I was recently at the SAS BI User Connect Conference in which select customers convene at SAS headquarters to share solutions, struggles, and to learn about new product capabilities.
One of the improvements that I was most excited about is a new version of the SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office (AMO) that now has tight integration with Outlook. As an office tool, Email is more widely used than Excel, and SAS appears to be ahead of the market in leveraging Outlook as a way of making BI more pervasive, particularly for casual users. As I discuss in this Ease of Use in BI report, Email is rated significantly easier to use than BI tools, and easier-to-use BI tools boast a 10% higher adoption rate than BI usage overall.
Some BI vendors do support scheduled reports to be sent to Email. SAS, however, takes the integration several steps further. First, the Email client is used as a navigation tool to access all reports and dashboards. Folders on the SAS BI Server automatically appear as folders in Outlook. Then, from within Outlook, users can view, refresh, or send a report to another person. Security is maintained by the SAS BI Server. There is a nifty gadget pane that lets users quickly view their most important business indicators. The SAS AMO is included as part of the BI Server license.
In comparing SAS’s Email integration with other BI vendors, only SAP’s Duet, released in Q2 2006, seems to come close. That product, however, has had limited adoption with customers citing high licensing costs and transition concerns with BEx. Duet also goes beyond reporting to include transaction capabilities from within Outlook.
Surprizing to me and to SAS customers who attended the event, though, is that this “little”-known enhancement became available in August. SAS says they plan a marketing launch next month. The timing was more that the client-side upgrade shipped last month in which the new Rapid Predictive Modeler got all the attention. SAS customers were unanimous in their enthusiasm for the Outlook integration.
What do you think? If your BI vendor had direct access to the BI Server from Outlook, how would that affect your BI adoption? Who’s using SAP’s Duet?
For a sneak peak of SAS’ enhancement and other cool innovations in BI, catch my next Cool BI course at TDWI in Orlando.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard