Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Microsoft Will Cease to Support Windows Server 2003 and Small Business Server from 14th July 2015. The clock is ticking ...

If your business relies on your SAP Reporting Platform 2008 and you are on Windows Server 2003 you may need to upgrade! 

July 14 2015 sees Windows Server 2003 reach its end-of-life. The mainstream support finished July 13 2010 and it has been in ”extended support” since then. This means that no further patches or security updates will be available from Microsoft. In itself this poses a Security risk and Compliance problem for businesses. Most third party applications are now only supported on the latest 64bit platforms and application support from these bodies is another major risk driver for the change.

If you are running the SAP Crystal Server 2008 or older you may need to upgrade your platform when you upgrade the windows server to the new version Windows 2012. 

This transition can be managed smoothly and expertly by our experienced team here as we have perfected the migration process so you don’t have to worry.

We can smoothly migrate all your history and instances along with all your reports, show you all the new and improved features including the Universes for easier reporting and even take you mobile

When end of life is reached, you’re at increased risk of corrupting your data and running into unsupported applications. Application support challenges can also be complex and costly. Save time and money now to secure the future. 

Call us on 0800 652 4050 or email us today!

Written by Donna Hornickel, BI Sales Executive, DSCallards

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Universe and an Analytic Database?

If you’re modelling your data into business information in the universe then surely creating an analytic database as well is overkill?

It’s a distinct possibility. If your data is in reasonably good shape, then let the universe go at it with what it does best – see “The Universe Is Your Friend”.

However, complex computations such as a validation rule calculating customer eligible for a loyalty bonus may best pre-processed.

Taking this dreamed up criteria as an example:
  • has to have had a certain number of transactions for qualifying products (which need to be looked up from one source, decoded and compared to another source)
  • over a set value (which varies by customer country)
  • in a particular time period
  • had no gaps in their membership in that period.
  • made no derogatory comments about the Chief Exec's gold handicap.
  • opted in to received worldly enlightments about future products.
  • and not be related to any member past or present of the company's illustrious management structure.

Whilst the computation could be run at query time it would probably be better pre-processed, so at query time the only computation is true or false.

The universe doesn’t store data. You can sit it on top of a transactional system and let users see who’s bought what products in the last five seconds. But asking that same system which customers are eligible for a loyalty bonus, well that might make two people unhappy. Firstly the next customer waiting for the system to respond so they can buy one of your shiny products, but also the account humble manager wanting to know which of her customers she can delight with news of their eligibility. If the customer loyalty bonus object was selected with a few other objects of similar complexity, the resulting database query could take tens of seconds or over a minute to run. After waiting a minute for that information her mind may wander on to that spreadsheet she keeps of her own sales to her key customers and decide her time is better spent maintaining her own little island of data.

So by trimming the query run time from tens of second or a minute plus to milliseconds what will the impact be? Probably,
  • more people will use the system to make fact-based decisions
  • people will rely less on their own islands of data, meaning more consistency in decision making between people and departments
  • people will find uses for the system you or they didn't originally envisage
  • you may see a cultural shift in the way people use information.  After all, data is the new gold!
Written by Angus Menter, BI Practice Manager, DSCallards - The Business Objects People

The Universe is Your Friend

It lets you model your business data into information that makes sense to humans who need to make good decisions.

It makes a little knowledge a powerful rather than dangerous thing by quietly translating your human question into an unambiguous data query that a data machine can respond to accurately.

Take for example products by supplier, rather than just returning a list, the universe will ask whether you mean available products, previously stocked products or previously sold products. The universe is semantically dynamic – the results are dependent on the meaning. While the lists may be similar they will probably be slightly different, which could be the difference in determining which supplier to award a contract to.

If you want product in stock and products sold it will ensure that one value isn’t multiplied by the other. Which these data machines will do if you don’t talk them right.

It lets you roam through time, space, products, customers, suppliers and the other dimensions of your business.

It presents numbers as you expect to see them: costs summed by material, inventory counted by product, headcount averaged over time.

It ensures that Fran from Finance and Oliver of Operations share a common vocabulary of clearly defined business terms.

Love is a strong word for a piece of technology you can’t touch or feel and certainly can never love you back, but the universe does its job of bridging the gap between people and data really, really well.

To quote Flight of the Concords in ‘The Robots’, “a little understanding could make things better.”

Written by Angus Menter, BI Practice Manager, DSCallards - The Business Objects People

Thursday, 15 January 2015

SEO in a Nutshell

Thought I’d take five minutes out to re-look at what SEO is all about.  We talk about it all of the time but what does it REALLY mean.

SEO stands for “search engine optimisation.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.

In a nutshell it means getting your website showing on the first pages of search results (and ideally number one).  Forget about being at the top of page two or page three.  Page one is where you need to be placed to really be beneficial.

