BI has always been about getting the right information to the right people at the right time. But as data volumes grow and timeframes for making decisions shorten, the importance of at-a-glance visualization of complex analytics has never been more vital.
This was the backdrop for the first-ever ASUG Developer Wars that took place at this year’s ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference last week in Orlando.
Guidelines for the ASUG Developer Wars were straightforward. Using data from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, a nonprofit organization that collects, stores and distributes food to more than 500 partner agencies throughout Central Florida, Dev War teams consisting of 4 – 6 members had just two days to turn mountains of data into innovative and pragmatic analytic visuals that provided actionable insight into pressing business challenges and real-time answers to key business questions.
Tools at the teams’ disposal included SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Analytics, including SAP Crystal Reports, Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius), SAP Visual Intelligence, and SAP Web Intelligence. No pre-built components were allowed, and all work was conducted onsite in rooms dedicated to the ASUG Developer Wars.
Teams were judged on criteria including analytical functionality, design, ease of use, performance, expandability, and effectiveness in answering real-world business questions.
The competition was fast, furious and fun, and I’m both pleased and proud to say that the team fielded by Optimal — the Optimal Optimizers — was crowned this year’s ASUG Developer Wars champ by a panel of judges consisting of four SAP professionals and Kirsten Langan, product sourcing manager for Second Harvest.
Special kudos to Jeremy Stierwalt, Optimal’s SAP BI solution and practice director for North America, and Optimal Optimizers team members Trey Morrow, Joe Smith, Gaurav Singh, Tom Rudnick, and Scott Sigsbey.
Obviously, there are many complex aspects of an integrated, comprehensive BI system, but given the time and resource constraints of the ASUG Developer Wars, emphasis for the contest was placed on data visualization — which, not incidentally, is an increasingly vital component of BI:
- According to a recent Business Intelligence market study conducted by Dresner Advisory Services, 88% of BI dashboard users rank visualization tools as important, very important or critical.
- Respondents to InformationWeek’s “2012 BI and Information Management Trends” survey, give advanced visualization capabilities a ranking of 3.6 in importance on a scale of 1 – 5 (1 = not important, 5 = very important), behind only advanced analytics (3.7) and exception management (3.6).
- In its 2012 “Picture This: Self-Service BI Through Data Discovery and Visualization” report, Aberdeen cites “increasing or changing demand for management information is the number one pressure driving analytics projects at organizations that are employing visual discovery tools.”
For its part in the 2012 ASUG Developer Wars, the Optimal Optimizers constructed an interactive dashboard that served the immediate operational and performance management needs of the Second Harvest Food Bank while concurrently demonstrating how the analytic visualizations presented were also relevant to all businesses with distributed operations.
The Optimizers’ dashboard featured analytic visualizations that answered key questions for C-level executives, board members and regional and operational managers alike.
For example, visualization of year-to-year data comparisons enabled executives and board members to easily identify trends and statistically significant variances that confirmed or revealed gaps in the alignment of corporate strategy and business operations.
For regional and operational managers, intuitive, geographical-based analytic visualizations of expenses by region answered questions such as: Are expenses in line with the number and density of customers/region? Another metric visualized in the dashboard provided clear comparison of transportation expense per pound per region, identifying business issues in need of immediate attention such as: Why is the cost of transporting 1 pound of product per mile 350% higher in region X than in region Y?
Said Jeremy Stierwalt, SAP BI solution and practice director, North America, for Optimal, “First, sincere thanks to the Second Harvest Food Bank and ASUG for making this exciting event possible. All teams that participated in the ASUG Developer Wars should be extremely proud. Collectively, they demonstrated the wealth of possibility, promise and genuine business value of the entire SAP BI stack, particularly the Dashboards and SAP Visual Intelligence components.”
Stierwalt added, “We take great pride at Optimal in our BI strategy, advanced analytics/visualizations and dashboarding capabilities — which we’ve proven time and again with our customers. The Optimal Optimizers team we fielded has more than 30 years of collective experience with SAP BI. The quality of the competition was truly first rate. It was an exciting event, and I sincerely hope the ASUG Developer Wars will continue for years to come.”
Seeing is believing when it comes to BI, and attendees at the 2012 ASUG Developer Wars saw real-world BI up close and in action!
Read ASUG Press Release: ASUG Names Champion of First Annual Developer Wars
Contact Optimal today to learn more about how our SAP analytics/BI and dashboard experts can empower more people throughout your organization to make smarter decisions faster.
Check out full video of the 2012 ASUG Developer Wars (or fast forward to minute 32 to see the Optimal Optimizers in action!):