If you have been following this blog over the last few days, then we are at the stage we know what we want to measure to get the pulse of our business and we have all of that on a scorecard. However just because we are measuring performance doesn’t mean our work is done.
What do we do when we notice that we are not hitting our numbers? I would submit that the first step is to understand what is going on behind those numbers. This is where analysis comes in. The key technical tool for analysis of large numbers of transactions events etc. is called OLAP (on Line Analytical Processing), which tells you precisely nothing about what it is. I prefer to cal the thing I am about to tell you about FASMI :
For the business users out there think Excel pivot tables on steroids and speed. The key difference between what I am talking about and Excel pivot tables is that the data doesn’t live in the spreadsheet, it’s hidden away in a special type of database known (the OLAP engine). Since I am a Microsoft evangelist I would add that the Microsoft tool is called analysis services which comes with Standard and Enterprise editions of SQL Server, and that there is built in support to connect to Analysis Services in Excel.
Anyway how does this help and how can you use it?
If you have used pivot tables you will have seen how you can choose what appears on each axis so you can have products on rows and then time on columns, and a given metric as the numbers in the grid. OLAP adds to this by:
The only downside is that to do the back-end technical work to deliver this is a skilled job and you are going to need external help to get started. I would expect this to take 10-20 days for a small business depending on the complexity of the implementation and the quality of your data. That could be a significant cost for a small business, but as I have mentioned in this series of articles before needs to be justified in terms of potential savings arising from the use of this tool.
For those who do not follow Andrew Fryer's blog, it is worth checking out his posts on Business Intelligence
Interesting stuff, now how does an SMB VAR move forward into this field?
Option 1 hook up with a specialist BI SI partner and work together, or option 2 skill up through training and recruitment.
The key Microsoft technologies you need are office (specifically excel and sharepoint) and SQL Server (integration, reporting and analysis services as opposed tot he database itself).
email me if you need more help (afryer@microsoft,com)