Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

A New Way of Thinking…Or Why Data Discovery Is Not the Only Path to BI Value Creation


new_way_of_thinkingI am sitting on a train to Düsseldorf on my way back from Paris, where I presented an update of what we are doing at arcplan to a mixed audience of customers and prospects. Part of my presentation included the usual content of company and product development updates. The outlook included a preview of our next release, code named Xenon, in the context of what is happening in businesses these days. One of the key topics was the explosive appearance of mobile devices and the challenges this poses to organizations – different form factors and operating systems, security issues, and expectations from a user community that is educated by the private consumption of applications on these devices (bringing an expectation of usability to the business environment). Of course, I introduced our first-ever approach in the business intelligence world to solve the dilemma of catering to this ever-increasing diversity of different device types and form factors as DORA: Develop Once, Run Anywhere. This is accomplished by responsive design for business intelligence and analytics applications. The audience was clearly impressed as was our customer advisory board in a similar session last week.

However, this blog article is not about how to develop and deploy analytic content effectively in this new world; it’s about the business value BI solutions create.

This year we were positioned by Gartner in their annual Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms. Although the Gartner analysts expressed strong appreciation for our capabilities (and commented accordingly in the strengths and cautions section of the report), we are positioned at the lower end of the niche vendor section. We were told this is partially due to self-service analytics and data discovery playing a strong role in this year’s Quadrant as this represents advanced BI. Really?

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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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arcplan Spotlight: Ad-Hoc Reporting in Your Browser


We just created a quick video on arcplan Spotlight, our newest solution for ad-hoc reporting, which I want to share with our readers. Our customers are a mix between those who access static reports and dashboards every day and those who are ad-hoc driven. For the latter, we developed arcplan Spotlight, which enables powerful on-the-fly analysis in any web browser. For the former, arcplan Spotlight is an appropriate next step as user needs evolve since it’s simple enough for non-power-users who want to explore their data without complex BI tools.

arcplan Spotlight goes beyond what most other BI platforms offer, which is simple export to Excel, where the user has to wait for data, write formulas, and then do it all again next week when encountering the same question. arcplan Spotlight allows users to save queries (privately or publicly), export to Excel with a live connection to the data source, export to PDF for sharing query results, customize the look of your query, and undo/redo your last action.

Best of all, it’s free with installations of arcplan Enterprise 7.1, arcplan Edge 2.7.1, and arcplan Engage 1.1 and above.

Have questions? Leave us a comment!