Microsoft Excel is a widely used 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 and modeling. 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. Compared to the huge business the company does in a range of different markets, its BI revenues are relatively small. Nevertheless, Microsoft is a strong presence in the BI market and its offering is strategic to complement existing solutions and to drive cloud revenues.
In the past, the vendor spread its BI capabilities across the Office, SharePoint and SQL Server product lines, providing tools for formatted reporting, analysis and dashboards.For some time, part of Microsoft’s BI initiative has been to focus strongly on the spreadsheet solution Excel – and in turn on business users. Accordingly, the vendor has regularly added more BI functionality to the solution.
Microsoft Excel is part of Microsoft Office and Office 365 package, which is available as a full client (Windows, Mac) and web client. Excel can be either used as a front end for a number of multidimensional data sources such as Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) or by importing data in 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
As a typical Microsoft Office software product, Excel is broadly deployed and rolled out to large numbers of users across the company. In consequence of this, Excel is used on average by 26 percent of employees compared to Survey average of 17 percent.
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 and SSRS. This highlights a weakness in the Microsoft BI portfolio as a whole: overlapping features in different product lines.
Current vs. planned use
N = 146
5 products most often evaluated in competition with Microsoft Excel
N = 138
Percentage of employees using Microsoft Excel
N = 138
Number of users using Microsoft Excel
N = 141
Tasks carried out with Microsoft Excel by business users
N = 137
Company size (number of employees)
N = 145