Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Building Your BI Dashboard Foundation: A Developer’s Guide


Over the last couple of years, the growing hype around big data analytics has rekindled interest in data visualization and a long-standing BI tool – the dashboard. BI dashboards are an avenue for presenting pertinent chunks of information at a glance, and in 2013, they can present more complex, insightful representations of data than ever before. But the key to making your dashboard usable and long-lasting is to keep it simple, organized, and intuitive.

In other words, the way to address the growing need for better analytics and visualization is not to build prettier, more animated charts. A solid foundation has to precede these bells and whistles. Here are 2 foundational dashboard elements that developers should master before moving on to the fun stuff:

1) The Path of Analysis
There are many ways to dissect and analyze data, but the first step is determining how to make the path of analysis most intuitive for users. Your options include:

  • Functional Breakdown: This is a very common way for arcplan customers to organize dashboard data. In this structure, sales reports, operations reports, or financial reports – along with their corresponding KPIs – are grouped together, providing a dedicated area for members of each department…

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Business Intelligence Trends 2013: The Breakthrough of Do It Yourself BI and the Breakup of Big Data


arcplan recently examined the trends that will shape the BI landscape in 2013 – self-service BI, collaboration, and mobile BI. Under the umbrella of Do It Yourself BI (DIY BI), these trends will come to the forefront and big data will lose steam. It might be controversial to say, but we have our reasons.

Enterprises are demanding an increased focus on cost reductions and customer profitability – typically under business users’ purview – which constantly impacts the development of BI as business users are driving future trends. In 2013, business users will demand easier ways to access and analyze data, pushing their employers to purchase the self-service tools that BI vendors have been developing over the past few years and leading to a true breakthrough of DIY BI. Beyond that, the big data challenge has not yet been solved with an easy-to-digest solution, causing a lot of the hype to die down next year (for good reason). Let’s examine these trends further:

DIY BI Part I: Self-Service BI
In the past, BI was limited to a few expert analysts and users in the IT department. No doubt it has come a long way since. More and more BI users are taking over tasks traditionally dominated by IT developers, such as report development, dashboard creation, and ad-hoc reporting. In fact, Forrester Research advocates that 80% of BI tasks should be in the hands of business users themselves – and these business users need easy-to-use interfaces, programming-free BI app creation, the ability to search, write-back and drill-down, and data exploration capabilities.

In 2013, the delays associated with IT will be brushed aside in favor of the speed, control, and rapid access that comes along with self-service BI. The demand will increase for modern ad-hoc tools that allow users to directly tap the corporate data warehouse and provide a high degree of flexibility to slice-and-dice the data for insight on the fly. In-memory technology, advanced visualizations, and the broader emergence of HTML5 will support developers in creating multifaceted web-based apps that run on any device via a standard web browser and offer simple, intuitive self-service features every type of user can enjoy. Users will become more self-sufficient in 2013, able to get the information they need in order to optimize and accelerate their decision making processes.

DIY BI Part II: Collaboration

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Scorecard & Dashboard Development: A Detailed How-To Webinar


You’re invited to our last webinar of the year!

Scorecard & Dashboard Development: A Detailed How-To
Date: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Time: 2:00 pm ET / 11:00 am PT

You’ll come away with well-rounded, practical knowledge about how to create best-in-class BI applications that are highly adopted and provide a stellar user experience.

In this webinar, we’ll show you real customer examples that illustrate:

  • How to make your scorecards & dashboards simple, clean and effective
  • Visualization trade-offs and choices
  • Navigation as the key to success
  • Managing the path of analysis
  • Scorecards that tell a story
  • And much more

We’ll also leave time for a Q&A session at the end of the webinar.

Register now »

This event is a continuation of arcplan’s September webinar, Effective BI Dashboard & Scorecard Design, where we discussed the characteristics of successful dashboards. It is not a pre-requisite to have attended this webinar, but if you’d like to view the recording, you may do so here.


2nd Annual arc|ademy BI Challenge – Submit Your Application, Students!


It’s that time of year again – when we invite students in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) to create innovative BI applications for a chance at our 15,000€ prize fund! We’re looking for university-level computing and economics students to create outstanding analytics and planning solutions on the arcplan 7 platform that solve real business pains. Students can apply individually or in groups in three categories:

  1. Innovation: applications that are novel in their visualization, methodology, or technical approach
  2. Fast Mover: solutions that have been developed in a short time span or can be deployed quickly
  3. Business Excellence: applications that aim to improve the quality of business decisions

Each winner, selected by a jury of industry and media experts, will receive 5,000€. Last year’s winners will be presenting their solutions at our arc|planet user conference in October. Winners of the 2013 competition will also get this invaluable exposure to DACH companies at next year’s arc|planet.

Entrants should be as creative as possible, developing solutions such as management cockpits, web-based analysis and reporting applications, balanced scorecards, or anything in between. There’s just one condition: projects must be developed during the period from September 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013 as part of an ongoing study program or college-related internship.

Learn more about the competition >>


Designing Olympic “A” Standard BI Dashboards


With trials for the 2012 Olympic Games in London almost complete, as a diehard trackie, I can’t help but reflect on the amazing standards that athletes must meet or exceed in order to qualify for their respective events. For instance, the “A” standard for the men’s 100 meter event is 10.18 seconds – that’s faster than the time it would take for many of us to boot up our computers. The standard for women’s high jump is 1.95 meters or about 6 feet, 4.7 inches – so an “A” standard athlete could easily clear the height of a very tall person. Olympic hopefuls work diligently to meet (or exceed) these high standards. Likewise, in a quest for excellence, we in the business intelligence world should strive to improve the design of our BI dashboards – the ones that guide our daily decision-making. We should be reviewing their effectiveness at least yearly. To that end, we’ve compiled a simple checklist to guide your dashboards towards the “A” standard.

Whittle them down to only the most relevant and timely information. With all the excitement around big data and the need to analyze vast amounts of information in order to spot trends, it’s easy to be swept away in a deluge of data and be distracted from what really matters. As excited as you (or the users you serve) may be to display all kinds of new information, remember that some data is a distraction rather than relevant to the decision-making process. So be cautious of the information overload that can hinder the effectiveness of your dashboards. Each organization must determine what really matters to decision-makers (this will vary between them) and center dashboards around the metrics most relevant to each department.

Implement appropriate design. When it comes to dashboards, looks do matter. But dashboards aren’t just eye candy. They’ve become a standard point of reference for business managers and executives who need to monitor company operations – often at a glance – in order to make timely decisions. In a 2011 interview with Dashboard Insight, Stephen Few, author of bestselling books on dashboard design and data visualization best practices (and also inventor of the bullet graph), explains…

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