Microsoft integrates Cortana and Power BI in an attempt to simplify big data analytics

By integrating Cortana and Power BI, Microsoft hopes to make data analytics available to everyone in the enterprise. Mark Kaelin remains skeptical and explains why.


On December 1, 2015, Microsoft announced that the integration of Cortana with Power BI was now available in preview. In other words, customers can try the integration out if they want to, but it has not been rolled out to everyone just yet. Presumably, Microsoft wants to get some feedback on how well the integration actually works.

Cortana and Power BI

Microsoft pitches Cortana as "your clever new personal assistant," but in reality, it is just a search tool for Windows 10 that can also recognize simple voice commands and phrases. Cortana searches your computer and the internet for answers to your queries. Now, with this announcement, it will also send your queries to Power BI--that is, if you use that application.

Power BI is Microsoft's tool for displaying and analyzing data using dashboards and reports that can be created on the fly by users seeking the information. The idea is to reduce the need for app developers to create reports and dashboards for individual users or small groups so they can concentrate on other tasks.

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The tools in Power BI can bring the benefits of big data analytics down to the user level, where that analysis can be transformed more quickly into actionable decisions. By adding integration with Cortana, Microsoft believes users will be even further enticed into using Power BI tools. All of which sounds great.

How great?

In fact, it sounds too great. In fact, it sounds almost Utopian.

There is no doubt that big data analytics has and will play a major role in decision making for any enterprise that aspires to be successful. The insights gained from data analysis, into such things as customer behavior, potential cost savings, revenue generating opportunities, and improved internal operations, cannot be denied. Big data analytics is where enterprises will find their competitive advantage or disadvantage. Big data is where the answers are found.

The problem is that not everyone knows how to do the actual data analysis.

Knowing what data you need, where to get it, and what to do with it once you get it is not a skill set everyone possesses. The very idea of data analysis makes some people cringe with discomfort. I would suggest there are some people in your enterprise right now who find the prospect of looking at reports and charts off-putting. And I bet you know who they are.

Bottom line

As a person with some training in the analysis of data, especially when it comes to finances, I welcome the tools in Power BI. I welcome any tools that can simplify the communication of my analyses better, but I am not like everyone.

In larger enterprises, there will be many individuals who will look at the tools in Power BI like it's a foreign language. Getting those people to use the power of data analytics will take training, sustained effort, and time.

By integrating Cortana with Power BI, Microsoft hopes to ease those individuals into the world of data analytics using the power of a search engine with voice recognition capability located right on the desktop. I think that is a good thing. However, while the idea that talking to your computer will make the analysis process more pleasant sounds good, it ignores one simple fact. Whether you are talking or typing, you still have to know the language of data analytics, and that is not a skill everyone in your enterprise has--yet.

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Your thoughts

Does the ability to speak commands to your computer make it more likely that you will take advantage of big data analytics? Yeah, I didn't think so. Tell us why.