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Business Intelligence (BI) describes methods used to extract interesting and actionable information from your business database to enable informed business decisions. Effective BI solutions help you discover the factors that impact the performance of your business and the relationships and dependencies among these factors. While BI solutions can share similar approaches, tools and methods, each BI project has its own set of requirements and challenges that are unique to a particular business and database.
BI solutions provide users with a multi-dimensional view of business data, organized in a way that enables easy, fast, and flexible manipulation — grouping, filtering, aggregation, and association, such that the patterns and trends of key performance indicators (KPIs) that impact your business can be discovered, analyzed, lend insight into your business operations, and improve your ability to make effective forward-looking business decisions. The key factors that determine the return on investment (ROI) of a BI Service include: the quality and completeness of your business data, the commitment from management to use BI to inform decisions, and of course the design of the BI Service. PCA has the experience to design and build a BI system to help maximize your ROI.
Business Intelligence Methods
Depending upon your specific needs, several different methods are available to deploy BI solutions, including: Dashboards, Pivot Tables, Cubes, Data Mining, Data Warehousing . PCA’s experts can demonstrate the various BI tools that can work with your database and help you to decide what is needed.
Dashboards allows at-a-glance visualization of key performance indicators. They are designed to be highly intuitive, and provide the minimum information necessary to spur management inquiry or action. Dashboards can include simple controls to filter data, typically by geography, product or time, with a drill-down capability.
Pivot tables allow you see the big picture contained in spreadsheet-style reports. Pivot-table tools can automatically sort, count, and total the data stored in one table or spreadsheet and create a second table (called a “pivot table”) displaying the summarized data.
For example, assume that we have a spreadsheet contained a list of retail sales with a column for the date sold, another column for the store that sold it, and a third column with the sale amount. A pivot table can easily create a matrix that shows total sales by store and date.
In the pivot table example above, a matrix was created that showed total sales by store and date. Usually, there are more ways to summarize data. It might be interesting to see information by product, sales person, product type, color, discount, region, month, and so on. It would be possible to create dozens of pivot tables. But, it would be more effective to create a data cube.
A data cube summarizes information across multiple dimensions. The analyst re-orients the table to see the desired view. Users can then see data quickly and uncover information that had been hidden. Data cubes often become the most widely used reporting tool at an organization because of flexibility.
Data mining is the automated process of searching of large amounts of data to find patterns and previously unrecognized relationships. The data records may be clustered into groups of similar records or a model may be created. For example, data mining could find that when people in a supermarket purchase hamburger meat, they are more likely to also purchase buns.
Data visualization combines the concepts of dashboards and data cubes for very large amounts of information. Geometric shapes and maps are used to display information. Attributes such as proximity, size and color express relationships between the geometric shapes. Filters and drill down capabilities allow the data to be explored.
PCA’s goal is to make it easier for users to grasp the big picture. Outliers and trends can be spotted quicker and more easily, which makes for more effective decisions. Often, information that was hidden by looking at detail becomes uncovered with data visualization.
PCA has successfully designed and deployed BI solutions for our Clients in a broad range of industries and variety of line-of-business needs. Our Business Intelligence Service engagements typically start with an up-front assessment of your business objectives and KPIs and underlying sources of historical business data. Once the business drivers and data sources are well understood, the effort to build a repeatable end-to-end data flow gets underway. Most of our focus is not on the BI infrastructure — BI solutions share a common approach, tools and methods — but on end users’ business needs, how best to deploy the appropriate data to the points of need in your organization, and providing a reliable, easy-to-use and highly flexible BI application interface to satisfy users business needs. Using standard Microsoft components, PCA can design and build a robust, custom BI solution faster, at lower cost, and with substantially fewer technical risks than most packaged BI solutions, and provide the experience and insights to insure that you fully realize your BI investment.
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