Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
5Aug/130

On-Demand Webinar: Mobile-First BI Enabled by Responsive Design

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View-WebinarCheck out arcplan’s latest webinar – a 30-minute primer on Responsive Design and how it applies to business intelligence applications.

Mobile-First BI Enabled by Responsive Design
Recorded Date: August 13, 2013
Speakers: Dwight deVera, arcplan Senior VP; Takashi Binns, Solutions Manager

About this webinar:

Conditions are finally right for mobile business intelligence to take off: affordable, high-performance devices are in the hands of nearly 50% of the population, BYOD policies are spreading like wildfire, and users are clamoring for performance information anywhere and everywhere they are. Mobile BI is no longer just a possibility but an inevitability.

A mobile-first design philosophy is necessary in 2013 and beyond to future-proof your BI apps. But with so many different devices available to users, how do you create usable yet easy to maintain business intelligence, analysis, and planning applications that work on every one? The answer is Responsive Design.

This 30-minute webinar is a primer on Responsive Design, a concept that enables apps to dynamically adjust their layout to the end user’s screen size, resolution and orientation. We review:

  • Why Responsive Design is the best way to develop BI apps going forward
  • How you can achieve a 60-80% reduction in mobile BI development and maintenance costs
  • Examples of responsively designed dashboards

As mobile devices become the primary way of accessing BI, now is a good time to revise your strategy to “mobile-first.” Watch this webinar to learn more.

View the webinar >>

range of device sizes_arcplan_dashboards

31Jul/130

Planning Visualizations: Forecasting Charts

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My series on planning visualizations has so far explained how to use the right chart types to tell your plan’s story. Today I’ll wrap up with a focus on using visualizations to show how your plan will hold up as the fiscal year progresses. The charts below display forecasts that are based off of 12-24 months of historical data used to predict future results.

Plan vs. Actual Spend: Bullet Visualization with Linear Regression
Good planners know that a plan shouldn’t simply be created, approved and then left to rot on a shelf somewhere. Plans should be managed and updated throughout the year. Even the best plans require changes, especially when it looks like you might be getting off track.

Say you’re a marketing director for a retailer and your fiscal year begins in January. In March, you’re starting to wonder if there will be enough funds in the budget by September to do your holiday season advertising. There’s a way to predict this information, even if you’re only a few months into the fiscal year. A finance professional might run a linear regression and stick a table in Excel to show the progressions of the budget over time. But as a marketer, you’re a visual person and might better understand a bullet chart. Plotting the actual data (in yellow) against the plan data (in gray), it’s easy to see that marketing expenses were understated in the plan from the beginning, or you simply overspent early on and won’t recover without making adjustments to spending. The red bars show just how far off spending will be vs. the plan if you don’t take corrective action:

planning-visualizations-forecast-chart

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26Jul/130

Planning Visualizations: Charts That Make Variances Easier to Understand

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In my previous post on this topic, I covered why planning visualizations are important for an audience of planners without finance backgrounds: they prioritize content and separate the signal from the noise so planners know at a glance what areas of the plan need their attention. Today I’ll underline the importance of using the right chart types to tell your plan’s story. The idea is that visualizations should enable planners to prioritize the largest areas of their plans and see exactly what parts need adjustment, without forcing them to read anatomically correct financial statements or have a deep understanding of planning terminology.

Particularly, the term “variance” can be incredibly confusing to non-finance department heads who are tasked with managing budgets. Variances of actual spend compared to the budget are either positive or negative, indicating which direction the line item deviates from the plan. In general, being under budget is a positive variance, and being over budget is a negative variance. But things get weird when you’re looking at expenses vs. income and it’s hard for regular planners to make sense of it all. So the best way I can think of to help non-finance planners understand their plan performance better is to simply use terms like “favorable” and “unfavorable” instead of “positive” and “negative” (i.e. “you’ve got an unfavorable variance for airfare because of the unplanned training course in Las Vegas that your whole team attended”) and to introduce planning visualizations that simplify complex concepts like variances.

Horizontal Bar Graph
planning-visualizations-bar-chart_sm
A horizontal bar graph with red and green bars is an ideal visualization for a budget statement because it’s straightforward and eliminates confusion. In the example here, the budget categories are prioritized from most unfavorable to most favorable. We see that relocation and airline expenses are the most unfavorable – they’re the most over budget – and they are emphasized by being in red at the top of the graph. But reallocating funds from the most favorable categories – incentives and salary – can alleviate the problem. Incentives and salary are the most under budget; we’ve spent less than we’ve planned and there may be funds that can be moved to the relocation and airfare categories.

The horizontal bar graph visualization tells the story of which items are doing well, which items are doing poorly, and makes it obvious where adjustments can be made.

Waterfall or Bridge Chart…

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23Jul/130

arcplan In the News: Responsive Design for Mobile BI

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Our Senior Vice President, Dwight deVera, has been featured recently on CMSWire and Business2Community, giving tips on how to use responsive design for your mobile BI applications. Check out these pieces and let us know what you think!

Inspect_metro_iconMobile App Responsive Design Best Practices
“For mobile BI, we’ve found that responsive design is best,” deVera said. “We call our philosophy DORA. Design once, run anywhere.”
 

Inspect_metro_iconTransitioning to Mobile Dashboards with Responsive Design
“The concept of responsive design is the key that unlocks the door to seamless mobility, and factors such as size, design layout and orientation, and user experience must be considered.”

In case you missed it, we announced the release date for arcplan 8, which will support – in addition to Java and .NET – a new HTML5 client that enables dynamic, interactive page layouts that adjust automatically to various screen sizes. Officially launching September 26th, arcplan 8’s responsive design concept will offer our customers 60-80% savings on mobile BI development and maintenance costs. Learn more >>

16Jul/130

Planning Visualizations: Using Charts & Graphs to Focus Planners’ Attention

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Planning_visualizations_arcplan_chartIn a perfect world, all of your organization’s planners would have superior analytics acumen and the financial know-know to create the best plans for their department. But unlike the photo that comes with every picture frame, there’s no such thing as the perfect planning family. Planners don’t necessarily fall into traditional groups like Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) or Management. Think about your marketing and sales directors – their primary function within the organization doesn’t require a finance degree but they are still expected to take on planning roles for their departments.

Non-traditional planning managers have their own special needs and thankfully, software development has come a long way in accommodating them – particularly planning software with built-in reporting and dashboard capabilities. If your planning solution supports data visualization, take advantage! By presenting your plan data in charts and graphs, you can focus planners’ energy on areas where they can make the biggest impact.

The underlying problem of many budgeting and planning processes is that data is organized and optimized for machines, not people. Unless you’ve had some formal education in this area, reading a chart of accounts/cost centers can be overwhelming. Understanding an anatomically correct financial statement can take years. Take for instance a physician or head nurse who is tasked to create a budgetary plan for his or her department – these individuals are trained to save lives, but probably cannot create a budget to save their own lives. The way to make budgets work for these types of planners is through smart data visualizations.

An ideal way to start visualizing content is to…

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