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Microsoft SQL Server 2012: Making Business Intelligence Personal

Epicor has been delivering Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems built for Microsoft SQL Server for over 15 years and have been building ERP systems altogether since the 1970s.  Over these decades, we have witnessed IT transform its role from helping reduce costs to a critical means for revenue expansion.  Epicor and Microsoft have also seen the traditional distinctions between large and small companies fade significantly which affects how technology is adopted by business. 

Large companies use ERP systems to expand into new markets by rapidly replicating business processes across establishments.  Small companies rely on their IT investments to creatively outmaneuver larger competitors. But large and small companies alike have complex application requirements yet need to inexpensively and continuously adapt IT systems to changing priorities.  Small companies were once viewed, from an IT perspective, as just being simplistic versions of larger companies.  This is no longer the case – there is no sophistication gap.  And platform innovations, like those in SQL Server 2012, directly benefit companies of all sizes.

The role of database technologies like SQL Server has changed remarkably in recent years.  In software architecture, “separating concerns” often meant isolating the database layer underneath an object-oriented programming model to serve as general-purpose storage.  Direct access to databases by people or client applications was discouraged.  But databases are valuable culminations of people’s efforts to run an enterprise.  No application, or application vendor, can pre-suppose all potential ways that data should be accessed or how it might contributes to ever-changing objectives.  Sure, the application needs to provide services that create useful data.  But then the application should simply get out of the way.  People should be encouraged to use their favorite tools – and devices – to mine and analyze data for themselves.

Microsoft’s SQL Server 2012 release embraces these trends by introducing new features for people whose jobs involve discovering insights from data.  Business intelligence (BI) solutions have long been comprised of statically-defined charts and other visualizations hard-wired to large, monolithic data cubes.  These applications have practically always been created by developers leaving little room for users to make changes or create new views for themselves.  

Microsoft has created a completely new approach for business intelligence (BI) to simplify the traditionally complex, opaque, and completely IT-driven processes for building BI solutions.  SQL Server 2012 introduces a new tabular data model that effectively equalizes the roles of developers and users in deploying BI.  IT developers create secured and accurate data sources, enriching traditional transactional data with data from other sources like social media. 

Using Microsoft Excel PowerPivot, business users can create and share insights and new ways to visualize information.  Crucially, these resources will come from personal discovery rather than programming, incurring less cost, less risk, and using less time.  And this is why the innovations in SQL Server 2012 provide the flexibility, collaboration, and power to drive innovation for any business.

Posted by Erik Johnson, VP Technical Strategy, Epicor

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