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:
I took a project management professional (PMP) course where I learned about all aspects of project management including stakeholder analysis, skills assessment and human resource plans, procurement plans, quality management plans, change management plans, risk analysis and contingency planning, and so much more. But it struck me as odd that there was no promotion plan. Yes, there was the communications plan, but that was primarily about status updates and keeping everyone informed so the project stays on track. I’m talking about the job of selling—selling the project to your users. Selling the project to those folks whose day-to-day activities will be altered, whose information flow will be changed, who already know how to use the old system and have no desire to take time out of their busy schedules to learn a new one.
We hear a lot of talk today about moving business intelligence to the Cloud. The Cloud, pundits promise, will give us access to our data anytime from anywhere on any device. Plus, they say, using the Cloud will foster greater online collaboration as well as enable us to respond quickly to changes in our business environment. Sounds great, but what should you consider when deciding whether to move your business intelligence platform to the Cloud or keeping it on premises? Thinking about these three factors will help you determine which is right for you: cost, time, and risk.