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The Truth Finds A Way

One trend that continues to gain momentum in the BI world is self service business intelligence, and it has IT groups concerned that the whole focus of a BI team is to champion a single version of the truth. MicroStrategy just released it’s desktop application for free, and version 10.6 is now available. If you have not taken a look at it, it is worth spending some time on. Tableau has built virtually it’s entire business model on self service BI. Any department that can’t get enough resources from the BI team can go and build their own dashboards now. Qlik is the same way. Now Microsoft’s Power BI has stepped into the ring with a growing offering. Alteryx, Sisense, Birst, Zoho – all of these are pouring resources into self service BI. IT groups are running scared, and maybe rightly so. Self service BI doesn’t have to have any training, any experience, any skill sets, any data governance, any single vision of what the single version of the truth is supposed to look like. Power to the people. Democratizing data like never before. Gartner is even saying that this is going to be the death of BI.

ms-excel

Or is it? People have always gone outside of the BI or the IT teams to build reports and analysis. It’s called Excel, or Access, and its been around for, oh I don’t know, a few decades? I’ve seen entire departments run from Excel and Access applications. You can’t stop them from using these. I’ve seen desktop computers that used to belong to an enterprising employee 10 years ago, that built an Access application that became mission critical to a department, and the department has seen the employees turnover two or three times in that period. Nobody remembers who the original developers were, or even what it was running, but each newly appointed department head got the instructions to make sure that desktop computer remained powered on under their desk and hooked up to the network. God help them is this computer dies or something. And these scenarios are a nightmare for IT groups that get handed to them to support – but you cannot stop it. Much like that Jeff Goldblum line from Jurassic Park – Life finds a way.

 

jp93-eggs1These new tools just give the enterprising users a new means to create things that BI teams or IT groups are going to have to support. They are given tasks to run the business, and then the BI group doesn’t have the time or means to provide them the reports or analysis they need to meet those new milestones that leadership keeps placing on them. And, nobody likes a whiner, so they invent what they need outside of the process. Business is happy. Users are happy. IT is blissfully unaware. All they know is that they stopped emailing them asking for a status on their request and didn’t even miss the emails. Is this really such a bad thing? I mean, if the BI team built every single thing the business thought it needs to run then they would collapse under their own weight. Rather than cringing at these outlaw scenarios, if you look at them as a proof of concept exercise, and let the POCs that live life past a year or some determined amount of time that proves the reasoning and the needs were real, then really everyone who does these are helping out the BI team.

 

Rather than seeing these activities as competition or amorphous growth that cannot be supported, BI teams should looking to guiding these rogues in a way that helps keep some sanity to possibly taking over the project when it has matured. Choosing one self service BI tool and embracing it, training on it, training others on it, would be a much better alternative than leaving it up to the department and needing expertise on 5 or 6 different tools de jour. For one, it enables you to hire or train a resource for the BI team to assist users in developing their own projects and for taking over projects that have grown to big to be a department only project. Secondly, it provides some consistency to the rogue POCs so that the company looks like it knows what it is doing. Third, taking the lead to facilitate this movement means BI and IT can guide the company down the path to some degree, rather than being handed who knows what to support. Don’t fight the tidal wave. Grab it, embrace it, lead it. Sticking your head in the sand is never a good strategy.

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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.

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Northwest Arkansas Meetup for January 1-28-2015

meetup_logo_1

The NWA Area MicroStrategy user group is kicking off 2016 with a new meetup group. Their first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan 18, 2016 at 6 PM. The location is TBD and will be announced shortly. If you haven’t joined or RSVP’d yet head over to Meetup.com and RSVP now!

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MicroStrategy 10.2 is Now Available

MSTR10.2 Release

Per the MicroStrategy website:

Release Highlights

  • General workflow and stability enhancements
  • Enterprise Manager is now independent from Operations Manager and HealthAgent
  • Dynamic dates in Desktop/VI
  • Quickly import custom visualizations created using the MicroStrategy Developer Library (MSDL) in Desktop
  • Mobile iOS and Android usability improvements
  • Customizable MicroStrategy Web start page
  • Automatic partitioning option for Intelligent Cubes
  • Ability to update a cube in memory without having to import all the data again from the data source
  • New Image Layout visualization
  • Enhancements for Map visualizations
  • Ability to apply a formatting theme to an entire Report Services Document or to a specific object

I must say I have been quite impressed with the volume of enhancements that have been coming from MicroStrategy in the last year. Maybe because the minor release are all but gone? What happened to 10.1.2? It makes upgrades a little more challenging since there is so much more to test each release cycle, but they are definitely pushing out more software changes each release than they have in years.

