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Changing data to insight for your company. Data truly becomes valuable to your company when you see its potential. In this new Dell white paper, discover the power and potential of business …

Changing data to insight for your company. Data truly becomes valuable to your company when you see its potential. In this new Dell white paper, discover the power and potential of business intelligence, and how you can put data to work for your mid-market company. Read it today.

Sponsor: Dell Software
from InfoWorld . Franco Ferrario

Published in: Technology, Business

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  • 1. ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Putting Data to Work for Mid-Market Companies Contents The Context for Mid-Market BI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 BI for the Mid-Market. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Mid-Market Products and Services. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Recommendations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 The Context for Mid-Market BI Data is the New Oil The fuel of the information economy is data. We use data to describe products and services and their fate in the marketplace. In some cases, the data about products is more valuable than the products themselves. Many of the biggest companies in the new economy—Google, Amazon.com, Netflix and eBay—don’t sell tangible products at all. Their profits derive largely from how they collect, organize, display, manage and analyze data about things. By itself, data is not worth much. Accountants don’t tally data as an asset on corporate balance sheets. Rather, its value derives from what it enables: insights and actions. Data-driven companies use data to 1) understand what’s happened in the past and what might happen in the future, 2) monitor progress toward achieving goals, 3) track and manage exposure to risks, and 4) most importantly, adapt quickly to changing business conditions and opportunities. Data is the key to business agility in the 21st century. Benefits of BI Like any raw material, data can be processed into a multiplicity of products—in this case, reports, analyses and analytical models that drive business insights. These are the artifacts of a data-driven discipline called business intelligence, or BI. Leading companies, both big and small and across all industries, use BI to increase the analytical IQ of their employees, from executives to front-line workers. Top-performing organizations are twice as likely to use analytics to guide day-to-day operations and future strategies as lower performers. Brought to you compliments of:
  • 2. 2 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top Tactical Benefits. At a tactical level, employees at data-driven companies spend less time looking for data and reports or arguing about whose data is right and more time analyzing data and making fact-based decisions. They spot trends and anomalies faster, and proactively address issues rather than react to one crisis after the next. U.S. Xpress Enterprises, a midsize trucking firm based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently built a dashboard that pulls telemetric data from each of its 2,000 trucks every 15 minutes to track the time they spend idling at rest stops. Armed with this real-time information, executives at U.S. Xpress implemented new policies and procedures governing truck idling that have saved the company millions of dollars in fuel costs. Strategic Benefits. At a strategic level, leading adopters of BI use information to transform their businesses and gain a competitive advantage. In many cases, information becomes the product itself or a major component of a vital product or service. For example, Kelley Blue Book, a veteran publisher of automobile valuations, calculated car values through a combination of data sampling, industry knowledge and intuition. Seven years ago, it changed this process, adopting a scientific approach to car valuations that applies math- ematical models to large volumes of transaction data that it captures from auction houses and other sources. Today, Kelley Blue Book publishes new car valuations each week for 53 regions compared with once a month for three regions using the old process. This transition to a data- driven approach to car valuations has set new standards for accuracy and reliability and given Kelley Blue Book a competitive advantage in the marketplace. BI for the Mid-Market The Case for BI. Mid-market companies, like U.S. Xpress and Kelley Blue Book mentioned above, need to deploy BI to thrive, and in some cases survive, in an increasingly volatile and competitive market. A BI solution consists of a set of reports or dashboards with built-in analytical capabilities that query a data warehouse or data mart. A complete BI solution contains all the software, hard- ware and services needed to generate insights from data. For mid-market companies, the stakes have never been higher. Many mid-market companies are squeezed on the bottom by nimble start-ups that want to elbow aside established players with new products and approaches, and on the top by aggressive corporate behemoths that can leverage greater economies of scale and are foraging for new revenue opportunities in smaller markets. To survive, mid-market companies need to aggressively market their products and services to a wider audience, both at home and abroad. This often requires new leadership, organizational strategies and technical expertise. In short, many mid- market companies undergo constant change and need to leverage data to steer a straight path through obstacles blocking their growth. Until recently, the cost and complexity of deploying a BI solution locked midsize companies out of the market. Most midsize companies don’t have millions of dollars to invest in BI solutions or in-house experts to lead a BI program. And frankly, most mid-market executives don’t yet have a vision for how BI can transform their organizations into analytical competitors. Nor do they have the time and commitment to guide a change management program to ensure BI success.
