Wednesday, December 21, 2011

SAP BI 4.0 Strategic Vision

SAP BI 4.0 is the first major update of BusinessObjects since its acquisition by SAP, so there has been much discussion about new features and the direction in which SAP is taking their enterprise BI solution.

Cindi Howson has a nice summary of SAP's BI strategy, and the roles of BI 4.0 and recent acquisitions are playing in that strategy. SAP's HANA effort bolsters real-time analytics performance through in-memory computing, and SAP Cloud initiatives bring in-memory computing to smaller enterprises with smaller budgets. With this ambitious in-memory undertaking, SAP is aiming to become the number 2 database player by 2015.

SAP is positioning itself, through the acquisition of Sybase, as a provider of high-security mobile BI, and with the acquisition of SuccessFactors as the number-two SaaS vendor in revenue (after

The potential benefits to enterprises upgrading to SAP BI 4.0 are huge, and it will be interesting to see the adoption rate. Will large enterprises choose to upgrade as a means to improve competitive advantage and operational efficiency? There are many factors to consider.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SAP BI 4.0 "Monsta" Project - Testing the Limits

The Global SAP Co-Innovation Lab (COIL) Network is an SAP Research initiative designed to promote project-based co-innovation between SAP and network members.

David Cruickshank blogs about the so-called "Monsta" BI 4.0 implementation, which is the single largest such project attempted so far. The deployment reflects many of the current, industry-wide BI trends:

Developments within SAP[,] and BI as an industry itself, suggests [sic] strongly that this growth trend in analytics is nearly epic, and with the release of HANA, the push for BI on mobile devices, and an "analytics anywhere, anytime" direction, the need to scale up is [sic] and to be capable of supporting larger and larger environments is predictable. A truly large BOE environment could be anything larger than 2-4,000 users concurrent (usually equivalent to a 20-50,000 total user base for BOE), which would start pushing up against ~100 CPU. This COIL project tests architectural, scalability and performance limits of valuable interest serving as a confidence builder internally, but also externally. Future customers for environments of this size would feel much more comfortable to find that SAP tested this in our own labs prior prove that it works. To develop the tests and to produce such proof points as an orchestrated co-innovation activity among multiple partners from the SAP ecosystem adds validation and opens up new opportunity to accelerate innovation on this front.

The project's stated objectives:

  • Establish customer confidence in large scale BI deployments
  • Optimize SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Architecture

The project is not only monstrous in size:

  • 2 - 4,000 concurrent users
  • 20 - 50,000 total user base
  • ~100 CPUs

...but in scope as well, testing SAP BI 4.0's capabilities against the market's demand for:

  • Extensive analytics
  • Mobile BI
  • Pervasive BI
  • Scalability

Early results are positive, and David assures us that the project has generated enough comments, reports and insights to fill numerous white papers and tech briefs. We look forward to those.

Follow further results at David Cruickshank's blog.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Please join us on Thursday, December 1, 2011, for a presentation on the new APOS Intelligent Data Access Controller (IDAC) solution.

IDAC allows you to monitor, manage and audit all of your SAP BusinessObjects data connections, providing the information you need to understand your BI data connectivity, to manage query processes effectively, and to increase the efficiency of your BI and data solutions.

IDAC logs BI query metadata to ensure you know who is running which queries, where, and when. It lets you:


  • Real-time tracking of BI queries
  • Automatic alerting (thresholds exceeded)
  • Automatic cancelling of runaway queries


  • Visual query management console
  • Manual query intervention
  • Complete data access control - security, compliance, content promotion


  • Audit query processing times
  • Audit query usage patterns
  • Audit user behaviour

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APOS LI Mobile for Android

APOS LI Mobile for Android is now available. The mobile version of the APOS Location Intelligence Solution (LIS) enables field personnel to see the geospatial relationships inherent in your business intelligence, providing faster speed to insight and timely responses to rapidly changing conditions.

Our enterprise location intelligence combines geospatial data and processing from Esri GIS with your business intelligence system. Your business intelligence system presents a single coherent vision of your corporate reality. When you add geospatial information, you create an environment in which you can understand and communicate information more quickly.

Download the free demo app at:

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APOS LI Mobile for PlayBook

APOS LI Mobile for the BlackBerry PlayBook is now available. The mobile version of the APOS Location Intelligence Solution (LIS) enables field personnel to see the geospatial relationships inherent in your business intelligence, providing faster speed to insight and timely responses to rapidly changing conditions.

Our enterprise location intelligence combines geospatial data and processing from Esri GIS with your business intelligence system. Your business intelligence system presents a single coherent vision of your corporate reality. When you add geospatial information, you create an environment in which you can understand and communicate information more quickly.

Download the free demo app at:

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Whither the Mainframe?

IT industry pundits have been predicting the demise of the mainframe computer for at least twenty years, but they have for the most part been wrong. The mainframe computer is still with us, and hosting mission critical information and business processes.

But it may be the human part of the human-machine interface that finally triggers the mainframe's downfall:

A study of 520 CIOs in large enterprises in eight countries found most are worried about the impact of the increasing number of mainframe workers who are retiring. Here are the results of the study, which was done for Compuware Corp. of Detroit.
(CIOs Worry About Losing Mainframe Talent, IT World Canada)

CIOs are faced with a dilemma: they can either increase their efforts to train more mainframe resources, or they can move mission critical business processes away from legacy mainframe applications. However, mainframe IT is unlikely to attract many star trainees simply because the mainframe market is shrinking. While there may be a shortage of mainframe technologists developing, who wants to invest in an education that may lose all relevance in 10 to 15 years.

The fact is that mainframe revenues are falling:

The revenue declines have sparked a new round of speculation about whether the mainframe is headed for extinction. For example, wrote Steve Hamm in Business Week on August 6, 2009: "IBM's 45-year-old line of mainframe computers has survived the onslaught of minicomputers in the 1980s, the Unix operating system in the '90s, PCs and the Internet. But a 39 percent plunge in mainframe revenues in IBM's second quarter seems to signal that this longtime mainstay of IBM's business is on its way to the junkyard." (The Mainframe: Up, Down, In or Out? CIO Zone)

The plunge in revenue and the shortage of mainframe technologists may turn the demise of the mainframe into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is your corporate strategy for managing mainframe change? Are you leveraging your BI system for greater ROI by using it to replace legacy mainframe applications? Is your BI system well enough managed to allow you to be this progressive?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Football and Leadership Lessons

While people all across the US are waiting for their Thanksgiving turkey to baste in its own juices and fill the house with the sometimes-subtle-sometimes-not aromas of Grampa's secret stuffing ingredients, many will be partaking in the somewhat newer Thanksgiving tradition of watching NFL football. Which is good, because it's hard to find engaging leadership metaphors in a turkey dinner. Turkeys and lemons both get a bad rap in that regard.

