Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Top 5 Criteria for Evaluating Business Intelligence Reporting and Analytics Software


One of the most challenging tasks when planning a new business intelligence project is the selection of the right tools to achieve the best possible return on investment. You will have many decisions to make depending on your company’s needs. This poses many questions such as: Will you need new servers? Will you need to host it in the cloud? Will ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) tools be needed to manipulate data or to combine multiple data sources? Will you need cube technology (usually dubbed OLAP)? What type of reporting tool will you need? All of these questions need to be answered carefully as they affect each other on your way forward.

A criteria-based approach should be used in selecting each software. This approach in evaluating software provides you with a quantitative measurement of quality before you commit to a specific tool. When evaluating business intelligence reporting and analytics software, the following 5 criteria are your top priority, but should not be the only criteria used: flexibility, security, learnability, mobility, and evolveability. Let’s take a deeper look into each of these areas.

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Customer Analytics: See the Truth with Data Visualization – Part I


The idea of having a 360 degree view of your customers is not a new one, but actually getting it is a real challenge in our world of silo’d data. Customer analytics give you a better understanding of your customers, and the ability to spot trends, identify opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell or simply target them more effectively, ultimately optimizing your customer relationships. But to get these insights in one place, like a dashboard, you need to integrate separate data from CRM, accounting, and customer support systems. Without a BI platform in place – one that integrates data from many sources like arcplan – it falls on you, the decision maker, to waste time assembling the pieces necessary to come up with a view of your customers from these different systems.

But if you are looking to utilize your business intelligence software for customer analytics, this series of articles will help you define the metrics you should be tracking as well as the visualizations that most effectively portray the data.

Graph Customer Growth with Bridge Charts

The most common way to track customer growth over time is by using a bar graph to show year over year comparison. A simple bar graph might show you that 2 years ago, you had 100 customers, last year you had 107 customers and this year you have 120 customers. Using arcplan’s linear regression formula, you expect to have 125 customers next year.

The numbers and the forecast look great, but the real story may be a little more shocking once you properly visualize it.

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Seeing Through BI Vendor BS


mustacheyouaquestionSounds provocative coming from a BI vendor, right?

arcplan is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so it’s safe to say we’ve seen it all. We’ve competed for business against every mega vendor and every niche BI vendor out there and we’ve seen companies get burned by vendors who promise more than they can deliver. Of course it hurts to lose a deal, but since our passion is helping companies get better insights and make better decisions, it’s doubly awful to see companies get duped.

So what can you do to ensure you’ll get what’s promised from BI vendor?

1) Ask questions.
The evaluation process is your time to ask questions of the BI vendors on your shortlist. You’ll be able to do this on discovery calls and during demos, and of course if you choose to go through an RFP process, you can demand answers to every esoteric question you can dream of.

Ask about the requirements specific to your business processes. Initial questions we’ve been asked include:

  • Does arcplan allow export to Excel? (Yes, users can export to Excel as well as PowerPoint and PDF. With our Excel add-in, users can also work in Excel while remaining connected to the data source.)
  • Does arcplan offer write-back? (Yes, write-back is standard and is based on the security rights you’ve set up in your systems.)
  • How easy is it to learn arcplan? (Like any product there’s a learning curve, but arcplan is intuitive for users and simple for developers with our drag-and-drop, programming-free interface.)

Here are some additional questions to consider asking…

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Business Intelligence Value for Retailers


bi-retailHow BI facilitates a decision-making process that saves millions

At the core of every business decision is the desire to drive value for the company – whether that’s increased sales, higher margins, elevated profits, or return on investment. Decision makers should use all the resources at their disposal to drive this value, including their business intelligence software, which may include guided analytics (i.e. dashboards), ad-hoc analysis and collaboration capabilities that contribute to informed decision-making. Today I’ll explore how BI software facilitates decisions in a retail scenario. But this article isn’t just for retailers – anyone can extrapolate this information to their business to see how BI can provide concrete ROI.

arcplan serves a number of customers in the retail industry, including two of the largest grocery chains in the United States. Retailers are well-known for the small net revenue margins – on average, 3% across the globe for all types of retailers – which pose significant challenges on process controls and efficiency in supply chain decisions. One of the key areas of interest for all retailers, especially grocery chains, is the reduction of shrink – the loss of inventory due to product spoilage, waste, theft and other causes. It’s estimated to account for 2-3% of overall sales. Perishable shrink even goes up to 5% within a typical grocery chain. So for one of our customers, whose revenue reached $6.25 billion in 2012, a reduction in shrink of just 0.1% means $6.2 million to their bottom line.

So a simple question that would catalyze a decision-making process at this grocery chain might be: How can BI help reduce my shrink by 0.1% while balancing availability of goods and customer satisfaction? They would want to meet high customer expectations without over-ordering, which leads to shrink through spoilage.

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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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