Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
14May/121

Poor Data Quality – Part I: The Consequences

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Data Quality - Garbage in, Garbage out?We’ve been thinking a lot about the various ways organizations can improve their existing business intelligence applications. Many of arcplan’s customers have been with us 5-10 or more years and are continuously improving their BI along the way. Some of the initiatives we frequently hear about are related to data quality improvement, but this may be an anomaly. According to Ventana Research’s recent study, less than half of organizations surveyed have taken on some kind of information management initiative, like data quality or data integration improvements, in the last 2 years due to budget restrictions or lack of employees with the right skills.

I’d argue that data quality initiatives should be a “top 5″ priority for organizations in 2012. Why? Because of stories like this: A friend recently told me about a meeting at his company where the regional sales managers were giving their summaries of pipeline opportunities. During one of the updates, a director interjected that he didn’t see the favorable developments mentioned in Salesforce, their CRM system. Based on the information that was present in the system, the director figured that the quarter would be an average one. However, the updates from the sales manager would really swing the potential outcome of the quarter in a positive way. Now I bet that director had to make some decisions that were compromised by the (lack of) current information in the CRM system. He might have started strategizing about how to re-engage with the (assumed) stagnant prospects, started working with marketing on a nurturing campaign, asked the telesales team to reach out…any number of things could have happened based off of the faulty information available to him.

Unfortunately, many organizations have to contend with poor data quality which ultimately results in poor decision-making. After all, decisions are no better than the data on which they’re based. Reliable, relevant, and complete data (as opposed to the incomplete data set available to the director in my example above) supports organizational efficiency and is a cornerstone of sound decision-making. So what are some of the consequences of sub-par data quality?

1) Mistrust. Poor data quality often breeds mistrust among internal departments. I read a great example from 1998 (if you can believe it) that could have been written yesterday:

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7May/120

Enterprise Collaboration vs. Collaborative BI: What’s the Difference?

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In recent months we’ve explored Collaborative BI as a growing trend and how it’s gaining popularity as an extension of traditional business intelligence solutions. Despite all the hype around this topic, it can be confusing to determine what makes Collaborative BI unique. I’ve seen the terms “Collaborative BI” and “enterprise collaboration” used interchangeably a lot lately, and while both may fall under the categories “Collaborative Decision-Making” or “Knowledge Management,” there are distinctions between the two that are important to understand.

Enterprise Collaboration
Though enterprise collaboration and Collaborative BI share some of the same features – the ability for users to interact like they would on social media, for example, rating, tagging, and commenting on content – enterprise collaboration is less specific about the type of interaction employees have. These platforms, like SharePoint and Socialcast, enable users to chat with each other, post blogs and wikis, make announcements, view the activity streams of other users, collaborate on projects, take polls, and generally do all the things they’d do in a workplace – but online. They provide a secure place for business users to work together and eliminate some of the need for project-related e-mails, phone calls, meetings, and shared drives. This article on CMS Wire gives a great example of how enterprise collaboration can improve the work life of a manager and his project team. It’s all about workflow and process-driven decision-making (as opposed to data-driven decision-making, which Collaborative BI facilitates).

Here are two ways that enterprise collaboration may look at your company:

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1May/120

Collaborate 12 Oracle Conference Recap

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I just returned to Germany after spending last week in Las Vegas for the Collaborate 12 conference. arcplan had a booth at the show, billed as the “Technology & Applications Forum for the Oracle Community,” for the first time in 4 years. We’ve noticed trade shows having a bit of a renaissance and this one – with 6,000 attendees – was no exception. With our strong Oracle customer base and our billing as the most widely-used BI front-end to Oracle Essbase, we thought 2012 was the perfect time to return to Collaborate. And after our great experience at KScope 11, the Oracle Developer Tools User Group Conference last year in Long Beach, we want to participate in more conferences where the attendees are the users and creators of BI applications in their enterprises. Collaborate turned out to be a terrific (re)addition to our lineup.

