Data—one nearly indisputable fact about data is that the more you look at it—and the more WAYS that you look at it—the more information you’ll find. It’s important to look at your data from 30,000 feet but it’s also important to get down into the nitty-gritty details. It’s important to look at data from a single entity perspective such as looking at a single department, a single function or process, or even a single company. But it’s also important to look at your data as a consolidated whole. This allows you to optimize processes across departments and make sound decisions that affect the entire company.
Every organization needs reports—financial reports, operational reports, status reports. We call the basic reports that you need to run your business the “keep your lights on” reports. But savvy business people will look at these standard reports and questions will immediately pop into their heads. Or maybe they are in a meeting or a conversation or even just staring out the window and a burning question forms that they can answer only by examining the data—and then looking at it another way—and then drilling down—and then pulling up more data.
In another lifetime, my group was responsible for creating and running reports. I’d sit down with the VP of Finance to find out exactly what he needed and what he was using it for. Invariably, I’d get a call the next day, “Sandi, I’d like to take yet another cut at this report.” Or I’d sit with the EVP of Marketing to understand what she needed and I’d deliver the first report to thanks and smiles and a few minutes later—“This report is fantastic. It would be even better if you could just add a column for…” “If you could just.” I grew to hate those words. I’d have to go back to my guys and get the report re-programmed, re-tested, and re-run…and then cross my fingers.
Microsoft has discontinued sales and support of FRx–this is no longer news. You know you are going to have to migrate to something else eventually, but for now, the software is still working. No worries, right?
Well, not exactly. At some point, you are going to run into compatibility problems with your operating systems and other software applications. But even before that, you will probably decide it’s time to move on. But to what? The Microsoft migration path brings you to Management Reporter.
I recently read an article online that started with the sentence, “Small businesses lack the necessary resources to implement real business intelligence solutions.” Bolderdash! This may have been true a decade ago, but since then solutions have been developed for small and medium-sized businesses that fit the SMB budget. In addition, they are easier to implement and easier to use. Less training is required reducing costs and time out of the office. And there is an entire industry of consultants that cater to SMBs and are well aware of resource limitations these companies face, both in terms of costs and labor.
Sometimes when you go into a meeting, it’s like entering the Tower of Babel. It seems everyone is speaking a different language or, at least, using different sets of numbers. The Inventory Manager starts his PowerPoint presentation, showing colorful charts on the screen. The Controller pulls out a packet of papers and the frown on her face says she has completely different figures. The Regional Sales Director pulls up some charts on his iPhone and looks ready to jump into the ring. And the Product Manager pulls out a napkin and objects outright to the results being presented. For the next half hour, all four are trying to prove they have the correct numbers and for a half hour after that, they try to reconcile their numbers to the others’. The meeting breaks up, nothing gets done, and everyone is a little hot under the collar. Sound familiar?
Every project, from the smallest purchase of pencils to the largest long-term, complex, mission critical project, will benefit from effective communication. And with today’s communications options, there is no excuse for team members or stakeholders to be uninformed.
Performing a communications analysis and creating a plan for your communications is a must before starting any project. For a small project, this is probably done mentally—who needs to know I am doing this? Who might put in duplicate effort if they don’t know I am working on it? But for a larger project, a written communications plan will direct your communications efforts and keep you on track. You need to think about who needs to be informed of your project and its progress, how will they be informed, how often. What do they care about? What do they need to know? And how will you tell them?
Sparklines, intense, word-sized line graphs, are popping up just about everywhere and for good reason. A lot of information can be packed in a space of about 15 characters wide by 2 to 3 characters high, saving on precious screen real estate in dashboards and graphic visualizations. But like any other visualization, the use of sparklines needs to be well thought out in order to provide meaningful insight instead of just taking up space or, worse, misleading the user.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” The confluence of our understanding of how the human brain processes visual information and advances in visualization technology have led to a world where data and information visualizations are everywhere in the form of charts and graphs, infographics, dashboards, gauges, presentation graphics, photos, animations, and more. Done well, visualizations can provide insight and understanding in a fraction of the time it takes to read reports or pour over tables of numbers. But done poorly, they can lead to confusion and frustration. Poorly designed graphics will be ignored at best, or worse, misinterpreted.
“In-memory data stores will be the biggest trend to revolutionize the business intelligence (BI) industry this year.” Dr. Barry Devlin, ITWeb Business Intelligence 2013 Summit, February 2013
In-memory analytics is being touted as one of the year’s biggest BI developments by no less than CIO, Information Week, TDWI, and Gartner. In-memory solutions provide fast access to data and easier programming, making them less expensive to use in terms of time, resources, and skills required.
BIO business intelligence software for Microsoft Dynamics gives you the option of taking advantage of in-memory analytics using the Microsoft SQL 2012 Tabular Data Model. Here are some other benefits of using Tabular: