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Amplify Business Intelligence Visuals with Informer

Posted by Timothy Burns on April 12, 2022

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A favorite song is structured to be both instantly recognizable and memorable. It’s written with a predefined structure that is thought out to capture the listeners attention and invoke an emotion. There are several standard ways in which a song is written and some basic rules song writers “should follow” when it comes to writing the song.  

The same can be said to developing business intelligence visuals for project-based firms. A business analyst, like a songwriter, must decide on the different visuals that will come together to create a melody to allow firm leaders to make decisive, but critical decisions. The visuals must grab the attention quickly and be easily understood to the audience. 

This article breaks down how to the Blackbox Connector for Informer amplifies the firm’s Deltek Vantagepoint data to make memorable melody. 

Understanding the Business Intelligence Visual Structure

The basic parts of a song include the intro, verse, pre-chorus/lift, bridge, break, and outro. Let’s compare that to creating a business intelligence dashboard using Informer.  

The intro is self-explanatory – it’s the intro the song or the very first visual on the dashboard. And, it’s one of the most important parts. Typically, it’s the very top left corner visual. This is where the most important statistic or data should be displayed.  

The verse gives the listener (or the viewer in our case) the idea of what the song is about. It typically sets the tone or topic of the entire dashboard.  

The pre-chorus/lift can build anticipation. In a song this includes increasing the volume or rhythm or pulling back and creating silence. When building the business intelligence visual stack, it can be the visuals that keep viewers scrolling through or keep them on the page.  

The chorus is often the most memorable melody of the song. It usually repeats itself throughout the entire song. And, just like in a song, it can repeat the same visuals but maybe for different regions or offices. For example, the dashboard may have several charts that show utilization rates by office with different separate visuals scattered throughout for each region of offices. Think about that one main theme of the dashboard – utilization rate, hit rate, profit, sales target – whatever the theme for that dashboard and make sure it’s repeated in a way that makes sense to make it memorable. 

A break is usually an instrumental part of the song that allows for some breathing room. When creating business intelligence visuals, make sure there is ample white space or breathing room between each individual chart or graph. This gives the audience that break before consuming the next information. 

A good song has an outro – the end of the song. The outro closes out the song just like the business intelligence dashboard needs to close out.

Putting the Structure Together   

Understanding the basic structure of a song (or business intelligence dashboard) is just the first step. Next is to understand how each part works together to create different melodies. Below are some common song structures in modern music and how you can think about these when designing dashboards using Informer.  

Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus  

This is probably the most common song structure in today’s music, especially in pop music. And, it’s a great way to begin with designing the BI dashboards.  

Examples of some songs using this structure include: 

  • “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple 
  • “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles 
  • “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix 

Informer visuals using this structure can include visuals showing the following: 

  • Total potential revenue in the pipeline 
  • Opportunity count by office 
  • Total revenue won YTD 
  • Opportunity dollar about by stage 

An example Informer visual using this structure is shown below. 

 

Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus   

Songs that use this structure often get stuck in your head and therefore become popular. The bridge helps add a surprise or variance breaking up the repetitiveness of the song. Using this structure when designing the business intelligence dashboards can add a new angle or different theme while supporting the main goal or theme.  

Examples of songs using this structure include: 

  • “Happy” by Pharrell 
  • “Every Breath You Take” by the Police 
  • “Fix You” by Coldplay
 

Taking the example from above, the bridge added could be: 

  • Total potential revenue in the pipeline 
  • Opportunity count by office 
  • Total revenue won YTD 
  • Top 10 largest clients by YTD revenue 
  • Opportunity dollar about by stage

By adding the top 10 largest clients, the viewer can get a sense of what clients the firm should be focused on, which stays with the theme of the overall visual – business development. But that specific chart is revenue earned not expected revenue or sales won. It’s a different angle of information but still very helpful to the business development team. 

An example Informer visual using this structure is shown below. 

Create Visuals Easily with Informer Discover Tool 

Informer is a business intelligence tool that uses the Blackbox Connector to connect to Deltek Vision or Vantagepoint and create a standard set of datasets. Using the Blackbox Connector with Informer allows the team to start building visuals right away instead of spending a lot of time building datasets and programming visuals.  

Once the data is connected, go to a dataset and select the Discover Tool. Then choose a field, in this example Project Summary is selected. The Discover Tool instantly recommends visuals based on the data selected. The tool recommends visuals based on the fields and columns selected and changes the recommendations as you select more or less options. 

