Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Future-Proofing Your BI Dashboards: Article Featured on TDWI


tdwi_logoarcplan’s Senior Vice President (and frequent author on this blog) Dwight deVera is featured on for his article, How to Future-Proof Your Dashboards. He covers how Responsive Design, HTML5, Self-Service and Collaboration are already beginning to influence BI dashboard design and why you need to get on board with these trends. Check out the article and let us know what you think!

How to Future-Proof Your Dashboards

Dashboards equal business intelligence (BI) to many people. They have been around for decades without substantial changes. Over time, we have refined the rules of dashboard design, deciding what makes dashboards most functional and efficient. Times are changing and dashboards must adapt to shifting user requirements. Mobility is encroaching on traditional dashboard usage and users are demanding self-service capabilities, less IT interference, and a greater say in what corporate data is useful and relevant. Future-proofing your dashboards is imperative if they are to continue delivering value.

Responsive Design + HTML5 = BI Anywhere
According to TechRepublic’s BYOD Business Strategy Survey, 62 percent of companies either already have Bring Your Own Device allowances in place or plan to by the end of 2013. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices in daily life, workers have become accustomed to switching between gadgets according to the task at hand — smartphones for calls and quick searches, tablets for Web browsing and e-mails on the go, and laptops for more time- and labor-intensive activities. However, switching devices and accessing BI apps is not always so effortless.

A new design concept is making it easier than ever to build and deploy BI apps that can be used on any device without the need for extra development…

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A New Way of Thinking…Or Why Data Discovery Is Not the Only Path to BI Value Creation


new_way_of_thinkingI am sitting on a train to Düsseldorf on my way back from Paris, where I presented an update of what we are doing at arcplan to a mixed audience of customers and prospects. Part of my presentation included the usual content of company and product development updates. The outlook included a preview of our next release, code named Xenon, in the context of what is happening in businesses these days. One of the key topics was the explosive appearance of mobile devices and the challenges this poses to organizations – different form factors and operating systems, security issues, and expectations from a user community that is educated by the private consumption of applications on these devices (bringing an expectation of usability to the business environment). Of course, I introduced our first-ever approach in the business intelligence world to solve the dilemma of catering to this ever-increasing diversity of different device types and form factors as DORA: Develop Once, Run Anywhere. This is accomplished by responsive design for business intelligence and analytics applications. The audience was clearly impressed as was our customer advisory board in a similar session last week.

However, this blog article is not about how to develop and deploy analytic content effectively in this new world; it’s about the business value BI solutions create.

This year we were positioned by Gartner in their annual Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms. Although the Gartner analysts expressed strong appreciation for our capabilities (and commented accordingly in the strengths and cautions section of the report), we are positioned at the lower end of the niche vendor section. We were told this is partially due to self-service analytics and data discovery playing a strong role in this year’s Quadrant as this represents advanced BI. Really?

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Agile BI: The Key to Increasing Business Intelligence Adoption


The business intelligence tools of yesterday were slow, expensive, difficult to use, and required long implementation times. Well…let’s be honest – many of today’s BI tools are still this way. I find it amazing what some organizations will put up with when it comes to BI. Best-in-class organizations, however, are going after agile BI like never before. Agile BI enables “flexibility by accelerating the time it takes to deliver value with BI projects,” according to TDWI. That’s the formal definition, but what does agile BI look like in practice?

The concept of agile BI has made users more demanding in what they expect out of a BI solution. They want information in their hands faster so they can make decisions in a timely manner – that is, they want to make decisions based on today’s data, not data that’s 3 weeks old. They want simple, intuitive self-service BI tools that allow them to manipulate and analyze data themselves, without having to wait for IT. And they want BI that’s implemented quickly so they see faster time-to-value.

So agile BI is about timely information, self-service analysis, and rapid implementation. But it’s also the key to increasing BI adoption at your organization. Let’s explore why.

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3 Ways Self-Service BI Aids Decision-Making


There’s a lot of talk about expanding the reach of business intelligence beyond the 15-25% of potential users currently using BI solutions. Certainly it’s one of our core missions at arcplan. With nearly everyone in an organization making decisions every day that affect the company, getting this remaining 75% of potential users to answer their business questions with data is imperative. The solution is self-service BI – tools that allow users to navigate and visualize data themselves to get the answers they need to make important business decisions on their timeline. In many ways, self-service BI is synonymous with user freedom since business users need not wait for the IT department to fulfill report requests, but instead are able to generate queries on their own and tailor reports according to their requirements.

We spent some time thinking about the ways self-service aids decision-making. Check out our list and let us know if you have more to add to it!

1) It gives users access to real-time information for faster decision-making.
Ad-hoc reporting, one of the tools under the self-service umbrella, allows users to create new connections between data not previously found in static reports and generate new insights on their own. According to Cindi Howson’s report, The Five Myths of Self-Service BI, executives and managers are a segment of users beyond power users and IT developers who derive value from ad-hoc reporting. If given the chance, a sales director for instance would use an easy ad-hoc solution like arcplan Spotlight to run a query of YTD product sales and compare performance across different regions, rather than wait a week or more for IT to deliver the same information to him. He could also save that query privately or publish it publicly, giving his entire team access to it for future reference. He could even select that report for automatic delivery via e-mail, where it will include the most updated data. The ability to access real-time data and create new reports on the fly means that business users get immediate answers to business questions and can make decisions based on current (versus outdated) information.

2) It addresses specific user needs for greater efficiency.
Self-service tools target the specific needs of users, allowing them to glean the most value out their BI and enabling more efficient decision-making…

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Ad-Hoc Reporting Isn’t for Everyone


Consider your users before thinking ad-hoc will be your silver bullet.

Ad-hoc reports allow users to manipulate and explore their data and build reports on the fly to answer business questions. If dashboards and static reports answer the question “What is happening at my business?” then ad-hoc answers the question “Why is it happening?” However, ad-hoc is not for everyone. There is a common misconception, often propagated by BI vendors like us, that once users have access to their data, they’ll be able to self-serve and IT will be relieved of the “go fetch” requests for reports. Let’s debunk that myth.

The spectrum of workers in your organization includes people with various responsibilities and skill sets who are equipped with tools specific to their job function in order to get work done. In her 2011 report on Self-Service BI, analyst Cindi Howson illustrates the different segments of BI users and their relation to business query tools.

As you can see, ad-hoc or business query tools only serve a small subset of users: IT developers, analysts & information workers (power users), and some executives & managers. IT developers are building ad-hoc reports for the frequent requests of other user groups. Data analysis experts/power users use ad-hoc query tools most often to support decision-makers who make operational, strategic or tactical decisions. Then you have executives and managers who ideally want interactive dashboards with an ad-hoc component so they can quickly answer questions without needing complex BI tools.

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