Organizations using Power BI for their analytics needs will soon have an easier time of unearthing insights that are trapped in disparate business applications.
At the Microsoft Business Forward event in Amsterdam March 21, the software giant announced new functionality called the Common Data Service (CDS) for Analytics, which will be available in Power BI during the second quarter of 2018.
Arun Ulag, general manager of Intelligence Platform Engineering at Microsoft, claimed the new software component will enable organizations to analyze information from diverse business applications and data sources without resorting to complex and costly data ingestion, preparation and management activities.
"Built on the common data model, CDS for Analytics expands Power BI with the introduction of an extensible business application schema on which organizations can integrate data from multiple sources," blogged Ulag. "Pre-built connectors for common data sources, including Dynamics 365, Salesforce and others from Power BI's extensive catalog, will be available to help organizations access data from Microsoft and third parties."
As its name suggests, Microsoft's Common Data Model is an library of data entities that most business and productivity applications share in common, including vendors, accounts and the like. This allows the company's business software offerings like Flow, an IFTTT-like workflow automation product, to seamlessly access and act upon data held in other applications.
Common Data Service for Analytics will set the stage for new Power BI Insight applications from Microsoft that are tailored to marketing, finance and other line-of-business units. Customers will be able to evaluate two such applications, Power BI for Sales Insights and Power BI for Service Insights, when preview versions are released in the spring.
Third-party vendors are also welcome, added Ulag. For example, insurance firm CUNA Mutual Group is using the technology to build apps analytics tools for credit unions.
Microsoft also unveiled an update to the non-analytics Common Data Service, which ships with PowerApps, a no-code business app builder. Merged with Dynamics 365, the company's suite of enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management products, and now called the Common Data Service for Apps, it includes new features such as server-side logic support, business process modeling and an improved security model.
Also due this spring is the 2018 release of Dynamics 365, bringing with it the general availability of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing. The marketing automation application goes beyond basic email marketing, linking an organization's sales and marketing operations to help build customer relationships.
Another new component is Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales Professional, a streamlined version of the Sales application featuring automation capabilities that boost productivity and help optimize the sales process.
Sprinkled throughout the Dynamics 365 ecosystem are embedded intelligence capabilities. They include a new Relationship Assistant feature in Dynamics 365 for Sales that uses reminders to prod users into following up with clients and an auto-capture feature that works with Outlook to analyze emails and find messages belonging to specific accounts, allowing users to track those messages within the CRM application.