SAP co-chairman Bill McDermott, NY Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum talk about leadership.
Unless you're a die-hard football fan, you probably don't look beyond the players on the field, and perhaps the coaches on the sideline. (Just as theater goers don't often give much thought to the stage manager.) But a professional football team goes beyond the actors on the field. It is a business organization like most others, and decisions taken at all levels of the organization affect the results on the field.

The similarities weren't lost on SAP co-chairman Bill McDermott when he appeared with New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum at a recent Wharton Leadership Lecture, addressing the theme of "Creating Leaders On and Off the Field."

Professional football coaches and managers have reputations as turnaround artists, just as CEOs do, and one of the most common themes in their turnaround stories is the importance of information flow.

According to McDermott… "The most important thing a leader can do is give people feedback…" Employees deserve the respect of candor, McDermott noted, and they need to know what is expected of them and have a clear understanding of their employer's strategy and culture…

McDermott and Tannenbaum agreed that a leader has to focus on promoting an overall vision for his or her organization rather than dwelling on the small stuff.

Leadership has two very different, but complementary, knowledge imperatives: to communicate a unifying strategic vision, and to provide the information and feedback that enable each individual within the organization to work toward the goals laid out in that strategic vision.

And of course, business intelligence is a large part of these imperatives. Clearly, BI is the means of finding, analyzing, and communicating the right information to the right people at the right time and in the right format. But your BI platform also figures in the communication of vision, though perhaps not as directly.

The agility of your BI system is critical to its support for corporate vision, particularly in uncertain times. Who Says Elephants Can't Dance, Louis Gerstner's account of the IBM turnaround, is testimony to the need for agility in the modern corporate world where none had existed previously. If an organization is to outlast its founders, at some point in its history, it will have to adapt rapidly to a sea change in the business, technological, economic, political and social environment. The organization will have to adapt rapidly and communicate a new vision and all of the supporting information with extreme agility.

When the time comes, will your BI system be agile enough to meet that challenge?

Home for the holidays is a good time to think about saying what you mean and meaning what you say, but don't stop thinking about it when you get back to work.

Happy Thanksgiving. (Go Pack Go.)

US Military Logistics, Well Managed BI

A recent notice published at declared that the US Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), has renewed its maintenance contract with APOS Systems for the APOS Administrator (InfoScheduler) solution.

The mission (PDF) of the Air Force Materiel Command:
We deliver war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through development and transition of technology, professional acquisition management, exacting test and evaluation, and world-class sustainment of all Air Force weapon systems.

AFMC's management and delivery of information is mission critical in the extreme. Lives and national security are at stake, and it is gratifying for us to know that they use our solution to improve the efficiency of their BI platform and the timeliness of information delivery.

But this story is not just about doing the job well. AFMC's use of APOS Administrator also aligns with the Command's recent efforts to streamline their operations for greater efficiency, higher ROI, and lower costs.

As those of you who have been following the well managed BI saga know, APOS solutions are built to help business intelligence platform managers, administrators and technologists make more efficient use of their BI platform. Well managed BI is a quest to climb the capability maturity model (CMM) for BI platform management. The CMM has three levels:
  • If you are at the Curative level of the model, your are constantly reacting to system events and information consumer issues. You are in firefighting mode.
  •  If you are at the Preventive level, you are actively seeking out and correcting problems before they affect your information consumers.
  • If you are at the Progressive level, you are proactively seeking new opportunities to expand the use and ROI of your BI platform for the benefit of different business units.

The Air Force Materiel Command's commitment to the APOS Administrator solution validates our belief that well managed BI is a critical component in any organization's quest to fulfill its core mission.

Learn more about well managed BI. Download the Well Managed BI: Managing Your BI Platform for ROI white paper.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Product Pipeline: Location Intelligence

Announcements from the APOS Development team on new APOS Location Intelligence Solution (LIS) features:

  • LIS is now available for SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 users.
  • The LIVE viewer wizard has been improved to give you more flexibility in selecting base maps. 

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Product Pipeline: APOS Storage Center

Announcements from the APOS Development team on new APOS Storage Center features:

  • Storage Center is now a 64-bit application
  • Storage Center now lets you exclude unwanted folders from archiving rules at the CMS level.

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Product Pipeline: APOS Publisher

Announcement from the APOS Development team on new APOS Publisher feature:

  • Distribution Server now supports SSH FTP.

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Product Pipeline: APOS Insight

Announcements from the APOS Development team on new APOS Insight features:

  • The KPI "Report Extended Info" service now logs all tables accessed by reports to a separate table in the database, so that you can analyze table usage in relation to reports.
  • KPI now caches passwords to access report SQL statements when offline.
  • KPI now sends email notifications when KPI scans are complete.
  • RealTime Monitor for SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 now supports IBM DB2.

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Product Pipeline: APOS Administrator

Announcements from the APOS Development team on new APOS Administrator features:

  • Object manager now tracks the server name from the data source and presents this information in the Object manager grid as an optional column.
  • Instance Manager now lets you select successful finished instances and move them or copy them to a different parent. Any successful finished instances can be reused in other schedules as long as they are in a RPT, WID or REP format. They can also be a folder for DOC, XLS, PDF, TXT, and RTF.
  • Instance Manager now streamlines the instance deletion process. You can upload a list of failed, unused or out-of-date instances and delete them in bulk.

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APOS on the Road - 2011

APOS had a very active year at conferences and tradeshows. If we weren’t attending conferences to keep up to date on SAP BusinessObjects, Teradata and Esri solutions, we were actively exhibiting at numerous tradeshows throughout the world.

To all of you who dropped by to see us at these conferences and tradeshows, we thank you. Without your feedback, we can't continue to be the leading provider of well managed BI solutions for SAP BusinessObjects. Our iPad giveaways were just a small token of that appreciation.

The APOS booth at the ASUG/SAP BusinessObjects conference was simply magical — literally. But don't take our word for it: watch this video of Danny Orleans in action.

We are already in the planning stages for next year's conference and tradeshow schedule, and are looking forward to seeing all our old friends and meeting new ones. In the mean time, you can keep in touch with us through our social media. To find out where we'll be next and arrange to meet with members of our team, please feel free to contact Jay Murdoch.

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Mobile Location Intelligence on the BlackBerry PlayBook

We are no longer tethered to our desks by Ethernet cables. There is a widespread trend toward mobile devices and applications, and location intelligence is no exception. In keeping with this trend, the APOS Location Intelligence Solution (LIS) is now a BlackBerry PlayBook application.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Webinar: a Complete BI Publishing Solution

Webinar: Execute tightly controlled document production, publishing and distribution workflows with APOS Publisher.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 10 a.m. / 4 p.m. EDT.

If your SAP BusinessObjects deployment is well managed, it presents a single, consistent view of your corporate data, regardless of the number of datasources it joins. If this is the case, then your BI platform should also be your primary publishing platform for enterprise information.

