Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
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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9Feb/120

An Ode to Openness in Collaborative BI

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2011 brought tons of news and speculation about the rise of mobile BI, which has given way to actual deployments in 2012 (an estimated 22% of companies using BI this year plan to implement mobile BI in 2012[1]). 2012 will bring news of the next wave: Collaborative BI, with an estimated 15% of BI applications to include collaborative aspects by 2013, according to Gartner[2]. I expect that number to be even higher as companies see the value of collaborative BI throughout this year and knowledge workers start clamoring for greater access to information to improve their decision making.

I’ve pondered the impact of Collaborative BI before, but lately I’ve noticed that one aspect often left out of the conversation – open access to all BI content within an organization. Many analysts have been talking about various vendors’ Collaborative BI platforms and accepting their silo’d approach, but I believe the silo story isn’t healthy. Restricting content to one vendor’s BI reports and dashboards goes against everything that collaboration is about. To make the best decisions possible, employees require access to any and all data that can help them, regardless of whether it’s housed in arcplan or a competitor’s BI product, or even unstructured content like an e-mail or a document on an internal SharePoint portal.

Going further, user-contributed content has to be part of the “openness” mix. This means that IT has to loosen the grip on what is considered relevant BI content and allow users themselves to enrich the collaboration database with reports from the Web – like a Salesforce.com lead dashboard for example.

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2Feb/120

Collaboration – the Future of Decision Making?

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Perhaps every generation says this at least once, but I believe we’re in the midst of a very interesting time. The world is getting more social everyday with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where we can find old friends, colleagues and even relatives online with a single click. We may even find new people to follow through social media tools’ recommendations and can form relationships online and offline with them. Hundreds of millions of users are making decisions online all the time – who to follow, what content seems interesting, what topics to promote.

Our social media feeds make it obvious who to engage with about a particular topic – a friend may post frequently about sports and you can go to him with thoughts or questions – but that type of insight is not widely available at the place where we spent most of our time: work. We lack intelligence when it comes to the enterprise decision making process. It follows that we should apply the same principles of social media in our corporate environments to identify which colleague can help us make decisions. Applying social media functions that allow users to rate, tag, and comment about corporate content is the answer. Enterprises gain insight into the most used reports and dashboards at the company, report authors get instant feedback and enhancement requests from users, and users gain from the existing expertise of colleagues.

This idea has led to a new category of business intelligence software that Gartner describes as Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) and Collaborative BI. Gartner considers such platforms an emerging trend to fill the gap in decision support for tactical and strategic decisions most often made by knowledge workers.

“By 2013, 15% of BI and analytic applications will combine BI, collaboration and social software in decision-making environments.” – Gartner Group

BI vendors are following this path, creating matching solutions that serve as an interface to your wealth of corporate data. Is the market ready to deploy these solutions?

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11Jan/120

Advice for Better BI Reporting – Part II

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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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29Jun/111

Next-Generation Business Intelligence: Search & Collaboration

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It’s our belief at arcplan that next-generation BI tools should incorporate Web 2.0 functionality – the ability to search, rate, tag, and comment on information; things that we’re used to from social media sites and e-commerce sites like Amazon.com. Aren’t you used to checking a product’s ratings before making a purchase? Why should BI be any different?

Specifically what I mean is that users should have the ability (1) to find the information they need to do their jobs more effectively and (2) to make their feelings known about BI reports, dashboards, and other business information (like data stored on SharePoint or email systems that may be relevant to decision-making). If the best information rises to the top, users begin to rely on only the best reports and admins can delete old information that isn’t useful anymore.

This is why we developed arcplan Engage. We’re in the “first customer shipment” phase of its release right now, but pretty soon, it will be widely available and will change the way BI is thought of and accessed at many of our customers’ organizations. It’s all about empowering end users, making business information more pervasive and accessible to the large majority of business users, and ensuring that their organizations perform better.

More and more, we’re going to see BI systems that have been designed with the regular business user in mind, not just BI experts or power users. That’s what arcplan Engage is all about. Take a look at this short video about it and tell us your thoughts!