Archives for 8 Feb,2019

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Partnering with the IT organization

Many prospective customers say creating complex reports is challenging. What challenges them the most is getting data out of their systems and asking the IT staff to write the necessary queries to pull a report or create post-query filters and visuals. If the report isn’t quite right, they need to go back to IT and submit another request.

For companies with only one person who knows the database language and who can code, the dependency on that person can cause roadblocks to productivity. Unfortunately for end users, IT staff is often busy juggling many projects, so it can take a while to get a report.

IT departments have a legitimate concern with users accessing data because reports can easily become inconsistent with each other when they are created by different individuals within the organization. For organizations with an IT staff whose policy is to control the data, Informer delivers the perfect solution by enabling IT to create connections to all their different data warehouses while maintaining data governance and security over who has access to the data by using Informer Datasets.

Since the data within Datasets has been curated through the data governance process, a huge burden can be lifted from the IT staff whereby they can allocate more time to focus on critical projects. By designating a few technical people to be data owners within their respective departments, IT managers find it easier to offload more reporting responsibility to users. And, with Dataset access being granted by IT, users can create self-service reports that meet their needs.

To learn more about the functionality mentioned here or any other Informer functionality, please contact Informer Support with questions or to schedule training.

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Informer 5 delivers greater data access and extensibility

Over its existence, Informer has gone through major evolutionary changes in the areas of data access and management, data governance, and reporting. Informer 3 and Informer 4 did a great job in setting up mappings that allowed users to directly query a production database and pull reports. These earlier versions of Informer sandboxed portions of the system and fields that end users were allowed to see, and they enabled organizations to set up rules for tables that users could query.

However, Informer 3 and 4 faltered by allowing end users to create queries against the production database and pull too much data. These versions also allowed users to query tables in a way that was inefficient and slowed down the system. For example, selecting records within a multi-million row table that contained certain criteria that was not indexed.

Informer 5 Data Access

With Informer 5, we still allow for ad hoc queries against the database, but we’ve taken a huge leap forward by creating Dataset functionality. Because Datasets can be scheduled to automatically refresh on any given frequency, Admins don’t have to worry about users running queries that take all day. A great benefit in using Datasets is they are always going to be fast because they’ve already been indexed.

With Dataset capability, a DBA-type person can create a very large set of data and compartmentalize it with separate views of information that their end users can work with in a very simple and secure way. This eliminates the need to create separate sets of data for each person. This also enables you to establish strong data governance by creating a single Dataset based on your rules which include limiting users to only see portions of the data depending on their role in the organization.

Data access and end-user security are challenges faced by many organizations. However, with the Dataset’s user-based filters, Informer 5 eliminates these challenges by giving you the control and strong data governance you want. For example, when giving access to users, you can set up a filter that restricts the rows that can be seen to only a subset of that data. You can allow users to get into the data and look around, aggregate, make charts and more without worrying that they’re somehow going to backdoor their way into information from another department. Secondary-level access to a Dataset can also be enabled for a class of users who don’t even create reports, they just access data views you’ve set up.

Informer 5 Extensibility and Integration Points

A lot of the restrictions and limitations that are found in enterprise software applications are eliminated when software is designed using:

  • extensibility as a priority
  • and, an open source technology stack that provides an API structure which offers easy customization and expansion.

Extensibility, defined as the ability to easily make changes in system functionality, is enabled in a safe way within Informer 5 because of the large variety of hooks we programmed on the server-end and the user interface. Other BI companies have probably not gone to the extent we have with hooks in Informer.

Extensibility and integration points might not be at the forefront of buyers’ thinking when searching for a BI tool to purchase directly from a software provider, however, when organizations meet with VARs and integrators to discuss their requirements for a BI solution, extensibility and flexibility are often highlighted as important criteria.

Examples of Informer 5’s extensibility and integration points include:

  • You can update records with different information as they move through the system by using Informer 5 Flow extensions which incorporate company-specific ETL logic.
  • Data can be pushed into the system via Informer 5’s API. If you have data that you want to track and analyze that’s coming from some other location, you can use our REST API to pull it in and track it. One example is IoT, where connected devices, like sensors, are continuously collecting and streaming information. In this case, you’re collecting data on the fly and you’re not refreshing a Dataset but instead pushing data into it. An adapter can be written that takes that data and channels it into an Informer Dataset dedicated to collecting the sensor data. Then, we can write some code that uses our API to publish the information directly into Informer.
  • Informer 5 provides integration touchpoints designed for local deployments. For example, integrate Informer with your LDAP or Active Directory security to do single sign-on.
  • Add custom visuals to your dashboards to achieve greater insights. For example, we quickly deployed stadium mapping visuals for a customer, where the arena maps were bound to data pulled from their database. We were able to achieve that in a short amount of time because of Informer 5’s architecture.
  • Informer 5 provides collaboration integration that enables you to develop valuable content within Informer and share it across your organization. You can link to reports, visuals, images, and more.
  • From the perspective of Entrinsik’s business partners, VARs, and integrators, Informer 5’s extensibility provides many ways to adapt the system within different customer environments. Informer’s user interface and backend can be rebranded and folded into another application and distributed and licensed that way. Informer’s licensing model is also flexible and compatible with how our partners license their app.