  • 3. 3 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top Waves of Change. But things are changing. As the BI market reaches maturity, vendors are beginning to target midsize organizations as a new growth segment. Most BI vendors now offer products and services to mid-market companies that are more affordable and easier to deploy than their enterprise counterparts. Moreover, there are a slew of experienced BI consultants, both at vendor organizations and independent consultancies, who are keen to guide mid-market companies on their BI journeys. One company that has exploited new mid-market BI solutions is RBC Wealth Management, a full- service brokerage firm that operates in 42 states in the U.S. In 2007, RBC Wealth Management knew it needed to invest in new technology to help its 2,000 brokers better manage leads, opportunities and client portfolios. Consequently, it turned to a small analytical vendor that delivers custom and packaged BI solutions in the cloud. The vendor delivered a rich dashboard that gives brokers instant access to three years of history covering more than 400,000 households, alerts them to high-value opportunities and enables them to create ad hoc views of data. This mid-market solution spared RBC Wealth Management from having to purchase new hardware, build an onsite data warehouse and hire experts in BI. It not only has saved the company $1 million to $2 million in costs since its inception, it has also become a key tool in recruiting new brokers. Mid-Market Products and Services Certainly, cloud-based reports and dashboards are one way to reduce the cost and complexity of deploying BI solutions. But there are other options as well, ranging from appliances and packaged solutions to custom development by mid-market consultancies. Layers of BI Although most business users only see visual displays of data, most of the work involved in building a BI solution stems from sourcing, integrating, cleaning and aggregating data. The dirtier and more fragmented an organization’s data, the longer it takes to piece together a uniform view of the enterprise for business consumption. While physically integrating data takes the most time, creat- ing a logical framework with consistent definitions and rules is the most challenging aspect of building a BI solution. The easiest part is building the reports and dashboards. (See Figure 1.) Figure 1. Layers of BI • Dashboards/reports • Queiries/calculations • Filters/prompts • Drill paths • Metrics • Dimensions • Attributes • Hierarchies • Relationships • Data capture • Data transformation • Data cleansing • Data loading • Scheduling/error handling IT designs, Business refines Business defines IT builds 10% Application Layer 30% Logical Data Modeling 60% Physical Data Integration Mid-market BI offerings cover a range of tools and domain knowledge needed to deliver the three layers of a BI solution.
  • 4. 4 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top BI Components At a component level, mid-market solutions typically provide a subset of the following: hardware (server and storage), a relational database management system (RDBMS), a data model, a variety of data integration tools and source data connectors, a metadata repository and a variety of re- porting and analysis tools. Some companies, such as Dell, package components from the bottom up, supplying hardware, an RDBMS and data integration tools. Other vendors work from the top down, delivering reports, reporting software and a data model. From a bottom-up perspective, mid-market offerings provide a robust foundation for managing data. Thanks to rapid advances in price-performance of hardware components (i.e., CPU, memory and disk), most mid-market BI platforms deliver sizable power and capacity to support most BI work- loads. Vendors typically provide entry-level, midrange and high-end platforms to meet mid-market companies’ current and future data processing needs. Fast-growing mid-market companies buy higher-end platforms that will meet their scalability requirements for three to five years. Companies with limited experience and resources should look for solutions that emphasize ease of use. From a software perspective, packaged mid-market BI solutions typically provide a subset of functionality compared with enterprise BI solutions, which is one reason they are priced more affordably. Enterprise BI software providers bundle more niche capabilities into their packages. In contrast, mid-market BI packages focus on delivering basic functionality that companies need most. Typically, this consists of