Thursday, March 31, 2011

Press Release: New Strategic Relationship with WebFOCUS Vendor


NEW YORK, NY – March 30, 2011 – Information Builders, an independent leader in operational business intelligence (BI) solutions today announced that Partner Intelligence, a full service BI and data warehouse solutions company, is expanding its role as an Information Builders' Solution partner. Partner Intelligence will continue recommending and implementing WebFOCUS, Information Builders' comprehensive business analytics platform, in customer situations while also tapping the solution to help organizations modernize their existing BI applications.
Information Builders and Partner Intelligence began working together four years ago. Partner Intelligence was already successful, implementing WebFOCUS to Information Builders' new customers while expanding the platform's use with existing customers. Under the terms of this new agreement, Partner Intelligence will now market WebFOCUS to its customer base to dramatically reduce the time, cost, and risk of implementing web-based business intelligence. Partner Intelligence selected WebFOCUS as its BI tool of choice because of its vast experience with the platform and successful joint implementations at organizations like Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc., where it used WebFOCUS to implement an enterprise dashboard, and the State of Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), where the company had automated a legacy reporting system conversion into WebFOCUS.
"When I engaged Partner Intelligence to do a major project to convert hundreds of production jobs into WebFOCUS, it seemed like an unattainable undertaking," explained Richard Smith, IT manager at OKDHS. "Not only was I wrong, but it was one of the smoothest projects on which I have had the pleasure of working in years. If you need to convert code, then Partner Intelligence is the company you need to work with!"
"Partner Intelligence provided expertise and skill to get our enterprise dashboard up and running quickly, enhancing functionality and giving our management a clear line of sight into the company's metrics," said Dave Ascah, vice president, IT Enterprise Solutions at Wendy's/Arby's Group.
Doug Lautzenheiser, general manager of Partner Intelligence, said: "We are excited to expand our relationship with Information Builders and the range of capabilities we can offer around WebFOCUS. Organizations looking to replace legacy reporting systems or implement enterprise BI dashboards will benefit from this new partnership."
"Partner Intelligence has had success automating complex conversions of legacy technologies into WebFOCUS," said Gerald Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders. "Our customers are quite happy with Partner Intelligence's capabilities and we are pleased with the partnership. With our new agreement, we're making it even easier for Partner Intelligence's clients to implement web-based, enterprise business intelligence."
About Partner Intelligence
Partner Intelligence is the BI practice of Partner Professional Staffing. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Partner Professional Staffing is a full-service professional services firm, offering a variety of recruiting, staff augmentation, and project-based consulting services. Partner Intelligence provides clients with consultative services, specializing in strategic BI advice, BI application development, and automated BI system conversions.
About Information Builders
Information Builders provides software and services that bring smarter decision-making and streamlined processes to leading organizations in business, government, and education worldwide. The company's software is installed in tens of thousands of locations, servicing millions of users. Its WebFOCUS business intelligence (BI) platform delivers massively scalable information applications, analytics, and customer-facing portals to the new generation of information users to deliver game-changing business results. Its iWay Software integration platform allows enterprises to leverage all of their information resources to streamline internal and business-to-business processes while escalating the overall accessibility and integrity of information regardless of environmental complexity. Headquartered in New York City with 60 offices worldwide, the company employs 1,350 people and has established significant industry partnerships. Visit Information Builders at informationbuilders.com. For ongoing news, go to informationbuilders.com/new or follow Information Builders at @infobldrs.




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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Might HP Acquire BI Vendors?

See a recent post on my general BI blog if you are interested in the mergers and acquisitions within the Business Intelligence software industry. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

IBI Summit 2011 Sneak Peaks

What, you cannot travel to Dallas for IBI's annual users group conference--Summit 2011--in June?

Don't fret, you may still be in luck and able to see the presentations. In fact, you might be able to get a free sneak peak even before the paying attendees.

Many of the local Information Builders user groups are hosting events in the next few months where the Summit presenters can do an initial dry-run of their material.

Take a look at IBI's schedule of events for more details.

Local WebFOCUS Presenters at IBI Summit 2011 in Dallas

Several companies local to Partner Intelligence's headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, will present at Information Builders' Summit 2011 in Dallas.

Below is a quick summary of the Midwest WebFOCUS customers who will be at IBI's annual users conference in June:


Ad Hoc Reporting Delivered!

