27 Microsoft Excel Experts Predict The Future Of Excel In Business Intelligence

With over 750 million users worldwide, Microsoft Excel is the traditional tool of choice for presenting and analyzing data.

And now, it’s in a position to be the new BI tool of choice, as well. With Excel 2016, Microsoft announced some forward thinking built in Business Intelligence (BI) features. In the age of big data, this is huge.

This announcement, however, raised many questions in the field of big data manipulation. Is Excel powerful enough? Can it manipulate the amount and types of data businesses deal with today? Does Excel have a future in Business Intelligence workflows?

In the search of answers to these questions, we rounded up renowned MS Excel experts and picked their brains on it. We asked them one visionary question:

Where do you see the future of MS Excel in Business Intelligence Workflows?

And here is what they shared with us:

1. Purna Duggirala – Chandoo

Chandoo.org // @r1c1

Purna DuggiralaThere is a running joke in BI communities.

“What is the most used feature in any business intelligence solution?”
It is the Export to Excel button.

Jokes aside, Excel continues to be the #1 platform when it comes to analyzing data, finding information, preparing charts and presenting them to decision makers. In that sense, I see Excel playing a strong role in BI workflows in future.

Excel continues to be the #1 platform when it comes to analyzing data, finding information, preparing charts and presenting them to decision makers. In that sense, I see Excel playing a strong role in BI workflows in future.

– Purna Duggirala

With the addition of features like Power BI (Power Pivot, Power Query, Power View, Power Maps etc.) that naturally integrate with Excel, analysts, reporting professionals and BI people are finding Excel more relevant for full-length BI implementations.

In order to remain the favorite analytics app of everyone, Excel needs to do what it is amazingly good for. These are – offer a sandbox-like environment where anyone can play with data and come up with information, keep the Excel software offerings clean & simple (with the addition of Power BI, buying and using Excel has become a complex process), give users competent & compatible Excel apps for tablet & phone devices and include features to do powerful data analytics processes with one-click (as against a complex set of formulas, pivot tables & manual steps that many analysts do now).

Long live Excel.

2. Ken Puls – Excel Guru

Excelguru.ca // @kpuls

Ken PulsI personally see Excel as THE future of Business Intelligence workflows.

No matter how many systems a company has, how big they are, or how many millions of dollars have been spent on them, the reality is that the majority of data is exported to Excel before decisions of serious consequence are made. I’d go so far as to say that there are only a handful of finance departments in the world who don’t run their critical decision making analysis through Excel.

With the increasingly diverse toolset being added to Excel — Power Query to source and clean data from disparate dirty sources, Power Pivot to aggregate those disparate sources into business intelligence models, Power View to create dynamic dashboards from those models and Power Map to tell the data story on a geo-spatial plane – it’s very clear that Microsoft is investing heavily to make Excel the Business Intelligence tool of choice.

I personally see Excel as THE future of Business Intelligence workflows.

– Ken Puls

The killer for Excel today is not the fact that it isn’t the best out there for building business intelligence, it is the fact that far too many users are ignorant of the vast amount of capability that was added in the last five years. The attitude of “Excel can’t do that” is still pervasive and relied upon by its competitors to sell THEIR products.

My advice to anyone looking at building business intelligence systems today and considering switching to a competitor’s product: find a business intelligence expert who REALLY uses Excel. Ask them what can be done. Chances are you already own the software that will do it all, you’re just not aware of how.

3. Bill Jelen

Mrexcel.com // @MrExcel

Bill Jelen

The new Power BI Desktop offering from Microsoft will make it easy to create powerful dashboards that you can share to various end points such as iPads within your organization. The easiest way to get data into Power BI is from an Excel file, so Excel continues to be the most important component in the Power BI workflow.

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9 Handy IFTTT Recipes To Automate Office 365 Tasks

When you have the Internet, your productivity can increase drastically. It all depends on how you use it.

If you constantly work on the Internet, then you probably already know all about IFTTT (If This Then That), the online service that automates your daily tasks by connecting popular web services that you use every day.

And IFTTT recently got Office 365 signed on as a service. Now a few of your favourite Office 365 apps are available as IFTTT channels: OneDrive, Mail, Calendar, and Contacts.

Knowing how often you use Office 365 yourself, you can imagine what kind of automated tasks are possible.

We’ve already covered the basics of IFTTT.  So this week we thought we’d help you start up your collection of Office 365 IFTTT recipes for some of the most simplest and common tasks you do on a daily basis.

Remember—if you don’t see a recipe that works for you, you can always create your own when you sign up to IFTTT.

Office 365 Contacts Reminder

Create A Calendar Reminder To Follow Up With Newly Added Contacts In A Week

Networking can be considered an art, which admittedly sometimes, requires help in not only remembering people, but proper networking etiquette, as well. Set a calendar reminder to follow up with new Office 365 contacts when you add them on.