But using your BI platform in this way may require you to overcome some major challenges, including:
  • The growing volume, variety and complexity of enterprise document publishing
  • Migration of legacy system functions to the BI system
  • The need to monitor mission-critical processes closely, and manage proactively
  • The need for flexibility and agility to address new line-of-business requirements
APOS Publisher is an essential solution for organizations that have complex SAP BusinessObjects distribution requirements with multiple report format and destination types.

For such organizations, APOS Publisher is a complete SAP BusinessObjects publishing solution, including robust bursting management, post-processing distribution service, report package management, and assured delivery to extend SAP BusinessObjects' capabilities.

APOS Publisher achieves advanced SAP BusinessObjects publishing through:
  • An advanced bursting engine
  • Automated document production
  • Workflow monitoring, alerts and auditing
  • Interactive process control
  • Assured delivery, auto recovery, & partial burst reruns
  • Enhanced distribution, encryption & integration
Learn how APOS can help you execute tightly controlled document production, publishing and distribution workflows for your enterprise. Register for this webinar.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

SpotOn Systems Purchased by Esri

Esri, the world's premier provider of geographical information system (GIS) solutions, announced yesterday that it has acquired SpotOn Systems, who specialize in integrating Esri GIS and IBM Cognos business intelligence solutions in what they call "Geospatial BI." The announcement comes just before the IBM Information on Demand 2011 conference, which Esri will attend.

SpotOn's solutions provide geospatial visualization and analysis capabilities for IBM Cognos users and provides Esri GIS users with valuable analytic capabilities. This acquisition is precisely the sort of market activity we should expect to see as the demand for location intelligence heats up.

The APOS Location Intelligence Solution (LIS) provides advanced geospatial capabilities for SAP BusinessObjects users.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

APOS Well Managed BI CMM

Do you consider your BI platform well managed? How do you measure well managed? Is "well managed" something you can quantify?

The APOS BI CMM (capability maturity model) can help you come to terms with these questions and benchmark your BI deployment so you can quantify its progress toward well managed BI. The APOS BI CMM consists of three levels:
  • Curative - reactive activities, firefighting
  • Preventive - actively seeking out problems before they happen
  • Progressive - proactively seeking new opportunities to expand the use and ROI of your BI platform for the benefit of different business units
Think of your BI deployment as a pyramid divided amongst these three levels. The size of each division within the pyramid represents the proportion of your resources' time dedicated to those types of activities. While all BI deployments require each type of activity, your BI platform can be considered well managed if you progressively minimize the time your resources dedicate to curative and preventive activities and redeploy those resources to progressive activities.

The objective of well managed BI is to invert the pyramid:

The term "well managed" may be qualitative and subjective, rather than quantitative and objective, but what you can quantify is how much time your resources dedicate to their various tasks and responsibilities. By benchmarking these hours, you can chart your course toward progressive BI and judge the relative efficacy of each step you take.

To benchmark your BI maturity, look at your resources' timesheets. Make a list of the activities they report, and classify each according to whether it is curative, preventive, or progressive. (If you have a hard time with this part of the exercise, you might have to reconsider the way your resources report to you.) Record the time spent on each activity through a period of time long enough to cover your basic business cycles (e.g., monthly quarterly, annual).

As you implement well managed BI best practices and undertake progressive initiatives, you should notice a marked shift in the proportion of curative to preventive to progressive.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Escape Velocity & Well Managed BI

Geoffrey A. Moore's most recent book, Escape Velocity: Free Your Company's Future from the Pull of the Past, is primarily about how to position a company to take best advanatage of the external and internal forces that bear on its current and future value and viability. It's a good book -- one that every product manager in a high-tech company should read, but what caught my attention on first read-through was an almost off-hand reference to the leadership / management opposition:
Asymmetrical bets [sacrificing smaller short-term gains for a larger mid-term return] are the foundation for creating company power, putting in high relief the distinction between leadership and management. Managers resist asymmetrical bets for a host of good reasons: They are both inequitable and socially unpopular. They are hard for shared services organizations to support. They entail taking high-visibility (and potentially career-limiting) risks. They run roughshod over personal loyalties. They stretch the organization far beyond the limits of its comfort zone. They are departures from the norm.
Leaders acknowledge all of the above, but they still persist in making asymmetrical bets, also for a host of good reasons: They want the power to win. They are more externally than internally focused. They want to adapt the company to the market, not the other way around. They want to make a difference. They want to make sure that sacrifices -- which are inevitable in any strategy -- are made in a worthwhile cause.
Moore advocates a lead-first, manage-second philosophy. That is, you need to reference the activities inside the company against external realities and allocate your resources accordingly. The alternative is wishful thinking -- hoping that your internal priorities will somehow, magically, match up with external demand.

The leadership vs. management debate is important for BI platform management as well.

APOS delivers well managed BI, but we also promote what we call progressive BI. The most succinct way of summarizing the difference between the two is that it is essentially the difference between management and leadership.

Leadership vs. Management

Much has been written about the difference between leadership and management, and we often see the two painted as irreconcilable opposites. The world of business, with all its shades of gray, really has no place for such absolute oppositions. Leaders have to manage, and managers have to lead, but the two activities can trigger some real cognitive dissonance.

The cognitive dissonance arises mostly in relation to the idea of risk. Our management side is trained to be risk-averse. Steady as she goes; don't rock the boat; the status quo has been good to us. However, to lead, we need to embrace risk as the necessary travelling companion of opportunity, and to understand that the benefits of the status quo won't last forever.

According to Moore, management views the world from the inside out, while leadership views the world from the outside in. That is, our management side wants to fit the exterior reality to our operating plan, while our leadership side wants to mold the operating plan to fit the exterior reality.

Well Managed BI vs. Progressive BI

How does this all relate to APOS well managed BI solutions? Well, as I said earlier, the difference between well managed BI and progressive BI is the difference between management and leadership.
APOS delivers well managed BI. We do so through solutions that simplify, automate, enhance and extend the administration and management of your BI platform. We look at the practice of BI within an organization in the light of a capability maturity model, which has three levels:
  • Curative -- the level of least maturity; your technologists are primarily reacting to events, and performing labor-intensive fixes.
  • Preventive -- you have developed deep system introspection and can anticipate and act to eliminate problems and bottlenecks.
  • Progressive -- you have achieved well managed BI and are now proactive in finding new applications and ROI for your BI platform.

We do not deliver progressive BI -- that's up to you to achieve on your own initiative. But we do enable progressive BI by taking your curative and preventive worries away, and by supplying solutions that you can use to implement advanced best practices in publishing and geospatial analytics, thus improving the distribution and communication of information within your organization. We make your BI platform management easier, so you can look outside of it proactively to find opportunities that serve the larger needs of your organization.

Chances are your BI platform is relatively robust from an IT point of view, and that its architecture and infrastructure are capable of supporting new applications. When you implement APOS solutions, you give yourself the platform on which to become proactive, develop new BI applications, and increase the ROI on your BI solution.

