Ultimate Business Intelligence Guide

Here’s a useful website if you are interested in the more general area of BI.

This is a comprehensive site. Of particular interest to me are the following articles:

BI software: A comprehensive look at various BI software offerings

Certification : Various pages discussing BI certification paths available from Microsoft, Oracle, Business Objects and SAS

Books: The book list is quite extensive covering Data Warehousing, BOBJ, Microsoft, Oracle and Data Visualisation.

Solutions: A detailled look at the whole gamut of BI technologies.

I’ve added this to my list of bookmarks.


More data visualisation

More on one of my favourite topics at the moment – data visualisation.

Smashing Magazine – An excellent article discussing and demonstrating modern approaches to data visualisation. I’ve come across Mindmaps before and they are very intuitive. Newsmaps are a variation of heatmaps which I’ve blogged about before. These show different size boxes relating to a news item depending on the items populatrity.

Heat Maps – Smartmoney magazine have put together an excellent implemention of heat maps. This links shows a heat map of stock market companies and how they are performing today. Grouped into their respective categories, this map presents to the user a high level overview of how the market is doing, how specific sectors are doing, and how individual companies are doing. Unfortunately, if you look at it today (16th September 2008) it will be a sea of red due to recent market events. However, an excellent implementation of heat maps.

Olympic Medals – The New York Times presents an interesting graphical representation of the medals won at Olympics games, dating back to 1896. Use the slider at the top of the graphic to show the trend. The size of the circle is determined by the number of medals won. If you click on a circle, you can see who won those medals. Nice.

Hans Rosling – The best stats you’ve ever seen

I was left speechless recently by a fantastic presentation by Dr Hans Rosling. Recorded in February 2006, Dr Rosling communicates in an effective manner various misconceptions we have about the developing world. What has this to do with Business Intelligence? Well, to add a bit of spice to his presentation, he presents a mass of statistical information (which on it’s own can be quite boring), using software he and his team have developed. This software is called Trendalyzer. I’m sure you will find his presentation interesting.

So what is this software called Trendalyzer? Well to quote Gapminder – “Trendalyzer software unveils the beauty of statistics by converting boring numbers into enjoyable interactive animations. ”

This is certaintly true, as Dr Roslings excellent presentation demonstrates. And guess what company has recently acquired Trendalyzer? Stand up messrs. Brin and Page of Google. This should prove to be very interesting.

Bullet Graphs in Google

If you’ve been following Stephen Few’s articles regarding data visualisation, you will be familiar with the terms Sparklines and Bullet Graphs. I’m a big fan of these types of graphs – they make so much sense and present a great deal of information simply, cleanly, concisely and in a very small footprint.

Several people have been implementing their versions of sparklines and bullet graphs with great success. I came across an article recently describing how to create bullet graphs using the Google Chart API in seven steps. This is quite a powerful tool, as you can now pass a series of parameters into a URL and get Google to display a bullet graph on your web page. An example of a bullet graph using the Google Chart API is shown below:

Bullet Graph using Google Chart API

If you’d like to read more about Sparklines, Bullet Graphs and data visualisation, I’d highly recommend that you borrow, or even better, buy Stephen Few’s Information Dashboard Design. Stephen highlights many of the failings of the current data visualisation tools available from all the BI vendors. He goes on to describe why they fail to get the message across and goes on to produce his version of how information can be displayed in a more meaningful and uncluttered way. Essential reading in my view, if you are responsible for, or invlving in developing graphical reports, dashboards and analytics.

Panorama/Google Docs Tutorial

Following on from my recent post regarding the Google/Panorama tie up, I’ve found a tutorial which guides you through the process of creating pivot tables in Google Docs.

It’s very easy to use and adds another dimension to your standard spreadsheet pivot table.

Google working with Panorama?

I stumbled across this article recently which talked of Google partnering with Panorama.

For those that don’t know, Panorama Software produces some great visual software in the area of Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) and Multidimensional Expressions (MDX). In the mid 90’s Microsoft bought Panorama Software’s OLAP server technology, which was subsequently implemented in Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis/Reporting Services technology.

This is an interesting move. Having sold one of it’s key technologies to Microsoft, and with ProClarity being bought by Microsoft, I was wondering where this left Panorama. It really does produce some great products so it is good to see it is still alive and kicking.

You can actually use this technology now on Google spreadsheets. Here is the link. It’s still early days, but if more of the Panorama technology is implemented, Google spreadsheets could become a big player in the BI market.


Following on from a recent post about dashboard design, you must take a look at Bissantz’s Sparklines.

I am amazed at how much meaningful information can be displayed in such a small footprint.

Bonavista Systems have also implemented their own version of Sparklines and have integrated Stephen Few’s bullet graphs. They have called their product Micro Charts.

Sparklines are based on works by Edward Tufte. Edward has written a highly regarded book in the area around visual presentation of data called Beautiful Evidence.

One for the wish list.

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