Cool Features in Business Intelligence Tools

There are some cool features in BI tools: SAP Crystal Reports has a feature whereby the user can be prompted what data element to group the report on, and the rows in the report will be grouped and summarized accordingly.  For example: group sales data by Product Line or by Customer Type.

Several BI Tools interact with Microsoft Office and offer a variety of features.  They use Microsoft Office Excel or PowerPoint as a user interface for building queries, establishing grids and charts, adding subtotals and calculations, and formatting.  The Office document can be shared, and the data can be “LIVE”.   It can be refreshed, drilled-into, used to hyperlink to other documents, etc.  Different data from different sources can be inserted on different slides of a PowerPoint presentation. These include:

  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services has some good conditional formatting options on stacked bar graphs.  Each of the bars in the stack can be given different color-coding criteria.  For example, if each bar in the stack represents sales for a different product line, each one can be compared to its own budget and colored green, yellow, or red.
  • SAP BusinessObjects Analysis for Microsoft Office allows you to use Excel to create and update plan data in SAP NetWeaver BW.  Plan data can be entered manually or based on formulas.  For example, copy sales for Product A to sales for Product B.  Saving the plan data will write back to the InfoProvider in SAP NetWeaver BW.
  • MicroStrategy provides a module that allows users to use a report and generate data and write that data back to a database.  It is also possible to write data back to a database using SAP BusinessObjects (Xcelsius) Dashboard.
  • SAP BusinessObjects (Xcelsius) Dashboard allows charts, maps, list selectors, pictures, and other objects to display or not display conditionally based on selections by the user or elements in the data.
  • SAP Crystal Reports offers considerable flexibility in formatting.  For example: apply conditional formatting to one column based on the value in another column or field in the report which can either be from the database or a calculated variable.
  • SAP BusinessObjects (Xcelsius) Dashboard provides several options for interactivity and taking input from the user to update tables and charts.
  • Most dashboard programs provide graphical alerts to quickly draw a user’s attention to a specific metric.  Most dashboard programs combine data in the same charts and tables from multiple data sources including database, web services, xml, and html pages.

The above list contains just a few examples that come to my mind today.  Remember that fancy, complex graphics and widgets alone do not make a good dashboard. A good dashboard provides a way for business users to see information – and hopefully advice – quickly and translate that information into action.

Developing a successful dashboard requires strong collaboration and partnership between technical professionals and business users working together to define requirements, examine prototypes, and create a great solution.

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