Data Visualization Best Practices

Learn how to get the most out of your business intelligence platform including how to choose the right chart type, and how to optimise your charts to mak

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Predictive Analytics in Healthcare

Business Intelligence & Analytics solutions enable healthcare service providers to build sustainable competitive advantage with the help of insights derive

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MicroStrategy 10.5 Desktop Is Now Free

Yes, you read that right. MicroStrategy Desktop, the stand alone thick client that allows users to clobber together data, wrangle it, and present it graphically using a web interface very similar to MicroStrategy Visual Insights, is now free to download and use. The last time they gave away anything was a 10 user license for version 9.3.1, which I have taken advantage of and still use. That program went away very quickly however, so don’t doddle if you want to try our their stand alone product. Go here for the free download.


Agreement Allows Vortisieze Technology to Resell TimeXtender’s Data Warehouse Automation

AARHUS, Denmark & BENTONVILLE, United States – September 2016 – TimeXtender, the world’s leading provider of data warehouse automation (DWA) software for Microsoft® SQL Server®, today announced a reseller partnership with Vortisieze. This agreement allows Vortisieze to offer the combined data warehouse and business intelligence package to their clients.


timextender-small-logoTimeXtender’s successful track record in helping companies with data warehouse and business intelligence has spread across the globe, and TimeXtender’s partnership with Vortisieze strengthens TimeXtender’s leadership in the Data Warehouse Automation (DWA). With more than 2,600 customers and various partners worldwide. TimeXtender’s Data Warehousing Automation platform simplifies the data warehouse process and minimizes the time spent on turning complex data into valuable information.

“Vortisieze has a great reputation for helping customers make better business decisions to compete in the marketplace,” said Heine Krog Iversen, CEO, TimeXtender. “By partnering with TimeXtender, this mission can be accomplished even faster and easier than ever before. The pairing of our TX DWA with Qlik will help their customers have access to corporate data, thereby realizing the benefits of the Discovery Hub in days rather than months.”

The partnership provides current and future Vortisieze customers an avenue to democratize access to corporate data, enabling business users and liberating IT.  TimeXtender’s TX DWA puts user-friendly data in the hands of the right people at the right time.  It protects the data in a secured and governed fashion while displaying the data in a stunning, analytical visual presentation, helping organizations reduce the gap between business and IT, and to realize the numerous benefits of a modern data infrastructure. This integration package also allows business users to independently and easily make changes and upgrades through drag-and-drop functions and without IT support.

 “Vortisieze has been helping companies build and deploy data management systems for many years,” said Cary Hague, Vortisieze. “This new alliance with TimeXtender now affords us the opportunity to help companies build and deploy the Data Discovery Hub.  We look forward to helping companies streamline their data warehouse and business intelligence systems, while reducing costs and strengthening operational efficiency.”

For sales or partnership information regarding this announcement, contact Kelsey Smith TimeXtender partnership manager, at

About TimeXtender

TimeXtender has headquarters in Denmark and the U.S. The company has more than 2,600 customers across six continents using its data warehouse automation (DWA) platform, making it the world’s leading DWA solution provider for the Microsoft® SQL Server®. The company democratizes access to corporate data, enabling business users and liberating IT. It sells its products direct and through its global network of channel partners and is a Qlik Technology Partner. TimeXtender helps companies, from any vertical industry, rapidly deploy and automate their data warehouse solutions on a Microsoft SQL Server. It is fully compatible with Visual Studio and all associated Microsoft SQL Server tools and has a strategic role in helping customers save deployment and maintenance time and costs, while offering end-users a more robust and easier-to-use data warehouse and business intelligence system.

About Vortisieze

There is only one company in the world that is combining category sales data with customer sentiment data, weather data, US Census data, and third party marketing sources using state-of-the-art Hadoop “Big Data” technology and then layering the most advanced analytics platform on top for the most powerful, insights driven category reporting platform on the market.

We have over 50 years of experience in data warehouse modeling, data integration, category reporting, predictive analytics, MicroStrategy architecture, and Hadoop big data in Northwest Arkansas (Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville). We build solutions that help you squeeze every penny of margin using data that nobody has tried to leverage before on a platform nobody is using for this. We think this is pretty exciting!