reporting or visual analysis software and just enough data integra- tion capabilities to create a logical or physical data mart to support the application. They may not provide all the functionality of enterprise BI solutions, but they provide the functionality that companies need most. (See Figure 2.) Figure 2. BI Stack Mid-market BI packages usually focus on delivering either interactive dashboards or visual analysis tools, providing just enough data integration capabilities to create a logical or physical data mart to support the BI application. Reporting/Analysis Data Mgmt Department SCOPE Enterprise Specialists Specialists Specialists Mid-market BI Vendors Specialists Specialists Enterprise BI Vendors Functionality Data access Data transform Data quality Data modeling Metadata Data federation Text-mining Event-driven Modeling Search Predictions Monitoring Analysis Reporting
  • 5. 5 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top Catalog of Mid-Market Tools Midsize companies seeking a BI solution have several options to explore. The first step is to select an option that suits your business, and the second step is to select a vendor, keeping in mind that successful application of BI and analytic tools depends on establishing a solid foundation for data integration and management. Here are the basic options: 1. Appliances. Perhaps the easiest way a mid-market company can deploy a BI solution is to purchase a data warehousing appliance to run its new existing BI software. Vendors simply wheel these preconfigured and tuned hardware-software units into your data center, plug them in, and they are ready to load your data. You still need to create a data model, map source data into the model and build reports and dashboards, but appliances dramatically simplify the process of deploying BI solutions. And because most use the latest hardware technologies, they offer high levels of price-performance compared with existing solutions. On the downside, if customers outgrow the appliance, they typically need to buy another one and migrate their data and reports to the new machine. Data warehousing appliances come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, Dell offers a Quick- start Data Warehouse Appliance geared to the mid-market at a very cost-effective price- performance level. The appliance comes with a Dell 12th generation PowerEdge server and pre-installed software, including the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 data warehouse appliance license, which is preconfigured and tuned to run on the Dell hardware. Unique among mid- market appliance offerings, Dell also bundles cloud-based data integration capability (Dell Boomi) and consulting services, including installation and training to get the first BI applica- tion up and running successfully. Dell customers can purchase add-on consulting services to help them further develop a data strategy and architecture. All customers have to do is build reports and dashboards using third-party tools, which most companies already have. 2. Packaged Analytical Software Solutions. Another option, that is very complementary to an appliance, is to purchase a packaged software solution, which can be deployed on an analytical appliance or an existing server. These solutions are either generic or domain-specific applications geared to a particular industry or functional area. Some pull data directly from source systems, while others create a local data mart. Generic BI pack- ages bundle reporting, analysis and dashboarding capabilities along with lightweight data integration services to populate reports with clean, consistent data. Domain-specific BI packages contain predefined data models, source system mappings and reports tailored to a specific industry or functional area. Most also include data infrastructure compo- nents, such as data integration tools and databases, that create the software equivalent of a load-and-go environment. For instance, many of Microsoft’s partners deliver industry- or functional-specific BI solutions built with Microsoft’s suite of BI software, including SQL Server, Reporting Services, Analysis Services, Integration Services, Microsoft Office and SharePoint. The benefit of packaged software is that it speeds the time it takes to deploy a BI solution, thus reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction. The downside is that customers still need to provide the hardware and storage to run the packages. This means they either need to reuse existing systems with extra capacity or purchase new hardware or even an appliance.
