Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
7May/120

Enterprise Collaboration vs. Collaborative BI: What’s the Difference?

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In recent months we’ve explored Collaborative BI as a growing trend and how it’s gaining popularity as an extension of traditional business intelligence solutions. Despite all the hype around this topic, it can be confusing to determine what makes Collaborative BI unique. I’ve seen the terms “Collaborative BI” and “enterprise collaboration” used interchangeably a lot lately, and while both may fall under the categories “Collaborative Decision-Making” or “Knowledge Management,” there are distinctions between the two that are important to understand.

Enterprise Collaboration
Though enterprise collaboration and Collaborative BI share some of the same features – the ability for users to interact like they would on social media, for example, rating, tagging, and commenting on content – enterprise collaboration is less specific about the type of interaction employees have. These platforms, like SharePoint and Socialcast, enable users to chat with each other, post blogs and wikis, make announcements, view the activity streams of other users, collaborate on projects, take polls, and generally do all the things they’d do in a workplace – but online. They provide a secure place for business users to work together and eliminate some of the need for project-related e-mails, phone calls, meetings, and shared drives. This article on CMS Wire gives a great example of how enterprise collaboration can improve the work life of a manager and his project team. It’s all about workflow and process-driven decision-making (as opposed to data-driven decision-making, which Collaborative BI facilitates).

Here are two ways that enterprise collaboration may look at your company:

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25Apr/120

What Your Data Wants To Tell You

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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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16Apr/120

Top 5 Collaborative BI Solution Criteria

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Collaborative BI enables employees at every level to make meaningful decisions for their areas of responsibility, backed by easily-accessible information and analyses. With 15% of BI deployments containing collaborative elements by 2013 according to Gartner, it’s time to start evaluating the kind of Collaborative BI solution that will work for your enterprise. To help, we’ve defined the top 5 criteria you should consider:

1. Integration of disparate systems
Integration of varying systems is a challenge for most businesses, but one that can be overcome with the right Collaborative BI solution. Enterprises often have several different stand-alone solutions for BI in place as well as other decision-relevant – often unstructured – content that is disconnected from BI systems. Your Collaborative BI solution should act as a bridge between these disparate systems, connecting them with a simple search function that delivers results from multiple BI vendors, third-party systems like SharePoint or e-mail, documents, articles, and user-contributed content. It should also allow users to open and use any report, analysis, or document within the Collaborative BI interface so that switching between tools is unnecessary.

2. Flexibility & personalization
Collaborative BI systems must allow users to perform a variety of actions, from contributing content to bookmarking to knowledge sharing. The ability for users to submit content to enrich the Collaborative BI system is paramount for system affinity and adoption. Who better to contribute content than users themselves – those who are making everyday business decisions with their available data? Users must be able to upload relevant information and reports from external sources (Salesforce.com for example) as well as bookmark items as favorites. In our own Collaborative BI solution, arcplan Engage, users have BI Walls where they can pin frequently-viewed reports or snippets of dashboards. In this way, each user can configure their own personal Collaborative BI environment.

3. Availability on any device

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11Apr/120

Collaborative BI: Today & Tomorrow

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Collaboration is becoming an increasingly important facet of our business interactions. For years, research groups like Gartner , Ventana Research and the Aberdeen Group have provided insight and predictions about this phenomenon, and today we’re seeing how collaboration within the business intelligence space has moved from knowledge sharing and self-service BI to a whole new level of innovative decision-making for the business team. So let’s take a look at some of the shifting points of view about Collaborative BI and where it’s headed in the future.

Web 2.0 technologies and the social media boom have had a tremendous impact on what business users expect out of their business applications, especially in the collaborative space. Collaborating does not simply mean exchanging emails, making calls or holding meetings to facilitate decision-making (though they are the most-used ways according to Wayne Eckerson’s Collaborative BI report). These days, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube have taught us how to share, rate, like, comment on, and especially make use of user-generated, helpful information. In our work lives, business users have learned to embrace information from various data sources – both formal and informal – as well as perform ad-hoc analyses without help from IT and share this information with colleagues. Collaborative BI as it exists presently is about facilitating the innate desire of business users to collect and share the information necessary for their everyday decision-making, while at the same time preventing duplicate work and allowing colleagues to draw on each other’s strengths. Users have an expectation that social media concepts will be available to them in their business environment, and so many Collaborative BI systems, like our own arcplan Engage, incorporate rating, tagging, etc.

However, we’re seeing a shift in how analysts define Collaborative BI and they are now calling for an even higher level of engagement.

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16Mar/120

4 Things I Learned About BI Strategy from Playing Scrabble

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I enjoy a good game of Scrabble, whether with a friend or with a fellow enthusiast online. Recently in a really close game, I was able to clinch my victory by strategically placing an “x” to spell “xi,” earning me a final 27 points. Though I’m no expert at Scrabble, I’ve picked up a few strategies that apply to the business intelligence world:

1) Planning matters.
Scrabble is all about planning and strategy. You may have a great word lined up on your rack but you can’t just play it anywhere. You need to plan ahead, consider your opponent’s next move and the remaining open spaces on the board. Similarly, your business needs to plan ahead and BI software facilitates that planning. Just like you lay out your Scrabble tiles over and over to plan for maximum word score, budgeting & planning software allows finance teams to perform monthly re-forecasting and rolling forecasts that help your business adjust to changing market conditions. The automation built into BI software makes it possible to be more forward-thinking since there’s more time for analysis and less manual data entry and consolidation.

2) Analyze the changing environment.
So you’ve just made your move and now you have to refresh your rack with new letters. The board has changed and so have your options. In Scrabble, your playing environment constantly changes just like in the real world. How quickly can your business react to market changes? BI software like arcplan enables what-if, best case and worst case scenario planning, which are critical to an enterprise’s long-term stability and growth. What about trend spotting? Maybe you notice your opponent tending to place 4-letter words, allowing you to somewhat anticipate his or her next move. Spotting and reacting to trends is crucial for businesses that want to compete. Do you have an analytic tool in place that allows you to visually spot patterns, analyze data on the fly for underlying causes, and make decisions that will move your company in the right direction? When businesses first get to know arcplan, the application we show them is a dashboard app that features an ad-hoc component. This app allows users to explore the patterns they see on their dashboard in greater detail. Business intelligence provides insight beyond just reporting; it’s the analysis that helps you make sense of the data and get insight that enables better decisions.

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