Create A Task Card In Trello For Each Of  Your Meetings

Sometimes your schedule can be too hectic to remember the standard follow up tasks–esecially for meetings. Well, if you’re a Trello user, there’s a recipe that will allow you to create task cards reminding you to follow up with meeting notes.

Weather Office Calendar Reminder

Add A Calendar Reminder To Bring An Umbrella

Hate it when you get caught in the rain? If you aren’t in the habit of checking the weather forecast, this neat little recipe can  check in for you. It can give you an automatic Office 365 Calendar reminder to take your umbrella if rain is predicted for the day. Don’t ever get caught unprepared ever again!

Send Your Team A Note That Food Has Arrived

Who doesn’t love group lunches at the office? In workplaces where everyone is spread out among departments, you can save yourself a trip around the office and instantly inform your co-workers that their food has arrived. This “Do” Button Recipe isn’t your traditional “if this, then that recipe.” Instead of combining two actions, you use a single “Do” button on your phone to send an email to their inboxes.

Get A Notification When You Receive A High Priority Email

If you’re expecting an important email, you don’t have to sit around and wait for it. With this recipe, you can get iPhone notifications when you receive a high priority email in your Office 365 Mail inbox. This is a great way to free up your time and let IFTTT keep an eye out for you.

Save Gmail Attachments IFTTT

Archive Incoming Attachments From Gmail To OneDrive

If you’re a Gmail user, this recipe will interest you as it neatly bridges the gap between Office and Gmail. You can save attachments you receive in Gmail to your OneDrive account, allowing you to create an online database that makes it easy to store and find any important files you receive.

Download Liked Tracks From SoundCloud To OneDrive

Where would your productivity be without your music? If you’re a SoundCloud user, you can collect your favourite music and access it directly from your computer with this recipe that lets you download liked tracks on SoundCloud to OneDrive.

Save Your Instagram Photos To OneDrive

If you love taking pictures or are into photography, then you’re probably posting your shots to Instagram on a regular basis. With this recipe you can automatically save your Instagram photos to OneDrive and create an instant backup of all your photos.

Facebook Photos OneDrive IFTTT

Save the Facebook Photos You’re Tagged In To OneDrive

Can’t keep track of the Facebook photos you’re in? Just connect the Facebook and OneDrive channels to stay on top of it. This recipe lets you save any Facebook pictures that your friends tag you in. It’s a neat and easy way to start your own collection of photos with your friends.

There are a ton of other channel combinations you can use with Office 365. It’s just a matter of making the connections between the services you use on a daily basis.

Got your own suggestions? Help expand on this list by sharing some of your own recipes.


11 Awesome Data Visualizations Way Ahead of Their Time [Infographic]

In this day and age of big data and information overload, data visualizations are, hands down, the most effective way of filtering out and presenting complex data.

A single data visualization graphic can be priceless. It can save you hours of research. They’re easy to read, interpret, and, if based on the right sources, accurate, as well.  And with the highly social nature of the web, the data can be lighthearted, fun and presented in so many different ways.

What’s most striking about data visualizations though is that they aren’t as modern a concept as we tend to think they are.

In fact, they go back to more than 2,500 years—before computers and tools for easy visual representation of data even existed.

Curious to see how data visualizations developed over time?

Below is an infographic that highlights 11 unique data visualizations from across different—yet significant, periods in history. It includes the first world map created by Anaximander, the elaborate Catalan atlas commissioned by King Charles V of France, Dr. John Snow’s map of cholera deaths in London that helped in combating the disease in the second half of the 19th century, and so on.

From ancient Greece and Medieval France to Victorian England and 19th century Sweden, these data visualizations and creators were ahead of the times, innovating the way in which information could be presented.

Whether they knew it or not at the time, these creators helped to develop an essential modern-day tool that is now invaluable to the world of statistics. Take a look.

Embed this infographic on your website:

Embed this infographic on your website:

How To Turn Chrome Into A Notepad

Among the many things you do online in a single day, we bet that taking down a note or two is somewhere at the top of your list. Was it for research? Recording a reference number? Brainstorming? Whatever the reason, having a scratch pad at arm’s length is a necessity.

One trick that can solve that problem—turn your browser into a note pad. It may sound odd, but it’s entirely possible. For this tip, we tried it in Chrome, and we have to admit that this is a neat little trick everyone should have handy.

All you have to do is copy and paste this single line of code into your browser’s URL bar:

data:text/html, <html contenteditable>

Then hit enter. Click on the blank tab window that shows up and start typing away. Testing it on the latest Chrome build, it worked out great.  You can even bookmark the URL and call it up anytime for instant access.