Chris Byrne, Paycor, Cincinnati, OH
Tuesday 9:45AM - 10:45AM
Ever wanted ad hoc reporting? At Paycor, we've crafted a unique reporting solution using WebFOCUS, web services, and ASP.NET. This presentation explores how these technologies interact to create an intuitive, easy to use web application, giving our users the power to make the report they want with a few simple clicks.

Where In the Universe Is My Data and How Can I Get It?

Jeralee Seaburn, Hercules Tire & Rubber Company, Findlay, OH
Tuesday 2:45PM - 3:45PM
Hercules Tire, a wholesale tire distributor based out of Findlay, Ohio, recently embarked on an initiative to provide data to its sales team in an effort to get them the right information at the right time and continue to provide excellent customer service. Hercules has a unique enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with a flat, multi-valued database structure (Universe), which presented some unique challenges, and benefits, for the WebFOCUS implementation team. This case study will address some of those issues and showcase the Guided Ad-Hoc tool we developed to provide critical data to our internal users in a much easily managed and understood format.

A University's Approach to Data Transfer Using DataMigrator

Gayle DeGennaro, Franklin University, Columbus, OH 
Wednesday 11:00AM - 12:00PM
Franklin University has successfully used iWay's DataMigrator to move financial and student information between three different database systems. This presentation will explore the university's approach as well as tips and techniques used to ensure success.

Dynamic Dashboards: A Data and Presentation Partnership

Rob Fosnaugh, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance, Fort Wayne, IN
Tuesday 8:30AM - 9:30AM
This session will show how a dashboard was created using a combination of dynamic staging tables, SQL, and WebFOCUS. This method can be used to create a usable way to view more than 40 insurance book-management elements all in one screen (at the agent, agency, state, region, and countrywide levels) while also comparing current metrics to previous demographic levels and over time. Topics will include data staging methodology, HTML Builder dashboard page design, WebFOCUS report design, parameter passing into SQL and WHERE statements, as well as exploring extensibility of the model.


If you come to Dallas in June, be sure to attend the presentations listed above. Also, stop by the Partner Intelligence booth, say hello, and register for our free give-away. Like last year, we are a proud Platinum Sponsor of IBI's big event. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are You Ready for WebFOCUS BI Dashboard?

Warren Buffett once said, "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."

If you are considering building a BI Dashboard using the WebFOCUS software product from Information Builders, hold on just a minute. Before you jump in, here is a checklist to review to see if you know what you are doing. There is no reason to blindly take on risk.

The BI Foundation
First, you must ensure you have established the right BI Foundation consisting of:
  • Business Intelligence Team (the right People)
  • Business Intelligence Standards (the right Policies and Procedures)
  • Business Intelligence Infrastructure (the right Technology and Data) 

Start at the top (people) and work your way down (tools). Too many companies start first with the BI technology and expect to be successful. They buy a box of software and just hand it to the college intern.

(Rick Sherman said something similar in his blog a few days after this post).

Imagine that you have a home improvement project, so you purchase a hammer, nails, and wood. The outcome of a project using those tools will be very different depending to whom you give that material: a twelve-year old child or a twelve-year carpentry expert. Even if you select an expert carpenter to do the work, if you provide no guidance as to what to build your end result will just be a surprise.

When I list those three critical layers, I am making a big assumption. I am guessing that your organization understands the value of Business Intelligence software, has a strategic reason for implementing it, and has the organizational maturity to pull it off successfully. Some organizations are excited about the idea but do not have the capability to create or support a BI infrastructure.

Your Organizational Readiness
To evaluate your readiness, consider the following checklist:
  • Strategic understanding
  • Formal training in Business Intelligence topics
  • Executive sponsorship
  • Budget approved
  • Technology implemented
  • Key metrics formally identified and calculations codified 
  • Common business language codified (e.g., "profit" means the same to everybody)
  • Data available
  • Resources available (people, environment, etc.)
  • Organizational culture that is supportive of BI 

The BI Dashboard Layers
At a very high level, a BI Dashboard consists of three main layers:
  • Operational Systems
  • Reporting Repository
  • User Presentation

The critical data is being maintained in your secure operational systems. These are the transactional details that drive your organization. You rarely use BI tools directly against this raw data. Instead, you need to extract the information, transform it for reporting, and load it into the Reporting Repository. For details on why this is so important, see my earlier blog posting.

Your Reporting Repository should be designed for quality, speed, and historical trending. In addition to your reporting data, you need to consider Master Data Management.


