Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Customer Analytics: See the Truth with Data Visualization – Part I


The idea of having a 360 degree view of your customers is not a new one, but actually getting it is a real challenge in our world of silo’d data. Customer analytics give you a better understanding of your customers, and the ability to spot trends, identify opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell or simply target them more effectively, ultimately optimizing your customer relationships. But to get these insights in one place, like a dashboard, you need to integrate separate data from CRM, accounting, and customer support systems. Without a BI platform in place – one that integrates data from many sources like arcplan – it falls on you, the decision maker, to waste time assembling the pieces necessary to come up with a view of your customers from these different systems.

But if you are looking to utilize your business intelligence software for customer analytics, this series of articles will help you define the metrics you should be tracking as well as the visualizations that most effectively portray the data.

Graph Customer Growth with Bridge Charts

The most common way to track customer growth over time is by using a bar graph to show year over year comparison. A simple bar graph might show you that 2 years ago, you had 100 customers, last year you had 107 customers and this year you have 120 customers. Using arcplan’s linear regression formula, you expect to have 125 customers next year.

The numbers and the forecast look great, but the real story may be a little more shocking once you properly visualize it.

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Dynamic Data Visualizations


There’s a lot of discussion happening in the BI world right now over data visualization. On the one hand, you have analysts pushing the idea that data visualization = visual data discovery = self-service BI = advanced BI. I’ve seen Gartner and Aberdeen both touting the idea that data visualization and data discovery are the same and that they’re the key to unlocking analytics for more users in your enterprise.

On the other hand, you have organizations who think data visualization = dashboards. They want to present their data graphically, have some interactive capabilities like drill-down and drill across, and use advanced features like animated graphs and motion charts.

At arcplan, we offer our customers all types of data visualization, from sophisticated desktop and mobile dashboards to visual ad-hoc reporting. Today let’s examine some of the dynamic, interactive visualizations you can employ in your BI dashboards to enhance data visibility and tell stories that are more expressive than static charts.

MotionCharts_220Motion Charts for Trend Analysis
A motion chart is a dynamic chart that shows the flow of data across a dimension – for example, time. It’s a great way to look at large amounts of data at once to discover patterns.

For example, a sales manager may want to conduct a trend analysis for the company’s product line over the course of a year to analyze profits and losses for a set of product categories. A motion chart provides a more dynamic option than a table of numbers. By simply sliding the time bar along the x-axis, the sales manager obtains a visual of the fluctuations in the product categories over time. It’s the difference between reading a book and watching a movie on the same topic: though the information is the same, a visual aid allows some users to better absorb it.

Zoom Line Chart for Dynamic Drill-Down
Don’t be fooled by this ordinary looking line chart…

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On-Demand Webinar: Business Intelligence as the Gateway to Big Data


View-WebinarCheck out this on-demand webinar from arcplan – a 40-minute primer on using big data and BI together for enterprise impact.

Business Intelligence as the Gateway to Big Data
Recorded Date: August 28, 2013
Speakers: Dwight deVera, arcplan Senior VP; Tom Veith, Senior Solutions Manager

About this webinar:

You’ve heard the hype around big data, and maybe you’ve put some thought into how it could impact your business. After all, the promise of big data is accessing hidden insights, discovering new approaches, and making better decisions. But how do you begin developing a technology approach that’s practical and doesn’t require a massive investment of money, time and resources?

big-data-biThe answer is to leverage business intelligence platforms that can handle huge data volumes, provide real-time access and enable data exploration. This webinar serves as a primer on how to practically use big data and BI together. Investments in big data usually allow a group of data scientists to deliver their results to a small community of business end users. To get beyond small communities and have an enterprise impact, you’ll need business intelligence – the mechanism to scale your big data initiative across the enterprise.

In this webinar, we:

  • Lay out the big data approaches you can take based on your available resources and infrastructure, and the benefits and challenges of each approach
  • Explain the benefits of utilizing existing BI platforms for big data analysis and visualization
  • Demonstrate big data and BI in action on Teradata and Google BigQuery

This isn’t a webinar for IT professionals only. We break the concepts down in a way that makes sense for everyone.

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Seeing Through BI Vendor BS


mustacheyouaquestionSounds provocative coming from a BI vendor, right?

arcplan is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so it’s safe to say we’ve seen it all. We’ve competed for business against every mega vendor and every niche BI vendor out there and we’ve seen companies get burned by vendors who promise more than they can deliver. Of course it hurts to lose a deal, but since our passion is helping companies get better insights and make better decisions, it’s doubly awful to see companies get duped.

So what can you do to ensure you’ll get what’s promised from BI vendor?

1) Ask questions.
The evaluation process is your time to ask questions of the BI vendors on your shortlist. You’ll be able to do this on discovery calls and during demos, and of course if you choose to go through an RFP process, you can demand answers to every esoteric question you can dream of.

Ask about the requirements specific to your business processes. Initial questions we’ve been asked include:

  • Does arcplan allow export to Excel? (Yes, users can export to Excel as well as PowerPoint and PDF. With our Excel add-in, users can also work in Excel while remaining connected to the data source.)
  • Does arcplan offer write-back? (Yes, write-back is standard and is based on the security rights you’ve set up in your systems.)
  • How easy is it to learn arcplan? (Like any product there’s a learning curve, but arcplan is intuitive for users and simple for developers with our drag-and-drop, programming-free interface.)

Here are some additional questions to consider asking…

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Business Intelligence Value for Retailers


bi-retailHow BI facilitates a decision-making process that saves millions

At the core of every business decision is the desire to drive value for the company – whether that’s increased sales, higher margins, elevated profits, or return on investment. Decision makers should use all the resources at their disposal to drive this value, including their business intelligence software, which may include guided analytics (i.e. dashboards), ad-hoc analysis and collaboration capabilities that contribute to informed decision-making. Today I’ll explore how BI software facilitates decisions in a retail scenario. But this article isn’t just for retailers – anyone can extrapolate this information to their business to see how BI can provide concrete ROI.

arcplan serves a number of customers in the retail industry, including two of the largest grocery chains in the United States. Retailers are well-known for the small net revenue margins – on average, 3% across the globe for all types of retailers – which pose significant challenges on process controls and efficiency in supply chain decisions. One of the key areas of interest for all retailers, especially grocery chains, is the reduction of shrink – the loss of inventory due to product spoilage, waste, theft and other causes. It’s estimated to account for 2-3% of overall sales. Perishable shrink even goes up to 5% within a typical grocery chain. So for one of our customers, whose revenue reached $6.25 billion in 2012, a reduction in shrink of just 0.1% means $6.2 million to their bottom line.

So a simple question that would catalyze a decision-making process at this grocery chain might be: How can BI help reduce my shrink by 0.1% while balancing availability of goods and customer satisfaction? They would want to meet high customer expectations without over-ordering, which leads to shrink through spoilage.

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