Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
6Oct/110

Dashboard Chart Fouls: Do Your Charts Pass This 3-Step Test?

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If I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase ‘Rules are meant to be broken,’ I’d be rich. However, this cliché has no place in BI dashboard design. Having the right dashboard charts and graphs are essential to making your dashboard a useful resource. Your users may not be able to articulate it – since they may not know better – but your dashboard may be the victim of what we call a “chart foul.” Chart fouls can be detrimental to the usefulness of your dashboard because they indicate that data isn’t being presented the right way, or they mean that your chart type or data labels are confusing your users.

We’ve been building BI dashboards for the last 18 years for large and small companies. You can probably imagine the number of chart fouls we’ve come across. Today we’ve pooled our knowledge and present to you some pointers on major chart fouls to avoid:

1. Choosing the wrong chart type.
Have you ever seen a bar chart with more than 15 data sets? That’s a considerable amount of information to display horizontally, so chances are that the graph appeared very cluttered and was difficult to read. You’re better off displaying such information as a simple line graph. How about a radar graph showing the qualitative scores of potential hires? It’s just as confusing as it sounds (see below), and is probably not a good idea either. So in order to show ranking among candidates, a good old-fashioned table of numbers will do. Choosing the right graph or chart for your data is an art. You should select a graph that is easy to understand and is an appropriate representation of your data. In a previous post on Dashboard Charts & Graphs, we reviewed how to choose the best chart type for your BI dashboard.

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27Sep/110

What OLAP and MDX Mean for You

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Are you an Oracle customer who’s heard about OLAP but aren’t sure what it can do for you? Oracle OLAP (On-Line Analytical Processing), an option to Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition, is a calculation engine that supports advanced analytical applications including planning, budgeting, forecasting, sales, and marketing, to help identify key business trends and model complex business scenarios.

MDX stands for Multidimensional Expressions and lets you query multidimensional objects, such as cubes, and return multidimensional cellsets that contain the cube’s data. With the MDX Provider for Oracle OLAP, organizations and departments that use Excel for ad-hoc querying, analysis and reporting can connect to Oracle OLAP data just like connecting to any other data source.

The MDX Provider for Oracle OLAP enables users to take advantage of Excel PivotTable and PivotChart functionality to analyze Oracle OLAP data, including advanced formatting and dashboard presentation capabilities, and integration with other Microsoft Office products. With all data and calculations stored centrally in the database and analysis performed directly against the database, users benefit from the performance and security features of the Oracle Database, while helping to ensure that the analysis performed takes advantage of the very latest information.

Yes, it’s a mouthful, but essentially, MDX allows for easier, faster querying of your database, which is of course a good thing.

arcplan recently partnered with Simba Technologies, whose MDX Provider for Oracle OLAP allows organizations to utilize arcplan’s portfolio of products for Business Intelligence and planning. Even though arcplan’s products can access Oracle OLAP through standard SQL queries, the addition of MDX provides for a much more efficient method of data access.

There’s more information about this on arc|community, our user forum.

19Sep/110

Hey Students! Ready for the BI Challenge 2012?

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Update June 2012: Learn more about the students who won our competition >>

Attention students in Germany, Austria & Switzerland! arcplan’s student relations arm, arc|ademy, is holding its first annual BI Challenge! A total of 15,000 euros in prize money awaits the winners.

Challenge Categories
We’re inviting students who are using the BI platform arcplan Enterprise 7 as part of their studies to create an arcplan application and enter it into one of three categories: “Innovation,” “Fast Movers,” and “Business Excellence.” In the first category, the winning application will be particularly innovative in its visualization, methodology, or technical approach. Fast Movers are applications that have been deployed in an extraordinarily short span of time or can be deployed particularly quickly. Finally, the Business Excellence category is for applications that aim to improve the quality of business decisions. Each winner will receive 5,000 euros.

Submission Details
Students wishing to apply (as individuals or as teams of up to six people) for the arc|ademy BI Challenge 2012 can submit their applications as presentations – in PowerPoint or PDF format (in German) – or as arcplan documents together with the databases. These documents should not contain any confidential information and the overall size of the application should not exceed 10Mb. When submitting only a presentation, temporary access to a live test system should be provided.

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6Sep/110

More Dash Less Bored: How to Build Interactive, “Go-To” BI Dashboards

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Join arcplan this Thursday, September 8th at 2pm Eastern for More Dash Less Bored, a free webinar on the latest thinking in dashboard design, with practical tips for creating engaging dashboards that are widely adopted.


Sure, you have a dashboard, but when you have a question about company performance, is it the first place you go for answers? Do your executives still ask you to run custom reports? Has your dashboard lost its relevance in the time since it was built?

Your dashboard needs more dash and less bored. Attend this webinar to find out how to make your dashboard a definitive source of actionable, timely, and relevant information for ALL stakeholders in your company.

We’ll show you some of the latest thinking and best practices in dashboard design as well as dashboards you can emulate. This webinar is designed so that you take away practical information you can use now.

In this webinar, we’ll discuss:

  • The 5 characteristics of successful dashboards
  • Trends in dashboard design
  • Bad dashboards & “chart fouls”
  • How to choose the right chart type for your data
  • How to incorporate best practices into your existing dashboards

Join us to learn how to take your dashboards to the next level.

Date: Thursday, September 8
Time: 2:00 pm Eastern (New York City time zone)
Presenter: Dwight deVera, Senior Vice President
Register: Click here

In the meantime, check out our video on creating engaging dashboards with arcplan Enterprise:

2Sep/110

arcplan Customer BI Best Practices: Spotlight on DFS

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We have so many best practice customers to spotlight that it’s hard to keep up! This time I’d like to introduce you to Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS), an air traffic control corporation with 5,600 employees in charge of the safe navigation of about three million flights across German airspace. In addition to managing the control towers of 16 international airports in Germany, DFS is also a global provider of consultancy and training services, and develops, markets, and implements air traffic control, tracking, and navigation systems. It’s for this purpose that DFS implemented arcplan in mid-2009 as a decision-support system for the prioritization of sales projects.

What is DFS doing with arcplan Enterprise that makes their solution one to emulate?

1) Their BI solution answers questions.

It may seem simplistic, but really, isn’t business intelligence, first and foremost, about getting your questions answered? In the case of DFS, their primary question was “How do we proactively and systematically develop the market, rather than wait for potential customers to come to us?” This led to a Market & Competitive Intelligence System (MCIS), created with arcplan Enterprise, where all sales and marketing information is stored. DFS employees can now get the answers to any conceivable question, from “What are the planned investments at this particular airport?” to “How many competitors have installations at this airport?” The answers to these questions help staff to prioritize projects so that the ones with the highest probability of closing are at the top of the list.

2) Their BI comes to them.

You may have heard someone say “sure, your BI does take-out, but does it deliver?” Any BI system can crunch numbers and wait for you to come along and get them (take-out). But not all BI is created equal when it comes to data delivery. DFS’ arcplan solution (in fact, any arcplan solution) allows users to schedule the delivery of reports and dashboards, removing the need to run the application or pull up a URL on your browser. Employees on the go – especially road-warrior sales people – need their BI delivered to them at a certain time. You may want a particular report emailed to you every other day at noon – that’s possible with arcplan, and DFS takes advantage of it.

3) The right KPIs improve decision-making.

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