Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Finding the Right Analytics Engine For Your Business


luxurycar_BIAs we usher in the warm summer months, I can’t help but notice people taking their high performance convertibles out of the garage for a spin. Upon leaving the infamous King of Prussia mall last weekend, I saw a Mercedes SL550 Roadster and an Audi R8 in the parking lot. That’s when I learned an important lesson: people actually drive cars that are over $100k. No but seriously, while these sports cars are great for feeding your occasional need for speed or making a bold statement about personal taste, they are not meant for everyday use. For most of us, a comfortable, mid-range vehicle that won’t empty your bank account works just fine. The same is true when selecting an analytic tool for your businesses. Business analytics solutions are set to reach 50% of potential users by 2014 according to Gartner, but maybe your organization is a bit behind. Choosing an analytic tool can be a bumpy road, so let’s discuss some things you should think about when choosing the right solution for your company’s needs:

Balanced and smooth
When purchasing a vehicle, most buyers will select one that’s reliable, safe, and will hold its value over time. When purchasing a business intelligence solution to meet everyday analytic needs, you should think about similar qualities: you want a BI tool that reliably helps you address specific business problems, is user-friendly for users of all skill levels (especially if you’re shooting for that 50% adoption rate), and holds its value over time – also known as a return on investment.  “Balanced and smooth” BI solutions – those that offer a good deal of options but are easy to install and work with – are great for organizations just getting their feet wet with BI technology…

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Teradata PARTNERS User Group Conference 2012 – A Vendor’s Perspective


This year’s Teradata PARTNERS Conference in Washington D.C. was my second in a row. The theme, Decision Possible, was perfect as the focus of the sessions was not just on the business of collecting data, but more on using data to make better decisions. At our booth, we met hundreds of DBAs, Solutions Architects, BI Directors, and consultants, some of whom knew arcplan already and some whom had never encountered us before. But by the end of the show, we had gotten to the heart of the challenges they face when it comes to BI.

The attendees we met seemed to be most interested in what arcplan offers that other vendors do not. We’re one of the only partners to support Teradata’s OLAP Connector (and relational interface as well) and with so many customers purchasing it to enable easy access to Teradata content for the business community, we have a great starting point with those organizations. We were part of a special Teradata OLAP Connector Reception on Tuesday, October 23rd along with Tableau, where we raffled off an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy tablet. Why these 2 devices? That leads to one of the most frequent discussions we had with attendees at the conference…

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10 Keys to BI Dashboard Success: Part II


In my last post, I gave you 5 tips for taking your dashboards from “standard” to “world-class.” Today, I present 5 more tips that will help your dashboards become truly useful, essential daily viewing material.

Your BI dashboards should be:

6) Diverse. Incorporating data from your various in-house sources and from the cloud enhances your dashboard. Combining data to produce mashups – like retail locations with financials over Google Maps – can make your dashboard indispensable.

7) Dynamic. Static dashboards rely on historical data, neglect your organization’s present performance and set you up for failure, warns Forrester Research. Successful dashboards are dynamic and reflect the real-time changes of your business’ performance. They also offer ad-hoc capability so users can manipulate variables for further analysis and drill-down functionality so users can find root causes. See what I mean by downloading arcplan’s free trial. It features an ad-hoc tab integrated into the dashboard application.

8) Attractive. Users appreciate and are more likely to adopt a dashboard that has style and substance. What makes a dashboard attractive?

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3 Ways Self-Service BI Aids Decision-Making


There’s a lot of talk about expanding the reach of business intelligence beyond the 15-25% of potential users currently using BI solutions. Certainly it’s one of our core missions at arcplan. With nearly everyone in an organization making decisions every day that affect the company, getting this remaining 75% of potential users to answer their business questions with data is imperative. The solution is self-service BI – tools that allow users to navigate and visualize data themselves to get the answers they need to make important business decisions on their timeline. In many ways, self-service BI is synonymous with user freedom since business users need not wait for the IT department to fulfill report requests, but instead are able to generate queries on their own and tailor reports according to their requirements.

We spent some time thinking about the ways self-service aids decision-making. Check out our list and let us know if you have more to add to it!

1) It gives users access to real-time information for faster decision-making.
Ad-hoc reporting, one of the tools under the self-service umbrella, allows users to create new connections between data not previously found in static reports and generate new insights on their own. According to Cindi Howson’s report, The Five Myths of Self-Service BI, executives and managers are a segment of users beyond power users and IT developers who derive value from ad-hoc reporting. If given the chance, a sales director for instance would use an easy ad-hoc solution like arcplan Spotlight to run a query of YTD product sales and compare performance across different regions, rather than wait a week or more for IT to deliver the same information to him. He could also save that query privately or publish it publicly, giving his entire team access to it for future reference. He could even select that report for automatic delivery via e-mail, where it will include the most updated data. The ability to access real-time data and create new reports on the fly means that business users get immediate answers to business questions and can make decisions based on current (versus outdated) information.

2) It addresses specific user needs for greater efficiency.
Self-service tools target the specific needs of users, allowing them to glean the most value out their BI and enabling more efficient decision-making…

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What Your Data Wants To Tell You


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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