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Business intelligence roadmap example: Any tips for going from Excel-based BI to scalable BI technology?

Scout Young's Profile

Businesss Intelligence Roadmap ExampleExcel is not scaling. Too many moving parts and it’s really difficult to kick analyses back and forth in real-time, make changes and repeat, when using Excel. How are companies doing this? Just diving in and buying the big packages (like Business Objects & Cognos), or are there ways to get great BI insight without a massive BI and data warehousing project? We use a cloud ERP system with reasonably decent tools for sucking data out.


Harold D. Tamayo
Title: Vice President of Finance
Company: MHA Inc., a Roper Technologies Company
LinkedIn Profile
(Vice President of Finance, MHA Inc., a Roper Technologies Company) |

I remember implementing back in the days various tools in Access and Excel mixed in with some pretty nifty macros. Then I started implementing Cognos as a progression of BI tools for a much larger enterprise. However, the tool itself at that time was quite complicated and expensive to implement (budgets were deep).

At my next company I found Cognos was the BI tool. However, I stumbled upon TM1 (acquired by IBM Cognos) in a small business unit that was rudimentarily using it for BI. After researching the TM1 tool and using it, I found there were quite a few things unique in how useful it was:

1) With only one license (TM1 Prospectus) I started to use the tool to capture (based on secured Excel files) data that could be easily consolidated, analyzed and standardized
2) Excel was its front end to load and report back which was very dynamic
3) I had the flexibility to develop our own “cubes” with version controls for budgeting, forecasting and all the BI good analytics without fancy graphics which I could do on the reports in Excel
4) We developed core competencies with TM1 which then we upgraded to a server with concurrent licenses in which over 56 countries began loading and reporting almost instantly

I am simplifying the process but the point is that there are ways to implement BI without building a massive warehousing project.

Chuck Boecking
Title: Open Source ERP and Business Intelligenc..
Company: Chuck Boecking
(Open Source ERP and Business Intelligence, Chuck Boecking) |

Hi Scout,

I have 10 years experience with ERP reporting; however, I am just dipping my toes into the BI world. I have a strong preference for open source; therefore, I am evaluating two products (1) Pentaho and (2) SpagoBI.

I have worked with Pentaho ETL previously to migrate POS data to ADempiere ERP. The ETL package seems strong. I have also used Jitterbit's ETL in production over the last 5 years for web purposes.

Here is my first look impressions over the last three weeks with BI. I am very much looking for opportunities to investigate further.

Regarding Pentaho: I am not impressed so far. The interface seems childish and the data source management seems clumsy. The application is big and requires a heavy machine.

Regarding SpagoBI: I like the interface much better. I am happy that it uses eclipse as the studio's engine (I have experience coding, and the eclipse environment is much more natural). I came to know about SpagoBI because of an ERP integrator I work with in Australia ( They are big fans of this product.

The big promise behind BI is the ability to aggregate multiple data sources at the meta data level, then present a unified data platform to the business users. This where I would like more experience. Historically, I have only reported from one major data source (ERP).

I hope this helps! Please update this post as you work through the evaluation process. I am curious to know what you choose.

Chuck Boecking
chuckatchuboe [dot] com

Robert Fetterman
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Oneida Nation
(Chief Financial Officer, Oneida Nation) |

My first priority would be to layout exactly what your pain points are and what specifically you would like out of a new system. Business Intelligence (BI) systems include a wide range of solutions for a wide range of problems. They range from big data predictive analytics (eg SAS, Teradata), to multidemensional reporting and/or consolidation (eg Cognos, Hyperion), to planning/modelling systems (Adaptive Planning, Prophix), to dashboard/executive reporting. My experience is that those good in one area are not necessarily good in another, and rarely are transaction ERP systems good at BI at all, except some limited exectutive reporting.

If you have a Cloud ERP system I strongly recommend you consider a Cloud BI solution, there are a number of them out there depending on what your priority is. They do not need to be massive projects, but be prepared to do a lot of homework laying out what questions you want to answer and how you think you need to organizae data to answer that.

For our organization, we were looking for a planning and multidemensional reporting tool to replace our Excel planning/modelling and complex and expensive Cognos reporting solution. We are now implementing Prophix, a simpler tool which can do both. If we were cloud based, we would have chosen Adaptive Planning, an even simpler toolset, but not as sophisticated as Prophix.

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