Gravity, Inertia and Resource Allocation

The overarching metaphor of Escape Velocity is gravity. "Escape velocity" is the speed needed to break free from a gravitational field without further propulsion (Wikipedia). The pull of the past in the book's subtitle equates gravitational forces with the organization's past success. The greater the past success, the greater the inertia preventing the company from escaping the pull of the past and achieving new successes.

Moore cites Sir Isaac Newton, developer of the theory of gravity, on page 1:

Newton taught us several centuries ago in his first law of motion, the one that covers inertia, that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to continue in the direction in which it is currently moving. The same goes for resource allocation.

And so the theme is set: we need to break free from the past to embrace the future. Since budgets are expressions of priorities, it is in resource allocation that this expression will be seen.

The Journey from Well Managed BI to Progressive BI

Don't let inertia stall your journey.

Much like Moore's escape from the pull of the past, the journey from well managed BI to progressive BI is about escaping "the way we always do things around here." If your destination is progressive BI, then you need to be aware of the journey, and not just the steps. You can take care of your curative needs, but if you don't have somewhere to focus those newly liberated resources, you will simply lose them.

If you were primarily concerned with reducing headcounts, then congratulations, your job is done. You're now doing more with less.

But if your goal is to move through preventive BI to progressive BI, and to realize greater ROI from your BI deployment, you need to be proactively redeploying your resources as soon as they have escaped curative mode.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Whitepaper - Location Intelligence & Cognitive Science

We have a new location intelligence whitepaper focusing on the science behind location intelligence. If you're curious about the role of cognitive science in how we learn and communicate, and how location intelligence leverages cognitive science for better and quicker decision-making, then download this whitepaper:

Whole-Brain Analytics: the Science Behind Location Intelligence
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Location Intelligence and Civil War

Everything old is new again. Location intelligence seems to be the new kid on the block, but it doesn't take too much research to find clear examples of the effective use of location intelligence throughout history.

Susan Schulten, writing in The New York Times, tells us that Frederick Law Olmsted (perhaps best known as the designer of New York's Central Park), working with an abolitionist journalist named Daniel Goodloe, published an 800-page volume called The Cotton Kingdom that made the economic argument against slavery. At the same time, they used the 1850 Census to create a map of the cotton kingdom.

Although the motivation for the book and map were certainly moral, their arguments were economic, because their target audience was not like-minded abolitionists, but the British public, who were worried about the supply of cotton to their mills, and ultimately about their jobs.

The 800-page book had enormous influence, but the map, which summarized those 800 pages succinctly and communicated the authors' message in an instant, had immediate impact:
...the map used Census data to illuminate Southern strengths and resources. Olmsted and Goodloe identified two variables on the map: the relationship of the free and slave population and the production of cotton. They separated areas where slaves outnumbered freemen, and the reverse. Then they classed regions according to high, medium and low output, shrewdly leaving readers to conclude just how inefficient slave labor really was. In most cases, the areas of high production had relatively low slave populations. Those areas shaded as highly productive but without corresponding slave populations were, in their view, direct evidence against slavery.
Olmsted and Goodloe weren’t the first to say that slavery was a doomed system, but they were the first to use cartography to make their case, first to the British, and then to their fellow Americans.
The impact of this piece of location intelligence may have been a factor in keeping Britain at arms length in the U.S. Civil War.

Paul Krugman noted in his comments on the article that location intelligence was also used in the Civil War by General William T. Sherman to plan his famous (or infamous) March to the Sea. Instead of taking the most direct route as recommended by his superiors, Sherman studied census records to determine which route would best supply his troops and animals with food.

So the use of geospatial data to gain competitive advantage is nothing new. However, modern technology is liberating that geospatial data, making it available to enterprises of all size, and helping them realize competitive advantage.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Webinar Alert - Location Intelligence for Healthcare

Join for this educational and entertaining webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 20ll. The webinar will focus on practical location intelligence scenarios for the healthcare industry, including:
  • Abuse Detection – using location to detect patterns in fraudulent behaviour.
  • Immunization Planning – organize immunization campaigns using demographics.
  • Service Planning Dashboard – identify regional and cultural healthcare service gaps using spatial analysis.
One of the greatest benefits of location intelligence is the revelation of geospatial relationships that are inherent within tabular data. Fraud or abuse that hides in spreadsheets can often be spotted visually within a thematic map. The strengths or inadequacies of a plan can often easily be seen by connecting the dots. Once you see an anomaly visually, you know what corroborating evidence to look for in the tabular data.
So its obvious that geospatial information can be very useful for the distributed delivery of healthcare services. You deliver services within an area, and location information is vital for timely delivery of those services, and for the responsible allocation of resources.
But there are other aspects of healthcare delivery that a location intelligence solution needs to take into account -- privacy and regulatory compliance, for example. No industry is as heavily regulated, and no industry has a greater privacy mandate.
At APOS, we define Location Intelligence as GIS +BI. The usefulness of the GIS portion of the solution is self-evident, but the need for the enterprise-ready business intelligence infrastructure is only apparent when you start to consider issues such as privacy and regulatory compliance. Enterprise BI solutions are designed with compliance and privacy in mind.
Your BI infrastructure is the key to making location intelligence an enterprise solution, rather than a peripheral software application.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Cloud - What Is It Good For?

If you're in IT, and haven't been living under a rock for the past few years, then you're probably already caught up in the Cloud debate.

For non-technical managers, the debate is a minefield with no clear path marked, and no amount of debate will replace the due diligence required to make a decision to go with Software as a Service (SaaS) and online storage to enhance or replace existing enterprise application infrastructure and data services.

The question is this: Is the Cloud ready for business intelligence prime time?
At the risk of seeming indecisive, yes and no.

Deploying enterprise BI successfully is not easy, but the rewards are great. In a recent report, Forrester Research described BI as the "last frontier of competitive differentiation," meaning that most enterprises are equal in their deployments of ERP, CRM and most other enterprise solutions, but there is still room to compete in the BI sphere. All other things being equal, well managed BI can be the advantage that enables your enterprise to compete and win.

So deploying BI in the Cloud is not, and should not be, a trivial issue.

You need to be as diligent in your vendor/hosting service research as you would be in assembling your own IT infrastructure and resources, especially when the applications and data are mission critical. What about business intelligence? First, is BI mission critical within your enterprise? (Hint: it should be.) And second, what is your motivation for moving BI to the Cloud? (HInt: it shouldn't be just to save money.)

Your due diligence needs to answer some high-level questions:
  • What can we safely move to the Cloud?
  • Is it secure enough?
  • Private or public?
  • How will the Cloud affect the way we deliver information services?
  • How does disaster recovery work in the Cloud?
  • What effect will the Cloud have on our budget?

eWeek recently published an article on data center trends, concluding that monolithic data centers are on the endangered list:

If all your servers are dedicated, you're not using some form of virtualization or not using a cloud service somewhere in your IT establishment, then you've officially been passed by. Consider yourself warned.

