Thursday, 22 August 2013

At-a-Glance Guide to Implementing Successful Business Intelligence

DSCallards has been delivering value-driven Business Intelligence (BI) for over ten years to hundreds of customers and understands the main pitfalls when implementing a new solution.

So, if you are thinking about investing in a new BI solution, we would recommend that you consider the following six points when selecting your solution partner.  Each of our recommendations is backed up with a customer case study, which you may find an interesting read!

  1. In-depth Understanding:  During the consultancy period of the project it’s important that you and your BI solution provider are completely attuned, and they have an absolute understanding of your business architecture, its drivers, and goals. "DSCallards really listened to our needs, often facilitating discussions we might not have had internally, to get a clear picture of our objectives and where the value lay. They didn’t dictate how we should do business – they simply enabled us to get more value from our data to hit our targets while preserving our uniqueness”.  More
  2. Credibility:  Choose a solution provider that not only has a positive ‘can do’ attitude, but one that is proven, with a track record of working with reputable industry players. To evolve and explore all project possibilities, it’s important you feel a good level of trust with your solution provider, and that you feel they will accommodate your suggestions and requests.  “We checked DSCallards website and liaised with our SAP Business Objects Partner Manager who told us that DSCallards were a highly regarded SAP Business Objects Partner”.  More.

  3. Excellent Support:  It’s important to work with a BI solution provider who can offer you support throughout the project, not just once your solution is implemented. “Support provided during the evaluation phase was very good. We believe that if the software vendor can offer good free support during the trial, then this is a good indication of the type of support we would be receiving in the event that they were selected as the solution of choice”.  More.

  4. Value for Money:  In times of austerity, this speaks for itself! "DSCallards are very good value for money”.  More.
  5. End-to-End Service: A BI solution provider who can offer a complete service package is invaluable, it ensures a smoother project experience for both parties, particularly when keeping within budget and set timescales is critical.  “Babcock is extremely satisfied with the services and support provided by DSCallards. They delivered to budget and on time going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a successful roll out of this new technology across our organisation – not an easy task!” More.
  6. Innovation and Added Value: Many BI solution providers can deliver what you ask of them, but do they really add any value? Aim to seek a solution provider who can understand your business, listen to your ideas, and innovatively shape the project, to deliver growth and efficiencies to your business.  “The project grew rapidly in response to evolving business needs, and has delivered value at every step along the way – progressing from model reporting to a sophisticated, real-time business intelligence solution that is helping us drive the business forward. And it was all achieved without significant disruption to our day-to-day operations and at an affordable price”. More.
This is, in our humble opinion, the six-point guide.  There are of course many other considerations exclusive to your own organisation. If you would like to discuss how we can help you in more detail, let us know ... we're a really friendly group of consultants!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Faster Image Processsing (aka Lock your Bits)

Whilst working on a small new project to write a console application that examines images for certain kinds of colour data I started, as I always do, with looking at how best to achieve this in a performant manner for the client. There is nothing worse than an application  that appears to hang whilst an invisible piece of processing occurs. True, in this instance it was a console app that would be automagically scheduled for use and so this was not such a design issue but I still think it’s good practice. The main remit of the application was to iterate over every single pixel within an image file and to perform various calculations against the colour data that we obtained,  the calculations were fairly simple and thus set in stone and so no real performance gains could be made out of a refactor, however this business of iterating over every pixel….

Click here for complete article.

Written by Conrad Rowlands, Senior Developer, DSCallards
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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

On-the-go Analytics Enables Me To Act Decisively Wherever and Whenever

When mobile phones first became mainstream as business tools, it was all about being reachable no matter where you were. But if you wanted to get any real work done, you’d still have to lug around a laptop. Today’s smart phones are capable of so much more than just calls, emails and texts – in fact, I read they’re more powerful than the computers that NASA used to send astronauts to the moon in the 1960s. 