  • 6. 6 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top 3. Cloud Solutions. An increasing number of vendors offer cloud-based BI solutions. As described in the RBC Wealth Management case above, cloud-based BI solutions eliminate the need for companies to purchase and maintain hardware and software. Instead, customers pay a monthly subscription fee, usually based on the number of users. This eliminates capital outlays and creates a predictable operating budget for the BI solution. Cloud-based BI solutions are ideal for organizations that don’t have a data center or a large IT staff or internal expertise in building BI solutions. Most cloud BI vendors offer packaged solutions (see above) to get customers up and running quickly. Or they build custom solutions as a consulting engagement. However, there are also downsides to cloud BI solutions. For starters, customers must move internal data to a hosted data center in the cloud. This can be problematic if the data is sensitive or there is a lot to move on a daily basis. Also, when BI is implemented in the cloud, the data volumes are typically not greater than 1TB, and work- loads are much simpler. Therefore, the process for performing ad hoc queries and standard reports is not as effortless as it is outside of a cloud environment. As you can see, mid-market vendors have several options for deploying low-cost BI solutions. Many BI vendors are now eager to work with mid-market companies and tailor products and services to their needs. This translates into lower costs and faster deployments with greater end-user satisfaction. Recommendations Now that you understand the landscape for mid-market BI solutions, what should you do? What are the next steps? Here are a set of recommendations: 1. Have a vision for data. To succeed, executives need a vision for data and a commitment to fact-based decision-making. They need to recognize that data is fast becoming a competitive differentiator. This can be hard to do, especially in a fast-moving, time- constrained mid-market company. But the key is to treat data as a corporate asset. This involves defining data definitions, governing their evolution and consolidating shared data in a BI platform geared to providing high-performance reporting and analysis applications. 2. Change perceptions. Second, executives need to recognize that BI no longer needs to involve launching expensive, complex projects. They need to understand that BI vendors now tailor products and services to mid-market companies because this is a growth market for them. BI is now a buyer’s market for mid-market companies. 3. Start small. The best way to achieve success with data is to start small. Select a single report or dashboarding application that can be delivered fast but provides sizable business benefit. With a quick win, executives are more inclined to devote the proper attention and resources to building out the BI program into a strategic initiative. 4. Focus on data first. The heart and soul of a BI solution is the data. Without clean, integrated, trustworthy data, users will not use a BI solution. Therefore, pay particular attention to your data and the platform it runs on. Establish a strong data foundation to give your BI solution the best chance of success.
  • 7. 7 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top 5. Evaluate mid-market solutions. It’s important to select the right approach and platform to run BI solutions on, whether it’s an appliance, cloud or custom build for the platform. Then, select a vendor to deliver one of these approaches. Make sure the vendor tailors the product to the mid-market, knows your domain and offers reasonable pricing and support. And keep in mind that some appliances include more components than others. 6. BI is a journey. Unlike operational applications (e.g., enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management), BI applications must continuously adapt to changing business conditions to answer user questions. This requires ongoing care and feeding of the BI solution, especially the data that fuels the insights. So, select a BI service provider who is willing and able to partner with your company for the long haul. Microsoft and Dell believe that data warehousing, BI and analytics should not be exclusive to large enterprises; that they should be easy to use and cost-effective enough for all organizations. To make that view a reality, they have partnered to bring to market a data warehouse appliance designed for mid-market and departmental users. The Dell Quickstart Data Warehouse Appliance is a powerful platform which takes advantage of innovations in the new 12th generation Dell servers and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 DBMS to maximize capacity and performance in a small footprint. It then goes a step beyond other data warehouse appliances by including a cloud-based data integration service (Dell Boomi) as well as a start-up service that gets clients off to a successful start along with a quarterly healthcheck that ensures ongoing success. For more information about the Dell Quickstart Data Warehouse Appliance, visit http://www.dell.com/quickstartdw.
  • 8. 8 ©2012 Dell and Microsoft Return to top About Dell Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) listens to customers and delivers innovative technology and services that give them the power to do more. For more information, visit www.dell. com. About Microsoft Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is a worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. By Wayne Eckerson, Director of Research, TechTarget About the Author Wayne Eckerson has been a thought leader in the data warehousing, business intelligence (BI) and performance management fields since 1995. He has conducted numerous in-depth research studies and is the author of the best-selling book Per- formance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business. He is a noted keynote speaker and blogger and he consults and conducts workshops on business analytics, performance dashboards and BI, among other topics. For many years, Eckerson served as director of education and research at The Data Warehousing Institute, where he oversaw the company’s content and training programs and chaired its BI Executive Summit. Eckerson is director of research at TechTarget, where he writes a popular weekly blog called Wayne’s World, which focuses on industry trends and examines best practices in the application of BI. Eckerson is also president of BI Leader Consulting and founder of BI Leadership Forum, a network of BI directors who meet regularly to exchange ideas about best practices in BI and educate the larger BI community.