As a related webroot article by Gary Frank declares, "IT is undergoing a virtualization revolution." In an article on BI and DR (disaster recovery) in the Cloud, they ask: "Is the cloud a good fit for the data-mining and analytical-processing technologies that BI relies on?" They answer with a tentative "yes," but their first justification is that the Cloud "can offer considerable cost savings."

As I hinted earlier, you should be wary of the cost-savings justification. It's great to save money, but it shouldn't be your sole justification for adopting any IT path. There's an old IT expression: No one was ever fired for buying a Cisco router, meaning that you shouldn't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Let your requirements drive the process.

The webroot article goes on to say that there are new BI vendors in the Cloud marketspace and that "Big players like IBM, SAP, BusinessObjects, and Tibco are now making BI for the cloud." Encouraging, but it sounds more like a developing trend than a mature option. Do these cloud offerings provide the same data analysis capabilities as their enterprise network editions?

SmartData Collective
looks more closely at the disaster recovery statistics for Cloud-based IT, and discovers that the Cloud is most comfortable for mid-sized companies (48%), followed by small companies (38%), followed by large companies (26%). These statistics seem to reflect both the level of effectiveness the Cloud has for different sizes of enterprises, as well as the level of trust.

Is the Cloud ready for BI? Yes, if you're a small- to mid-sized company just starting to roll out BI to the enterprise. Maybe no, if you're a large, established enterprise in which BI is already mission critical and requirements are complex.

Of course, at the speed of IT, this can all change very quickly.

If your enterprise, whatever its size, is considering adding geospatial capabilities to your BI system -- creating location intelligence -- then the Cloud is a completely viable option for hosting the GIS (geographic information systems) portion of the solution.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

APOS COO Allan Pym on Well Managed BI

Allan Pym, COO of APOS Systems, delivers a presentation on well managed BI at the SAP BusinessObjects New York Metropolitan Area User Group (BONYMAUG) one-day conference, today in New York City.

Well managed BI, aside from being the title of this blog, is the very reason for the existence of APOS. We help BI practitioners move from the curative (or reactive) practice of BI, to the preventive (or active), and eventually to the progressive (or proactive) practice of BI.

Check our solutions page to see how APOS can help your company achieve preventive and progressive BI platform management.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Whole-Brain Analytics - Location Intelligence

Whole-Brain Analytics is the term we use to describe the value that location intelligence brings to the enterprise. That name has its roots in the multi-disciplinary realm of cognitive science and in the field of cognitive psychology in particular. Your brain is really two brains - two hemispheres -- each with its different way of "looking" at the world. While the left brain is the seat of verbal/analytic capabilities, the right brain is the seat of your visual/relational capabilities. (See lateralization of brain function.)

How do we know this to be true? Here's a little test that will help you "see."

Follow the instructions in the image:

location intelligence


This simple brain twister demonstrates your two hemispheres at work. They don't process information in a completely synchronized way. The test points to the natural conflict between the ways your right and left hemispheres perceive and process information about the world.

A good business intelligence solution, like a good teacher, uses multiple means and media to communicate information. Location intelligence connects the tabular, logical world of business intelligence reporting to the advanced visualization capabilities of geographic information systems to improve the understanding and communication of vital information.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Location Intelligence and "Speed to Insight"

Earlier, I wrote about location intelligence and the "Eureka moment" when the two hemispheres of the brain work together to provide a flash of insight. To make the vision of enterprise location intelligence a practical reality, it will require that two types of information practitioners come together as well.

Why should BI practitioners embrace geospatial platforms? Why should GIS practitioners embrace business intelligence platforms? How does location intelligence benefit both GIS and BI practitioners while contributing to the enterprise?

Enterprise GIS

Some GIS purists may believe that this integration with BI dilutes the true value of GIS, because BI users will only take advantage of a small sub-set of GIS's capabilities. While this may be true in the short run, GIS enthusiasts need to think about the big picture.

By taking GIS to the mainstream of enterprise solutions, location intelligence makes GIS far more pervasive throughout the enterprise. Because more of the enterprise will be exposed to GIS, more people will find more uses (with higher levels of complexity) for GIS, and the demand for the skills of GIS practitioners will grow accordingly.

To make this happen, GIS enthusiasts need to leverage BI's enterprise-ready architecture and infrastructure, and its presence within all enterprise decision-making processes.

Geospatial BI

A recent Aberdeen Group study cited three factors driving the need for more efficient, more agile business intelligence solutions:
  • Growing volume of source data / number of sources
  • Time window for decisions increasingly compressed
  • Increasing or changing demand for management information
As workers who have toiled in the field of business intelligence for many years, we at APOS have substantial anecdotal evidence to support the Aberdeen Group's statistical conclusions. These are indeed the challenges facing BI practitioners today.

From our experience, we have also come to the conclusion that location intelligence is a large part of the answer to these challenges. Location intelligence will help information consumers make better sense of diverse data sources, and be able to reach informed decisions more quickly and with greater confidence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

APOS COO Allan Pym Interviewed by SmartBrief

SmartBrief's Jesse Stanchak interviewing APOS Chief Operating Officer Allan Pym at the 2011 Esri Business Summit on the relationship between business intelligence and location intelligence:

Posted by Tom Woodhead at 8:00 am.
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

From Capex to Opex: Clouding the Issue of Location Intelligence

Joe Francica of Directions Magazine recently published an article discussing Cloud-based GIS deployments. In the article, Joe was critical of TCO justifications for deploying geospatial solutions in the Cloud. I have to say that I am completely in agreement: cost savings are the last thing to consider in planning enterprise location intelligence solutions, but not necessarily (or primarily) for the same reasons that Joe indicates.

I agree that the focus on cost-savings is counter-productive. In general, cost-savings become a factor in any market where the item for sale has become a commodity. This is simply not the case in the location intelligence market.

There's an old saying in IT: No one was ever fired for buying a Cisco router. What this means, in less cryptic terms, is that you focus on cost savings at your peril. For what does it profit a company to achieve low total cost of ownership (TCO) if it doesn't realize the full return on investment (ROI) for the solution?

I think Joe is right in saying that the majority of GIS vendors are less ready to adopt the Cloud paradigm than are their potential customers. Moving location intelligence from the capital expenditures budget (capex) to the operational expenses budget (opex) is attractive to organizations adopting solutions for a number of reasons:

  1. Because a Cloud-based solution qualifies as an operational expense, and because the annual costs of licensing a Cloud-based solution are generally low enough to reduce the number and range of people involved in decision making, it is easier to make the decision, close the deal, and deploy location intelligence on a compact timeline.
  2. A Cloud-based solution lessens or eliminates the role of IT in choosing and implementing solutions, again making it easier to adopt a solution and start realizing its value quickly.
  3. As location intelligence moves to the mainstream of enterprise solutions, the need for GIS expertise grows accordingly. Finding the human resources to meet enterprise-level needs becomes a major challenge. The Cloud limits exposure to this challenge during the early days of deployment.
  4. Cloud-based deployments make sense for companies that need to perform proof of concept, which is most companies, because the technology appears disruptive and revolutionary to them.

