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Microsoft brings Cortana to the enterprise with Power BI integration

Companies are very good at collecting data. Hell, some entities, like Google, makes an entire business out of the collection. There is nothing wrong with this - actually, it is quite wise to collect as much data as possible.

The problem, however, is that data is worthless unless you use it and sadly, it is not uncommon for data to be underutilised and sit dormant. In other words, unless you can use it to tell a story, your efforts are for naught.

Luckily, solutions such as Microsoft's Power BI can be used to create value and present data to executives in a meaningful and easily-digestible way. Microsoft has announced a new public preview that marries Power BI and the popular voice-assistant, Cortana, in a brilliant marriage of data presentation and interaction.

"By utilising Power BI's data visualisation capabilities, answers can range from simple numerical values ('revenue for the last quarter'), charts ('number of opportunities by team'), maps ('average customer spending in California by city'), or even complete reports from Power BI all provided directly from Cortana. Potential answers are either determined by Cortana on the fly directly from the data, or by using reports already created in Power BI that help answer a question. To further explore an answer, users can simply open a result in Power BI", says Microsoft.

The company further says, "in addition to helping you get answers more quickly and easily using Cortana, Power BI now has new ways to help you find insights hidden in your data. Power BI's new Quick Insights feature allows you to run a variety of analytical algorithms on your data to search for potential insights with the click of a mouse. Through a partnership with Microsoft Research, we’re honing a growing list of algorithms to discover and visualise correlations, outliers, trends, seasonality, change points in trends, and major factors within your data, automatically, within seconds".


The beauty of using Cortana as a way for stakeholders to interact with data, is that they can decide what to see by easily calling it up with voice. It takes the guesswork away from analysts that must predict what data to include in visualisations for the "higher-ups".

This is only a public preview for now; many companies will not bother trying pre-release software. Once the solution comes to a stable release, however, it could take off in the enterprise.

Since Cortana is only integrated with Windows 10, it could help push adoption of the operating system within many companies too. With that said, many businesses only upgraded to Windows 7 fairly recently, so it will probably not happen overnight.

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