Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

How to Become an iPhone Hero – Thoughts on Mobile BI


One of the variants of Ockham’s Razor is the theory that “it is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer.” I bring this up to make the following point: Your boss will think you’re a hero if you just give him or her some of the basic information he needs to do his job. Sometimes that basic information could be a single data point such as “sales are down in Florida but up in all other regions.”

Now picture your boss while he’s running on the treadmill at the Holiday Inn gym where he’s refused to pay the $10 internet service charge. He looks at his iPhone and notices an email with the subject “Sales Performance” with a URL inside. He clicks the URL and sees a pie chart neatly set up to fit the display on his iPhone that clearly states where sales stand as of that morning. In fact, he’s so excited about what he sees that without even thinking of it, he’ll click on the red slice representing Florida and drills down into another simple chart that shows the top 5 products bringing Florida’s number down. He even proudly displays his iPhone to the sweaty guy running next to him to show off.

And that, my friend, is how you become his iPhone Hero. Next time you’re dreaming up ways to ask for that raise, all you have to do is set up a reporting system that is simple to use, gives the users the biggest bang for the buck, and doesn’t require a PHD in physics to decipher. And then make sure it runs on your boss’ iPhone (or Blackberry). Simplicity is actually more effective than you think especially because there are just too many distractions. A large majority of your BI audience is on the road, has only a G3 or maybe G4 bandwidth, and doesn’t have time to look at the details or open a laptop to get them. Make their lives easy by providing them with a mobile BI application that helps them get their job done. Provide them the significant information from a very high level and let them interact with the application in the same way they do with Facebook or iTunes. It’s not that hard when your BI infrastructure plays nicely with all of your mobile devices.


Great Expectations: Self-Service Information Delivery & the Adoption of BI


On Cyber Monday morning at 7 AM, I found a good deal on a piece of electronics that one of our teenagers wants for Christmas. By noon, I was itching to find out if it was shipped and if so where it was in its journey to our home. I checked again at 5:30 PM and then again at 11:00 PM. Each time I looked, I was amused by the fact that the gift was one step closer to its destination.

The fact that you can track every time a package gets handed off to someone else within seconds of that hand-off is no longer anything special. This is what everyone expects – and rightly so. After all, the hand-offs are simply time stamps plus a couple of other pieces of data associated with information about your package. It all adds up to about 5 or 6 rows of data that shows the position of the package from the source to the destination. What makes this significant is that it’s available at any time of day and I don’t even have to pick up the phone and call anybody to access it.

Here’s my point: Like it or not, what’s happening in cyberspace affects your company systems by raising the expectations of all users. When you track a package from your home laptop and see details of every move it makes, you’d have a hard time going to work the next day and putting up with a green screen CICS application on your office desktop. Your expectations for your company’s information system cannot be any lower than what you can accomplish on your laptop at home.

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Utilizing SharePoint for Business Intelligence


Whether you’re just beginning to explore the possibilities of SharePoint, or you’re a current arcplan customer looking to expand the pervasiveness of BI at your organization, our webinar next Thursday (December 9th) will provide the guidance you need to start your SharePoint-based BI project. (EDIT: Click here to access the recording.)

Many organizations are using the SharePoint portal as a secure corporate environment for their employees to share information, collaborate, and improve productivity. And some of those have begun exploring how to deploy business intelligence in SharePoint to keep all of their company information in one place. If your organization is thinking of going this route, we invite you to attend this webinar to learn how to leverage SharePoint as a delivery and management platform for business intelligence.

In this presentation, we will review the challenges of portal-based BI, including security, screen design, and content management, as well as the advantages of making the SharePoint portal “THE place where business people go to do their work.” We’ll present an easy solution for managing your organization’s BI in SharePoint, and leave time to answer the audience’s questions at the end of the webinar.

Click here to access the recording.


Cloudy & Loving It Part IV: Choosing a BI Vendor That Meets Your Needs


In my previous posts on the subject of cloud computing and business intelligence, I’ve discussed building a dimensional model to make reporting easy and I’ve identified the type of data extraction necessary to populate the reporting database. I’ve also decided that automating the extraction and load jobs is the way to go. What’s left is the choice of vendors who can help make this happen as smoothly as possible.

One solution is to go with a single vendor model for your business intelligence needs. If your transactional system is in the cloud, you would have to depend on the same vendor to provide you with the reporting database and the ETL jobs that fit your requirements. With BI in the cloud, the provider of the system has to create a dimensional model that meets most of their subscribers’ needs. However, this data model may not meet all the reporting requirements and the data is still not in-house for easy analysis. To fix this problem, the cloud vendor might have partners that can help make a custom BI system in the cloud more practical. For instance, Informatica offers an ETL solution to the CRM to solve this very problem. Leaving BI in the cloud will also mean you’ll have to use the reporting tool picked for you by the cloud vendor. Additionally, you’ll have to assume most, if not all, of your reporting needs will be met with the data in the cloud and that you won’t ever need to enrich that information with locally gathered (i.e. non-cloud) data.

Since that kind of data uniformity is rare, a more practical choice would be to treat the cloud as just another data source. This will free you from a single vendor software stack and allow you to pick the best vendors for the job. In this model, the vendors you choose for the tasks should be able to:

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Improve Decision-Making with Technology


Join arcplan on Thursday from 2-3 pm Eastern for a free, informative webinar sponsored by Financial Executives International — Decision-Making 2.0: How Organizations Can Leverage 2.0 Technologies to Improve Decision-Making and Collaboration. The content is not geared exclusively toward finance professionals, so we invite all decision-makers to attend.

Individuals and groups make thousands of decisions a day that ultimately determine the financial performance of their organizations. This webinar will identify ways in which decision-making processes are being impacted by the rise of 2.0 tools and technologies and ways leaders can harness their power to improve decision-making. It will specifically focus on:

  • An overview of 2.0 technological innovations for non-technical people (e.g., wikis, chat, user profiles, content rating, voting, smart platforms, recommendations and social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter)
  • The profound influence that web 2.0 tools have on business decision making and the important benefits that they deliver
  • How leading organizations can embrace similar technologies and concepts in-house to improve collaboration and decision making
  • Examples of solutions that utilize a blend of mature and new technologies for business applications

Learn more about our featured speaker, Dr. Courtney Hunt, and register here.