Looking to the Future of Business Analytics with Pentaho 4.8

Last week Pentaho announced Pentaho 4.8, another milestone in delivering the future of analytics. It has been an exciting ride. Our partners’ and our customers’ feedback have kept us ecstatic and ready to excel further into the future.

Pentaho 4.8 is a true testament on what the future of analytics needs. The future of analytics is driven by the data problems that businesses face every day – and is dependent on the information users and their expectations for solving those problems.

Let me give you a good example. I recently had the pleasure to meet with one of our customers – BeachMint. BeachMint is a fashion and style ecommerce company who uses celebrities / celebrity stylists to promote its retail business.

This rapidly growing online retailer needed to keep tabs on its large twitter and facebook communities to track customer sentiment and social influence. It then uses the social data to define customer cohorts and design marketing campaigns that best target each cohort.

For BeachMint insight to data is extremely important. But on one hand, the volumes and variety of data – in this case unstructured social data and click-through ad feeds – has increased its complexity. And on the other hand, the speed in which it gets created has accelerated rapidly. For example, in addition to analyzing the impact of customer sentiments on their purchasing behavior, BeachMint also needed to gain up-to-the-minute information on the activity of key promotional codes – to immediately identify those that leak out.

Pentaho understands these data challenges and user expectations. In this release Pentaho takes full advantage of its tightly coupled Data Integration and Business Analytics platform – to simplify data exploration, discovery and visualization for all users and all data types – and to deliver this information to users immediately – sometimes even at a micro-second level. In this release Pentaho delivers:

– Pentaho Mobile – the only Mobile BI application with the power to instantly create new analysis on the go.

– Pentaho Instaview – the industry’s first instant and interactive big data visualization application.

Want to find out more? Register for Pentaho 4.8 webinar and see for yourself.

– Farnaz Erfan, Product Marketing, Pentaho

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Is Your Big Data Hot or Not?

Data is the most strategic asset for any business. However, massive volumes and variety of data has made catching it at the right time and right place, discovering what’s hot – and needs more attention – and what’s not, a bit trickier these days.

Heat grids are ideal for seeing a range of values in data as they provide a gradient scale, showing a change in data intensity through the use of colors. For example, you can see what’s hot in red and what’s normal in green; and everything else in various shades of color in between. Let me give you two examples of how companies have used heat grids to see if their data is hot or not:

Example #1 – A retailer is looking at week-by-week sales of a new fashion line to understand how each product line is performing as items get continually discounted throughout the season. Data is gathered from thousands of stores across the country and then entered into a heat grid graph that includes:

  • X axis – week 1 through 12, beginning from the launch of a new campaign (e.g. Nordstrom’s Summer Looks)
  • Y axis – product line (e.g. shoes, dresses, skirts, tops, accessories)
  • Color of the squares – % of discount (e.g. dark red = 70%, red = 60%, orange = 50%, yellow = 30%, green = full price)
  • Size of the squares – # of units sold

Looking at this graph, the retailer can easily see that most shoes sell at the beginning of the season – even without heavy discounts. This helps the retailer predict inventory levels to keep up with the demand for shoes.

It also shows that accessories almost never sell at regular prices, nor do they sell well when the discount levels are higher than 70%. Knowing this, the retailer can control its capital spending by not overstocking on this item. The retailer can also increase profit per square footage of their store by reselling its accessories earlier in the season to avoid high markdowns and inventory overstocks at the end of the season.

Example # 2 – A digital music streaming service provider is using analytics to assess the performance of its sales channels (direct vs. sales through different social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter) to guide future marketing and development spend. For that, the company uses a heat grid to map out:

  • X axis – various devices (iPhone, iPad, Android Smartphone, Android Tablet, Blackberry)
  • Y axis – various channels (direct site, Facebook, Twitter, …)
  • Color of the circles – # of downloads (0-100 = red, 100-1000=orange, 1000-10000 = yellow, 10000+ = green)
  • Size of the circles – app usage hours per day – the bigger the size, the more usage

This graph helps the music service provider analyze data from millions of records to quickly understand the popularity and usage patterns of their application on different devices, sold through different channels.

Heat grids can be use in variety of other forms, such as survey scales, product rating analysis, customer satisfaction studies, risk analysis and more. Are you are ready to find out whether your big data is hot or not? Check out this 3 minute video to learn how heat grids can help you.