Chrome Browser Notepad

This tip originally comes from Jose Jesus Perez Aguinaga, web engineer and Javascript developer, who shared this tip on his blog, Coderwall.com, a few years ago. And it still works.

Right off the bat, you can get a good idea of how this can make things easier for you while you’re on the web. As a writer, student or researcher, you can use this as a distraction free writing tool or quick text editor.

You don’t have to install a plugin or open another application. And without having to worry about any formatting frills, you can get in a good chunk of writing without having to leave the browser.

The one drawback, however, is that if you close the tab, you’ll lose all your notes. If you jot down reminders or to-do lists which you don’t need afterwards, then this shouldn’t be a problem.  In fact, it may even be convenient as you can skip over the usual dialog reminding you to save the file.

But if you do need those notes, then you can easily save them before closing the tab.  To do so, just use Chrome’s “Save page as…” function from the menu and save it as an HTML webpage. You should then be able to access the file in any browser.

If you hated the hassle of opening up a second app just to copy-paste or record something, try this out. This little trick will help simplify the process and speed things up.


Your Online Guide To The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games are about to start!

Multiple events will be happening at the same time all over Toronto during the summer. Top athletes, sporting events, and new venues will be attracting spectators and tourists from all over to the GTA. A lot will be going on and it’ll be easy to get lost in the shuffle.

It’s going to be a crazy—but exciting, summer and our Toronto HQ can’t wait to see it all unfold.

Are you prepared?

From knowing who won your favourite event to knowing which traffic-filled intersections to avoid, staying informed is a priority if you plan on following or taking part in the event as a spectator.

Thus, we’ve put together a quick guide of essential links and handy tools to make sure your entire event experience is a memorable one as you trek around the city.

News And Information 

Toronto Pan Am Homepage

First must-have link on the list—the main Pan Am Games website. This is an obvious one—but not the only one. You can also find dedicated sections from credible news sources like TheStar.com, CBC.ca and GlobalNews.  Checking in with one of these sites will give you a variety of news and coverage that won’t leave you wanting. They’re a good one-stop resource for event highlights.

Watching The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games Live

As the official broadcaster of the games this year, CBC.ca will cover over 600 hours of the games via live streaming and TV coverage. Moreover, you can also catch the action on your mobile device with their live streaming apps. Download: Android / iOS

Links To Event Guides And Info

We couldn’t create a resource list without including basic information links. So we listed them here to save you the time of digging around the site:

Pan Am Games Apps For Android And iOS

If it isn’t already, your smartphone will be your lifeline throughout the games.  Both iOS and Android versions of the official app will give you single tap access to event schedules, ticket information, maps, news and more. Download: Android / iOS

Social Media Networks

Another good way to get real time updates—both on mobile and desktop, is by following the official social media accounts for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. Each stream will keep you well-fed with real time photos, interesting posts, news, and videos. They have official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Other Essential Tools And Links To Have

And the resources don’t stop there. In this list we’re also including apps and handy links to will help round out your Pan Am games experience in Toronto.

Pan Am Games Trip Planner:  During the games, anything from parking to road access can be changed at the last minute.  Good news is that you can anticipate and plan around it with this app. The neat part about it is that it gives you traffic updates in advance so you can find another route to a venue if necessary. Download: Android / iOS  

Toronto Transit Apps: While the Pan Am app and TTC site can map out your trip, you’ll still need all the route information you can get on the go—especially if you’re unfamiliar with bus routes. Our advice? Be prepared with a transit app on your phone, as well.

  • Toronto Transit TTC– With this app, you can find the most convenient travel routes, get weather updates, and receive real-time ETA predictions of your next bus. Perfect to keep you from feeling lost or unprepared as you travel. Download: Android
  • Transit App– This app has transit route and app information for cities all across the US and Canada. Its Toronto transit information offers details for both TTC and GO transit lines. To top it off, it provides information for Uber and the ability to find and reserve nearby car2go’s, as well. Download: Android / iOS
  • Rocketman– An app that’s great at making sure you catch your bus. RocketMan contains all the usual features of a transit app, and is available on the Blackberry platform. Download: Android / iOS / Blackberry

Toronto Events: If you like getting immersed in city culture, you should check out this next link to help you scope out what’s going on in Toronto between competitions.  NOW Toronto is a local news and entertainment site with its own print publication that keeps you up to date on events, exhibitions and concerts in the city.  Check out their events index when you plan a night on the town.

Dining Around Toronto: As part of your spectator experience, you’ll want this last app on your list: Urbanspoon Restaurant Reviews. You can find restaurants in the area while you’re out and about exploring areas around the sporting venues. This app is a great guide for viewing full menus, getting customer reviews, and making reservations on the spot for you and your group. Download: Android / iOS

Once you load up on these resources, you should be able to get the most out of your summer during the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. But as always, chime in with a tool we’ve missed or should include on this list in the comments.