Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Web 2.0 & Business Intelligence – BI Gets Personal


Today’s TDWI newsletter, BI This Week, featured an interview I had with writer Linda Briggs on how Web 2.0 functions boost the power of BI. I thought our readers might like to check it out, so here’s an excerpt and a link to the full text. Enjoy, and if you have additional questions for me beyond what’s answered in the Q&A, leave a comment!

Q&A: Web 2.0 Functions Boost BI’s Power by Linda Briggs

Bringing search and Web 2.0 into next-generation BI improves user access and the decision-making process.

Combining BI with simple search capabilities and Web 2.0 functions such as user-contributed content can make it more powerful and pervasive — leading to the era of BI 2.0. “BI users should be able to create an iGoogle or myYahoo,” says Tiemo Winterkamp, senior VP of global marketing at arcplan, a company that offers BI analytics and search tools that access multiple data sources in their native environments.

“That’s when BI gets personal, because it has your own content,” Winterkamp adds, “and if you can share the content and make it searchable for others, you close the loop. That’s BI 2.0.”

BI This Week: When we talk about bringing Web 2.0 functionality into business intelligence, what sort of functionality do you mean?

Tiemo Winterkamp: Primarily, I mean the functions that all of us already know how to use from Google,, Ebay, Facebook and other Web 2.0 sites. First, it’s search — most of the things we do on the Internet today start, more or less, with an unstructured search. Then it’s commenting — usually by writing text, but lately we’ve seen the addition of audio and video commentary becoming more popular. Rating is another quick feedback option, represented by stars, +1’s, or Likes. Perhaps the best part about these Web 2.0 functions is that nearly everyone knows how to use them by this point, so no education is required.

The idea of bringing Web 2.0 into BI is important because it allows employees to use these already acquired skills to enhance the business information they use every day. It encourages them to interact with the data in new ways and share information amongst themselves so the best data rises to the top, investments are made in keeping the best and most-used systems and reports, and decision makers better understand the value of their overall BI investments.

Click here to continue reading this interview on >>


Business Intelligence Dashboard Best Practices


arcplan DashboardDashboards are like snowflakes: I don’t think I’ve ever seen two enterprises with identical dashboard designs. Which isn’t a bad thing. Dashboards should be tailored to your organization’s identity and the way your employees work. We have a client in the auto industry whose dashboards look like the, well, dashboard of a car – full of speedometers and gauges. We have other clients who like to deploy their BI dashboards in SharePoint because that’s where they house all of their corporate information. But the business intelligence dashboards our clients create have a few things in common that I consider best practices:

1) They incorporate data from more than 1 source.

I’m betting that not all of your data sits in the same location. You’ll only get a holistic view of your organization’s performance if you’re integrating data from various sources. Whether it’s ERP + sales data, or marketing data + finance data, or Essbase data + SQL Server data, your dashboards need to support fast, easy integration of your various data sources.

Best practice BI dashboards pull data from internal and external sources (when necessary) to create entirely new views of performance. We have clients integrating data from Standard & Poor’s with their accounts receivable information to match up delinquent clients with their S&P credit rating. We have insurance companies putting claims data on top of Google Maps. And we work with several enterprises that are integrating product revenues from their financial system with customer data. These are examples of mashups – web applications that make existing data more useful – and they’re extremely helpful on performance dashboards, even if only for quarter-long tactical analysis.

2) They provide at-a-glance views of performance.

Dashboards are for busy people who can’t dig deep every day to spot issues. Your dashboard might benefit from incorporating stoplight indicators that tell users if data is entering into dangerous territory without having to drill down. In arcplan, thresholds can be set separately for each KPI – meaning you set when the light shows up green, yellow, and red, giving users a quick visual cue that focuses them on the areas that need attention.

Continue reading this post >>


arcplan Customer BI Best Practices: Spotlight on Hailo-Werk


It’s time to introduce you to another one of our customers’ best practice BI solutions, created of course with arcplan software. Today we’re putting the spotlight on Hailo-Werk, a leading manufacturer or ladders, safety equipment and waste bins that are sold in more than 60 countries around the world to DIY enthusiasts and trade professionals.

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

1) Employees have access to company data through a web browser – making it widely available without the need to have specific software installed.

Hailo’s employees in virtually every department, including management, controlling, sales and marketing, have access to the data that helps them make better decisions. Deploying their arcplan solution in a web browser makes it possible for the team to have unprecedented access to information whenever they need it. And it allows the company to easily deploy their arcplan applications on mobile devices in the future.

2) Ad-hoc reporting is easy enough for employees at all levels to do without IT.

