NGS Puts the Graphics Into Business Intelligence
September 13, 2005 Alex Woodie
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then why are your top business analysts ruining their eyes reading line-for-line the reams of reports output from your ERP system? That’s the question New Generation Software wants you to ask, especially since it unveiled its Business Performance Dashboard software earlier this year. This month NGS is shipping a new Starter Pack of templates designed to get users up and running quickly with graphical reports based on iSeries data.
The Business Performance Dashboard, which NGS launched earlier this year, enables business analysts and corporate executives to get a handle on the state of their businesses through an array of dashboard presentations that take the form of charts, tables, gauges, maps, and other visualizations. These presentations are based on queries performed against DB2/400 data using NGS-IQ, the company’s flagship business intelligence offering.
Dashboard presentations take the form of MacroMedia Flash files, which can be generated from a Web server or distributed via e-mail. Underlying these Flash presentations are either a Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or XML files, which can be regularly updated on a user-defined schedule, via NGS-IQ, with data from the OS/400 server. Once the dashboards are set up, there is very little computer expertise needed to access the graphics. Anybody who can run a Web browser can access the information, provided they are granted access, company officials say.
This month NGS unveiled a new Starter Kit designed to help users more quickly develop their dashboard presentations. The Starter Kit includes dozens of templates that incorporate key performance indicators (KPIs) for a variety of business areas, including finance, customer relationship management, human resources, customer service, inventory, and production. NGS has roughly doubled the number of pre-defined templates offered in the suite, to about 110, with this release.
In the CRM area, new Dashboard templates are offered for customer retention and attrition, most profitable and least profitable customers, most profitable customers by segment, and others. The customer service area has been bolstered with new templates that portray customer satisfaction, top 10 complaints, daily call counts, and others. In finance, new templates document accounts receivable trends, measure turnover ratios and debt-to-asset ratios by period, portray gross net and gross incomes, among others. The HR area has been bolstered with new templates, including employee attrition by department and job function, the best and worst performing employees, top employees by expense, and others.
New inventory management templates measure over-stocked conditions, item returns and shrinkage, stock outs, and vendor on-time deliveries, among others. New templates in the production area include backlogs over time, hourly labor cost, machine utilization rates, production capacity, and vendor shortages. Marketing templates have been bolstered with templates measuring success or failure to utilize leads and the products with the highest and lowest satisfaction. Last but not least, new sales templates include average sales per salesperson, the bottom- and top-performing sales manager, sales lost and won from competitors, deal closure rates, and others.
For each template, the company provides the underlying NGS-IQ query, as well as the dashboard design files, which lets users customize their dashboard. So far, some customers have opted to use the templates as-is, while others are customizing them to their needs, officials say.
Since it was launched, reception of the Business Performance Dashboard has been “extremely favorable,” says Bernard Gough, president and CEO of the Sacramento, California, software company. “The addition of these standard templates promote rapid development and deployment to enable senior executives and other dashboard users to quickly monitor the areas where they need to focus their attention, and to selectively use the full power of the NGS-IQ solution to dig deeper in those areas when the data warrants further analysis,” he says.
Because the Business Performance Dashboard includes the underlying NGS-IQ product, companies that buy and implement the Dashboard can expand upon their initial business intelligence installation by bolting NGS’ multi-dimensional database and online analytical processing (OLAP) tool, called SmartView, onto that NGS-IQ core. “The Dashboard has been great for opening up doors,” says Mary Lynn Treadwell, an NGS communications and customer service manager. “We’ve had a real good response rate from customers.”
Business Performance Dashboard supports Windows 2000 and Windows XP running either Microsoft Office 2000 or 2003. Licenses are tier-based. A two-developer, 20-user license for the software on a P10 machine costs $7,000. This price includes two days of training for two developers at NGS headquarters in Sacramento. For more pricing and product information, go to www.ngsi.com.