In summary, when conducting research into a new Business Intelligence and Data Analytics solution, your organization will benefit tremendously when you select those systems that include:

  • indexed Datasets with granular control provided by user-based filters
  • extensibility that offers the flexibility and integration you will always want as you look to do more and more with the system.

To learn more about the functionality mentioned here or any other Informer functionality, please contact Informer Support with questions or to schedule training.

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Five Features of Informer 5 Customers Mention the Most

I have the fortunate opportunity to frequently talk with a lot of customers and prospective customers. It’s nice to see the excitement people have when they discover unexpected timesaving functionality provided by Informer 5. Here are five areas of functionality that I’d like to share with you that receive consistent praise.

1) Consolidating Data Sources

Using Informer 5, users can combine data from multiple Datasources into Datasets, providing for broader and more comprehensive analysis. For example, ERP systems, MySQL database, Excel spreadsheets, etc. can all be pulled together into Informer. Using common key fields, links can be established between different Datasources to create a single Dataset. If common keys don’t already exist, it still might be possible to create a key field using a Flowstep to create a key that matches the key on the other side. Then the different Datasources can be joined. Even if a common key doesn’t exist, all the different Datasources can still be pulled into Informer to create a Dashboard with a view of each Datasource.

2) Creating and Sharing Visuals

It’s common to hear customers say they like:

  • the ability to show multiple different Datasets within an Informer Dashboard — where all the visuals are on one screen and with each Dataset having its own unique visual
  • the number of visuals and ease in which they can be created and configured, as well as the ability to do more analysis inside Dashboards
  • simplifying side-by-side comparative analysis using Comparison Boards
  • pinning visuals to their home page to create a personalized view
  • Informer 5’s sharing feature which enables selective views to be created as opposed to a public view that allows everyone to see posted reports.

3) Scheduling Actions to be Executed

Customers also talk about how exciting Informer Jobs are because they can set up things to be executed with the scheduler. But, did you know it’s more than a scheduler? Informer Jobs also enables you to automate your processes. For example, you can add six Datasets to a Job and have one email go out with six different attachments that you need to see every day. By compiling them together, you avoid creating six different Jobs associated with six different activities. You can also automate system processes like writing data files to your network or transmitting them securely via SFTP.

4) Eliminating one-off reporting

While showing Informer to prospective customers, they often say they need to build a lot of “one off” reports. I explain that they can eliminate the need to create numerous “one off” reports by using a single Dataset for slicing and dicing the data using filter chips and quickly creating visuals. Once they see how to create a Dataset, report, visual, etc., they are shocked by realizing how many days of work they can free up by eliminating the manual reporting process.

The learning process is straight forward:

  • determine what you want the Dataset to have in it
  • figure out how you’re going to use that Dataset to create and share visuals with others
  • build the data structure by first understanding the analysis and reporting needs of management and staff within the organization, and then create the actual definition of the query in Informer.

After that, management and staff can start using the Dataset to analyze and create their own reports.

5) Supporting Project Management

Many of our customers work on multiple projects with multiple tasks to complete and they frequently check throughout the day to see where they are in the completion of these tasks. They need to see daily snapshots of their business to easily spot what’s missing. However, spotting missing information is very difficult when project information is provided in huge reports.

Informer 5 Datasets can be configured to update frequently to show what needs to be worked on. Dashboards make it easy to spot tasks that still need to be completed by showing, for example, accounts, orders received, orders closed, open tasks, etc.

Dashboard reports can show what’s missing. For example, a lot of schools need to send compliance reports to the state and they need to track the status of completion for these reports. Other schools import student demographic data from a government institutional database into an Informer Workspace and create a Dataset to zero-in on specific areas and outliers to see how their outreach programs are doing there. To make better investment decisions in their programs, they look at how many students are from specific high schools and compare the number of applicants vs. how many actually came to their school.

Informer can also be used as a data error-checking tool where abnormalities in data patterns can be spotted. This sparks the opportunity for more investigative questions to be asked. For example:

  • spotting files that were closed but there are open actions that haven’t been completed
  • incomplete student record information or the incorrect status on their record

To learn more about the functionality mentioned here or any other Informer functionality, please contact Informer Support with questions or to schedule training.

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