24 February 2009

Embedded BI: Who gives a click?

The promise of BI in today’s business world sounds exciting, fascinating and shows potential rapid ROI, yet uptake is slow because most organizations do not want yet another application for their end users to log into, yet another application where the data does not match their existing applications’ data and where IT resources are going to be employed to hunt down the discrepancies between systems. So how does BI provide an immediate and tangible return?

In the usual world, where companies have many applications, users often log into their online transactional systems (CRM, ERP, etc.) and then simultaneously open the reporting / BI application. For illustration purposes, let us describe getting a full customer profile report that we are looking at in a CRM / ERP system, where the CRM / ERP system contains the bare essentials. The report might contain the customer’s details, purchase activity, top products, activities and interactions with the company, demographic information, and perhaps some predictive information as to which of our products might interest them based on various factors. When the user wants to find full information on a customer from the reporting system, the user normally highlights the customer number (1 click), copies the customer number (another click or Ctrl-C), then switches to the BI Application (alt-tab, another click), opens the relevant report (another click or series of clicks), then pastes (another click or Ctrl-V) the copied customer id into the report parameter, then clicks the ‘Go’ button (another click). If the report result is then to be saved to a local drive and attached to the CRM / ERP system as an attachment, a whole lot more clicking is going to happen.

The problem with the above scenario is that it is very:
  • time-consuming
  • annoying
  • and the possibility for human error (did not copy the entire customer number, accidentally hit another key while pasting, etc.) increases considerably.

What would save a lot of time, frustration and errors is to have a button from the CRM / ERP system that will do all of that activity for the end user behind the scenes, at machine speeds and show the information as part of an integrated panel in the single application.

The large software application vendors now have readily available embedded BI solutions (Siebel Analytics, SAP BW, Oracle EBS Analytics, etc.), however these are usually tailored to suit the vendor application and are unsuitable for integration into other applications. Furthermore, should you have made any customizations to the ERP / CRM software, those customizations will have to be applied to the BI solution too (usually at great cost). The vendors’ usual approach then is that any other software package that wants to utilize the BI platform should conform to the vendor approach to BI, including warehousing and BI process.

At SeeMoreData, we believe that the ability of BI to enhance the value of an existing application by creating usable analytics and information visualization on the underlying and indirectly related data, whether in real-time or not, will drive the adoption of analytical solutions. This is certainly the case at one of our large banking customers, who have transformed their CRM solution to deliver relevant content that would have taken an eternity (if at all possible) to create using the traditional CRM configuration tool.

What do we mean by this?

Well, instead of getting the users to have 1 more desktop icon, 1 more system to log into, 1 more system to learn to use, we prefer to see our BI engine as a back-end solution that is called by the existing application (Siebel, SAP, IVR Applications, Web apps or whatever) and when the information is served up by SeeMoreData, this is then presented to the user inside their existing application, making it look like it is part of the original calling application. All it requires is a simple call to an internal web server (behind the firewall so data is only visible to whom it should be) with some dynamic components that complete the call, or via a true Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) which then neatly maps into SeeMoreData’s passive calling map technology.

SeeMoreData is flexible enough to send the information requested back to the calling application either as a rich-client fully-interactive applet, or an XML document, or a static file format (Excel, PDF, word, HTML, CSV) to be displayed in the calling application information window / region. In the case of the fully-interactive client, drilldown and drillthrough is possible, even to external systems, using the drilldown key as a lookup / foreign key.

SeeMoreData’s open application integration technology saves many clicks & errors and delivers accurate information where it is needed, and very fast! It is what our customers have come to expect from us.

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