Get A Data Scientist to Work On Your Problem For Free

According to the Consumer Goods Technology and RIS 2016 Analytics Study, 33% of companies lag behind their competitors in analytics skills and people, and 31% lag behind in analytics tools.
2016-05-17 10_27_33-2016 Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Study.pdf - Adobe Reader

In an effort to help, we are seeking CG companies that have a real data science need or question that they would like to see solved or automated, and we would like to help for free. Whats the catch? Well, we have a short survey we want to collect data on and use to analyze the industry, specifically which industries are having the most problems, but we also want to examine the real world problems out there and see if we can help solve them. We are not collecting any personally identifiable information to sell off to anyone – we just want to chew on some data science problems with you and see if there things we can do to help. With 77% of company respondents to the Consumer Goods Technology and RIS 2016 Analytics Study stating they either planned to or did not have any investment in data science, here is a way to possibly test drive a data science team at no cost to you.

Just fill out the 18 question survey below and if you have a real question and think we can get the data to solve it – then you are in! We are not limiting the winning questions so more than one question could be selected.

2016-05-17 10_41_56-Retail Questions Needing Answers

CPG Retail Data Question Survey

If you have any questions about the survey or want to find out what we do, feel free to contact us here.



NWA BI Meetup – Thursday, April 21

Hey NWA BI Data Ninjas!

We’ve got a place, a date and time for our next meetup. Thursday, April 21st at 5:30 PM – at the Mars offices thanks to Chris.

We have not locked in an agenda yet, so if you would like to present a project you are working on or have something you would like to see let me know.

Also, you may have noticed that we have changed the user group name. 75% of the survey respondents preferred “NWA Business Intelligence User Group” as opposed to the previous “Arkansas Area MicroStrategy User Group”. I’m sure we will still talk quite a bit about MicroStrategy, but this opens us up to other tools more easily.


My Analytics Budget is $0, So Now What?

The reality is, that some companies just don’t have a big enough presence in Walmart to warrant any kind of real IT spend. It was a huge deal when they brought on their first full time analyst that has some experience, and is located in Bentonville so that they can meet with their buyers whenever they need to. You get your company issued laptop, with a fresh install of Microsoft Office, a retaillink ID, and you are off and running, right?

FundingPlanPRONo Problem – you are an excel wizard I bet. But as you are constantly maintaining horrific formula pages and trying not to break everything when your boss is requesting new feature engineering in their 20 page workbook, have you ever wondered, there has to be a better way?

You get what real data integration brings. Process automation that can refresh data without inventing the dashboard each and every single week. Feature engineering without such massive headaches. Adding new data sets to a model in a database, not a new tab. Oh the things you could do if you could get that time back.

Something that came about in MicroStrategy 10 was a new feature called Data Wrangling. This allowed an analyst to combine corporate data from the data warehouse with adhoc data and gave you come cleansing and harmonizing functionality. You’ve seen this need before. You get a data set where some states are all spelled out, while others have the two letter code. You see two rows for Texas (Texas and TX), and you have to scrub this in excel before it is usable. Or your data warehouse team does this in their ETL. Well, now you can do this directly in MicroStrategy with data you import yourself. You only need the $600 copy of MicroStrategy Desktop. Build a recipe and save it, and now this is semi-automated when you need to refresh your data. All you need to do is kick it off, and all of your cleansing tasks have been saved and are rerun.

I’ve always thought this was cool, ever since they showed this off at MicroStrategy world last year. But back to your budget of $0. Even $600 is going to be tough to get permission for. Well, I took a tour through a brand new product today that looks like it can do many of the same data wrangling techniques as MicroStrategy Desktop, but the cost is FREE. $0. Nada. It’s called Talend Data Preparation. It has a free version and a subscription version if you would like to work in a big environment and integrate with their other ETL platforms, but the free version looks like it is perfect for the lone rangers out there munging spreadsheets and cleaning data each week just so they can get to their analysis.

Check it out here:

You still need to kick it off when it’s time to refresh your data, but it lets you build recipes and save them, automating much of your work to refresh your data. It looks like it can connect to HTTP, local, and HDFS data sets.


Is there ever a perfect storm for suppliers?


In the article below, RetailWire talks with Weather Expert Paul Walsh on customer behavior, and what retailers are doing to balance things out.

“What almost always happens when you get a big event like this is you really see three phases from a retailer perspective,” Walsh told Retail Dive. “Actually, it’s really from a consumer perspective, and the retailers’ job is to be ready for their customers’ needs.”