At APOS, we have come to recognize the necessity of this transitional, proof-of-concept approach to location intelligence.

Deployment strategies for location intelligence cannot be binary: it's not a question of all or nothing. Companies won't understand the need for, and power of, geospatially-enabled workflows until they see them for themselves. Thus, an iterative approach is frequently required. There are many hybrid stops along the way from fully Cloud- to fully network-based models.

The challenge for vendors is to provide a clear migration path from Cloud-based, silo-oriented deployments of location intelligence to network-based, enterprise-wide deployments. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. It helps to think of solution deployment not as an event, but as a path that takes into account the company's need to scale and extend the solution over time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

APOS at Esri Business Summit and User Conference


APOS Chief Operating Officer Allan Pym is delivering a presentation at the Esri Business Summit on Whole-Brain Intelligence -- what you get when you combine the visual, right-brain analytics of GIS and the tabular, left-brain analytics of business intelligence to create location intelligence.

GIS has much to offer today's enterprise, and the fastest way to make it enterprise-pervasive is to leverage the enterprise-ready architecture and infrastructure of your business intelligence system.

We'll have a presence at the User Conference as well. If you're at the conference, drop by to see us.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

From Spreadsheet Slave to Location Intelligence Junkie

I just read a fine article by David Tiger on visual financial analysis. As a career financial professional, David recognizes the omnipresence and importance of spreadsheets for financial analysis, and yet it seems there has always been something missing.

When he discovered location intelligence:
Those long, tedious spreadsheets of sales, inventory, and store-level data were suddenly fun to work with. I still spent hours number crunching on spreadsheets, but I was then able to see our internal performance data against demographic data, store data, industry data, and Wal-mart spin data, for example.
"Fun" is a word we non-finance professionals seldom associate with spreadsheets, but we can all appreciate that flash of insight that comes from connecting the dots and understanding a key piece of information.

That's the big benefit of location intelligence: it creates greater speed to insight, because it places the visual context next to the verbal or tabular intelligence. Your verbal left brain and your visual right brain work together to make the insight more immediate. It's a case of "whole-brain" analytics. Location intelligence lets you apply more of your personal mental resources to the task at hand.

David proclaims himself a location intelligence Junkie. No wonder: after years of squeezing significance out of spreadsheets, he's now cruising to insights with location intelligence:
As a small, growing company, we had to allocate our marketing resources carefully and strategically to effectively target our customers. Seeing this data on a map created a whole new level of understanding of market assumptions that accelerated the execution of regional and national strategies.
Here's a case where location intelligence creates both competitive advantage and operational efficiency.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Webinar: Location Intelligence for Retail

Retail chains, whether they are expanding or contracting, need the best possible intelligence concerning store locations. Location intelligence helps retail chains channel product to appropriate markets, understand local/regional requirements, and maintain optimal inventory levels at stores and distribution centers.

By displaying actual purchasing history on maps, retail chains can plan effectively for seasonal marketing campaigns. By displaying demographics on maps, planners can forecast future selling patterns.

This industry focused webinar covers the topic of Location Intelligence through the integration of Business Intelligence and Esri GIS using the APOS Location Intelligence Solution.

Please join us for this 45-minute webinar, where we will show you how the APOS Location Intelligence Solution can assist retailers in unlocking the value of their existing data systems for their organizations and customers.

This webinar will provide a solution overview and use case scenarios applicable to the following functions within a retailer:
  • Site Selection - Location optimization is a key element of capital investment planning and remaining competitive in today's lean economy
  • Sales & Marketing Insight - Dashboard views integrate rich BI data with geospatial data, providing a comprehensive, consolidated view of your retail portfolio.
  • Targeted Promotions - Identify your most valuable customers geographically; visualize demographic correlations with sales; target new customers with similar demographic characteristics by location.
Session 1: 7am PDT (Vancouver), 10am EDT (New York), 3pm BST (London)
Session 2: 1pm PDT (Vancouver), 4pm EDT (New York), 9pm BST (London), 6am AEST*(Sydney)
* June 1
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Well Managed BI - Part II

My first post on this blog tried to explain the concept of well managed BI, and perhaps it's time I delved more deeply into that topic. The tagline under the blog's title kind of says it all: if you implemented a BI solution to help you operate your enterprise more efficiently, you need to ensure that your BI solution is working up to its potential, or you may not get the information you need to manage your enterprise in a timely manner. Worse still, the information you're getting may be faulty.

But what if it's more than operational efficiency that you're looking for? Is there more to well managed BI than getting your reports on time?

We know that BI systems are becoming more pervasive among enterprises, and also more pervasive within enterprises, and that BI systems are capable of playing a larger role within the enterprise solution stack. What if you're looking to do more with your BI system?

Then you had better make sure that your BI system is running at peak efficiency. You need to make sure that you can administer your BI system proactively, monitor its critical services from outside, publish content efficiently and effortlessly, and that you have the storage, backup and restore capabilities that meet your enterprise disaster recovery specifications.

After you've done everything you can to manage your BI system effectively, you can start thinking about extending it. Location intelligence -- true bi-directional integration with GIS -- is a good place to start. And how about publishing content to your customers? Or integrating BI with your enterprise content management system?

At APOS, we believe that if you're not using our software to administer and monitor your SAP BusinessObjects system, and to publish and store your BI content, you're simply not getting the most out of your BI system. We complement, enhance and extend that system so that you have the confidence to do more with it, and the peace of mind to sleep at night.

That's well managed BI.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BI Publishing and the CFO

Linda Tucci of SearchCIO-Midmarket tells the story of a CFO taking the lead on business intelligence strategy. What drove the CFO to get involved? Was it quality of information? Was it the price of the solution? Total cost of ownership?

No. It was the fact that the company was going through reams of paper on a daily basis. Their staff were manually sorting, collating, troubleshooting and distributing reports. CFO Gary Petrangelo:

"The larger the size of the department, the bigger the report. Our mailing department could have 200 pages to page through if a discrepancy showed up in the bottom line," Petrangelo said... "To me it just seemed senseless, with all the technology we have. We should be able to generate that in electronic format," Petrangelo said.

What drove the CFO to get involved was the company's outdated and unwieldy process of generating, distributing and accessing business intelligence -- in a word: Publishing. The publishing capabilities of their legacy BI system were not scalable and extensible enough to meet their growing needs.

