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Which version of Office 2013..?

13 March 2013

Many of you will have been considering PowerPivot, the ‘new’ add-in for Excel 2010 and later versions. As companies and individuals consider migration towards Office / Excel 2013, you should be aware that if you still plan to use PowerPivot and its sister feature Power View, you must exercise caution regarding which version you or your IT department buy.

Picked at random, it is unlikely you will procure the necessary business intelligence analysis your business requires or deserves. Although Office 365 subscriptions may be upgraded, this option is not currently possible within the Excel 2013 ‘product’. Therefore, inappropriate non-subscription purchases may prove to be a very costly mistake.

In subscription form, you’re going to need the Rolls Royce version, Office 365 ProPlus. For the regular, non-subscription variant, Office 2013 on the desktop, you will need the similarly-titled Microsoft Office Professional Plus to use the PowerPivot add-in or to use Power View in Excel.

However, it’s not quite as simple as that. This non-subscription Professional Plus version is only available via Open, Select or EA volume licensing (minimum order of five). Excel 2013 Standalone with PowerPivot is also only available via Open or Select volume licensing.

One other thing: for those contemplating the Surface option, it should also be noted that Office RT, which runs on Windows RT, has several limitations with regard to its BI functionality. Power View sheets, Excel Data Models, Quick Explore, PowerPivot and Spreadsheet Inquire add-ins are not supported in Office RT.

In other words, there is presently no regular retail edition of Excel which includes PowerPivot or Power View, so it may be procured through a Volume License Agreement or Office 365 only. Hopefully, over time, this situation will be rectified.

Summary of which versions are best to acquire:

Office 2013 version Compatibility with PowerPivot
Subscription Office 365 ProPlus Full compatibility
Microsoft Office Professional Plus Open, Select or EA volume licence with minimum of five licences Full compatibility
Excel 2013 Standalone with PowerPivot Only available via Open or Select volume licensing Full compatibility
Other versions of Office 2013 / Office 365 Not supported
Office RT Power View sheets, Excel Data Models, Quick Explore, PowerPivot and Spreadsheet Inquire not supported

Recapping: why PowerPivot is something your business should consider

In Excel 2010, the PowerPivot for Excel 2010 add-in was able to import and relate large amounts of data from multiple sources.  In Excel 2013, much of that functionality has been built directly into the Data Model – that’s the PowerPivot “engine” – in Excel without installing a separate add-in.  However, there are some feature differences between the versions that do have PowerPivot and those that do not.

For example, it should be noted that there are Data Model features available in all Excel 2013 versions.  These include the ability to:

  • Leverage the internal xVelocity engine to Import millions of rows from multiple data sources into a Data Model;
  • Create relationships between data from different sources, and between multiple tables in a single PivotTable and / or Pivot Chart;
  • Manage data connections.

To be clear, the PowerPivot features which will only be available in the Office Professional Plus, Office 365 ProPlus and Standalone versions of Excel 2013 include:

  • Excel automatically loading data into the xVelocity in-memory analytics engine (formerly called VertiPaq) so that data is processed faster
  • Higher data compression to ensure a manageable file size, so that it may be saved inside the Excel workbook for portability
  • The ability to filter and rename data, tables, and columns when importing data
  • Management of the model by creating relationships and user-defined hierarchies which may be used throughout the workbook using drag and drop in the Diagram View
  • The ability to define perspectives, calculated fields, and key performance indicators (KPIs) for PivotTables
  • Authoring calculations by writing advanced formulas that use the Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) language
  • Formatting may be applied for use in Power View and PivotTable reports

In summary, like every new version of Excel / Office, there seem to be some teething issues. Introducing Office 365 subscriptions and moving PowerPivot to Professional Plus / Pro Plus at the same time does seem to be a lot for even the most au fait to deal with!

Let’s hope it continues to simplify.