Update: Check out Richard's (he posted a comment on this post) about his own thoughts on MSFT BI Delivery and Leadership Topics here: http://thoughtsonbi.blogspot.com/ . I agree with just about everything he states.
Overall, could MSFT BI be a better story (see ProClarity)? YES.
Does MSFT need a better, unified platform vision for it's BI story? YES.
All that being said, the MSFT BI software products are good platforms for building an enterprise BI solution on top off. As Richard mentions, 90%+ of an actual implementation's success depends upon the people involved (both consultants and customers).
Every so often, I receive communications (usually email and sometimes responses to my blog posts) about why Microsoft's BI "story" is not as good as it's competitors (or the more unprofessional "it sucks" comment).
Over the past 10 years of working in the BI industry I have come to the conclusion that no matter which Enterprise Business Intelligence Software Vendor you support there will be Naysayers....So first off all, let's be realistic about the situation. There is no perfect company and that includes BI Software companies. Companies are composed of people and people are not perfect (not I, not you, no one).
I could take two approaches to this blog post:
1) I could spout Gartner and other related BI industry market share metrics about how the Microsoft BI Stack is gaining a larger and larger % of the market. Analysis Services has been the #1 OLAP Server product on the market for a LONG TIME NOW.
2) I could get away from the published metrics on market share and bring about a "from my experience" perspective. I am choosing the later, primairly because this was the approach (somewhat) taken by the feedbacks I have recently received here on my personal blog (messages are embedded below in this post).
Excel has been and continues to be a strong part of the Microsoft BI "story". Why? Why take a spreadsheet program and slowly morph it into a dual purpose program for both spreadsheets and BI (reporting, pivot tables, scorecards)? The answer is simple: Because Excel is one of the most popular/deployed desktop software applications in THE WORLD!
Is Excel now at a point to fully replace a much richer OLAP front-end tool such as ProClarity? In my and most others opinion in the MSFT BI industry the answer is NO, not yet anyway. Is Microsoft continually making refinements to advance Excel's BI capabilities? Absolutely!
Microsoft BI Software is NOT FREE. SQL Server and Office license fees, while not the ridiculous amount some competitors charge for their equivilent offerings is not cheap but it is very competitive. Out-of-the-box with SQL Server you get Integration, Analysis, Reporting, and Relational Database Capabilities!
Regarding the comment that customers allready own the Microsoft software and yet pay $1500/month to get "real BI" is not exactly a fact. What I can say, is that I have personally worked for and built Enterprise DW/BI Solutions with the Microsoft BI stack of products for Fortune 100 and 500 customers. If those companies are using the products then why would a SMB not?
And this other ridiculous comment about MSFT BI is for "gearheads" is quite funny. Show me a BI product that does not require a technical implementation and I will show you a BI solution that is either verticalized or built upon self-service, both of which fields currently do not offer the same degree of flexibility Enterprise Customers need from their Corporate BI Solutions!
The "get a clue dude" comment I am not even going to address. Take the energy you are wasting on posting negative content and build something that is better than Microsoft's products if you think they are so bad.