BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise: Leveraging SQL Server & SharePoint

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1 AUGUST 2012 BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise: Leveraging SQL Server & SharePoint Defining Business Intelligence and How it Can Transform Organizations of All Sizes

2 About Perficient s Microsoft Practice Perficient is a Microsoft National Systems Integrator (NSI) Partner, one of only seven Microsoft Global NSI Partners, and the 2012 & 2010 Microsoft Healthcare Provider Partner of the Year Award winner. Perficient is currently the only nationally managed Microsoft Partner to successfully make the transition from System Integrators Partner Recruit partner to National System Integrator Partner. We have grown from System Integrators Partner Recruit to Top 5 NSI Partner in only four years. Perficient was initially recruited as a Microsoft Partner due to our expertise with other leading technology platforms including IBM & Oracle. Our ability to integrate and our cross-platform expertise sets us apart from other Microsoft Partners that focus solely on Microsoft technologies. This expertise allows Perficient to truly understand the nuances of our client environments and to deliver in-house expertise and truly integrated end-to-end solutions. Our colleagues include Microsoft MVPs, V-Team members and Microsoft Community Contributors. Colleagues can be found at community events nationally including SharePoint Saturdays, Day of.net, Code Camps and many other community events. We are also active on many social networks. What is BI? Business Intelligence (BI) describes a category of software tools and practices for managing data, with the goal of supporting better business decision making. The BI concept dates back to the early days of data processing but its methods, practices, and toolsets have evolved extensively over the last decade, with the term Business Intelligence becoming popularized in the early 90 s. Most major software vendors sell Business Intelligence products, and the market for such systems is large and growing. The central purpose of Business Intelligence is to drive improved business performance. BI does this by providing decision makers with monitoring and analysis of existing data, thus providing them with a better basis for their strategies and plans. What Can Business Intelligence Do for Me? Business Intelligence can provide you with insight that allows you to make informed operational and strategic business decisions. Whether you are running a multi-national consumer packaged goods conglomerate or a regional healthcare provider, if your company electronically captures data related to business activities like sales, inventory, accounting, even customer service, BI technology can help you. It is not the case that only Fortune 1000 firms with vast amounts of data can really benefit from Business Intelligence. Over the last decade or so, BI has increasingly been found in medium-sized businesses, performing a variety of tasks for those companies. Business Intelligence can do this for you too, by supporting your business in three primary domains: Monitoring, Analyzing, and Planning. Monitoring Answers who, what, where and when questions about your business. Allows you to keep up with daily business activity, and identify issues before they escalate rather than having to clean up the mess afterwards. Example: a daily cash sheet report used to track store sales activity. Shows detailed information about individual sales plus summary store-level data like gross revenue. Analyzing Answers the why questions. Helps you to identify success factors key to your planning and growth potential, as well as possible problem areas. Example: trending reports, statistical analysis, aggregates (i.e. totals or averages) across various business dimensions. Planning Answers the how questions. Linking planning activities to a centralized store of your business data that Business Intelligence provides puts you on a track towards better management of your business performance. Examples: making strategic plans, budgets, and forecasts. By providing the ability to monitor your business activity and analyze your factors for success and by assisting with your planning cycle, Business Intelligence tools and technologies can help you steer your company more effectively than you previously thought possible. Basically, a BI system shows you the realities of how your business works, thereby enabling you to maximize your company s potential. I m Still Not Sold Even understanding the many benefits, mid-sized businesses frequently perceive the cost, size, and complexity of BI processes and systems as obstacles that prevent their implementation. 2 BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise Leveraging SQL Server & SharePoint

