Business Intelligence Tools – How Can the Organizations Gain Benefit From This Software?

In today’s competitive business world, many companies are required to collect a tremendous amount of data from their daily business operations. In order to keep track with all the information in a proper manner, these companies need to apply a wide range of software programs like Excel, Access and other database applications for their various departments. Honestly speaking, utilizing multiple software programs is not a good method. It is difficult to retrieve the required information fast. At the same time, the users also find it troublesome to perform analysis of data when the data is stored using different software programs. In order to overcome these problems, the Business Intelligence Tools have been created.

Business Intelligence Tools are new to many people. These tools are a type of application software which is specially designed to gather, store, access and analyze corporate data in an effective manner. In the point of view of many IT experts, this particular software plays a key role in the strategic planning process of the corporations because it allows multiple ways of looking at the complex data. It can be widely used in the areas of customer profiling, customer support, market research, market segmentation, product profitability, statistical analysis, inventory and distribution analysis, and many more.

This software sounds helpful. Is it really true? Let’s read on.

Basically, there are different types of Business Intelligence Tools in the market. By knowing the features of different types of tools, you will be able to make use of this software program at an optimum level.

• Query tools

These tools are very powerful as they have the capability to extract, sort, summarize and present data that is extremely important in a very quick manner. They allow the users to ask questions about the data. No matter how complex the data is, the decision makers of the business organizations are able to make fast decision with these tools.

• Multidimensional analysis tools

They are also known as Online Analytical Processing. These tools allow the users to view the same data from different aspects.

• Data mining tools

These tools are commonly used for marketing, surveillance and fraud detection. They are automated to search data and seek out ways that the data correlates to other data. They help to create key patterns which enable the top management to operate and change the business if required.

• Spreadsheets

It plays an important role in crunching the financial data and summarizing key accounting numbers. The users will be able to create reports fast. At the same time, if there is any modification of the data, the spreadsheets are able to recalculate in an efficient manner.

• Digital Dashboards

These tools are very popular among the key decision makers because all the performance measures, key trends and reports can presented clearly through visual display.

For people who are currently looking for this particular software, I would recommend you to look for the reputable providers like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and SAS Global. If cost is your main concern, you are advised to compare the prices of different tool providers before making your decision. Since different users have different needs, you are reminded to find out the features of different tools and evaluate them carefully. Make sure the tools you choose are able to meet your organization’s needs.

Databases, Data Warehouses, Web Development and Business Intelligence – How to Create an IT System

Database and Web development these days become more and more affordable for everybody. With the technologies approaching people without IT background from almost everywhere, it becomes easy to build systems of every scale from small to complex.

Database (DB) is the core of each IT system. It started from using Hierarchical and Network model based databases and went through inventing and enhancing well-known relational database model. The main property of the mentioned databases is storing structural data. Later, many new features had been added such as: storing binary and XML data. For storing big data, NoSQL DB (like Mongo DB) and Distributed Files Systems have been suggested. They mostly target storing unstructured data.

Object-relational databases such as Oracle, DB2 and MS SQL are used widely during these days. Quick in retrieving of structured data and able to perform relational operations these data bases are very efficient for manipulating with granular data such as banking transactions for example. Oracle, apart from having declarative SQL language and procedural PL/SQL language for working with relational data, has many extensions like Data Mining (ODM), Oracle Golden Gate, Oracle OLAP, Oracle XML DB, Oracle Warehouse Builder and Partitioning. The databases can be used to build an IT system capable of serving a complex, city wide system with quite intensive data usage. Speaking about ‘data movements’ in and out of the system, there are many options for this either moving/integrating data synchronously or asynchronously.

Depending on scale of an IT system, appropriate databases should be used. The very famous and quite reliable databases are MySQL and MS Access. MySQL database is widely used as a database for Web systems whereas MS Access is used for desktop ones. However, MS Access database could be used as a Web database provided it has been developed appropriately and when deployed hosted in SharePoint environment with Access service is up and running.

We have covered databases, but how a system can be built without a front-end? A front-end is the ‘interface’ a user interacts with. Two tier IT systems have become the past and three and more tiers become more and more popular. ‘Tier’ in IT language means separation of functions in an IT system, e.g. Presentation tier is responsible for interacting with a user, Logic or Application tier is responsible for performing actual software code and Data tier is the layer where data is stored.

