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In search of better business intelligence

The intersection of BI and enterprise Quintum VoIP solutions. The perfect fit for your Enterprise. search is seeing more traffic Find out what Google Checkout can do for your online business. all the time. Already this year, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Latest News about Google, IBM (NYSE: IBM) Latest News about IBM, and X1 have released new products, and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) Latest News about Oracle promises to do so later this year. Here is a short list of solutions from market leaders that should be considered in the evaluation phase.

Cognos (Nasdaq: COGN) Latest News about Cognos 8 Business Intelligence – The combination of EnterpriseService Portal (ESP) from Norwegian firm Fast Search and Transfer (FAST) and Cognos 8 BI with Cognos Go! Search Service enables workers to quickly find reports, analyses, scorecards and other BI assets, along with corporate content and other forms of structured and unstructured business information. The FAST product can also perform analysis of Cognos-generated data during the process of returning search results.

Google Search Appliance – The king of Web search has an enterprise search solution that sells only with bundled hardware. Starting with designs for searching as many as a half-million documents, it can scale to clustered systems with 20 times that capacity. Google passes queries to back-end enterprise applications to search their own databases and return the results to Google; it does not connect to the data directly. However, it can access your company’s structured data if stored in any of the leading DBMS’s. A new feature of the Google Search Appliance, called Google OneBox for Enterprise, delivers information from business intelligence Turn your next prospect into a sale. Free report. systems, such as those from Cognos, Employease, Netsuite, Oracle, (NYSE: CRM) Latest News about and SAS.

IBM OmniFind – IBM WebSphere Latest News about WebSphere Information Integration OmniFind Edition, a component of the WebSphere Content Discovery for Business Intelligence solution, has remarkable scalability and built-in access to numerous BI applications — the latter due to the company’s constant acquisition of firms specializing in enterprise data access tools, such as those from iPhrase, which IBM purchased late last year. Depending on configuration, OmniFind’s search results can be clicked on for further data drilldown. This feature is enabled in part by IBM’s capability to search data warehouses. Access control to the search data is enforced by the OmniFind software.

Oracle secure Enterprise Search – Emphasizing scalability and security, the search index is stored in a secure database and uses Oracle identity management solutions to control access. It offers the capability to search against document management systems, BI apps and portals. Searches can be audited and logged as well. The product is undergoing a significant transition — presumably due to Oracle’s recent acquisitions — and a new version is not expected until late this year at the earliest. The company was unwilling to discuss features of this version at press time.

X1 – The X1 Enterprise Platform from X1 Technologies is an enterprise search engine that federates results from desktop and enterprise search engines — both from X1 and, uniquely, those of other vendors, including Google. X1’s highly regarded desktop search software, considered by many to have the best interface, is available at no cost.

The X1 enterprise engine is the only one on this list that can search through e-mails and other desktop documents and federate them with back-end searches. It is a scalable solution that can be clustered and centralized across multiple locations, or combined with those from the other three vendors on this list. As a result, for compliance and enforcement purposes, X1 is probably the strongest solution currently available.

Schools use analytic tools to address student performance

SPSS software used to develop performanace models in grades K-12

As students head back to their pencils and books, school districts in several states are turning to predictive analytic tools to meet the data aggregation and analysis requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and to focus teacher efforts on boosting academic performance.

Research firms Analytic Focus LLC and Reveal Technologies LLC have partnered with Chicago-based SPSS Inc. to help develop models that can predict student performance in grades K-12 based on current instructional methods used in a school. School districts in New York, Colorado, Minnesota, Alabama and Iowa will put in place the SPSS predictive analytics tools and participate in this new program, according to an SPSS announcement.

In addition, the Naperville, Ill., school district, located in the suburbs of Chicago, this summer has been training principals in its 21 schools how to use SPSS’s predictive analytics software, said Alan Leis, superintendent of the Naperville Community Unit School District 203.

“No Child Left Behind [legislation] forces us to focus on individual student data… and large groups by schools,” Leis said. “[SPSS] will allow us to see which students are on a normal growth path and which students are below it… and to predict which students are most at risk for not meeting achievement standards.”

The district began working with SPSS last year to build a master data warehouse that could pull together data from disparate databases containing test scores, demographic data and other information needed for predictive analysis, Leis added. This school year, the district will begin using the software to analyze data and build growth plans for schools and the district’s 19,000 students. The software will replace the time-consuming process of manually analyzing data from test score spreadsheets, Leis added.

“Now we can give [users] a CD with all this data on it so they can do the what-if analysis,” he said. “It allows you to not spend all this time figuring out the data but… figuring out what you did right and what you need to do better.”

Leis said he hopes to eventually expand the use of the software to the district’s 1,200 teachers.

Phil Ashworth, coordinator of testing data for the Hamilton County school district in Chattanooga, Tenn., said he has been using SPSS predictive analytics software for several years to analyze testing data. A year ago, he added SPSS’s Clementine data mining tool to the mix to provide a graphical representation of test scores from the district’s 40,000 students.

The tool allows him to set up the parameters for analysis and to run a report and apply those parameters to any of the 80 schools in the district without having to rewrite any of the instructions, he said. In addition, while testing is commonly done in the spring, it is at the beginning of the school year that teachers need to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, Ashworth said. The SPSS tools allow him to provide testing data to each teacher at the beginning of the year, he said.