Retailers don’t lose or gain sales as weather events hit, unless their supply chain is not prepared for the push ahead of the event. What this signals is that retailers are getting out ahead of these events using weather data, and suppliers are being increasingly asked to help anticipate supply chain strains ahead of the curve as well.

“The weather ate my homework” is no longer going to be a viable excuse in the coming months and years. There will be an expectation that a supplier network will need to be out ahead of this. It won’t matter if you are a top tier supplier maximizing your category, a mid-tier supplier scratching and clawing for their business every day, or a small supplier just trying to keep up. The forecasting models are becoming more and more accurate. Not having your products attributed to weather sensitivity will be a hindrance.

oos-walmart-snowstormIt’s also important to consider “just weather data” may not be enough. Feature engineering both the weather data to tailor it to your products and your products attributes may be required to extract enough insights as to what weather patterns and events are effecting your sales. Make sure you have people on board that can do this with your data, and it may take some experimentation, since no two product assortments are the same. Having the data at the same level as your geography dimension also helps take some of the burden off of your analytics platform. Its a lot of data, and most of it comes at the weather station level.

Have I mentioned yet that we can do this for you? We can provide weather data at the zip code level, and we have experts on staff that can help with your feature engineering, as well as your reporting and data mining.

You can read the whole article here

Please contact us today to see how we can help you with your BI weather challenges.


Have You Tried Out Wavemaker Studio Yet?

2016-01-21 08_35_23-WaveMaker Studio

If you are thinking about cross-platform mobile app development, chances are you have noticed the sea of products out there and may have come across Wavemaker. Wavemaker studio offers the promise of a cross-platform rapid application development environment for mobile and web.

Using a drag-and-drop user interface to allow developers or non-developers a low barrier of entry in robust data driven applications, the Wavemaker platform seems like a dream come true. I’ve been watching Wavemaker for about two years now waiting for it to mature into a stable product, and last week it seemed like they might be there, so I tried out Wavemaker community edition, version 7.8.0 for about a week now, and here are my takeaways.


My first thought is that the documentation is a little lacking. After stepping through the training videos and getting started documents, I then thought the materials were out of date. As it turns out, virtually all of the documents were for the cloud version 8.x – not the community version 7.8.0. Coming across a few issues, I dug deeper into their wiki, and the forum posts that seemed to pertain directly to the issues I was having did seem to be based on an older version, but it is virtually impossible to differentiate. No version is ever mentioned anywhere on what the articles, documentation, or videos pertained to. This made it frustrating as I am trying to get up to speed and working through bugs or a lack of understanding. With such a huge gap between versions and no indication of what the documents were tied to, it seemed like I was wading through an incomprehensible sea of mishmash except at the highest level, like how to import a database.

Cloud Versus Community

At first it would seem that these two versions of the product were closely related. As I played around with both, it is apparent they are not. I 2016-01-21 08_54_11-Pricing _ WaveMakerdo understand that one is open source and one is a pay for product, but perhaps my expectations were set too high that the community edition would actually be usable. I came across a pretty glaring bug in version 7.8.0 that prohibits you from creating a database lookup using another table and a foreign key. For an IDE that is supposed to be there to create database driven apps, this is a major flaw – ultimately one that caused me to drop the product from review. If you cannot build a simple data model and use master tables as a lookup for another detail table, then whats the point? I’m not talking about anything really complex – three tables, that’s it. I never got a chance to add anything else. The cloud version does seem to have worked out the issues, but they don’t really have a pricing tier for somebody that is trying to prototype products to sell in a startup environment and recoup the capital with paying customers down the road.

The 30 day trial is just not long enough to build and sell anything, and then I run up against the monthly fees of $167 per month. This is kind of pricey for cross platform development. I can get an indie Xamarin license for $25 per month. Plus, since the community edition is riddled with bugs that renders it almost completely unusable, I’m not feeling very inclined to shell out dough for Wavemaker. It’s not even really monthly pricing. You make the annual fee of $2000, or four monthly installments of $500 (if you read the fine print).

Also buried in the feature list, it also states that you can’t deploy mobile apps on community. That was not readily discernible early on. They say it’s got a reduced feature set, but they don’t really tell you which features come with each version. Is that a documentation error, or shady marketing? I can’t tell, but all of the lacking/deceptive documentation is also not giving me a high confidence level to part with any cash.