Understanding buyers/users and their behavior is helping many companies including ideeli – one of the most popular online retailers – and Travian Games – top German MMO (massively multiplayer online) game publisher – gain better insight from their hottest asset – their big data!

What is your hottest business asset?

–          Farnaz Erfan, Product Marketing, Pentaho

This blog was originally posted on Smart Data Collective.

The Diary of a Construction Manger in Love with His BI Tool

Hi, my name is Bob and I am a construction manager. I oversee all aspects of managing the operations of a construction project, including budgets, staffing, and the compliance of the entire construction project.

In 10+ years of my experience, I have never had a Business Intelligence (BI) tool. I had to create spreadsheets to track daily activities, calculate risks and build formulas to measure impact. Given the size of the projects I worked on, this was extremely complex.  As a result, I would spend a lot of my time putting out fires to problems that I knew could have been prevented if I had the right information.

Recently my company introduced BI to our team. Since I’m using BI for the first time, I decided to create an activity log similar to a diary of my project.

Let me share some highlights with you:

October 28, 2011

We are 4 weeks into the project. We have the crew working on the ground. The foundation is done. The structural engineer has finished his design. We are ready to roll.

January 11, 2012

This morning I received an alert about my Preventative vs. Corrective Maintenance. My monthly work mix by type looks like this: preventative 36%; repair 24%; rebuild 5%; and modify 35%. My preventative costs have gone down from an optimal 40% to 36% and my repair costs have increased correspondingly.

When I drilled down into the repairs, I see that we are responding to higher than normal number of heating and insulation work items. I am going to talk to Edward – my HVAC contractor – about it.

February 29, 2012

I have been monitoring our electrical work. Our average Cost per SQ Foot is 13% less than industry average. This is a breakthrough thanks to the changes I have made monitoring the project with BI and making data-driven decisions. It lets me monitor these costs on an ongoing basis, so I can take preventative actions to stay below industry average to protect our funding and even justify additional headcount.

March 16, 2012

Productivity Rate is one of my favorite indicators – because it truly provides me with real-time info about the performance of my team. On average, our productivity rate stays on optimal levels. However, the plumbing trade group’s actual cost is exceeding the estimated costs. This will affect my cost-to-complete and margins, as I have to pay overtime for this contractor.

But I don’t have to worry… my BI tool lets me drill into this indicator to see whether the reason is ‘labor’ or ‘supply’ related. Drill-thru was something a spreadsheet could never let me do.

March 30, 2012

Two weeks have passed since I shifted resources for plumbing. Our productivity rates have improved since then and the project is looking on time and on budget.

With 40 more days to go, I want to make sure we deliver on time and meet our SLA with the building owners. I see no bottlenecks. Cycle Times – the average time to complete an activity – shows me that we are actually 4 days ahead of the schedule.

May 21, 2012

I’m very happy to report that we are done with the construction. The ROI on this project was greater than we expected and my client is very happy. Next weekend is the Memorial Day weekend. I have the time and money I need to take a nice vacation with my wife and son.

-As told by Bob, a fictional construction manager.

Even though the story is fictional, it’s based on reality. Business users and project managers – such as facility managers, supply chain logistic specialists, even dairy farmers – use Pentaho business intelligence to make their jobs easier and to make smarter, data driven decisions – just like our fictional friend, Bob.

Who knew BI could be so handy for construction managers?

What is your secret BI story? Drop me a line.

– Farnaz Erfan, Product Marketing, Pentaho

This blog was originally posted Smart Data Collective.

Powered By Pentaho – Embedded Analytics in as Little as 8 Weeks

This week we announced a new program for ISV and SaaS providers called “Powered by Pentaho.” I received several questions from clients and press so I thought I would share them with you to help explain the details behind this great new offer.

What is Powered by Pentaho?

Powered by Pentaho enables Pentaho OEM partners to deliver market-leading analytics capabilities in as little as eight weeks. The new OEM program is a response to the rapid rise in Pentaho’s 2011 OEM sales bookings, which grew more than 130 percent over the same period in 2010.

What does this 8-week program entail?

