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William McKnight

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I will periodically be sharing my thoughts and observations on information management here in the blog. I am passionate about the effective creation, management and distribution of information for the benefit of company goals, and I'm thrilled to be a part of my clients' growth plans and connect what the industry provides to those goals. I have played many roles, but the perspective I come from is benefit to the end client. I hope the entries can be of some modest benefit to that goal. Please share your thoughts and input to the topics.

About the author >

William is the president of McKnight Consulting Group, a firm focused on delivering business value and solving business challenges utilizing proven, streamlined approaches in data warehousing, master data management and business intelligence, all with a focus on data quality and scalable architectures. William functions as strategist, information architect and program manager for complex, high-volume, full life-cycle implementations worldwide. William is a Southwest Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a frequent best-practices judge, has authored hundreds of articles and white papers, and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His team's implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won Best Practices awards. He is a former IT Vice President of a Fortune company, a former software engineer, and holds an MBA. William is author of the book 90 Days to Success in Consulting. Contact William at wmcknight@mcknightcg.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in William's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

It’s year-end and time for year-end awards. There seem to be awards for just about everything already, but I’ve come up with some unique (I think) categories to share some vendors and products with you that are on my mind. My diverse client needs have led to some far and near corners of the vendor community for solutions. I’ll start on the business intelligence side. Drumroll, please.

Best tool for working with Microsoft Excel
1a. Xcelsius from Business Objects.
1b. Actuate 9 e.Spreadsheet

Yes, 2 winners. Xcelsius brings Excel spreadsheets to life with its incorporation of live data as well as predictive analytics into robust gauges. It’s a great tool for “what if” and the best accessible development tool for creating user understandable analytics.

Actuate 9 e.Spreadsheet similarly can work on live data. Its distribution capabilities for actual Excel spreadsheets makes it a winner. Live formatting, pivot tables, filters, 3D charting and calculations are rich capabilities for making Excel actionable. It’s quick to learn and takes spreadsheet development (yeah, I know it’s easy for us IT people) off of end user hands who don’t want (or have time for) that task.

Best workflow for contact centers
AIM Performance Suite 6.5 – from the founders of Crystal Enterprise

Best business intelligence appliance
Not to be confused with data warehouse appliance, this award goes to Cognos Now! Version 4.3. This is one way to get operational business intelligence – with operational dashboards. Now! works nice with streaming data. Caching keeps performance high and the price makes it very accessible.

Best BI tool integration with Blackberry
Cognos 8 Go! Mobile – This tool actually understands the thumbwheel roll that Blackberry users are prone to do. Combine with Cognos 8 BI Analysis for Excel 8.2 and you’re looking at your BI content on your PDA in Word, Powerpoint or Excel format.

Best BI library metadata

Cognos 8 Go! Search – Java-based, minimum-click search of terms in a complex report library. Go! Search understands that search terms can have different meanings and a user can quickly adopt to how it works (it works like Google). Excellent for pedestrian users, it searches the full data content of reports – names, descriptions, metadata. Content is fully indexed so it performs well too.

Best KPIs in a box for SAP
ARIS Solution for Process Intelligence & Performance Management – Works in operational business intelligence mode and augments the SAP-provided KPIs.

Best Transactional Search
1a. WebFocus Magnify – Works with structured and unstructured, particularly good for unstructured search. Search results are interactive, dynamically classified and displayed nicely in a tabular view.

1b. Splunk 3.0 – Similar functionality, but geared to technical log search. Ad-hoc access to logs and network devices? System administrators tell me ‘yes, I need that.’

Best Dynamic Dashboards
MicroStrategy Report Services v8.1.0 - MicroStrategy’s Flexible Rendering Architecture creates Adobe Flash-based true user-friendly, animated dashboards. There is high user interactivity with the dashboards. The dashboards email nicely – often an unspoken requirement in dashboard selection. About as good a WYSIWYG design module as they go. Microstrategy has always been a leader in caching, multi-pass SQL and aggregate awareness and that’s all evident here in its well-performing queries.

Pervasive PSQL Summit v10 – Yes, that’s right – a DBMS designed such that an end user would never hear of it. PSQL is targeted at ISV’s who sell to the SMB market. OK, maybe it should get the ‘only’ award, but that would also be the ‘best’, right? It’s a very new product by the way. Familiar interesting features include dynamic cache operations, instantaneous file allocations, and index balancing.

All in all, 2007 was a very innovative year for business intelligence tools, perhaps the most innovative since the late 1990s when the OLAP tools were emerging. Never have so many new releases been ready for market. 2007 will be a tough year to beat, but I look forward to the new releases and new products of 2008.

Technorati tags: Excel, xcelsius, business-intelligence, actuate, AIM,Go Mobile, Go Search, ARIS, webfocus, splunk, microstrategy, PSQL

Posted December 19, 2007 2:12 PM
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