I use my smart phone for everything – from capturing my running times to taking out my frustrations on Angry Birds. But what I’m really excited about is that we’ve recently got the SAP Crystal Server add-on for mobile at work.  Basically, it delivers all the reports and analytic data I rely on daily to my mobile phone when I’m away from my desk. 
If I have to go and see a customer, I no longer bother taking my laptop with me, because I have all the up-to-date information I need in the palm of my hand.  Not only is my smart phone more convenient to carry, but unlike a laptop, there’s no tedious wait to boot up and connect – it’s instant.  The other day, I was able to provide factual up the minute information to a customer while I was sat right opposite him by showing him the figures, instead of having to wait until I was back in the office.  Not only was he impressed by my professionalism but also by my company – a sure way to sustain a good business relationship. 

While mobilising our business intelligence is enabling people like me to work more flexibly and productively, it also ticks the boxes for IT – secure, self-service and simple – plus it helps our company to get more value out of the BI system we already have in place.  There’s a free trial available to download so you can try SAP Crystal Solutions before you buy.  Although I’ll warn you now: using mobile insight to answer business questions on the go is almost as addictive as Angry Birds!  

Try SAP Crystal Server add-on for mobile for yourself with our compliments!  Download here.

Visualise This!

I’m a very visual person. I tend to use my hands when I talk.  I remember faces, but I’m terrible with names. When I learn something new, I need to see it to really understand it. So I was very excited when I was asked to evaluate one of the latest offerings from SAP, called Lumira.

Basically, it’s a “data discovery” tool.  That means instead of having to spend time manually aggregating data from multiple sources and in diverse formats, SAP Lumira pulls the data directly from wherever it resides and lets you organise and manipulate it however you want. 

OK, maybe the earth’s not moving for you yet. But this is where it gets interesting: once you’ve prepared your data, you can create visualisations to find the kinds of business insights and trends that are impossible to glean from staring at rows of numbers. 

It’s a simple matter of dragging and dropping the data labels onto what is more or less a “blank canvas” in the middle of your screen, and choosing how you want to visualize the results. You can select anything from a straightforward bar, radar or scatter chart, to a sophisticated multi-dimensional chart, geographic bubble chart, tree map or tag cloud. You can see the big picture at a glance and then drill down into the details by filtering data in columns, facets or charts.

What’s really liberating is that it enables people like me (numerically literate but not an analytical expert) to look for relationships and uncover patterns in data without adding to IT’s workload. No more waiting for them to write a custom query or report each time a new question arises. 

I downloaded the free trial of SAP Lumira yesterday afternoon and got so immersed playing with it that by the time I looked up again, everyone had gone home and the cleaner was trying to trying to vacuum around my feet.  I visualize that I’m going to be finding lots of answers to questions I never knew I had with my new software over the coming days!

For more information, click here.

Shedding Some Light on the Subject of Data

Genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, according to American inventor Thomas Edison. He should know. After all, he held 1,093 US patents, including a system for electric power generation and distribution. Edison is quite a hero of mine – I work for a company that manufactures light bulbs. Unfortunately, while we had the perspiration angle covered, our inspiration left a lot to be desired. And it was affecting our efficiency in a big way.

Historically, we have based our decisions on hard facts. The problem with this approach was the amount of time we spent working to get reliable data. We spent more time poring through spread sheets and pivot tables than we did analysing data and making decisions.

One of the big advantages of being a small business is agility. You can normally react to changes in the market quickly and steal a march on your competitors. But we were losing this advantage because of our convoluted and time-consuming data processes. We didn’t have the information in time to make the decisions we needed to.

Fortunately, as we’re an SAP partner, we implemented SAP Crystal Server to solve this problem. It didn’t take long to implement and set up and before long, we had dashboards and reports to give us all the information I needed to make good decisions, quickly.

Now, we’re running more efficiently and more people in the business are starting to use SAP software to analyse their data. When I think of all the time we used to spend working with spread sheets it doesn’t bear thinking about. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s any less perspiration, it just means we’re directing our efforts into more strategic, fruitful tasks. 

For more information on SAP Crystal Server click here.