This anecdotal evidence agrees with our experience selling the APOS Publisher solution: the growing demands on the BI system, the complexities of those demands, and the migration of line-of-business functions to the BI platform call for an end-to-end, integrated, scalable and extensible BI publishing solution.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Webinar Reminder: Publishing for SAP BusinessObjects

Thousands of organizations rely on the SAP BusinessObjects platform to connect their information consumers with the business intelligence content they need for effective decision-making. The business intelligence publishing process is of critical importance to these organizations. They require flawless generation and timely delivery of reports, and secure access for information consumers.

Is your publishing process growing more and more complex and consuming more and more of your administrative resources? Find out how report generation, distribution, and access can be planned, automated, executed and monitored from within a single integrated solution.

The APOS Publisher Solution provides the agility, flexibility and security to meet complex BI publishing requirements. APOS Publisher complements the inherent strengths of SAP BusinessObjects, and brings end-to-end monitoring and control to your output management process.

Please join us for this 45-minute webinar to learn more about:
  • Complementing SAP Publishing with APOS Publisher
  • Understanding the content lifecycle
  • Automating bursting and scheduling
  • Proactively managinge the full publishing process
  • Getting more from your BI system - total output management
Have you missed an important webinar? Download recent webinars and white papers here.
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Beyond Bursting: the Future of BI Publishing

Publishing has some very specific connotations in the business intelligence world. To some, BI publishing is just report printing, but this description does not do justice to the many subtleties and complexities of BI publishing. As BI becomes more pervasive within organizations, the needs of information consumers increase and grow more complex, and so do the information delivery requirements.

BI publishing is more than just bursting now. It has become a much larger topic within today's enterprise. An end-to-end BI publishing solution should not only meet today's information requirements, but also lay the groundwork for the future of enterprise information generation, delivery, and secure access.

Let's look at BI publishing at the conceptual level. The objective of an end-to-end BI publishing solution is to get the right content to the right information consumer, at the right time, in the right format, and with the right level of security. The solution has to generate the content, distribute it, and provide (secure) access to it. And to ensure that all of these things happen according to plan, the solution must have an administrative layer that assures delivery and provides remedial capabilities.

A BI publishing solution that does all of these things well should be of interest to a variety of people within an enterprise:
  • BI administrators need to know that tasks have executed as scheduled, and they need to be able to validate reception of documents by information consumers. But knowing is not enough: they also need clear remedial courses of action to administer publishing processes proactively.
  • BI Platform managers need a BI publishing solution that is both scalable and extensible. Scalable, because they know that publishing needs will continue to grow as the demand for BI becomes more pervasive throughout the organization. Extensible, because line-of-business managers will continue to ask them for more enterprise publishing functionality. Knowing they have a robust BI publishing system gives platform managers the confidence they need to offer new enterprise publishing solutions.
  • Line-of-business managers need to optimize the flow of information within their business units and look for new ways to create competitive advantage. An end-to-end BI publishing solution goes beyond the generation and delivery of internal documents. As the use of BI publishing becomes more customer-facing, it becomes a key line-of-business tool, and the more line-of-business managers get from a BI publishing solution, the more they will demand.
  • CIOs and other C-level executives are looking for cost-effective ways to modernize legacy information systems. Many internal and customer-facing document generation and delivery applications reside on aging IT infrastructure. C-level executives are looking to leverage their BI investment to assume many of these legacy functions.
Have you missed an important webinar? Download recent webinars here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Location Intelligence for Local Governments

Local government is the bottom tier of government, so when the higher tiers of government proclaim the need for austerity, we all know where the brunt of that austerity falls, and who takes the blame for service shortfalls within your community. Local governments need to work smarter, and to do more with less. Location Intelligence is one of the technologies that can help you manage proactively and meet the call for austerity head on.

All governments govern geographical areas, and thus most government information includes a geospatial aspect. Many departments within local government understand this fact and have adopted geographic information systems (GIS) to help them visualize the geospatial relationship inherent in their information workflows. What these departments inevitably conclude is that geospatial visualization is not simply "nice to have," but critical to understanding and communicating information, and to planning work efficiently.

What if you could implement GIS across all departments? And what if you could tie all of these implementations together so that everyone is working from the same playbook? Can you imagine the efficiency gains?

That's what Location Intelligence does for local government, or for any other type of organization. Location Intelligence merges your Business Intelligence system with GIS to create a single coherent view of reality that spans all departments. Each department has its own thematic maps, but all of these maps are connecte to a single business intelligence datasource.

Have you missed an important webinar? Download recent webinars here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

APOS Publisher: A Complete Publishing Solution for SAP BusinessObjects

The publishing process in SAP BusinessObjects is critical to effective and pervasive business intelligence. You may have high-quality information within your BI system, but it's all for nothing if that information doesn't reach the decision makers in your organization in a timely and secure manner.

Publishing may be invisible to your information consumers, but if you are a platform manager or technician, it is critical that you understand and manage the publishing process to deliver high-quality, timely reports.

What's involved in the generation, distribution and accessibility of your SAP BusinessObjects reports? And how does the APOS Publisher Solution make it easier for you to configure and manage the publishing process?

The APOS Publisher Solution is a complete publishing solution for SAP BusinessObjects, the business intelligence solution that thousands of organizations around the world rely on to connect their information consumers with the analytics they need for effective decision making.

What makes APOS Publisher the best choice for publishing SAP BusinessObjects reports? Publisher not only automates a large part of your publishing process, but also provides the flexibility to manage the process of generating tailored documents and delivering them to stakeholders throughout the enterprise, and beyond.

Bursting & Consolidation: Generating the Right Content for the Right People

The APOS Publisher Bursting module enables a seamless, secure, automated and data-driven publishing process. "Multi-pass" bursting lets you run large numbers of schedules that have been personalized in APOS Publisher.

Alternatively, you can gain even more flexibility by using Publisher's "single-pass" bursting, which creates a single large instance for post-processing by the APOS Distribution Server module. In both scenarios, bursting is an automated process.

If you are distributing multiple documents to the same recipients, use APOS Publisher to consolidate the reports into a single report package for ease of consumption and simplified monitoring and management.

APOS Publisher Bursting achieves a high degree of automation through bursting definitions that are tied directly to your SAP BusinessObjects system. The bursting process adjusts automatically to user changes in your BI system.

Distribution: The Who, When & How of Delivery

Every organization's report delivery needs are unique and frequently complex. Format, security, delivery location -- all of these factors are key to satisfying the needs of business process workflows, and the needs of all business units and the information consumers within them.

The APOS Publisher Solution's Distribution module provides additional post-processing, such as adding encryption and other special export options and destinations. Publisher uses regular SAP BusinessObjects scheduling functionality, but adds extra settings and custom properties to achieve more distribution flexibility. With Publisher, you can distribute your reports to multiple destinations simultaneously, including:
  • Printer (multiple simultaneously)
  • Network file location
  • Email as attachment
  • Email as content
  • FTP
  • SFTP
Publisher's Distribution functionality is also the gateway to integration with your content management system.