2016-01-21 08_37_46-WaveMaker _ RAD for Web and Mobile AppsThere is a lot of promise here. I really liked the premise of what they are going after. A visual drag and drop IDE to build fast database forms, security, and deploy across any platform. I never actually got to the point of deploying a real mobile app, but it sounded easy. The database designer seemed top notch and very intuitive. The first problem I encountered with the DB import feature was that I have MSSQL 2008, and not on a default instance. This means the port number is random, and I see that being problematic if anyone is using more than one MSSQL instance, as most ODBC drivers for MSSQL need the instance name, not the port. The second problem I had with the DB designer was when I started with an existing DB model in MySQL, as the PK and FK settings seemed different from what you would build in Workbench than what Wavemaker needs to run. I had much better results when I designed the DB model from scratch using the Wavemaker tools. I would almost be tempted to keep the CE version around just to visually design DB models in MySQL.

The last criticism I had was when working on security. The community version seems to lose it’s security settings, or when I tried to delete them and recreate them, I started getting errors on my page that some function endpoint was not set. I have no way of telling if this bug was related to the security features, or the multiple importing of my DB model until I recreated it from scratch, but there is no way that I could find to go in and correct this bug, which caused me to have to start all over, ultimately ending my proof of concept in Wavemaker. It reminded me of building a huge form app in Access only to have it get corrupted and needing to start all over again, which is very frustrating.

In conclusion, this project seems like it holds a lot of promise. I really wanted this to be an awesome experience, but it just wasn’t. It is obvious that they have put a ton of work into the UI to make it intuitive and automate everything possible. The maturity of the documentation might be a barrier to entry, and the pricing needs a startup-entrepreneur tier that has all of the features and keeps up with the bugs, like an Indie tier, that allows for people to go and build products that can pay licensing once revenue for those products comes in. I simply want to build something, sell it, and then give them their fair licensing share. I’m not trying to be underhanded here – that’s just how the small startup works. I could even see a business model where I could just build mobile apps for companies and let Wavemaker host them for me. It seems like this is really geared towards big companies for internal apps and a budget to throw away if it doesn’t work out. Give these guys another couple of years, and this might really be something. Unfortunately, it just isn’t at the right place in it’s life cycle for me to really use yet. I’ll keep watching.

28+ Category Management Articles To Improve Your Work in 2016

From the Category Management Learning Forum…

1. CatMan Overview-Back To The Foundations:
2. Why be Retailer Centric in your CatMan Approach?:
3. Category Definition: 3 Considerations For Success:
4. Why All Categories Are NOT Created Equal:
5. Category Plan Success-Driven By Solid Foundations:
6. 3 Tips For Effective Data Insights:
7. 5 Ways to Improve Data Insights with a Category Assessment:
8. 3 Reasons to Develop Your Tactical Analytic Skills:
9. 3 Ways to Address CatMan Data Gaps:
10. 3 Steps to Create Killer Implementation and Category Plans:
11. 4 Ways to Give Your CatMan Presentations a Makeover:
12. 3 Tips: Turn Your Excel Skills From Good to Great!:
13. Remember CONSUMER When Analyzing Sales Results: Consumer Panel Data:
14. 5 Ways to Analyze Your Retail POS Data:
15. 4 Steps to Uncover Strategic Business Insights/Opportunities:
16. 8 Ways to Move to Advanced CatMan Analytics:
17. 4 Ways to Inject Strategy Into Your Assortment Analysis:
18. Key Considerations for Strategic Pricing Analysis:
19. Get Back to the Basics to Improve Promotion Effectiveness:
20. Why CatMan is the Answer to Collaboration, Shopper-Centric, and Big Data.:
21. Fact-Based Presentations-5 Secrets!:
22. How Strategic Is Your Organization in Space Management?:
23. 4 Best Practices for Advanced Shelving:
24. Drive Shopper Satisfaction: Retail Store Clusters in 3 Steps:
25. Achieve Shopper Satisfaction in 3 Steps:
26. How do Category Managers Affect a Retailer Income Statement?:
27. Product Supply Chain Is More Than Just Moving Product:
28. Strategic Selling Skills: How to Develop Them & Why You Need Them:
29. Improve Collaboration and JBP Results in 3 Steps:


The original article can be viewed here