3 Business Data Databases Data Display Tools Interface ERP CRM SQL Oracle OLAP SAP AS 400 ETL Excel Other Data Warehouse Other/Custom Furthermore, it has traditionally been hard to offer hard numbers justifying the expense of a BI system with respect to the rewards. Fortunately, today s technology means that real value can be achieved much more quickly and the costs involved are nowhere near what they have been in the past. An option mid-sized businesses should examine is Microsoft s BI platform. If your company currently runs SharePoint on SQL Server, for instance, you already own all the software you need to build and run a powerful, robust and effective Business Intelligence solution for your organization. In the past, diving into BI tools and applications could be a bewildering and frustrating experience. Trying to assemble a working system from shrink-wrapped software was often daunting. Pulling together products from multiple vendors could prove a challenge; pieces and parts may have worked individually, but integrating them together could prove a monumental task. Fully custom-built solutions can represent a significant investment, putting them out of range for many midsized companies. While the Microsoft BI platform is not magic some development work is required to achieve results Microsoft s SQL Server platform and integrated BI tools combined with SharePoint can overcome these challenges. One-Stop Shopping: the Microsoft BI Stack and SharePoint Microsoft has fully embraced the large and growing Business Intelligence marketplace at the enterprise level. Microsoft s flagship database product, SQL Server, is fully equipped with state-of-theart BI components. Starting with SQL Server 2000, and following with significant improvements in each subsequent release including SQL Server 2012, Microsoft has built a full complement of data warehousing, extract, transform, and load (ETL), analytics, and reporting tools into the SQL Server platform. Any company that runs the Standard or Enterprise editions of SQL Server, from the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer to the smallest online vendor, already has the basic components of a BI system. And the Microsoft SharePoint platform has found a home in companies of all sizes, providing a combination of collaboration and portal functionalities which have proven ideal for hosting action-oriented and highly-available BI solutions using a variety of tools. The diagram above depicts SQL Server and SharePoint as they fit into the typical architecture of a BI solution. The Microsoft BI toolset built into the SQL Server BI foundation includes: The SQL Server Database Engine is the bedrock of the system, storing and managing the dimensional data warehouse database right alongside your Online Transactional Processing (OLTP) databases. If you have one or more existing SQL Server databases that serve your business applications, you have a foundation. SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) provides access to the administrative and performance features of SQL Server. SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) is a version of Microsoft s Visual Studio, specifically targeted towards building BI solutions. SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is the tool of choice for building a solid ETL processing framework. SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) hosts Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes, supporting analytical user and application queries, complex calculations, data aggregation. BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise Leveraging SQL Server & SharePoint 3

4 SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a world-class reporting tool, supporting the building of predefined reports and ad-hoc querying and report building via Report Builder. Microsoft s Business Intelligence platform and toolset represent a complete end-to-end solution, with low total cost of ownership. Because it is so self-contained, yet with an architecture open enough to integrate with tools from virtually any other vendor, it can serve as either the backbone of a BI architecture or just a component of a large and heterogeneous BI system. SQL Server scales very well, and offers excellent performance even at high data volumes. Clearly Microsoft has invested significantly in its products. The Microsoft tools are enterprise-class, some of the components can already be considered best-of-breed, and each component of the toolset compares favorably with comparable competitive software. The delivery of BI information to decision makers in a company can be accomplished in a number of ways. SQL Server Reporting Services is an excellent vehicle for the basic display and dissemination of BI information. Other familiar Microsoft products particularly Microsoft Office tools like Excel and Access are ideally suited to this task as well. But to have a comprehensive platform for collaboration, enterprise content management, and information sharing across the enterprise, one needs look no further than Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint provides comprehensive Business Performance Management (BPM) and BI portal functionality via the integrated PerformancePoint Services and the natively hosted SSRS, thereby providing a wide variety of options for distributing BI information, such as KPIs, dashboards, and reports, across your organization. SharePoint provides a foundation of collaboration and workflow management coupled with targeted delivery of business information, allowing your employees to take direct action on the information provided by the underlying BI system. Although a SharePoint implementation can represent additional investment, the value it adds as a centralized portal for collaboration and information delivery should not be dismissed. SharePoint natively takes full advantage of a SQL Server BI environment. With user tools like scorecards, dashboards, and strategy maps, it s easy to deliver vital information to your company s decision makers when they need it. But How Does It All Work? So far, we ve covered the ways Business Intelligence can help you improve your business performance, and we ve discussed how Microsoft provides a very solid and cost-effective platform on which to build a BI solution. But what exactly does that solution involve? Business Intelligence systems, at the most basic level, provide various views of business activity data. This data must be collected and stored somewhere before it can be viewed cohesively. This is the role of a Data Warehouse or Data Mart. There are differences between data marts and data warehouses, but each is basically a repository of business information consolidated from one or more internal and external sources. The process of extracting, transforming, and loading source data into this repository is known as ETL. The data warehouse that ETL populates is usually built in a relational database platform (such as SQL Server), but is designed using techniques different from those used to build a typical relational database. This is because a data warehouse is utilized differently than a standard business application database. To understand why this is, we must define and differentiate two terms: OLTP and OLAP. In general, business application databases are Online Transactional Processing (OLTP) systems. OLTP systems are built to perform data entry and retrieval in support of transaction management. Most point-of-service, lineof-business, and accounting applications are OLTP systems. BI databases, on the other hand, are classified as Online Analytical Processing or OLAP systems. An OLAP database is designed primarily for data analysis and information delivery, oriented purely towards data retrieval as part of complex analytical queries and requests. Data warehouses store information in a multi-dimensional or star schema format, which ultimately supports faster query performance and simplified querying, and supports the primary function of BI applications. For advanced analytical processing, an OLAP cube may be derived from underlying dimensional databases. A cube consists of numeric Fact or Measure values, which are described by Dimension values. Some of these Facts and Dimensions directly reflect the raw data from the data warehouse, while others reflect mathematical formulae that are applied to that data within the OLAP cube itself. For complex queries and aggregations, an OLAP cube boasts significant performance advantages over that of a traditional normalized database. OLAP cubes also enable real-time slice-and-dice and drill-down analysis of data, automatically grouping facts by userselected dimensions, re-calculating sums and other aggregated facts on the fly, and providing means for viewing trends and changes over time. As the primary means of providing a window into data, reporting is often the primary purpose of a BI system and the one consumed by the most users in a company. Reports can be operational (i.e. daily sales tracking reports, cash drawer closeout reports) or analytical (i.e. sales volume YTD, 12-month rolling revenue report), detailrich or more summary oriented. They can be delivered via , printed, faxed, accessed via the company SharePoint portal, or combinations thereof. Reports represent the power of having your business data in your hand. 4 BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise Leveraging SQL Server & SharePoint

