The world of data is changing in a big way, and customer expectations are changing accordingly. A massive amount of new data is generated daily, from website traffic statistics to data captured on mobile devices. Most businesses are sitting on a goldmine of data right in their own organizations, including customer records, accounting systems, and product profitability data.

 
Those businesses who can use information to their advantage will win. Organizations that are able to take advantage of Big Data to ask and answer the right set of questions will be able to more effectively differentiate and derive new value for the business. This value can come in the form of revenue growth, cost savings or creating entirely new business models. Gartner asserts that, “By 2015 businesses that build a modern information management system will outperform their peers financially by 20 percent.” As significant as that number is, organizations often find it challenging to provide employees access to data —let alone to analyze it and generate business insights. Often data is stored in disparate departmental silos around the company—or even on employees’ laptops. Workers need an easy way to view data from a single source, on any device. And companies need to make it simple for any of their employees—not just data scientists—to analyze it, visualize it, and generate new insights to drive the business forward, without having to invest in learning new skills and software. This is where Microsoft partners are uniquely positioned to help.
 
Today, there is a great opportunity to grow your business making business intelligence a reality for your customers—helping them put data to work to make better decisions faster, to focus on the right opportunities, and to win more business. This is a business opportunity with customers of all sizes, not just large enterprises. 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[1].
 
Now, with new functionality built-in to familiar tools like Microsoft Excel 2013 and Office 365, you have a complete platform on which to build BI solutions and services. Tools such as PowerPivot, Power View, Power Query, Power Map and Power Site enable all users to analyze and make collaborative decisions on structured and unstructured data. And you have the unique flexibility to deliver solutions on-premises or in the cloud to meet your customers’ specific needs. Power BI opens up huge potential for partners to enable companies to derive actionable insights from data, consume them from a variety of form factors and collaborate across the organization – big or small. Power BI truly democratizes the Big Data paradigm and creates a new market for our partners to serve with Microsoft.
 
Take a look at the new Power BI functionality:
 

You may already be thinking about opportunities to help your customers with Power BI. Microsoft partner BlueGranite has been delivering Business Intelligence solutions to customers since 1996, and see an impressive 90% of their sales from customer referrals. 
 
 
 
We asked BlueGranite CEO Matthew Mace some questions about what potential he sees in Big Data, and in particular, the innovative work they are able to deliver to their customers using Power BI. 
 
What is the opportunity you see as a partner around Big Data? 
 
At BlueGranite, when we started our Microsoft Business Intelligence practice we were mainly focused on traditional Enterprise Business Intelligence and Reporting, which centered around helping clients create centralized, IT-led Business Intelligence solutions at corporate, department and team levels.  However, in today’s environment, the market is shifting.  The Big Data era is creating so many possibilities for organizations to capture and analyze data from traditional and new sources.  Over 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years! This volume of data is predicted to increase exponentially, mostly from non-traditional unstructured sources from the web, social media, email, documents, and devices, which is offering a new paradigm of insight. Big data analytics is used to solve a variety of business needs, including digital marketing optimization, fraud detection and prevention, and social network and relationship analysis.  However, executives’ and departmental users’ timeline for analytics is growing shorter.  So, we have rapidly growing data mounds that we need to analyze in rapidly shrinking timelines. As such, today we are focused on helping clients implement a Modern Data Platform that supports self-service reporting and analytics.  This helps clients leverage data of all shapes and sizes in on premise and cloud solutions that balance IT governance while giving departments and teams the freedom they demand for self-service exploration and creativity.  It puts meaningful insight into the hands of end users – in real-time.
 
What innovation you are driving around Cloud & Big Data? 
 
We help departments and teams get up and running with rich data visualization tools like Power View and Power Maps within the Power BI platform, on top of self-service data preparation, cleansing, and modeling with Power Pivot and Power Query.
 
One of our clients in the financial services space is using Power BI tools, including Power Pivot and Power View, to build a cloud-based solution for their digital marketing team.  The digital marketing team was using a very manual and time intensive process to assess website traffic and social media data.  Blue Granite implemented a solution that captures cloud-based data using automated processes, and then cleanses, models and visualizes the data with Power BI tools including Power Pivot and Power View.  The solution provides analytics scores for customer sentiment data along with website traffic, which helps the digital marketing team assess the performance of marketing programs.  In addition, the solution also helps with a customer loyalty program, helping compare marketing results to a customer points program to understand how different marketing programs affect customer spending with these loyalty programs.  This kind of information, in this form, is helping drive productivity and enhance performance to increase ROI.
 
How are you leveraging Power BI to address the Big Data problems?
 
The Power BI capabilities built into Excel opens up the door for many more business users to work with data in ways they haven’t been able to previously.  The ability to share and certify Power BI queries is extremely important functionality.  Shared queries assist Self-Service BI users with speed and accuracy, and can play a big role in the success of the Power BI platform within an organization.  In addition, the management, data governance, and data stewardship capabilities which are fundamental to Power BI help bridge the gap between Self-Service and Corporate BI. As clients adopt these tools we are seeing pull-through demand of big data solutions with SQL Parallel Data Warehouse and HDInsight, as well as advanced analytics and data mining using SQL Server and Excel, creating additional opportunities for us to engage with our clients and deliver value.
 
BlueGranite is clearly using Power BI to deliver valuable solutions to their customers. Here’s how you can make the most of this opportunity:
I’m excited to see Microsoft’s unique, powerful BI solution with partner opportunity embedded. That’s where customers see real value. That’s the power of our partnership.
 
Phil