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New Frontiers in Business Intelligence

Nari Kannan

Towards the Ultimate DIY Business Intelligence Tool

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I have been bleating endlessly in this blog about Do-It-Yourself Business Intelligence Tools. These are sorely needed as I keep hearing endless streams of horror stories of end-users doing their own skunkworks and getting everybody, including themselves, into a heap of trouble!

Just heard one such story today. This BI specialist with the company was narrating this story. There were some fundamental changes in the underlying data warehouse design that this specialist was warning all BI users in his company about for months! He sent out e-mails, warned them about how their custom reports would not work because of this design change and told them "here's what EACH and EVERYONE of you nees to do to NOT break your custom reports." He heard not too much from the end users. Of course!

The day arrives when these changes are put in production and all hell breaks loose! He hears complaints and swear words about different reports and dashboards not working! Of course, again!

Business intelligence tools need multi-layered architectures just as much as any other enterprise software. If the presentation layer is isolated from the underlying data layer, many of these direct breaks may not happen. I say "may not" because designing and implementing such complete separations are not technically easy.

Jaspersoft seems to have made a move in the right direction and this is exciting! With their new release J4, JasperSoft seems to have done something very few of the other BI vendors have achieved: separate the presentation layer from the underlying other layers so that you can even have things like "Themes."

You can get a quick preview of what I mean from this YouTube video:

Themes are very useful in large organizations where marketing may not agree with finance on what a standard look and feel is for their reports. So you can roll out a marketing theme, a finance theme and a manufacturing department theme.

This video mentions multi-tenancy a bit too quickly but it is a big, big deal for hosted BI  applications. Different companies or individuals or users logging in and looking at data may all need personalized looking sets of reports. Themes will go a long way in enabling a number of these businesses offer something of extreme value!

Over and over again, I have heard different groups of users having different ideas about how they like their reports. Some like numbers displayed in a table, some need reports of long series of rows and columns, some like graphs and charts, and some like all kinds of fancy dashboards and new-fangled, new types of charts.

Separating the presentation layer in a BI tool goes a long way in achieving this. It's a great step in the right direction towards some architectural tweaks to a typical BI product so that it is flexible enough to accommodate all kinds of users!

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Nari Kannan's blog explores how new approaches to business intelligence can help organizations improve the performance of business processes--whether these processes are creative or operational, internally-focused or customer-facing, intra-departmental or across functions.

Nari Kannan

Nari Kannan started and serves as the CEO of appsparq, a Mobile Applications development company based in Louisville, KY with offices in Singapore and India. Nari has over two decades of experience in computer systems development, translating product and service strategy into meaningful technology solutions, and both people and product development. Prior to this, he has served as both Chief Technology Officer and Vice President- Engineering in six successful startups, two of which he co-founded. He has proven experience in building companies, engineering teams, and software solutions from scratch in the United States and India. Prior to this, Nari started Ajira Technologies, Inc., in Pleasanton, CA, where he served as Chief Executive Officer for more than six years. While at Ajira, Nari was instrumental in developing service process management solutions that modeled, monitored, and analyzed business processes, initially targeting the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Telecom, and Banking verticals in India, and Finance, Insurance, and Healthcare verticals in the United States. Prior to this, he served as VP-Engineering at Ensenda, an ASP for local delivery services. He also served variously as Chief Technology Officer or VP-Engineering at other Bay-Area venture funded startups such as Kadiri and Ensera. He began his career at Digital Equipment Corporation as a Senior Software Engineer. Nari has a long involvement with Customer Support and other customer facing processes. At Digital Equipment Corporation he was involved with their 1800 person customer support center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was tasked with coming up with innovative tools to help customer support people do their jobs better. He holds a U.S patent for a software invention that automatically redirected email requests for customer support to the right group by digesting the contents of the request and guessing at which software or hardware support group is best equipped to handle it. At Ensera, he led a 45 person team in developing an internet based ASP service for handling auto insurance claims, coordinating information flow between end-customers, Insurance companies, Repair shops and Parts suppliers. Ensera was acquired by Mitchell Corporation in San Diego. Nari holds a B.S. degree in Physics from Loyola College, and an M.B.A degree from the University of Madras in Madras, India. He graduated with a M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1985. Contact Information: Nari Kannan. Email: nari@appsparq.com Mobile: 925 353 0197. Website: www.appsparq.com View more .


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