Your Human Resources
Let's face it. It's all about the people on the team. If you have the wrong people, your BI initiative will never be successful. Here are the people you need to identify to make the project run smoothly:
  • Executive sponsor
  • Project leader
  • Application and BI subject matter experts
  • DBA, network administrator, WebFOCUS administrator, security expert
  • WebFOCUS application developers 

Do you wonder what a great WebFOCUS application developer looks like? See my earlier blog posting


BI Initiative Expectations
Before beginning the BI Dashboard, make sure important expectations have been set:
  • Time and cost expectations
  • Functionality expectations (features, user presentation types)
  • Ease of use of the BI application 
  • Ease of application development 
  • Deadlines (firm/drop-dead or flexible/nice-to-have?)
  • Versioned release schedule


BI Initiative Logistics
This is an important application development project and you don't want to forget to handle the basic logistics:
  • Workspaces
  • Security (network userids, door cards, VPN/Citrix keys, etc.)
  • Location (address, contact, security procedures)
  • Working hours
  • Policies on working remotely 

BI Architecture 
OK, you have the right people involved and you set the right expectations. What about your technical architecture? 
  • Platforms 
  • Complementary technologies (e.g., ETL)
  • WebFOCUS release
  • WebFOCUS images (Development, Test, Production QA, Production, Disaster Recovery)
  • Automated backup routines 
  • Web tier (web server, Java app server)
  • Load balancing, fail-over
  • Security methods (e.g., Active Directory, SiteMinder, MRE, etc.)
  • Databases
  • Data access methods (metadata, tables/views, stored procedures, SQL pass-through)
  • Automated information delivery (Distribution Server and ReportCaster)


WebFOCUS Licensed Software
Consider the different WebFOCUS licenses that you might need for the project, both server and client:
  • On-demand access through the web browser ("pull," WebFOCUS Report Servers)
  • MRE licenses
  • Automated Information Delivery ("push," Distribution Server, ReportCaster, Report Library)
  • Deferred execution
  • Developer Studio copies
  • Adapters (data, application, web services, etc.)
  • Add-ons (Magnify, InfoAssist, Active Reports, R Stat, ESRI, etc.)

BI Application Development Topics
Do not be mistaken: this is a software application development project. Regardless of what you heard about point-and-click GUI Business Intelligence, do not be naive. You need to run a BI project just like you would any other software application development initiative. 
  • Methodology (e.g., none, waterfall, RUP, agile, etc.)
  • Versioned release schedule (phased rollout)
  • Source code management (e.g., none, Subversion, etc.)
  • Quality assurance (e.g., none, Mercury, Bugzilla, etc.)
  • Requirements definition (e.g., use cases, mockups)
  • Status meetings, conference calls, reporting
  • Promotion schedules
  • Naming standards (libraries, programs, etc.)
  • Server backup/recovery procedures

Common Dashboard Components
Common components to consider for a WebFOCUS BI Dashboard include:
  • BI Dashboard
  • Banner images
  • Tab Breakouts
  • Common tab for dashboard release information and alerts
  • Common alert subsystem

HTML Launch Pages
Typically, each WebFOCUS has its own launch page, where the user can provide parameter values ("filters") for highly dynamic reports. Components to consider include:
  • Filters 
  • Static parameter definition
  • Dynamic parameter population routines and MDM data
  • Cascading stylesheets
  • Common JavaScript routines (cookie processing, launch WebFOCUS, edit validations, date logic, toggle logic to "hide" and "show" filters)

WebFOCUS Reports
Of course, with a BI Dashboard you want to display dynamic reports. Consider the following common elements for which you want reusable widgets to reduce the time and cost of the project:
  • Hierarchy drill-down logic
  • Standard headings
  • Standard footings (parameter descriptions)
  • Export to PDF and Excel
  • Security (user entitlement rules)
  • Alerts and Messages
  • Back navigation
  • Standard stylesheet
  • Common No-Data logic
  • Common Error logic
  • Common Documentation block
  • Dynamic legends
  • Common browser window target logic

Common Reporting Development Topics
Before you build those reports, remember some basics:
  • Establish color schemes, logos, fonts, reporting standards before developing 
  • Display descriptions, not codes (pass codes for WHERE selections)
  • Use consistent formatting, look and feel
  • Recommend visualization (peer graphics, stoplights, images)
  • Use different formatting for online viewing (HTML), printing (PDF), and analysis (Excel)
  • Should you use Active Reports?
  • Are there plans for mobile BI or a universal front-end?
  • Is there a desire for sizzle (maps, Flash/Flex, etc.) or practical functionality?

