Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

A CFO Takes the Reins on Business Intelligence Strategy


So, it’s one of those days where we’re up to a bit of bragging! SearchCIO just published an article on our client, Japs-Olson, a mid-market commercial print vendor in Minnesota. Their CFO, Gary Petrangelo, took charge of the company’s business intelligence strategy and choose arcplan in October 2010. We’ve been working with them to create dashboards that track critical KPIs and financial metrics – dashboards that have saved the company time, money, and reams of paper.

Petrangelo said arcplan has “bent over backwards” to tie into Jap-Olson’s data to create customized reports, an initial challenge, ultimately tapping into a SQL Server production database that also held transactional data. He believes his investment in arcplan will yield big dividends.

“I spent the last week and a half generating a multitude of different reports, trying to get to the bottom of a category that looked off compared to last year. I just kept thinking, ‘Oh, I wish we had all these reports set up in arcplan so that we could have generated this report at a push of a button,” he said. The $600,000 discrepancy was finally tracked down to certain transactions that were coded properly but being pushed into the wrong general ledgers. With arcplan?

“It would have saved probably a week of my time, plus staff time, and that of the production manager,” he said.

The author notes that more and more business users  and executives are calling the shots when it comes to business intelligence. They’re not sitting back and waiting for IT to make the decision. Just underscores the need for more user-friendly BI software and vendors that can work with clients to create what they need from their BI — without the need for IT.

Check out the full article here.


Q&A: Integrating Social Media and BI


A Q&A with arcplan President & CEO, Roland Hoelscher, was featured in yesterday’s TDWI BI This Week newsletter. We thought our readers might like to check it out, so we’ve reprinted the text below. Enjoy, and if you have additional questions for Roland beyond what’s answered here, leave us a comment!

Q&A: Integrating Social Media and BI by James E. Powell

Can social media really make your business intelligence better? What are the drawbacks, and what data should you try to integrate? How do you incorporate the data in reports, and will this truly give your enterprise a competitive advantage? For insight and answers, we turned to a company with experience in this process, arcplan, and its president and CEO, Roland Hoelscher.

BI This Week: What are the benefits of integrating social media information into BI applications? What are the drawbacks?

Roland Hoelscher: I think many businesses are starting to recognize that social media tracking needs to be part of their overall business strategy, whether or not they’ve considered integrating social data into their corporate BI systems. Social media data is like any other data your organization might collect except that it’s often unstructured and it comes from an external system. Now we’re starting to see a lot of companies realize that there is so much that can be gained from viewing social media data as another data source in their BI systems.

By collecting and analyzing social media data alongside the rest of their corporate BI, companies get an enhanced view of the people who purchase (or don’t purchase) their products and services. It offers an understanding beyond “Product X sells well in the Midwest.” Social data can explain why Product X sells so well in the Midwest, and can even help you spot early trends that can drive product development, and product delivery, marketing messaging. A BI application will give you a visual representation of this data, making it easy to identify these trends.

One drawback is the sometimes difficult task of marrying your qualitative social media data with the classic quantitative data that’s housed in BI systems. However, as social data becomes increasingly important to many organizations, it is possible to bring the two together, especially if your BI system can manage both structured and unstructured data.

What are some of the misperceptions about social media integration? What benefits do companies mistakenly think they’ll gain?

Most companies that implement business intelligence are likely see ROI fairly soon — revenue enhancement, cost reduction, etc. — so they may think that tracking social media data is also going to bring them an ROI that’s quantifiable in dollars and cents. Some companies will have to live with the fact that re-tweets and YouTube video views will always be leading indicators that may bring future financial gains. In addition, you’ll only get better insight into your customers and prospects if you map your customer interactions on social media with your CRM records, thereby putting them into context of existing relationships. This is often no small challenge.

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Mobile BI – Moving Into Tablet Territory


The growing availability of tablet PCs like the incredibly popular iPad, as well as the Motorola Xoom and BlackBerry PlayBook underscore the fact that the term ‘mobile’ applies to more than just phones these days. Users flock to purchase tablet devices for a number of reasons – they’re hooked on the latest and greatest technology, they see value in having a lightweight yet powerful mobile PC with them on the go, or they love their tablet’s battery life as compared to their laptop’s. Whatever the reason, the explosion of tablet purchases opens business intelligence to a whole new platform. Sure, your mobile BI app is likely available on smartphones, but it can have even greater capacity on a tablet.

Mobile apps for tablets are hot. Dresner Advisory Services’ Mobile BI Market Study (which includes arcplan Mobile) reflects the importance of mobile BI on tablets – respondents identified iPad as their primary deployment platform. Along those same lines, analysts are predicting that widespread BI adoption will be possible because of tablets, not smartphones due to inherent inadequacies in smartphone functionality and design for larger analyses. So the trend is clear – businesses are moving toward mobile BI and there’s a great interest in deploying on tablets.

Why tablets? Certainly convenience, ease of use, and the cool factor have something to do with it. They seem to have taken off among the executive set – we’re in so many meetings lately where everyone has an iPad on the table. As of January, Apple claimed that more than 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies are using or testing iPads. The mobile workforce, including remote sales teams, see the advantage of having a tablet with them when they’re out in the field either to take orders or to access sales data from their own BI systems. Our partner SAP has even deployed 3,500 iPads to employees in the field, allowing them to connect with their own business intelligence software for instantly updated information.

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Collaborative BI – What Does It Really Mean?


The focal point of many BI tools today is to get the right information to the right people at the right time so they can analyze company data and make well-informed decisions. The ‘right people’ are not only the ones at the very top of the food chain; we find that decision makers exist at all levels. Thus, the sharing and exchange of information is increasingly important in modern businesses.

Collaborative BI is a growing trend that merges business intelligence and social media tools and amounts to business users determining what the most valuable and relevant data in their organization is and sharing it to improve decision-making across the board.

Collaborative BI often goes hand-in-hand with the term “self-service BI.” It makes sense, since self-service BI tools make it easy for business users to access and analyze data without having to go through IT. These trends are all about the 85% of potential users in an organization who normally don’t partake in BI, but can benefit from it as much as the other 15%.

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Easier SAP Reporting – It’s Possible


Does this sound like your company? You standardized on SAP years ago, but there’s no funding for a full-blown Business Intelligence and Analytics application. Every week some higher-up calls you (the SAP expert) to give him or her an update on sales figures or margin numbers, and you’ve gotten some notoriety as the person who can write “SAP Reports” to show forecasts and budget information anytime. Now instead of watching Iron Chef America on Sunday nights, you’re sitting at your dining room table running SAP query extracts and dumping the data into Excel so you can massage it with MS Access and email it to all the directors. You’re dreading the calls that are going to start coming in once word gets out that you’re the SAP expert.

Believe it or not this isn’t too far from reality. A lot of very sophisticated organizations have business critical information stored in SAP but use the most arcane methods to make sense from it. There’s a false perception out there that reporting off of SAP requires a massive investment in hardware, software and services. But the fact is that SAP is just another data source and if you know some of the basics of BI, you can easily create an elegant solution that allows you to analyze the SAP data you’ve collected to suit your needs.

You have options. You can try to get approval for a multi-million dollar SAP BI project and justify the fact that it’s not going to go live for at least a year. Try that and tell me how it goes! (Don’t get me wrong – SAP has some great products and in fact, they’re one of arcplan’s partners. But there’s no denying that some of their products are cumbersome and inflexible, and many of arcplan’s customers have chosen us because of our SAP integration to improve their reporting).

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