Pentaho provides the training, support and integration recommendations that best fit your solution objectives. You do the development and quality assurance. Keep in mind that all throughout your development cycle and thereafter, you have access to Pentaho experts who are intimately familiar with the Pentaho architecture and APIs. The best way to picture this is to think of Pentaho’s engineering team as an extension of your own engineering team. We want you to become successful, go to market fast, and build market leadership using our business analytics.

What about Pentaho makes this possible in eight week?

Pentaho technology – We provide embedding options that require little to no development. All you need is basic HTML skills to change the look and feel of our product to match your style and branding. We refer to these options as ‘Bundled’ or ‘Mashup.’ Pentaho offers more in-depth integration level, for OEM partners that require extensions and customization. We often see our OEM partners start with a re-branding and single sign-on approach and later move to a deeper integration.

Pentaho support and training – Pentaho has built services specific to every phase of an OEM’s software development lifecycle. You can not only go to market faster, but also build your future releases, changes and modifications much easier. These services include:

  • Architecture Workshop – Learn the best practices and best integration strategies for your development approach;
  • Tailored Training – Get your engineers and support staff a solid foundation for developing and troubleshooting your solution;
  • Development Support – Get your engineering staff access to Pentaho Java developers with in-depth knowledge of Pentaho architecture to get you to market faster.

Am I the right candidate?

This program is ideal for companies with information-centric software or packaged applications that want to go to market faster with attractive and sophisticated business intelligence and data visualization capabilities. All our customers who have successfully done this in eight weeks or less have a set of common characteristics. They typically have:

  • A phased approach, usually starting with a Bundled / Mashup type embedding option;
  • Data sources that have been prepared, cleansed, and put into a business analytics / reporting format. Pentaho has tools to help you do that;
  • At least one developer – with HTML and some Java skills – staffed – who has taken part in our training and architecture workshop classes.

Does Pentaho have proof points?

To date, hundreds of ISVs and SaaS providers have become Pentaho OEM partners. Marketo is a great example. Marketo was looking for both a modern, flexible technology and a true partner to help them build a brand new business analytics product. With Pentaho they were able to go to market in just eight weeks, delivering a feature-rich product that became a new source of revenue.

We have several great resources such as white papers, webinars, OEM Partner success stories and more. Visit pentaho.com/explore/embedded-bi/ for more information.

Farnaz Erfan

The Rise of Analytics in Healthcare

Recently SearchHealthIT.com published a study revealing that today only 50 percent of healthcare organizations make extensive use of analytics. Yet, the rest are getting started (40 percent) or are planning to implement (10 percent) – see Figure 1. This is no surprise. Like many industries, healthcare seeks to improve efficiency and reduce costs using analytics. But unlike many other industries, healthcare is a heavily regulated sector, shifting from a pay for service culture to a pay for performance approach. This requires healthcare providers to measure their quality of care performance metrics. In addition, the rise of evidence-based medicine is creating demand for analytics. Advanced analytics help providers gain scientific evidence for clinical treatments, instead of only using their conventional wisdom.

Figure 1

Among many interesting points, one interesting angle that the survey revealed is the predominant types of analytic functions that healthcare providers are looking to use in the near future. Based on this data in Figure 2, the two top analytics functions that the CIOs plan to use in the next two years include:

  • 1. Health Information Exchange (42%)
  • 2. Predictive Analysis of Diseases (43.6%)

Figure 2

Let’s explore the reasons behind each one:

Health Information Exchange

Historically, healthcare information systems have been built around special departmental needs. For example, a radiology department uses its own information system to log patient data, while laboratory services, patient admissions and urgent care each use their own systems to store information. This creates information silos, trapping patient data across multiple sources.

With the increasing populations of patients and higher demands for quality of care, having a single view of patients information has become much more important than what it used to be. However, because each of the information systems stores data in a particular shape, size, and format, creating a holistic view of a patient becomes increasingly harder.

To cope with this issue, HL7, a non-profit organization, has developed a set of standards for exchanging healthcare information. By using common standards, different information systems can communicate, exchange, and share information much easier.

Today HL7 is an international framework for information exchange among different healthcare organizations. More and more hospitals, health centers and medical services are adopting HL7 every day. With the growing adoption of these standards, the demand for data integration tools that can retrieve information from different repositories, parse, consolidate and transform it into these standards has become extremely high.

