Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Advice for Better BI Reporting – Part II


In our previous article on the topic of how to make your BI reports better in 2012, we presented 5 ways to take your reporting to the next level by making design a priority, enhancing system performance with in-memory capabilities, delivering reports directly to users, capturing comments that provide context, and using cloud data to provide users with new insights. There are about a million practical pieces of advice to improve BI reporting, but I’ve polled the experts at arcplan who have been designing and implementing reports for companies all over the world for nearly 20 years, and this is our top 10 list. Let’s get into items 6 through 10:

6) Include unstructured data. Uncovering unexpected insights is the crown jewel of data analysis, and many companies are not tapping into the data sources that can provide them with this opportunity. By collecting and analyzing social media data, for example, alongside the rest of your corporate data, you get an enhanced view of the people who purchase (or don’t purchase) your products and services. Social data can help you spot early trends that can drive product development, product delivery, and marketing messaging.

7) Go mobile. Gartner predicts that by 2013, 33% of BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices. Executives and road warriors are becoming increasingly comfortable with receiving reports on their smartphones and tablet PCs and are pushing for data access when they need it, wherever they need it. The easiest to push to mobile first are your existing reports, slightly redesigned to incorporate large fonts and easy finger navigation to facilitate drill-down. Mobile reports are not just about viewing data – interaction needs to be taken into account.

8) Empower users through self-service.

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Advice for Better BI Reporting – Part I


The terms “reporting” and “business intelligence” are often used interchangeably, but in reality, reporting is just one of the common functions of BI. It’s the presentation layer of BI, or the result of data being pulled from repositories and presented to decision-makers. With the number of employees at all levels now considered decision-makers, reporting has become even more important. It’s not just a small subset of power-users who need reports anymore; reports have to evolve to become useful to casual BI users.

The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate the state of your company’s BI reporting. Are you simply manipulating data within Excel? Do you need more powerful reporting that pulls from multiple data sources?

Let’s talk about some ways to take your reporting to the next level.

1) Consider design. Reports that are visually confusing or overwhelming will not be favored by BI consumers. In the case where your organization is working off of reporting dashboards, some pitfalls to avoid include too many visuals on one screen, inappropriate use of graphs, and the wrong chart types for your data. Charts should include summary-to-detail navigation, so users do not have to leave the screen to analyze what they are seeing. There are many rules to great dashboard design, but the key is to let the reports tell the story and not let the screen be overrun by imagery and “flashing lights.”

2) Get faster with in-memory. In-memory processing takes advantage of the speed of RAM to decrease the response time for queries, significantly enhancing the end user’s experience. It allows report creators and consumers to engage with large data sets quicker than ever before, which results in faster and more proactive decision-making thanks to more immediate, interactive analysis. Most reporting platforms include in-memory capabilities, but only some address security (making sure only the right sets of users have access to certain data and queries).

3) Implement delivery mechanisms.

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Happy Holidays!










Thanks to our loyal readers for inspiring us to share ideas with you every week on this Business Intelligence Blog. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2012. Here’s some of the ideas we’re cooking up:

  • A series on Big Data – the trend explained, and concrete ways big data can help your business outperform the competition
  • 10 Ways Out of BI Chaos
  • 5 Traps of Mobile BI
  • 10 Pieces of Advice for Better BI Reporting
  • More on the trend of BI in the cloud
  • …and more

Count on arcplan’s blog to keep you informed of the latest BI trends. Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year! We’ll be back in January!


Webinar Recording: Calculating ROI for Business Intelligence Projects


In case you missed arcplan’s webinar on December 13th, Calculating ROI for Business Intelligence Projects, here’s the recording to view at your convenience:


In this webinar, we discuss:

  • What ROI terminology really means so you can speak the same language as your finance team
  • The 6 kinds of “return” you should expect from your BI project
  • The 5 BI projects that never pay off
  • A 7-step methodology for calculating the ROI of your BI project

Thanks to everyone who attended, and for those who didn’t, let us know if you’d like to discuss anything you see in the recording.


Resolutions to Optimize BI in 2012


2011 is rapidly winding down, and we’re talking to a lot of customers who are currently planning their BI initiatives for 2012. The New Year brings resolutions, personal and professional, so we’ve taken stock of what we’re hearing and put together this list of our recommendations for resolutions your company should consider to optimize your BI in 2012. Are we right? What others are on your schedule for next year?

Resolution 1: Information Access for Everyone
BI for the masses – it’s a thought some think is far off in the distance, but actually, many of our customers are making the move in 2012. Since decisions are being made by everyone from CEOs to line-level employees, companies need to consider opening information access up beyond a small group of power-users. Employees who can’t write reports can still analyze them and make use of the data to make better decisions. Take stock of your existing BI systems in 2012 and determine if removing restrictions would benefit your company’s performance.

Resolution 2: Collaboration Tools – the Key to Success
How do employees determine what BI reports are useful and what reports are garbage? How do they make enhancement requests for reports and dashboards, provide feedback to report authors, or share & annotate reports? Collaborative BI solutions not only offer an easy entry-point into BI for the casual user/knowledge worker (since they make it easy for users to search for relevant information), but they also keep statistics about the most- and least-used reports. Solutions like our own arcplan Engage allow users to rate and comment on reports, so their feedback becomes an essential part of the BI process. Collaboration, when it comes to BI, is about adding value to existing information and using it to your company’s advantage.

Resolution 3: Form Follows Function

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