Datawatch Yields BI Gems from Existing Reports
January 5, 2010 Alex Woodie
The business intelligence project gone array is one of the most feared events in an IT professional’s career. Perhaps you’re familiar with an organization that spent millions of dollars on complex software, powerful hardware, and high-priced developers, only to be left with a cantankerous data warehouse that is more trouble than it’s worth. One BI software vendor with a decidedly different approach to information illumination is Datawatch, whose Monarch suite bases BI development efforts on a trusted asset that most organizations already have in abundance: reports.
The special trick that makes Monarch unique is its capability to recreate live data from static reports. The Windows-based report miner takes plain text as input, does some nifty stuff with metadata in the report to determine the relationship of data, and yields as output structured data that can be manipulated in Excel. It’s a remarkably simple approach that has been adopted by nearly half a million users at 35,000 organizations over the last 20 years, including a large number of AS/400 and mainframe shops.
As Datawatch senior vice president and chief marketing officer John Kitchen explains, the Monarch technology can satisfy many of the goals of a full-blown BI tool, but at a fraction of the hassle and the cost.
“A lot of times, people put in business intelligence software to overcome the problems of reports, being that they’re static. They may have to search through a report to find the information they want, or re-key the data into Excel. That’s problematic,” he says. “By extracting data from reports, we’re getting around the problems people have with data acquisition, data integration, data quality, and programming. We’re a fast ramp to business intelligence because we’re using the existing reports that people have.”
Once a data model has been created in Monarch’s drag-and-drop GUI, users can work with their report’s data from the comfort of Excel (or any other product that reads data in CSV format or supports ODBC or OLE DB). Because Monarch’s patented technology keeps the data relationships straight, users are able to do all the actions that make Excel such a powerful tool, including sorting data, filtering data, generating calculated fields and summaries, and doing lookups.
There is a minimal amount of setup and integration required for System i shops to get started with Monarch. All users have to do is point their ASCI spool file output to Monarch, and the software can start de-constructing the data within the reports, and prepare it for Excel.
System i shops who don’t have the budgets for a big BI implementation are good candidates for Monarch, Kitchen says. “We find that most of the information customers need is already in reports, so why spend the time and effort re-creating that information” by implementing a data warehouse, he says. “If we can just make it easy for people to get information out of those reports in a form they can use like Excel, then that’s a win all the way around. For a lot of people, this is a more cost effective, faster, easier way to get the information they need, in a format they can use that’s commiserate with the results they’re trying to get.”
Monarch is designed to be used by regular business users, not professional data analysts or programmers. The software features a number of wizards to walk them through the data transformation process. A side benefit of using Monarch is the reduction or elimination of customized report development, Kitchen says. “More often than not, people will get a report and they’ll say, ‘That’s great, but can you re-order the information in a different way, or change it around,’ so you have to go back and write a custom report,” he says. With Monarch, users can customize the look of the data themselves within Excel.
The reliance on existing reports heralds a form of “self-service business intelligence,” Kitchen says. “You don’t have to go back and understand the programming schema or the database. Especially on the AS/400, many of the reports people have been generating for years, so you know they’re verified, they’ve been audited, and trusted. They become a terrific source of data.”
The trust that organizations place in their reports is the subject of a new feature that Datawatch recently added to Monarch Data Pump, a companion product to the core Monarch report mining tools that provides automated data distribution and extract, transform, and load (ETL) functions.
With Monarch Data Pump version 10.5, which was released in November, customers can now attach a copy of the original report to the data they re-created with Monarch and are viewing in Excel. The benefit of this is that auditors now have an easy way to verify the integrity of the data they’re viewing via Monarch. With a few clicks, they can open the original report to see the source of the data is correct. The new release also supports digital signatures, providing a way to ensure the data has not been accessed by unauthorized users.
Datawatch offers two versions of Monarch and Monarch Data Pump. Monarch Pro builds upon the core Monarch product with the capability to mine PDFs for data, as well as more advanced functions for combining report-based data with information from external databases, whereas Monarch Data Pump Enterprise Edition runs on servers with up to 32 CPUs (the standard version of the software is limited to two-way servers). Datawatch also sells a Web-based archive called Monarch BI Server, and an enterprise version of this product for bigger servers.
Pricing for the Monarch desktop ranges from $600 to $800. Pricing for Monarch Data Pump ranges from $8,995 for the standard version to $24,995 for the enterprise version. Monarch BI Server starts at $9,995, while Monarch Enterprise BI Server starts at $29,995. For more information, see www.datawatch.com.