A vivid example of how better integration and exchange of health information has helped a healthcare organization accelerate its quality of care is St. Antonius Hospital. Based in The Netherlands and with six locations around Utrecht, St. Antonius Hospital uses Pentaho Business Analytics to build a holistic view of both hospital activities and patients. By using Pentaho as the central business analytics platform, St. Antonius was able to break down departmental silos, making data analysis available to the entire hospital staff, providing highest quality of care over a half-million patients a year.

Interested to find out how St. Antonius was able to overcome its health information challenges? Register for the webinar on December 1st: St. Antonius Hospital Improves Patient Services with Better Data Access and Analysis.

Stay tuned – in Part 2 of this blog, we will explore the reasons behind the high growth of Predictive Analysis of Diseases.

– Farnaz Erfan

Pentaho Provides CFOs with the Ultimate Guide for Buying BI

Small and medium businesses are fast growing adopters of BI solutions. THE thing that was previously exclusive to large enterprises – i.e. “BI for the masses” – is now making it to the main streets of small and medium businesses and growing more and more popular by the minute.

The good news is that there is a wide range of Business Intelligence solutions available in the market. The bad news is that not all BI solutions are a perfect fit for SMBs.

Due to high growth, tight budgets, and lean organizational structures, SMBs require different kind of Business Intelligence.

Certainly the initial software acquisition costs is part of the allocated budget for SMBs, and the less expensive the solution looks on paper, the more attractive it appears. But there is more to it. For example, the timeline that it takes to reach an ROI breakeven point, as well as technical resources required for implementing changes and integrating with other software / solutions are all significant parts of the total cost. User growth is another area that can become very costly depending on the type of BI solution.

Because the BI market has matured and been shaped mostly according to the needs of large enterprises, SMB need to look deeper and identify important BI considerations that only apply to them, and focus on evaluating them before making a purchasing decision.

Regardless of what you ultimately select as your BI solution of choice, we are offering this whitepaper to help smaller and more nimble organizations

  • Know what to expect from a BI solution
  • Highlight things that most BI vendors don’t want you to know
  • Give you an evaluation checklist that can help you ask the right questions before you buy.

Download “CFO’s Ultimate Guide to Buying Business Intelligence” at http://www.pentaho.com/cfo-ultimate-guide-to-buying-bi/

Register for the webinar on September 22 to hear directly from Pentaho’s CFO and COO, Doug Johnson, about important considerations that CFO’s of SMB need to think through before they buy. http://www.pentaho.com/events/20110922-CFO-buying-guide-webinar/

Farnaz Erfan

Pentaho Product Marketing

Analyst Insights: How Pentaho BI 4 is Changing the Game for SMB Companies

Recently I had the pleasure to speak with Albert Pang, a veteran of the application market space with more than 25 years of experience and the founder of Apps Run The World. In our conversation, centered on Pentaho BI 4, we discussed the use of business intelligence by the casual business user – something that in the past has been impossible due to the highly technical nature of business intelligence deployments.

In his recent blog, Business Analytics for the Masses, Pang depicts this problem and describes how it has impacted the SMB market. He explains how highly technical BI tools worked as a roadblock for SMB companies that did not have intensive IT resources to allocate to BI projects — something that independent BI vendors in the market (Pentaho, Tableau, and Qliktech) have realized and leveraged as an opportunity to improve the BI market.  

Pang goes further by saying “Pentaho, which has made its name in the open-source BI marketplace, introduced Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition in June. One of the key targets is non-technical business users who can use the new product to create highly formatted, interactive reports with zero training or involvement from the IT department.”

Part of our mission at Pentaho is to make it easy and cost effective for SMB companies to reap the same benefits historically only obtainable by blue-chip companies. With Pentaho BI 4, we’ve extended this mission to encompass the casual business users too.  As this “New wave of BI” becomes more pervasive, more users than ever before will look to harness BI for their everyday business use. Pentaho is already seeing this effect with our customers including Loma Linda University Healthcare, SpecSavers, Centro, and others.

I encourage you to read the blog post, Business Analytics for the Masses by Albert Pang, and let us know your thoughts.

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing
Pentaho Corporation

This blog was originally posted on Business Intelligence from the Swamp.