Each recommended visual can then be adjusted or further designed based on the needs. It can then be saved to be used later to create dashboards (called Reports in Informer).   

Tips for Choosing the Right Visual Structure 

Knowing the structure and different visual types while using the Informer Discover tool to make the visuals easily, how do you decide what visuals to display for firm leaders? The dashboard should not just be pretty, but also functional. It’s helping firm leaders make critical decisions, after all. Below are a few tips to choose the right visual structure. 

  • Understand the audience – Knowing who will be using this dashboard to make decisions will help determine the key metrics to display. What information does the audience need to be successful? Keep in mind that the visuals are just an overview and the audience can drill down into the data, if desired. 
  • Stick to one main theme – It doesn’t make sense to throw in a chorus of playing ball in a country song about losing ‘the girl.’ So don’t mix in too many different types of data that don’t support the main theme. It’s okay to create multiple dashboards and tools like Deltek Vantagepoint and Informer allow users to quickly access different dashboards, if needed. 
  • Incorporate different visual types – Sticking to one main theme, doesn’t mean using the same visual. Create a visual story by choosing different types of charts, graphs, and tables. Just be careful to select the visual that matches the data type. The Informer Discover Tool does this easily by recommending the visual types for the data selected. 
  • Use color wisely – Every color can tell a story. Don’t use too many colors to distract viewers. Instead use color to show differences or areas to the viewer should focus. Using red for negative, green for positive, and grays to show values is a great way to use color wisely.  
  • Keep it simple – Because the Informer Discover Tool makes it easy to create different types of visuals for any type of Vantagepoint data, it might be tempting to add it all to a dashboard. It’s very important to keep in mind the end-user or audience that is using the visuals to make decisions. Keep the most important visuals in the top left corner. If the viewers are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of visual stimulation or there’s too many clicks to drill down to data, it won’t be valuable to them.  

Write the Firm's "Greatest Hit" with Blackbox Connector for Informer  

Knowing all the parts and possible structures of songs and business intelligence visuals is a first step to writing that greatest hit for the firm. Remember that the point of providing BI visuals to firm decision-makers is to make all the firm’s data understandable and therefore, becoming actionable based on the information presented.  

To see the Informer Discover Tool in action click the image below to access a mini-demo.

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The Roadmap of Business Intelligence

Posted by Chris Simei on July 01, 2020

BI infographics

Business intelligence (BI) is playing an increasingly critical role in the strategic planning of organizations. The output of established analytics can be used to track performance against business goals, identify inefficiencies, optimize processes, report and share information consistently, and identify unrealized business insights, all in real-time across a growing number of browsers and devices. The options are plentiful, and it can get overwhelming as you determine where to start.

Before you can reach these autonomous, pilot-cockpit-type dashboards, you will need a strategy. This will remain fluid and evolve as you adapt to your firm’s needs.  However, it is important to establish a roadmap to ensure that your efforts remain focused and deliver value where it is most needed. Let’s take a look at how to get there.

Identify Pain Points at a High Level

A basic first step is to summarize key pain points impacting your business. What are the questions your business is hoping to answer with its data? What are the information voids in your company? What reports are being run week after week to make decisions? Oftentimes, the pain points will evolve with your BI and shed light on areas needing attention. 

An easy and high-value place to start is exception reporting. Exception reporting highlights potential problem areas in your data based on a set of criteria you define. Examples may include:

  • Executive staff need to have visibility when a branch has not met its profit goal;
  • A project manager wants a consolidated dashboard to display his or her projects as he or she may be stretching the budget;
  • Administrative support staff wish to easily see what project records need review and approval;
  • An employee wants to view a dashboard of outstanding items (i.e. timesheet submissions, learning and development courses, annual review progress).

This proactive approach to quick-glance data can be a strong starting point to develop your BI strategy while staying focused on important metrics that require action.

Review Organization Structure

How does your organization structure support your reporting needs?  If you would like to produce reports by organization units (i.e. division, practice, group), then you will want to ensure that your system supports that structure. In the case of Deltek products, you may consider how you are utilizing organizations, teams, timesheet groups, and custom field associations. Furthermore, the firm and system structure will ultimately affect the data that is accessible by different groups.

Define Role Based KPIs

Each role in your organization has a unique business function. Frequently, these roles can share a responsibility that cascades down the business’s organization structure.

Consider the various roles in your company. How can they be grouped into subsets that could be measured together; such as, will a project manager be measured with the same standards as a project principal or supervisor?