APOS Publisher & Content Fusion: Accessibility

Is it time for your organization's information systems to work together? Do you have both a business intelligence system to gather and analyze mission-critical data, and a content management system to help with collaborative processes? Optimizing the flow of information means fusing these systems together.

APOS Publisher provides all of the automation, security, and accessibility you need to publish your SAP BusinessObjects reports successfully. However, as the need for business intelligence within your organization becomes more pervasive, you may want to consider even wider accessibility.

The Content Fusion module is a natural extension to APOS Publisher. Content Fusion uses plug-ins to perform "active archiving" within content management systems such as Open Text (9.7.1 or 10) and Microsoft SharePoint (2003, 2007, 2010). You can attach your SAP BusinessObjects reports to your content management workflows to create complete intelligence packages. Attached reports include metadata such as source, parameters, ownership, and other lineage information.

The Big Picture

The APOS Publisher Solution covers the SAP BusinessObjects content lifecycle from start to finish, and it integrates seamlessly with the entire suite of APOS solutions, all designed to help you get the most out of your SAP BusinessObjects deployment.

Location Intelligence: Turning the Eureka Moment into Business as Usual

Location intelligence is one of the latest buzzwords in the enterprise software world, but definitions vary widely. Is it just reports with maps, or maps with reports? Or is there more to this phenomenon? Location intelligence is the convergence of geographic information systems (GIS) and business intelligence (BI) systems, but what is the significance of this convergence? And what's in it for the average line-of-business manager, or the average corporate information consumer? We have a white paper that will help you get to the heart of the matter.

Download Location Intelligence: Turning the "Eureka" Moment into Business as Usual.

From the Executive Summary:
Location – geospatial information – is a part of nearly all business intelligence. Frequently this geospatial information is presented textually (as a postal address, for example). But geospatial information is not just about where an asset is located, but where it is located in relation to other assets, and that relationship is best presented visually.

Location intelligence solutions integrate geographic information systems (GIS) with business intelligence (BI) systems to let you visualize the geospatial relationships within your business intelligence. This integrated solution is not merely "nice-to-have" technology. It is not technology for technology's sake: the visual aspects of information make a difference in the way that information becomes knowledge. That is, visualizing is as important to the average individual's understanding of information as reading is. Both the visual and the textual aspects of information are critical to the learning process – the process by which information becomes the knowledge required to make informed business decisions.

GIS enriches comprehension through visualization. Visualization creates impact, revealing not only the truth about business information, but also the importance of that truth within your business enterprise. The shock value of visualization can lead, literally, to a "Eureka" moment – a flash of insight, a moment of recognition – in which you reach a level of clarity never before achieved. The visual impact of location intelligence improves "speed to insight," making information – and business decisions – more timely. It gives your decision makers an edge – an information advantage.
For more information on APOS location intelligence products, visit the APOS Location Intelligence Solution page.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Looking Forward to TDWI World Conference

We'll be attending TDWI World Conference in Chicago, from June 6 to 10, 2011. The theme for this year's conference is "Validating Your BI/DW Direction," which should open up some fascinating discussions, considering…

Monday, April 11, 2011

Product Pipeline: APOS Publisher 2011-04

Announcing improvements to APOS Publisher, our end-to-end publishing and content management integration solution for SAP BusinessObjects:
  • New plug-ins to link SAP BusinessObjects to Open Text and Microsoft SharePoint
  • Improved integration with the APOS Administration Instance Manager module

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Product Pipeline: APOS Insight 2011-04

Announcing improvements to APOS Insight, our SAP BusinessObjects system introspection solution:
  • Insight can now extract SAP BusinessObjects Audit data, de-normalize it, and write it to topical tables within the APOS KPI database for easier access, analysis and reporting.
  • Insight can now monitor publication schedules within SAP BusinessObjects and notify administrators should any schedule fail.

These new features greatly improve your ability to manage SAP BusinessObjects proactively. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

AI - BI - LI - "Watson - Come Here..."

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Business Intelligence (BI), and Location Intelligence (LI) -- how are they related? LI is a convergence of BI and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and according to a recent article, we should expect a similar convergence of AI and BI in the near future. What will that convergence look like? And what will IBM's Watson have to do with it?

Bangalore-based Manthan Systems, a firm specializing in Retail Business Intelligence, believe the day of this convergence is approaching. But is this just another empty convergence promise? (I'm still waiting to do word processing on my toaster while I'm fixing breakfast.) Or are we actually moving toward "agile, intuitive and interactive solutions" that "will allow users to explore information freely rather than confining them to a predefined path of inquiry," as Manthan CEO Atul Jalan says in the company's press release?

Manthan's article asks the question: Can Watson Change Business Intelligence? Watson is, of course, the IBM-built computer that beat past champions on Jeopardy! You may wonder, why should we be amazed by a computer that can win a popular game show when other computers have been trouncing chess masters for decades?

The answer is heuristics. According to Wikipedia, heuristics "are strategies using readily accessible, though loosely applicable, information to control problem solving in human beings and machines." What this means, essentially, is that the human ability to solve problems is inextricably linked to our ability to learn and to apply experience. Traditionally, this ability has separated us from computers.

A computer plays chess using a body of human knowledge applied to precise movements within a limited scenario. Watson's capabilities need to span language comprehension, complex search of a large and broad range of data sources, and heuristic analysis to produce the most appropriate answers -- and to do it quickly.

Watson won at Jeopardy! not because of an out-of-the-box algorithm that gave it superior problem solving skills to its human competitors, but because its handlers "taught" it (or it "learned") how to play the game.

Is that real AI? Well, I don't think it would pass Alan Turing's test. But it may still have far-reaching effects on human-machine interactions. As the article points out, in the recent past, we've seen developments in search algorithms, mobile analytics, unstructured data analysis, predictive analytics, and collaborative BI. All of these developments point in the right direction.

I believe the greatest benefits of this gradual convergence and evolution will be "quality of insight" and "speed to insight," and the key to achieving better insights faster lies partly in the way the machine interacts with our queries, and partly in how it presents the various layers of applicable information for our consumption. Insight is not just about receiving information: you have to be able to grasp its significance and context as well.

Curiously, the Manthan article makes no mention of one area of BI convergence that is occurring now, and really is providing better quality of insight and speed to insight, and that is location intelligence. It's curious, because I can think of no market sector that will benefit more from LI than the Retail sector. Location Intelligence creates speed to insight by presenting complementary sets of intelligence (i.e., geospatial and textual) that allow the individual's very different left brain and right brain processing capabilities to work together, using whole-brain analytics to achieve a "Eureka" moment -- a flash of insight.

It's not AI, but it is a significant evolutionary step in the history of BI.

Judgment: the Manthan article is guilty of undocumented hype ("Experts say…"), but it makes a valid point about the evolution of BI as a more agile, intuitive and interactive medium.

*Alexander Graham Bell's first utterance into the newly invented telephone is reported to have been "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you."