Find answers and visualize data with SharePoint

SharePoint can help you share with others and get organized, but did you know SharePoint also can help you find answers, discover insights, connect with experts, and visualize data for your business?

As organizations grow in size, the facts, know-how and intrinsic knowledge that you expect every employee to have and understand start getting hidden in:

  • divisional and system silos
  • the minds of experts who frequently change roles and teams
  • databases and documents that people forget about

The problem is more acute with larger organizations. And this problem doesn’t only affect knowledge management–if information discovery is not easy and quick, it reduces the agility with which an organization can make smart decisions and respond to business challenges.

With SharePoint, our approach to discovering insights and information is twofold:

  • Structured data. When SharePoint is used in conjunction with Excel and SQL server, it creates a powerful self-service Business Intelligence (BI) tool that allows users to build reports that connect data from multiple sources and share those reports with others for collaborative decision making.
  • Unstructured data.With the new SharePoint, we have completed the integration of FAST search with SharePoint search, which allows you to use SharePoint to find experts, as well as index and search any kind of data across your organization, whether it is stored in the form of documents and content in SharePoint or in an external system.

Discovery in SharePoint takes you from finding the right information to acting on it.

Let’s say you need to create a financial model to project potential sales for a new product, the secret Product X. Your company recently launched a similarly successful product, the XT1000. Market data for the XT1000 could serve as a good baseline for your projections about Product X, but you don’t know where to start looking for data. In the past, you have depended on SharePoint search to help find answers, so you click the ever-present Search box and type a query for the XT1000. The query looks through all kinds of information stored within SharePoint–documents, sites, people, lists and conversations.

The query returns a large number of search results, but search filters help refine the results into a smaller set that is more relevant to your needs. Some filters even provide you with visual cues on the nature of your results.

As you parse through the search results, you use hover panels to get quick previews without having to navigate or download each result. Think of all the time you save not having to download the wrong document.

While analyzing data from the XT1000 project, you raise questions that can be answered only by a product expert. Using People Search in SharePoint, you can find the right contact. The SharePoint search algorithm not only indexes a user’s profile information, but also looks at their authored documents and conversations. Soon enough, you have found the product guru and are having a Lync conversation with them.

Now that you have all the data you need, it’s time to take a peek into the future. Using PowerPivot in Excel, you are able to create a data model that combines data from the XT1000 Excel workbook and customer data from your company’s SQL database. PowerQuery allows you to overlay your findings with publicly available data on the web. With the Power BI tools, data dances at your fingertips!

It’s time to share your findings with others. You use PowerView to build and share a dashboard with your teammates. You publish the dashboard to your team site so you don’t have to set up any additional security.

Sign up today for a 1-month free trial of Office 365 and the preview of Power BI to test drive the features mentioned in this post.

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