Software that’s easy to use is likely to be more widely adopted than software that’s cumbersome to learn and operate. Hailo’s users need to be able to segment their data from Oracle Essbase and IBM DB2 without heavy programming. arcplan’s Web Pivoting (“ad-hoc reporting in a browser”) is fully drag-and-drop enabled, which makes it appropriate for regular business users who need to create reports on the fly – without help from IT. One popular request from Hailo’s users is how well a particular product is selling in a specific region at any point in time; another is what color product sells best to a specific target group. The answers are easy to find with just a few clicks in arcplan, which pulls together financial and sales information on one screen.

3) Employees use their BI system to auto-generate estimates, saving them time and ensuring price accuracy.

Have you ever met a sales person who enjoys putting together estimates? Hailo employees use arcplan Enterprise to do the heavy lifting for them. The system calculates price suggestions based on customer and product codes. If the user decides to accept the suggested price, the system generates an offer letter with the appropriate pictures in MS Word. This fully automated process brings huge time savings and is a non-traditional use of a BI system, but incredibly valuable to Hailo. The use of their arcplan-enabled estimates has also brought an unexpected benefit – it’s now easy to track planned prices vs. actual costs, ensuring that the company is charging enough to make a profit.

For a more in-depth look at why we think Hailo is a best practice customer, check out this case study [PDF] – no registration required.


Social Media & Business Intelligence: Friends or Frenemies?


Social media monitoring is an emerging trend that’s here to stay as the popularity of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ increases. Business intelligence is past the trend phase – it’s commonplace at companies large and small, who will spend nearly $11 billion on it before the year is over, according to Gartner. These are two powerful segments of the analytics market and the question that’s begging to be asked is: are social media and business intelligence friends or frenemies? Do they have to play along to keep the peace or do they actually go hand-in-hand?

For us at arcplan, social media and BI are two sides of the same coin, two pieces of the puzzle that is your business. For a complete picture of your customers, your brand, and your position in the market to emerge, you need information that’s collected from social sites and from your corporate data sources. After all, your data warehouse isn’t going to tell you that the off-handed Twitter comment you made last week contributed to a drop in sales unless you can associate your sentiment analysis to your sales data.

We’re all striving to “do more” with our data – to roll out ad-hoc reporting to our business users so they can take ownership of analysis, make data easier to access so we can rely on IT less, create high-level dashboards for our executives, build scorecards to manage our KPIs, master every chart type… but we haven’t truly begun to do more with data until we incorporate information from outside traditional BI data sources into our everyday analysis. And be aware, the amount of data we’re talking about can be huge. That’s why some in our industry call this Big Data – but this is a story we will review in another article.

It’s important to understand how you, as an organization, can structure social information and associate it to the other data you have about your customers. All kinds of companies – B2C and B2B – are seeing the need to better understand all dimensions of their customers – not only demographic information and purchase history, but also what they’re saying in the social space.

Continue reading this post >>


BI in the Cloud – Why Make the Move?


“Cloud computing” is a term that’s thrown around a lot today, but it simply means accessing your data and applications without on-site infrastructure, i.e. in the cloud. Data processing, storage and backup, maintenance, administration and even troubleshooting are all taken care of by the service provider.

Some of us (like me) were skeptical when everything started being labeled as “cloud.” The thought of not having a trusted IT department maintain control of data and hardware was a little unsettling at first. But after considering the pros and cons of cloud computing (and also realizing that I use cloud services like Gmail and every day without hesitation), the advantages became clear, even for business intelligence.

Implementing BI in the cloud is a dilemma for a lot of organizations we work with. They’re (rightly) concerned about data security, hardware failure, and anything that could take their reports offline, slow employees’ decision-making process, or expose valuable information to the wrong people. Those are all concerns that have been and continue to be addressed by cloud providers. Certainly data security and back-ups have become paramount to vendors offering cloud services. But as we hear less and less about massive cloud failures in the news and executives and IT managers get more comfortable with the cloud, we’ve seen a shift toward the cloud becoming acceptable for business intelligence deployments. Here’s why:

The cloud offers access to data, applications and other resources without the need for program installation. This equals major convenience when doing work on a portable device like a laptop, tablet PC or smartphone. Not only are your devices free from the clutter of numerous installs (which facilitates effective use of resources), but your company’s IT team isn’t bogged down with installing, reinstalling, and troubleshooting numerous devices for each employee. And since many of us work remotely occasionally, if not exclusively, a lightweight approach to accessing data is truly beneficial.

Continue reading this post >>