In an earlier entry, I talked about using Excel as an integral part of a budgeting and planning application. In that example, Excel was connected to the database of record and presented the users with the 'actuals' data (YTD #s) they needed to enter the budget for the upcoming cycle. Although this is a simple use case for Excel in a BI application, it opens the doors to many more sophisticated deployment strategies.
One way of categorizing an application deployment is persistence, defining the way users are actively attached to your application at any one time. A purely browser-based application must keep track of all the users attached to the system at all times. While this isn't as big a deal in a reporting environment, it becomes resource-intensive when the application allows write-back (e.g. budgeting and planning systems). One possible solution is to bulk up on hardware or create server farms that can balance the increased demand for both application and DBMS connections. This type of persistent connection will eventually become too expensive. Persistence doesn't always pay off.
An alternative solution is to implement non-persistent connections to the system which allow users to only take up space on the application when they need the resource and disconnect when finished. In fact, many budgeting and planning users prefer to massage their budget and come up with optimal numbers before they submit them to the system. Many of these users would rather not be stuck at their desks through the entire budgeting process and they are more comfortable navigating and crunching their numbers in Excel. On the other hand, their organizations would like to keep the central and consistent management of these users' activities.
Of course, I wouldn't be thinking about the advantages of integrating persistent and non-persistent connections in a business intelligence system if arcplan didn't have a product to meet this need. To keep it short, arcplan Edge allows both types of connections to allow users to do their budgeting and planning 'offline' in Excel and then connect back to the system when they're ready to submit their numbers.