On the downside, it would seem support has fallen off a bit. I have cases that are open for months at a time, simply because it takes weeks in between responses. Perhaps something had to give.

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Mobile Development vs MicroStrategy Mobile

Mobile-Application-Development

I had a potential customer ask me yesterday if we could build mobile apps. Apparently they had just spent a lot of money on an app that would allow them to collect data in the field, but it did not integrate with any of their shipment data or POS sales data to complete the picture for their field personnel. This company also did not have the resources to build any kind of custom app from scratch themselves. So, if you are thinking about taking this feat on, let me break it down for you in a few high level steps.

There are many scenarios that you can walk down, but I am going to walk down two specifically: Custom app vs. MicroStrategy mobile app.

Scenario 1 – Building a custom app from scratch.

First off, you are going to need a good overview on iOS development. Try here for starters. When you go down this road, you are going to need a Mac to do your development on. You will also need a developer account with Apple to be able to publish the app. If you want to be backwards compatible, you may need more than one Mac to test on, as the XCode environment is tied to the OS (from what I can tell). You also will need an iPad or two, or three for testing. If you want to support iPhones, you will need some of those. What about the version of iOS? We are currently on 9.x. Do you want to support 8.x as well? While there are testers for some of this in xCode, if you want to make sure your app works across all of these environments I think it is a good idea to develop a test plan on actual HW so that your app isn’t flakey.

On your app side, you are going to be writing a lot of Objective C code to run the app, but you are also going to need a service in the background to dish out data and be the backend for the app. I doubt you would want the app to connect directly to your database. This service should also handle secure logins, passwords, user management, resetting a user password – all of the plumbing that will enable a user to mange the app, their account, and themselves. It also needs to grab data from the data warehouse and package it back to the app. You might need to compress it to make the app more faster.

Now, once you’ve climbed through all of that, you get to manage change management coming from user feature requests, from corporate, from bugs. You get to roll out new versions, craft a test plan to make sure it all remains backwards compatible with older versions of iOS, across all apple devices. To keep up, you may have to juggle a roadmap with multiple versions in play at various lifecycle stages – or in other words, you may be performing user acceptance testing on version 2.5 while you are working on publishing version 2.4 to the app store, as well as scoping changes to version 3.0 to be released next quarter.

I would not say any of this is rocket science, but it can grow to be quite an undertaking if you want to do it right. Wait – where is your Andriod app at? Corporate CFO has an android and wants his version for his phone. Where do you start for that? Now, remember that app that you thrashed in the comments because it was so buggy last week? Feeling even the least bit sorry for that company if this is one or two people trying to keep up with all of this?

Scenario 2 – MicroStrategy Mobile

Now that your head is spinning from trying to develop and support a custom app, there is a bright side to all of this – MicroStrategy Mobile. There are lots of other platforms, and this article could go on for days, but we have direct experience in MicroStrategy Mobile so we will give a glimpse of this one to compare and contrast.

First off – you will need a MicroStrategy environment. This of course is not free – you will need to get an enterprise license for this and each user will need a license. Second – you will need to develop your data objects. This also is not for the faint of heart. Most companies do all of this because they want slick reports, dashboards, and gorgeous data visualizations., regardless of mobile or not. This is pretty much MicroStrategy’s bread and butter. It handles all of the service back end, scheduling, report automation, security, throttling, and presentation. You just need to get your data into a data warehouse. There are lots of strategies for BI – but, if you go down the MicroStrategy route, then you inherit a Mobile strategy second to none.

All of the reports you built for your monday morning dashboard can translate directly into a mobile app with just a small amount of effort. There is no source code you need to master. MicroStrategy can handle much of the iOS compatibility and hardware testing. It’s almost like a buy one, get one free. You get enterprise class reporting along with enterprise class mobile.