5 Reporting from a dimensional data source (either a data warehouse/mart or an OLAP cube) provides significant advantages over running reports directly from your OLTP application database: Improved performance in both the application and the reports Faster and easier construction of complex analytical queries The incorporation of data from various internal/external data sources, providing comprehensive reporting across multiple areas of the business. Data Mining (sorting through business data using statistical and algorithmic means to find relevant information) to help identify trends to predict future performance. Graphical Dashboards and Scorecards to provide executives with at-a-glance information regarding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), metrics that measure progress towards financial/strategic goals for the business. The last link in the chain connecting all these Business Intelligence components to the goal of improving business performance is planning. The idea behind Business Performance Management (BPM) is that you can improve the accuracy and efficiency of your business planning cycle by basing it on a fact-based BI system. You can define current and historical metrics and KPIs that provide insight, supported by business data, into the workings of your business. From there, you can identify problem areas and develop plans for correcting issues. You can identify trends in data, forecast performance based on those trends, and thereby sharpen your strategy, you tactics, and keep your plans and budgets in step with reality. When you understand what your KPIs are telling you about specific areas of business performance, this allows you to target certain factors in your business for optimal performance improvement. The Big Picture So can there really be BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise? Is it possible to make use of Business Intelligence when you don t have a terabyte data store and a million dollar budget? The answer is an unequivocal: Yes! No matter how large or small the business, BI tools and techniques can provide the basis for improved performance. Unfortunately, though, the benefits of BI cannot be realized by simply flipping a switch or waving a magic wand. Proper design and implementation of a BI system requires the involvement of key business personnel (that s where you come in), the right tools (that s where Microsoft comes in), and a specific skill set (that s where Perficient comes in). Perficient has the skilled and experienced BI consultants and engineers that you need to make Business Intelligence a reality in your organization. We have a solid track record of successful BI project delivery for large global enterprises as well as regional mid-market organizations. We offer guidance and know-how with the Microsoft BI toolset that can help identify points of interest in your business data, a process that can provide insight to nearly any size business. Further, we can help build on the IT investments you ve already made. Existing reporting systems can see performance increases; existing databases even OLTP systems can provide the basis for BI analytics packages. And a Business Intelligence perspective can spot ways to integrate existing information into business planning cycles. With Perficient, SQL Server, and SharePoint you can realize performance gains with a surprisingly reasonable investment. Even those of you in the mid-market can get a boost from Business Intelligence. About Perficient Perficient, Inc. is a leading information technology consulting firm providing business-driven technology solutions to Global 2000 and other large enterprise clients throughout North America. If you would like more information about the topics discussed in this white paper please feel free to contact the author or send an to Copyright Perficient, Inc. All rights reserved. This material is or contains Proprietary Information, Confidential Information and/or Trade Secrets of Perficient, Inc. Disclosure to third parties and or any person not authorized by Perficient, Inc. is prohibited. Use may be subject to applicable non-disclosure agreements. Any distribution or use of this material in whole or in part without the prior written approval of Perficient, Inc. is prohibited and will be subject to legal action. SUBSCRIBE TO PERFICIENT BLOGS ONLINE Perficient.com/Thought-Leadership BECOME A FAN OF PERFICIENT ON FACEBOOK Facebook.com/Perficient FOLLOW PERFICIENT ON TWITTER Twitter.com/Perficient DOWNLOAD PERFICIENT WHITE PAPERS Perficient.com/WhitePapers Global Headquarters 520 Maryville Center Drive Suite 400 St. Louis, MO Perficient.com BI for the Mid-Size Enterprise Leveraging SQL Server & SharePoint 5

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