So far, we’ve covered a variety of topics regarding MicroStrategy for those that know it. But what about those budding business analysts among us that wish to start at the beginning? How do you get to those actionable insights if you can’t get over the initial hurdle of the technical considerations?
To take the guesswork out of what it means to begin, I took a one-day introductory class to business intelligence with MicroStrategy. As the marketing manager at Smartbridge, I spend my days focused on what the final product of brainpower + technology can get you. But how does it all get started?
The focus of the class, and therefore this post, was about the initial understanding of what a business intelligence platform can accomplish. In the case of MicroStrategy, if you know the tool, you can create anything.
Here’s the long and short of it.
MicroStrategy, the largest public BI vendor that supports 4,000 companies in 20 industries, provides a BI platform that sits between your databases and your users. The magic happens when your analysts and IT folks get together and create the right visualizations, with the right data, for the right users. Oh, and for the right mobile device. You can’t forget that.
So let’s say you already have your data percolating in a data warehouse somewhere. You know there are certain metrics and attributes you deem valuable enough to warrant some analysis that could uncover substantial answers to questions you may not even know to ask.
If you’re in retail, there are the obvious attributes – location of stores, your staff, sales quarters, etc. Your metrics would be your quarterly sales revenue, volume of sales, and volume of customers. It’s a report you’ve seen a thousand times – but your eyes glaze over when seeing number after number in a standard grid report.
From Report to Dashboard
You take this report and give it new life. This can be as simple as one Excel upload, or imports of specific data from your data warehouse, or integrating a transactional database. Either way, you bring it into MicroStrategy and give new meaning to otherwise raw, hard to understand data. This is basically called data discovery – when you begin to interpret these answers through visualizations such as scorecards and dashboards.
There are a variety of ways to create the visualizations – which became very clear after spending a little time with instructors Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Eich. Depending on your level of technical prowess or the size of your business, you can opt for Express, Visual Insight, or just straight MicroStrategy Web to manipulate the data. An analyst may find themselves in Visual Insight to get to their end goal quicker, and pass it over to IT using Web to clean it up.
But take a step back…
Let’s forget MicroStrategy for a minute. Assuming you know everything there is to know about a tool, there are still some cornerstones of BI that could easily be forgotten if you don’t strategically position your technology to work for you. Remember, the tool is just the means to an end.
Out of the full spectrum of BI, there were a few of these concepts that seemed to gain popularity among my classmates. Those were predictive analytics, and mobile accessibility.
Predictive analytics are the cream of the analytics crop. The place where you want to be when you’ve poked and prodded your historical data to death. Of course, that’s a topic best saved for a more advanced session.
Mobile…. well, that’s a given. But what perks up the ears when MicroStrategy talks about it is the ease in which you can design an analysis once and access it from any device. And not just that – mobile takes advantage of multimedia and transactional functionality, making it more than just BI.
Bringing it all together
Whether the types of reports you care about are business, operations or invoice/statement centric, your goal with all the efforts you put into these dashboards should be the same. Improve business efficiencies and proactively improve performance. Only then can you move from “Analytically Impaired” to an “Analytical Competitor”. Your evolution as an organization needs to progress along these steps:
You know you’ve reached the summit when you’re being asked to share your wondrous secrets to rooms packed with hundreds of your eager peers that came to a conference in hopes that in 45-minutes they’ll be right where you are. So who are you in this scenario? Speaking for myself, I think I have a long way yet to go, but I’m definitely making headway.
While getting the data massaged and prepped for a dashboard-ready state may be one thing, there’s one less giant question mark hanging over my head today. And that is how to make MicroStrategy work for you, and get the visualizations you need out of your reports to actually do some good. It’s amazing what you can do with the right tool.
Check out MicroStrategy’s free classes here. Then come see us when you want to become the Analytical Competitor you’ve always wanted to be, that much sooner.