MicroStrategy also has transaction services, which allows you to input data on the iPad. Need to capture store shelf quantity, or survey questions? No problem. It can capture data alongside all of your enterprise data warehouse metrics for a complete, 360 degree dashboard. It can show images, take pictures, capture data, report data, drill into your data, visualize your data in graphs and charts. You can build an entire customer service app – just in MicroStrategy – with your company icon and logo.

Summary

Now, if you just needed a mobile app, is this the easier route? Depends on how you look at it. There is probably equal amount of effort getting both scenarios up to speed. I won’t lie and say that MicroStrategy is easy. The payoff comes downstream when you need to support your app. If someone requests changes to your app, you can make a change to your MicroStrategy dashboard inside of MicroStrategy – without needing to recompile, test, and publish your app to the Apple app store. This change, depending on the significance, could literally take you 2 minutes to log in and change something minor. Want to roll out a version of this app for a new customer? Copy, paste, and change the logo – again, maybe a 10 minute change. Because of the object oriented development nature of MicroStrategy, each dashboard will inherit all of the building blocks in the foundation you build. So if you formatted a date wrong, you go change the date attribute. All of your reports, dashboards, and mobile apps then inherit the change – no need to touch them.

Hours or days – not weeks or months. No objective C code to maintain. No API service backend to maintain.

80% of what you build in MicroStrategy is reusable. This is not the case with Tableau, Qlikview, SSRS, Crystal Reports, or custom ASP.NET portals. This is why we lead with a MicroStrategy solution. If we build a customer a neat dashboard to be consumed in a web browser, and the CFO determines they want it on their iPad, we just have to copy, paste, and then do a little resizing so it fits nicely and viola – instant mobile app. Maybe less than a day’s work. If you are building a custom app from scratch – where is your git repository hosted at again?

If your organization could benefit from a BI platform to deliver reporting,dashboards, and data discovery – and also needs a mobile app strategy – then this seems like a no brainer to me. Even if you think it might be useful down the road, then having a combined strategy for BI and mobile makes sense. If you go down the road of separate BI and mobile, then you are eventually going to have to join them up, and it will be twice the support at that point. Twice the cost and twice the fun.

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

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The Crystal Ball – Exploring a Walmart POS Seasonal Forecast #CPGBI

One of the most common uses of machine learning in analytics is to forecast time based data. It’s the quintessential sales question – what will my sales look like next month, or next quarter, or next year even – the proverbial crystal ball, if only it were that simple. Something that we were fairly quickly put together using MicroStrategy’s visual insights and R-Integration is an “Ordinary Least Squares” regression algorithm to fit the best curve that captures the general trend and seasonal variability of Walmart POS data to predict future sales.

The formula is:

Y = bTrend*Trend + Σ (bSeason_i*Seasoni) + bIntercept

where

  • Y is a numeric metric (called the Dependent Variable)
  • Trend is a numeric metric that’s an arithmetic sequence of monotonically increasing values
  • Seasoni is a binary indicator metric derived from Season, a numeric or string metric that represents each season. Binary indicators have a value of 1 for the i-th season and are 0 for all other seasons. For n seasons, there are n-1 XSeason_i variables
  • bTrend, bSeason_i, and bIntercept are coefficients determined by the regression algorithm.

2015-09-28 09_32_23-WM POS Seasonal Monthly Forecast. MicroStrategy 9

As sales drop in for the coming months, we should be able to gauge the accuracy of our prediction for the rest of the year. If this hold true, we could use it for some of our business decisions going forward. We could also look at just the latest complete months, so we would not see that monthly drop in month 201402. We could also look at this weekly by switching out just a couple of metrics.

Something else we could do is create a variance against actual POS sales, and if the variance exceeds some number, like 10% difference plus or minus, we could create an alert and send out warning emails to key people in our business so that they can plan for unanticipated high sales, or research a drop in sales.

Please contact us to see how we can help you leverage regression analysis with your data to help predict your future!

What is Cluster Analysis? And Why Use It?

