TARGIT Business Intelligence Suite is a combination of data handling and user interface, which allows the business user to obtain meaning from the myriad of data sources within their business with the fewest number of mouse clicks.
As a Business Intelligence Specialist, I have for many years been creating my own interfaces using a myriad of software and hardware applications to deliver the easiest method of providing BI to the company's decision makers. One of my major concerns in this process has always been that any major changes in the user's requirements for data analysis usually required the intervention of Information Technology specialists to write new queries or change the method of delivery and that most organizations IT Departments do not support this requirement. This has being improving steadily in recent years with major improvements in the delivery of information to the user through SQL Server/SharePoint/SSRS, Business Objects and Oracle/IBM Cube reporting and the growth of the skill set within the database support areas of companies. However, all of these methods still may require the assistance of the IT department either to change the requirements of the report, or to investigate the underlying data further to see if a new report is required or a drill down on the data reported is required. In this article, I would like to give you an overview of my experiences with TARGIT Business Intelligence Suite, a system that I believe delivers functionality within an easy to use intuitive client along with an easy to maintain and create data warehouse solution.
The first step in any BI Development is to investigate the available data across the company and then create a store or links to the available information to be accessed by your BI client. The same methodology applies for whatever industry your application is being designed and built for - Sales, Supply, Finance or Health. The company is always going to require some form of aggregated data to report its success or failure. This data is usually created in a form of multi-dimensional cube using whatever technology the company has available (Microsoft, ORACLE, IBM) but may also include external data sources and data stored in a relational database. In a data warehouse solution, where the data is stored in an OLAP cube, the dimensions, measures and kpi's stored are then interrogated by whatever BI system is put in place to provide insight to the company. Unfortunately most IT departments do not have a BI 'expert' on staff, the DBAs will understand about multi-dimensional data but it will not be set up within the organization unless a BI project has been completed or started. In my experience this is where a lot of organizations BI projects fail - due to the added expense or complication of hiring staff to complete the project in the first place. Having worked on several large projects, I find that my time is split between management advice, creation of the application and more frequently technology transfer to those permanent members of staff who will carry the flag once I have left. This is not a problem but it should always be factored into any project on which you may be asked to consult. Once the data store has been created, the main project aim should be a consolidated approach to report generation, avoiding if at all possible the situation where as Eckerson stated in 2002 the 'spreadmart' becomes the way forward within the organization allowing many departments to try and create their own mini warehouses and BI systems to satisfy a particular need, utilizing Excel to link to the Data Store.
In my experiences of setting BI systems to work for international clients, it has become apparent that the major driver for the client's management team is the speed at which results from the data can be delivered once the data store has been completed. I believe that this speed of implementation can define the success or failure of the overall project.
One method I have used to good effect is to implement a complete end-to-end BI Model with TARGIT. As a consultant, I find that the flexibility of the architecture model allows for most data sources found in IT Departments and the speed of set up for a company using one of the industry standard epos systems superb. For example I have completed the creation of the multi-dimensional data store and install of a TARGIT system to a major sales company within 5 working days, using the TARGIT Accelerator plug in for SQL which allows the cube to be created automatically and then amended as required. The TARGIT Client is installed on the user's machine and once the TARGIT client is linked via the ANT Server to the data cube the user is able to select from all the available dimensions and measures to create reports, intelligent dashboards and scorecards. The ANT server acts as a control layer between the Active X components that underlie the client and the ADO layer connecting to the data layer. The server is used to allow automation of report production, multi lingual interpretation of the dimensions, measures and underlying data without the requirement to change the language of the warehouse along with hosting each clients stored reports and making global reports available to all clients. Installing the server is a simple task and can be hosted on the same server as the SSRS/SSAS install or on its own dedicated server as long as it can be reached via TCP/IP from the clients.
The TARGIT client allows users to choose the type of report they require, the display method, what data they want to see. I have found that one of the most valuable parts of the client is the 'intelligent analysis tool', which allows non-technical personnel the ability to select statements in plain language, which are then converted via the client into reports based on the user's selections. As an example, a user might select to analyze the measure of sales by the dimension of time selected by a particular region. This is all achieved by following a controlled path in plain text language. Once selected, the report is previewed in the lower screen of the client - it is quite amazing to see the reaction on a users face when they have created their first report using this method. For the more experienced user, the client also allows the selection of dimensions and measures to create reports. In my experience a non-technical user who has a background in sales finds the system very easy to use and can be generating a report within minutes - this is the real benefit of this system.
The TARGIT Architecture enables data to flow from either a multi-dimensional or relational data source. The example below shows the Architecture map for a Microsoft solution.
The TARGIT BI solution that I have used many times allows a company to achieve a very quick turnaround from the decision to implement a BI Solution to creating meaningful results; this in turn allows the company to profit from those results. TARGIT is not by any means a complete solution for all scenarios however, it will be interesting to see how the company moves forward into the area of Cloud BI in the future. I have also used many of the following systems (below) to link to OLAP and RDBMs databases and recover information and I will continue as a specialist to deliver Business Intelligence to a company using whatever methods are available at the time. However, I believe that TARGIT is one of the most complete methods of delivery of this type of data with a minimum of interaction required by specialists once the system has been set up and installed, which in this cost effective economy must be a plus:
- Microsoft SSRS
- IDS Scheer
- Logic XML
- Panarama Software