Plumbing the Depths of Analytics Software

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Have you ever watched the construction of a new house? It seems to go so slowly at first—often taking weeks (if not months) to lay the foundation, connect to a water source, bring in electricity, and so on.

And then—seemingly overnight—walls appear, the roof materializes, and before you know it, doors and windows are in and the painting’s complete.

That’s when the buyers appear—taking little notice of the hidden construction work that took so much time. They focus entirely on the visible finishes:the floors, woodwork, appliances, et cetera.

That’s where we get a similarity to analytics software;prospective buyers focus on the visible features of Analytics (dashboards, slice-and-dice, Google-like searching) while paying little or no attention to the “plumbing” that sits beneath those eye-catching features.

Many people think that you can take an analytics solution, stick it on top of a database, and—presto!— out come meaningful reports and dashboards. Unfortunately, that’s like thinking that if you drill a well for your new house, you’ll get water from your faucets. It’s not that simple.

When it comes to analytics software, the “plumbing” is key. Take connectivity; some application data resides in the cloud, some on-prem. Some data is accessed via .NET provider; some via ODBC/OLEDB, and some via web service. And then there’s security: different types, different levels, and who can see what.

But even those are just the tip of the plumbing iceberg.

Databases—particularly ERP databases—are complex: typically with hundreds of tables and “views,” complex associations (“joins”), and enough data to choke a horse (and slow-down report & dashboard creation to a snail’s pace).

So,when considering and evaluating analytics software, go ahead and be dazzled by the colorful dashboards, the easy drill-downs, and the “what-if” predictions. But after you’ve seen all that, don’t forget to ask the vendor about the plumbing behind those features. Find out how the plumbing is done, how long it takes to deploy, and how easy it is to expand.

And then . . . ask the vendor to do a proof of concept. Modern analytics solutions should make it easy to connect and customize the plumbing right off the bat.

Because your business truly is a “house of data”—and it’s ever-growing.

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