Data Topics
If you do not have the proper data in place, then building reports is difficult (or a waste of time and money). For the Reporting Repository, you need to consider the following: 
  • Reporting Repository population routines (initial load and ongoing incremental loads)
  • Master Data Management creation, load, and maintenance
  • Scheduled batch jobs

Anything Else?
Wow, that is quite a list! Imagine jumping into a BI Dashboard application development project without even considering these topics--that would be costly, painful, and embarrassing. Yet some people do it.

I hope this checklist provides you with an intelligent approach for your WebFOCUS BI Dashboard initiative and enables you to be successful.

If I can be of service, just let me know. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

IBI Disclosing Summit 2011 Case Studies

Information Builders, the software vendor of WebFOCUS and iWay, is beginning to disclose some of their speakers for the upcoming Summit 2011 annual user conference to be held at the Hilton Anatole Dallas in June.

Here is a partial list of case study speakers:

  • Entertainment Publications: Business Process Reengineering and iWay
  • Hercules Tire & Rubber Company: Where in the World Is My Data and How Can I Get It?
  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning: Developing an RIA-Based Dynamic Charting Dashboard for MetroPulse Chicago
  • World Wide Technology: WebFOCUS – The Road to Better Business Decision-Making
  • AkzoNobel: B2B Integration With iWay Trading Partner Manager 

If you are coming to Summit 2011, be sure to let me know so we can get together. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Profile of a WebFOCUS BI Consultant

Good WebFOCUS BI consultants are hard to find. Great ones are in short supply.

What makes an exceptional WebFOCUS BI application developer? Here is my checklist of how you would identify such a person.

User Interface Skills
  • Skilled in WebFOCUS products such as BI Dashboard, Developer Studio, HTML Layout
  • Skilled in user interface design and usability topics 
  • Experience building WebFOCUS dashboards for other clients 
  • Skilled in dynamic HTML topics (JavaScript, CSS, Document Object Model, cookies, etc.)
  • Experience with WebFOCUS user security models 

Web Tier Skills
  • Experience with various web servers (e.g., Microsoft IIS and Apache)
  • Experience with various Java app servers (e.g., Tomcat and WebSphere)
  • Experience with various web security models 
  • Experience with WebFOCUS Client Console and configuration topics 

Reporting Server Skills
  • Experience with various operating systems and databases 
  • Experience with the SQL language, performance tuning, and related database topics 
  • Experience with WebFOCUS products such as Server Console, Metadata Management 
  • Skilled in WebFOCUS architecture (ask him or her to draw you a chalk-talk)
  • Experience with latest WebFOCUS releases 

BI Application Development Skills
  • Experience in full software application development lifecycle and various methodologies 
  • Skilled in application design and project definition topics 
  • Skilled in information design topics (tabular reports, graphs, visual representation, etc.)
  • Skilled in interactive application topics (web integration, drill-downs, hyperlinks, symbolic variables, etc.)
  • Experience with WebFOCUS Developer Studio for building dynamic applications 
  • Experience with Report Layout for building reports 
  • Skilled in WebFOCUS 4GL language and experience with latest features 
  • Skilled in Dialogue Manager language and use of symbolic variables 
  • Skilled in managing software projects and technical individuals 

Resources
  • Has access to key technical individuals (e.g., vendor resources, industry experts, etc.)
  • Has personalized Site Code access to vendor's Technical Support website 
  • Has corporate support resources (not a lone independent)
  • Has personal computer with full WebFOCUS environment installed
  • Has a library of past WebFOCUS engagements for use as quick templates 
  • Has software tools to speed application development efforts 
  • Follows formal methodologies to ensure successful engagements 

Life Experiences and Personality 
  • Has at least ten years of WebFOCUS application development skills 
  • Has lead BI application development initiatives at other clients 
  • Has interpersonal communication skills (for both business and technical audiences) 
  • May have been an Information Builders vendor employee 
  • Has a formal degree in information systems 
  • Has a positive work history in information systems 
  • Does not have current personal issues that impact his or her performance 
  • Is confident yet humble and has a heart for serving the client 

Business Acumen
  • Has formal business training 
  • Understands relevant business concepts (finance, marketing, etc.)
  • Has either a broad industry background or specializes in your company's industry 
  • Has experience with relevant business computer applications 


The individual who meets all of these criteria is of course exceptional. If you are lucky to have this type of person on your BI initiative, be sure to treat him or her with respect. If this list describes you and you are interested in an exciting WebFOCUS consulting role, please contact me. 

About Me

My photo

I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.