting more data than ever and most don't know what to do with it. Power BI for Office 365 removes the high cost of entry for small and midsize businesses, making analytics accessible to all. Not all of your customers are going to understand the potential, but for the ones you show the way, you will become a partner in the truest sense.

How are you introducing BI to your customers? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share your story.

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Posted by Barb Levisay on February 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM


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