2015-09-14 15_01_17-K-Means Clustering - Store. MicroStrategy 9

Why would you want to use cluster analysis on your retail sales data? Well, cluster analysis helps you identify non-independence in your data. Here is an example to help illustrate the point. Lets say we want to ask loads of teachers from many different schools what they think of their principal. If you ask two different teachers from two different schools, you will get two completely different answers that will be independent. But, if you ask two teachers from the same school, the answers will not be completely independent and could be very similar – but not EXACTLY the same.  Now if your job was to take the raw data and try to predict which school each teacher came from based on their answer – then you have an application of clustering.

2015-09-15 09_53_10-K-Means Clustering - Store - Original. MicroStrategy 9

The same thing can be applied to Walmart store performance for a supplier. You have some data points for a store like how long that store has been open, how many competitors it has located in its vicinity, what was your products sales performance for that store, some demographics for that area like unemployment and population, possibly even some historic weather data. Now you use a clustering algorithm to group your stores that are most closely related. This could be the first step in identifying under performing stores and why. It could give you a viable store list for a product test based on more than sales performance. It might help you further identify your product identity and who your actual customers are using enough demographic data. You might not find anything you didn’t already know. The important thing is that you are diving into your data to truly understand it on a level you never have before, and uncovering one of these nuggets could be millions of dollars difference to your company.

Once you’ve built your base analysis, and in our case we built our report that you see above, turned it into an in-memory cube, and then built a MicroStrategy dashboard on top of it – we can then explore slicing and dicing our data along the different data points to help identify if any of the metrics in our analysis are a key contributor to a cluster alignment. This way we can determine what factor affects sales the most. Could it be store age? or store square footage? or unemployment? Ethnic breakdown? What of these are driving markdowns?

The great thing about using this analysis as a MicroStrategy dashboard is that it is pretty easy to tweak to look for your top performing stores, and refreshing the data source is very easy. In fact, this report could be automated each week and emailed to you. There might even be an application to look for cluster changes and have something like that generate an alert so you only need to be bothered if anything changes.

Contact us today to discover how Vortisieze analytics can help you explore your own data science.

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Vortisieze Reduces Stress Related Deaths at #CPG Companies: #CategoryManagers Take Note

Well – ok – that’s a “wee bit of a stretch,” as my Irish grandfather used to say – but what is reported about long hours and early death is not a stretch – and it’s serious.

Two Yahoo articles published today show a direct coorelation between working long hours on the job and increased risk of stress- related early deaths from stroke, heart attacks and suicide.

In Japan, death by over work, or karoshi, is a legally recognized cause of death.

While the demands of CPG category managers and sales managers grow, there is pressure to keep staff levels at predetermined levels, sometimes without regard to the amount of work to be done.

This presents real headaches (and worse) to CPG vendors.  However, one possible solution is outsourcing some of the routine and mundane aspects of gaining insights – building reports and dashboards.

As a category or sales manager for a CPG company you are paid to gain insights from what is happening in your retailer environment.  But do you really need to know the nitty-gritty of building dashboards or reports?

Probably not.  At Vortisieze our founders have over 25 years combined experience in building analytics in the CPG category management arena.  Even if you aren’t ready for big data we can take some of the grunt work off of your desk.  We understand BI – included traditional DSR data warehouses – and especially the analytics engines.  MicroStrategy is our primary expertise but we know other tools as well.

Contact us today to discover how we can lesson your workload so you can focus on what is important – growing your brand.

 

Sources:

The 100 hour work week in Japan

Working longer hours increases stroke risk by up to 33%: study

 

#CPG

#CategoryManagers

#BusinessIntelligence

#CPGMarketing

 

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How GoPro Is Using #BigDataAnalytics in The #CloudComputing to Kick Everyone Else’s Butt

We run around talking about how important analytics is and yet there are few really compelling examples of how well it is working. Part of this is because the vast majority of implementations are still in process and haven’t gotten to value yet, part is because they were done wrong and value wasn’t found, and part because firms don’t like sharing with competitors how they are kicking those competitor’s butts.

GoPro, however, is the perfect example of how analytics are being used competitively to out-execute much larger companies like Sony.