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Oracle CIO & SVP Mark Sunday on “IT at Oracle: The Art of IT Transformation to Enable Business Growth.” His presentation stressed the importance of simplifying IT, which complements arcplan’s vision and our 2012 tagline: It simply works™. With our focus on reducing infrastructure and helping our customers leverage what they already have, this message really resonated with us.

The rest of the session topics reflected Collaborate’s heterogeneous nature as a melting pot of three different user groups (OAUG, IOUG and Quest)…

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27Apr/120

Mobile BI: Top 5 User Priorities

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Mobile business intelligence is a necessity for executives, remote staff and sales people who need access to business-critical data at all times. Its benefits are numerous and go beyond return on investment. They’re often intangible and hard to describe (and therefore it’s sometimes hard to justify a mobile BI investment). There are many articles from the CIO or CEO’s perspective, but we wanted to hear directly from business users. So we surveyed arcplan clients and compiled a list of priorities for an effective mobile BI solution from the users’ perspective. Their priorities reflect what users around the world expect:

1. Value Beyond ROI
While management insists on concrete ROI for business intelligence expenditures, users are more concerned with the value of BI solutions in their lives. Mobile BI derives its value by delivering at-a-glance views of business-critical information at all hours of the day or night so whether users are traveling, in meetings, or in a different time zone, they can grab their smartphone or tablet PC and get information that helps them take action.

2. Freedom
As BI (literally) moves into the hands of business users, it delivers another important benefit: freedom. Specifically, mobile BI gives users the freedom to view reports as needed, without help from IT and without the limitation of an office setting. Mobile BI users include account managers en route to client sites, supervisors on the plant floor, and store managers who never sit behind a desk – all of whom need data to make decisions at all hours of the day. With mobile BI, different work schedules no longer stand in the way and users become more self-sufficient with the freedom to access information anytime.

3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The “BYOD phenomenon” refers to users who bring their personal devices into the workplace and connect to the corporate network. It allows users to mix business and personal applications on their own mobile devices rather than carrying separate phones and tablets for work and life. Many mobile BI strategies allow for BYOD so users who prefer Android can use those devices even if the company regularly issues Blackberry phones, for example. In order for this strategy to make sense…

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25Apr/120

What Your Data Wants To Tell You

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Your data has a ton of stories to tell you – and maybe even a few warnings – if only you would listen. Data talks and today I’m exploring its wishlist:

“Make Me Impossible To Ignore!”
Have you ever been distracted during a phone conversation and missed what the person on the other end said to you? No one likes to be ignored and neither does your data. Sometimes it’s practically screaming at your inventory managers, “Don’t send anymore widgets to Mississippi – they aren’t selling,” or yelling at your marketers, “Stop buying leads from Company X – they’re not converting into revenue!” The problem is that data is easy to ignore, especially if your company culture allows it. Since arcplan is a BI company, we’re ruled by metrics from the top down. Our marketing department keeps track of lead flow on a daily basis with dashboards, so we have constant visibility into what lead sources are best converting to opportunities and which opportunities best convert to closed deals. Sure, it’s easy to just stop looking at the dashboard but then I wouldn’t have a job anymore. Our company demands that we pay attention to our data. Dashboards work for us, since they can be delivered via email on a regular schedule so if we’re on the road, we don’t need to login to any system to view our performance data – we just check our email. Would your company benefit from in-your-face BI dashboards? Maybe then people would stop ignoring what the data has to say and they’d be able to make better decisions that contribute to improved company performance.

“Hurry Up, Please!”
Do you wait days or weeks for IT to deliver the data you need to perform analyses? If so, you’re not alone. Many of our clients come to us when they tire of this wait time and are starting to see the competition pull ahead as they’re able to make more agile business decisions. Our client Japs-Olson, a commercial printer in Minnesota, was waiting a week or more for reports from IT when they decided to implement an arcplan BI solution. Now it takes their CFO – who you’d classify as a regular business user, not a report or dashboard designer – minutes to create a new report. That kind of quick turn-around is what separates top performers from the rest of the pack…

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