Microsoft Excel is a widely used, well known product for analyzing data from a variety of sources. It is a Windows client (or available as part of Office 365 as a web client) offering business user oriented capabilities for data integration, modeling and analyzing data. The data models created with Excel can be published to SQL Server for reuse and governance purposes.
Microsoft is the world’s largest software company. Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Redmond, it has become a household name, primarily due to its Windows operating system and Office suite. Aside from these products, Microsoft has a vast range of enterprise software and cloud offerings including its own database, browser, various servers and ERP solutions.
In recent years, Microsoft has focused its business on cloud-based solutions such as Azure. AI and machine learning have also become increasingly important in product development. Microsoft completed its acquisition of the business social network LinkedIn towards the end of 2016.
Microsoft Excel is part of the Microsoft Office and Office 365 packages, which are available as a full client (Windows, Mac) and web client. Excel can either be used as a front end for a number of multidimensional data sources such as Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) or by importing data to its built-in data storage from different relational and multidimensional data sources.
Excel can be used for OLAP analysis, reporting, dashboarding and visualization, with some customers using it for planning too. When used in a standalone capacity, data access, querying and modeling can take place directly in Excel. Power Query offers functions to integrate and manipulate data or create customized calculations using the proprietary formula language DAX. These capabilities are especially attractive for business users in self-service BI scenarios.
User & Use Cases
Excel’s customer feedback clearly shows it is a commodity software in enterprises. It is used by more people than traditional BI software and its usage numbers are comparable to companies’ sizes because in many cases almost every employee uses Microsoft Office. In consequence of this, Excel is used on average by 32 percent of employees compared to Survey average of 17 percent. Good availability of skilled users is cited as major attraction of Excel, underlining the widespread knowledge of this product.
Excel’s usage demographics are quite impressive, showing ubiquitous adoption of the solution. As Excel is a good ad hoc query and analysis solution, it is often used for these purposes. Its flexibility in querying, preparing and visualizing data is also often used to create enterprise reports. Although the product ranks below average in the ‘Visual design standards’ KPI, there are plenty of add-ins that can be used to create individual standardized report layouts.
Like other Microsoft products, Excel is mostly evaluated against other Microsoft solutions such as Power BI, SSRS and SSAS. This highlights a weakness in the Microsoft BI portfolio as a whole: overlapping features in different product lines.
Current vs. planned use
Evaluated products 5 products most often evaluated in competition with Excel
Percentage of employees using Excel
Number of users using Excel
Tasks carried out with Excel by business users
Company size (number of employees)
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