So starts the article on TechSpective.net published on August 3, 2015.  This article is a must read on how to use big data and analytics to out maneuver your competitor.  The challenge is adapting the technology to brick and mortar retail.

Interestingly GoPro implemented the same strategy that we at Vortisieze execute every day.  Data in the cloud, strong big data technology and a top-notch analytics engine.  Like GoPro, Vortisieze partners with Cloudera.  To round it out though, Vortisieze maintains its own data cloud and leverages MicroStrategy (et al.) for the analytics engine.

Contact us today for your complimentary BI consultation.

 

Source: How GoPro is using Amazon, BMC, and Cloudera to kick everyone else’s butt

#Cloudera
#BigDataAnalytics
#BusinessIntelligence
#DataAnalyticsTechnology
#DataAndAnalytics

You are your password: How #MobileIdentity management hopes to replace your first dog’s name

“Mother’s maiden name”
“Name of your first pet”
“Favorite restaurant”

Those are but a few of the security questions or reminders that help us keep track of passwords across multiple sites and applications. Online service, like Evernote, that sync across multiple devices have stored countless username/password combinations to keep our digital society moving.

However, passwords will be long forgotten – rather than temporarily so – by the end of the decade, said one tech exec who is pushing for a new approach to passwords.

Hugh Owen, vice president of product marketing at MicroStrategy, said, “[Mobile identity management] is going to be very mainstream in a very short period of time. It will be interesting how long it is – maybe four years, five years – before we look back and remember upon the time where we used to rely on passwords and had to remember them all.”

His company is helping to push mobile identity management through wearables, what many security experts hope is the magic bullet for the long outdated mother’s maiden name, “123456” or string of random characters scrawled on a sticky note. Mobile identity management is any service that makes use of pre-verified mobile devices, like smartphones or smartwatches, to send authentication keys, temporary tokens or expiring passwords to provide access to some secure system.

Research increasingly shows traditional authentication hurdles are easily duped and more trouble than they’re worth, and enterprises would do well to look for alternatives both internally and client-facing.

Last month hackers used background information amassed from different cyberattacks and social engineering efforts to dupe the “Get Transcript” application on IRS.gov, siphoning nearly $50 million in illegally requested tax returns in the process. Take that into account with the research Google released in May that shows traditional authentication means do not even help users – only 60 percent of users remembered the answers to questions like “What is your favorite food?” – and make it more likely for cyber criminals to correctly guess questions with popular answers. Some people think mobile identity management could be the answer in the enterprise.

For that reason, MicroStrategy continues to develop its mobile identity management app Usher, a version of which launched with the Apple Watch. Owen said that the idea is nothing new, but it will be the heavy adoption of wearables – which 451 Research contends is already underway with the release of the Apple Watch – that will help take the complex back-end process of identity management and simplify it to a few taps of a smartwatch face.

With Usher’s newest features, organizations can use an Apple Watch to access office locations, devices, business systems and more, and validate identities and discover nearby users. Owen said the new Apple Watch capabilities are more conducive to the at-a-glance workflows of the average user, and he’s always impressed by the creative ways client’s utilize Usher’s software development kits to extend the platform to functions they need.

“We’ve seen some really interesting implementations of it in terms of banking where people are using Usher as the method of second-factor authentication for both giving people access to systems and also approving transactions. It’s integrated in such a way that it’s just part of the workflow,” Owen said.

He also mentioned some programs the company set up at the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Georgetown University, the latter of which is conducting an ongoing “smart campus” pilot that allows students access to buildings and online accounts through the app as opposed to a physical key card.

Some competitors, namely oneID and Authy, also seek to attract an enterprise audience, but MicroStrategy seems to be gaining notable traction. For instance, Apple specifically mentioned its partnership with MicroStrategy’s enterprise efforts in its most recent earnings call, a rare name drop for the normally taciturn Cupertino company.

For the enterprise, mobile identity management seems like a no-brainer. The technology is there; all that’s needed is the implementation. This could be the killer use case that brings smartwatches out of the C-suite and into the hands (on to the wrists?) of the average user.

 

Source:  You are your password: How mobile identity management hopes to replace your first dog’s name