Web interface is a very good candidate for a quality ‘front-end’. There are many options on how Web interface could be developed. ASP.Net from Microsoft is a very good technology for development a front-end. An interface could be built by using HTML, CSS and PHP, for example. Oracle Forms is a Web based platform for developing a good front-end. Speaking about small scale solutions, Access 2010 has the ability to publish a Web database in SharePoint using SharePoint Access Services and, in that way, the database will be accessed from the Web.

So, now we have created the data store, put our data there, now what? Of, course, we can use it as we had planned, but apart from it we can gain additional insight into our data by using Business Intelligence or BI. The BI is software which helps management analyse a current situation, by producing reports and possibly predict the future. Overall, the BI is the ability to understand relationships between facts. Besides the reporting ability, the BI includes: Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) which answers to multidimensional queries very quickly and Data Mining which discovers relationships between data sets.

How to tie it all together if, for example, we need to create an IT system which would suit our requirements? Business, System Analysis and Project Management are the answers. First of all, we need to understand business requirements that are what is required to deliver value to your business. Second, we need to understand user and solution requirements and verify if they are aligned to the business requirements. Next, design phase should follow where design is being built. After the design is done, transition requirements are produced along with the estimation of readiness of an organisational unit to take the developed solution on board. Final step could be developing the solution and deploying it along with performing necessary tests.

We should remember that the above described approach is ‘general’ in nature and should be carefully crafted to real life. Another aspect of crafting it is that a decision should be taken either sequential or iterative approach will be used. In sequential approach, all types of requirements are developed upfront. This is done on projects where formality is required or the project has a high risk profile or if the desired solution or its components have been developed in the past. Iterative approach is used when low formality is acceptable, or when the desired solution is being developed for the first time, or part of the solution should be delivered in a short amount of time.

The sentences above only ‘scratched the surface’ in IT area but the main trend is clear that Web and Database development started as a complex area but now anyone, who can invest time to get used to existing IT software development environments, might deliver a good solution for benefiting their business.

What’s the Best Way to Display Business Intelligence Data?

Visualization is a key component of all business intelligence solutions, whether you’re dealing with Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, or SAP Crystal Reports. Business intelligence data can be displayed in a manner as simple as rows and cells on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, to something complex like an interactive map or three-dimensional bars and graphs with a dynamic visual tool like Microsoft Silverlight. Obviously, the key factor is that the data is understood as quickly and comprehensively as possible, so what’s the best route to get there?

It may sound like a cop-out to those who are currently struggling with this issue, but the answer is: it depends.

That’s not a cop-out, and it’s not skirting the issue; it’s the truth. Different audiences are going to interpret data visualizations in different ways. To a doctor or someone who works at an architecture firm, analyzing three-dimensional data is likely the norm. They’ve gone through years of school to hone their senses and explore the worlds of 3D imaging. It’s nothing new for them, and they’re likely succeeding in those fields because their brains work a certain way in the first place.

For others – account executives, project managers, accountants, etc. – something two-dimensional or more basic might be the way to go. That’s not to say that these people are less intuitive or less intelligent than the 3D crowd by any means, but their brains may simply be used to processing data in a different manner. Both groups possess analytical intuition around various areas of their jobs that would likely be lost on each other. Different industries, different minds… different course of action for data visualization.

If you’re working on developing business intelligence solutions for a client, stop and ask yourself this: What kind of people are going to be using this data? What do I know about my intended audience? If the answer is that you don’t know very much, then perhaps you need to take a step back and consult with your client before determining the best course of action. Proceeding onward with a flashy, visually striking 3D plan might seem like the best way to “wow” your client and knock their proverbial socks off, but the key factor is to make sure the data is actually presented in a way that makes sense to them.

In the long run, showing off for the sake of showing off by developing something that’s flashy and eye-catching might not impress at all. As a developer or a designer, you may find yourself thinking that the dynamic solution you’re working on would be impressive if it were handed to you, but remember – it’s about what looks good and what’s clear to them.

Take some time. Get to know your audience. Get to know what they’re looking for before you dive headfirst into what could be treacherous waters. The most intelligent business intelligence solutions aren’t necessary the flashiest; they’re the ones that earn you a strong recommendation and a place among your clients’ most esteemed partners.