Business Reporting Software Tips

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Are their different ways to describe the same BI capabilities?

Comparing BI Terminology – One Example

When shopping for a BI software suite or just to give your company an entry-level capability, be conscious of the trends and differences in key terminology between vendors.

Information Builders, in their WebFOCUS product describes the following capabilities:

Reporting – Web and browser based tools that provide executives, analysts, customers, and partners to rapidly create rich, formatted reports from enterprise data.

Query and Analysis – Providing the functionality of query tools, reporting tools, and OLAP into one solution.

Visualization – Visual Discovery allows in-depth intuitive analysis from any enterprise data source.

Transaction Systems – Maintain is a high performance solution for building and deploying BI to concurrent users.

Comparatively, Cognos, and its Cognos 8 product describes:

Reporting – Web services-based tools that report against all operational systems, OLAP, and relational data sources.

Analysis – Explore and analyze information from OLAP or dimensionally aware, relational sources using drag and drop, comparative or predictive techniques.

Scorecarding – Link initiatives and projects to strategy and metrics.

Dashboards – Web-based at-a-glance sna

What characterizes good data access?

Integrated BI Software And Data Access

One business intelligence vendor has characterized data access as potentially fragmented when viewed in a systems context. This is especially evident when tracking transactions across many functional business areas. The vendor goes on to point out that their system, Cognos 8, offers a powerful array of access hooks that may be useful to potential buyers of BI reporting software. They are:

ETL – Extract, Transform, Load – Integrates data from multiple sources to a common repository location.

EII – Enterprise Information Integration – connects to multiple disparate data sources in near real-time.

Direct Access – If your organization has some rudimentary level of BI with some tools in place, this capability can provide seamless access.

Common Metadata – Structures data regardless of source and format into a common foundation using rules, calculation, and filter technologies.

Are there any ways to ease the difficulty of deploying reporting software?

Deploying Reporting Software

Deploying reporting or any other type of business intelligence software capability is a complex and difficult process that is often hard to standardize. Help in accomplishing this capability may come from a concept pioneered by the BI developer, Cognos. It is called the BI Competency Center and is based on three suppositions:

The deployment must connect to senior management, users, and vendors.

There must be adequate financial support from the CEO and CFO levels.

Appropriate staffing must be provided by the CIO function.

In order for the deployment to be successful and lead to financial and performance gains, the following observations apply:

The business reporting software must be used at every level of management.

The functional business areas served must be data driven (retail, multi-site, or vertically integrated manufacturing are examples.)

The functional engine must be provided from within the IT department.

Corporate executives must be the ultimate users.

How Performance Intensive Is Your Business?

How Performance Intensive Is Your Business?

The book “The Performance Manager,” Mosimann, et al, cited work by the McKinsey Quarterly that identified three characteristics of business performance:

  • Transformational – activity involved with extracting/converting materials into finished goods.
  • Transactional – processing materials from basic form to applied products.
  • Tacit – procedural activities, such as retail sales or performing services, requiring tacit or experience for success.

Among the observations made regarding these interesting categories of business, the authors note that there have been more economic gains in tacit work activities. Is this possibly an effect of technology? Then they note that investment continues to be heavier in transactional activities. Is this a result of the decades old trend of shedding labor in favor of automation or off shoring? Finally, it is suggested that it was harder to sustain a competitive edge in both transactional and transformational business. Does this follow the adage of: if it's easy to do, everyone does it? These observations seem to raise interesting indicators of how intensity of work performance can help classify your business.

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Sheri Ann Richerson