One fundamental metric for any company is managing accounts receivable (AR) – getting paid for services or products that have been delivered. Here is an example of role based KPIs, starting at the top of the organization:

  • CEO wants to ensure that the AR Aging is in a healthy position to deter cash-flow concerns. CEO is pleased as long as the AR >60 days is less than 10% of the total AR balance at a company level. If that target is not met, CEO can interrogate the data.
  • Group manager ensures the total accounts receivable >60 days remains below 10% of the total AR balance for his or her entire group. Data can be summarized by project principal and prompt a discussion with any principal who is above the 10% threshold.
  • Project supervisor ensures that AR >60 days is below 10% for each project he or she is responsible for. BI can prompt a discussion with any project manager who is approaching the threshold.
  • Project manager is responsible for ensuring that invoices are paid per the 30-day payment terms. Invoices aging over 30 days must be chased and addressed. 

This example illustrates how a single metric is relevant to all roles. Therefore, a CEO can reference a dashboard in discussion with a group manager, who can then take it to the project supervisor, and onward down the hierarchy, directly to the project manager. Since this metric is consistently measured, each role understands the importance and relevance of his or her responsibility. This ties all roles to the financial success of the company.

Educate Team Members

It is important to educate on how defined measures are calculated. By doing so, your teams will clearly understand how their work is being measured and how their project success influences KPIs. BI tools can offer sophisticated and shiny visuals, but the end-user must understand how to use the data. Otherwise, the insights will be lost, or worse – misleading. Clean, simple data and education can provide clear definition to team members. Furthermore, it will give consistent data interpretation across all roles.

Measure the Firm’s Success

As you navigate through the BI journey, pause to measure the success of your BI strategy and the analytics you are measuring.  It is critical to gather feedback from the intended audience to understand how the BI tools are promoting productivity as well as transparency. Are the end-users interacting with the data and making smarter decisions because of it? By being agile in the BI development strategy, you can confidently deliver the most valuable analytical tools for your firm and ultimately power project success.

Key Performance Indicators

Data Visualization and How it is Used

Posted by Full Sail Partners on January 22, 2020

chart graphic

Business Intelligence (BI) puts together business analytics, data mining, data visualization, technology resources along with the best practices to help companies make more data-driven decisions. Business intelligence can help businesses make better choices by displaying present and historical data in their business context. Analysts can use data visualization to provide performance and competitor benchmarks for a smoother and more efficiently run organization. Analysts can also detect market trends to boost sales or income more quickly. Making sure you are using BI and data visualization properly is important. Let’s look at how you can choose the right data visualizations for your company.

Temporal Visualizations

In the temporal category, data visualizations belong if they satisfy two conditions: they are linear, and they are one-dimensional. Temporal visualizations normally have lines that either stand alone or intersect with each other, with starting and ending time. Some common examples of data visualizations include scatter plots, time series sequences, timelines, line graphs, and polar area diagrams. These visualizations are usually pretty easy to recognize and understand. Picking the right visualization all depends on the kind of story you are trying to tell. When choosing a temporal visualization, your end goal should be comparing one or many value sets. This can help you easily show the low and high values of a data set.

Hierarchical Visualizations

In the hierarchical category, data visualizations are those that organize groups within larger groups. These are best used to display clusters of information, especially if they flow from one point to another. Typical hierarchical visualizations are tree diagrams, ring charts, and sunburst diagrams. Just like any type of data visualization, it is important that you are effectively telling a story with the graphics that you use. For this type, showing levels of importance coming from a single source is the main purpose of these visualizations. The only downside is that these graphs tend to be complex and sometimes difficult to read. The tree diagram is used most frequently because of its easy-to-follow linear path.

Multidimensional Visualizations

While linear data is easier to understand, sometimes you have the need to capture your audience’s attention. Multidimensional displays two or more different variables to create a 3D data visualization. These types of visualizations are scatter plots, pie charts, Venn diagrams, stacked bar graphs, and histograms. These visuals can break down a ton of data into key takeaways, making it easier to clearly identify what you are trying to get across. Multidimensional is used to compare data and parts of a whole and show relationships between two variables. With multidimensional data, you are able to choose different colors and shapes to really customize your graphic.

Data Visualization Makes an Impact

Choosing the right visualization for your data directly impacts how it gets across to the viewers. Your main goal should always be to properly tell a story with the graphics that you use. Data visualization allows you to display specific data in an eye-catching way leading to a successful conveyance of important and relevant information.

Blackbox Connector for Informer

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