Adding one value to every record in a table in MS Access

Someone just asked me how to do this so I am going to post my solution in case it will help others…

Situation: You have a table of email addresses (and that’s it) of clients from the Boston DMA. You want to add a new field called DMA and assign all records the value of “Boston”

Solution: Make a query that includes your email address table. Include email address as one filed and add a new one. The new one will be called DMA and have a value of “Boston”. The SQL would look something like this…

SELECT [EmailList].emailaddress, “Boston” AS DMA
FROM [EmailList];

another option that would make a new table (called dmatable) for the info would be…

SELECT [EmailList].emailaddress, “Boston” AS DMA INTO dmatable
FROM [EmailList];

Analytical CRM gains rapid adoption: Datamonitor

London: Analytical customer relationship management (aCRM) technology, considered the logical evolution of the CRM lifecycle, is being adopted by enterprises on a broader global scale. This is revealed in a new report by the London-based independent market analyst Datamonitor (DTM.L).

The report, Analytical CRM, forecasts global enterprise investment in aCRM will grow from an estimated $2.3 billion today to over $3bn in 2009.

aCRM (a sub section of the wider business intelligence [BI] market), whilst complex is a compelling technology. By employing aCRM analytics, businesses stand to gain a fuller understanding of the customer in order to serve them better thus increasing customer longevity and generating more profit.

“The aCRM, and wider CRM market is going through a period of exciting change,” says Tom Pringle, technology analyst at Datamonitor and author of the study. “High and stable growth reflects the value businesses place on understanding more about their customers. However, vendors will need to make every effort to educate enterprises. Many are still confused by the concept and technologies that constitute BI.”

According to Pringle, growth is already at a high, stable level, a reflection of some maturity in the wider BI market in North America and Western Europe, and strong growth in the APAC and CALA regions.

aCRM is the active collection, concentration and analysis of data gathered about the customer and his interactions with the business. It represents the next, logical step in this development path through utilisation of customer data held within the enterprise. This analysis is then used to generate value, both for the enterprise and the enterprise’s customers. It encompasses cultural change at every level as part of the wider CRM project: the creation of a customer focused business.

The report reveals the clear lead adopters are to be found in the financial services, retail, manufacturing and communications industries around the globe. However with confusion and lack of understanding among end users regarding aCRM and its uses, it will be imperative for vendors to educate enterprises across all verticals as to the aCRM function, its working, uses and benefits.

“Vendors in this space need to tread carefully to exploit the opportunities which exist. Market education is a clear requirement, with many potential users confused by the range of technological options available to them, and a lack of understanding around the uses of aCRM. There are clear signs marking the appropriateness of aCRM for different enterprises and vendors will do well targeting those that display them.”

Note: Datamonitor’s report, defines the market as both a technology and a concept. This report simplifies the technologies, uses and user groups found in the aCRM market. The full range of technologies in the aCRM market are covered, including ETL, data quality, data warehousing and BI tools. The development of aCRM technologies is discussed as part of the changes seen in the wider BI market. A full market sizing analysis by geography, vertical and technology for the aCRM space is also given. The uses of aCRM are varied. The ways in which it is currently deployed, and how this will change are covered by this report.

How to grow your own analytics team

Readers have asked how to start a dedicated Web analytics team within an enterprise. Smart question. In a previous column I said many companies fail to squeeze enough juice from the analytics grape because they don’t assign genuinely committed or qualified resources, or they consign analytics to a committee already tasked with too much else.

Suppose you had a chance to get it right. What kinds of people suit the roles? What skills are paramount? If you had the luxury of creating a new position in these tight times, how would you advertise it? We work with smart, nimble boutique firms and Fortune 100 juggernauts alike. When an enterprise analytics team clicks, it clicks for similar reasons, no matter the scale. Looking at successful teams, I see recurring models, assignments, and action plans.

A good foundation typically includes two starring roles: a manager and a champion.

Technical Lead

Whether they use a software solution or hosted solution, companies I know that successfully use analytics invariably have an analytics technical lead. Key responsibilities include:

* Manage software and servers (depending on tracking tool).

* Manage a “tagging strategy”: Determine the best way to place visitor-tracking tags on Web site pages and ensure those pages show up correctly and consistently in the analytics tool. Work with third-party content providers and partners to tag pages.

* Ensure new pages or site changes carry proper tracking tags.

* Manage tracking tool changes and upgrades.

Analytics Lead

The analytics lead is a champion, an evangelist, an advocate. This person is responsible for promoting analytics’ value throughout the organization. She often has a strong background in business strategy, Web strategy, or both. She has a solid understanding of your particular analytics tool. She knows what data it yields, how to research and troubleshoot, and how to report the benefits in a pithy, accessible way. Key responsibilities include:

* Help key stakeholders define site or section goals. Define the data readouts they need to drive improvements.

* Develop a data distribution strategy featuring weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports, as well as ways to get them in front of stakeholders.

* Help interpret data as a basis for site architecture or design changes.

* Drive A/B testing to solve specific site problems identified through analytics.

Influential Circle and Beyond

These two roles call for very different skill sets. It’s hard for one person to cover both. Organizations that can dedicate two full-time people to these positions typically gain more ground faster in the analytics derby. Then, there’s the influential circle that can make or break a fledgling analytics team:

* Executive management supports the initiative and helps define Web site success metrics at the highest level.

* Web designers, information architects, and developers implement data-driven improvements.

* Business group leads.

As the team gains traction, it can add more analysts, work with outside firms to augment or train (that’s where I typically come in), or even designate analytics “owners” inside each business group to track data reports and marry them to site improvements.

Our goal is to get the whole enterprise focused on analytics. This hardly ever works when a big committee tries to run analytics. To get fast results, start with a dedicated technical lead and an evangelist to spotlight the outcome.