Fundamentally, commercial organisations optimise their websites to attract new business. It’s as simple as that.  By optimising their websites for search engines, companies can ensure that people will be able to find them easily online.

Choosing your keywords you want to target is the first part of optimising your website for search engines. It’s also the most important thing of SEO and sometimes the hardest part.

So what determines what’s shown on the first page or search results?

Search engines all have their own ranking algorithms that are secret and not known publicly. However there are some techniques we can employ using those keyword phrases to optimise your website (or a particular page) to help that you show on the first page of search results.  

Here’s a useful SEO keyword checklist:

  • Make sure they are not goo generic - try to be as specific as possible.  For example, if you’re a hotel, you wouldn’t just target ‘hotel’ but perhaps add in the location name or if you’re a budget hotel, add ‘budget’ or ‘cheap’ in the mix.
  • Consider another phase – Instead of hotel, you may want consider an alternative for example ‘accommodation
  • Don’t have too many – Having too many keywords in your phrase can dilute they strength – aim for about 3 to 5
  • Make sure they are relevant to your business – the more closely the keywords relate to your website, the better they will perform.
  • Don’t use superfluous words such as ‘great’ ‘amazing’ etc.

Hope this helps!

Click here for more.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Spin Up A Cloud BI System for Free

Gartner-rated business intelligence provider Yellowfin has made an agreement with Amazon Web Services enabling organisations to create their own cloud BI environment, for one year for free. The size options are limited but certainly enough for to get started.

Whether you just want to see for yourself how a best of breed BI tool works, run a proof of concept or even a small project. Read the user reviews here.

The Yellowfin platform includes reporting, analytics, collaboration, mapping and mobile features,100% web-based. 

Launch Yellowfin directly from the AWS marketplace and get started in minutes with your free trial that enables 3 users to create and share unlimited reports and dashboards for 12 months. Then upgrade at any time to scale up the system.

It’s really easy to set up, you follow these steps:

If you need a hand give us a call on 0800 652 4050.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Big Data - not just for Big Companies

In the last week, have you made journeys with a switched on mobile phone, posted, liked or uploaded a photo on Facebook? Have you searched the internet? Watched videos on Youtube?

Then you are data, a small part of big data in fact.

Does your company have a website? Does it do any marketing or sales?

Then it’s generating big data, the hundreds or thousands of data points that define any one journey through a website quickly accumulate.

What data exists about your company outside of your firewall, and how this could correlate to your internal business operations? For example product reviews, discussions, web articles… do they discuss concepts that are also contained within your production & CRM systems?

And what can we do with this goldmine of information? Well it’s different for every company, and on first thoughts you may think big data means big budgets and big projects and therefore restricted to big companies, but this really isn’t the case.

To quote the Cambridge Institute of Manufacturing, “If you are an established SME and not thinking about these issues, it's time to jump on the Big Data train, for if you don’t the danger is you’ll be left sitting in the sidings while newer start-ups and bigger players pull out of the station and power ahead.”

Businesses are understanding how they are perceived by their customers, sensing demand in time to fulfil it, tracking performance of their products through sensors and detecting fraud through transaction correlation, whether it’s a vehicle rental company being aware of and addressing a Facebook storm among its customers, an online retailer tracking spikes in sales for unexpected products due to current global events and proactive pushing similar products, or a tractor manufacturer notifying its customers of potential mechanical problems before they happen

It’s a new age of communication we’re living in. Individuals are starting to understand that their thoughts, movements and behaviours are being stored as a collection of ones and zeros. Machines need to get used to being monitored more carefully and maintained before they break down. And of organisations need to understand both the opportunity and responsibility this big data presents. Enjoy responsibly!

Written by Angus Menter, BI Practice Manager, DSCallards

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Case Insensitive Lookups with SSIS

Whilst recently compiling a reasonably complex transformation to bring in some data from an Excel spreadsheet I was left in the situation where I had a some look ups that were failing to resolve due to case sensitivity. This was a failure on my part really as I should have understood from the outset that this could have been the case and I should have factored this in from the start but I didn’t. No problem usually, You can just change the case at the source and and in the look-up component and you’re there. However… In my situation this was not feasible without me throwing myself out of the nearest window and making finger paintings with my own blood in my dying moments. The reason for this is that I had about 50 separate sources which is an onerous task in itself. In addition to this as I was ‘unioning’ all of this data together using the union component and then going through several more complex transformations with additional unions along the way it was getting very messy, The union components do not refresh with new fields when the source changes and so the only way to correct this is to drag new union components on in place of the old ones! This in turn means that all of the adjoining components also need to be refreshed and even talking about it I can feel the end approaching.

Read the full blog here

Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards