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Custom BI Application Development

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Custom Business Intelligence Application Development: Data Warehousing, Analysis, and Reporting

Challenge

Our client began an initiative to improve data access, collaboration, and critical analysis, and to better harvest and aggregate relevant data from external sources – with the aim of eventually integrating this data with internal systems. Additionally, they desired to streamline reporting processes which previously relied on business analysts to gather their own non-standardized data and build custom reports for various business needs. Analysts prepared briefing materials, strategy review and development and aligned with partners and investors on key indicators and metrics. The client’s goal was to reduce the time spent in collecting and utilizing relevant statistics, leverage previous investments in data collection, reduce repetition of gathering by different stakeholders, and increase consistency in the use of data enterprise wide.

Plaster Group was tasked with providing a BI solution to more efficiently compile global statistics and present them to end users via a user friendly graphical interface that supports the ability to view, report, compare, analyze and discuss data. Plaster Group needed to provide a technical solution that would be an easy to use go-to source for trusted data and address the intrinsic difficulty of compiling data from disparate external sources and the inability of our client’s staff to leverage other team’s gathered data. Plaster Group also was asked to provide an interface capable of giving non-expert users access to the newly standardized data, a set of reporting tools for the production of standardized, cost effective reports and to provide ad hoc analytical analysis.

Approach

Plaster Group deployed a Business Analyst, ETL platform developer and BI solutions architect to work with our client’s leadership and product sponsor to identify solution requirements and lead a team of external consultants in the design, development, testing, and deployment of the new solution. Given the complex and changing nature of the solution’s user requirements, Plaster Group elected to use a prototype driven development methodology – getting the tool into user’s hands as swiftly as possible and getting immediate feedback – a practice unfamiliar to our client’s teams and vendors, so methodological advocacy and coaching were critical.

Solution

Plaster Group delivered a software solution built on a reusable data warehousing platform capable of being leveraged for the creation of future applications without the need to build new back-end services. This solution provides:

● Effective External Data Integration - Easy and contextual access to external data, aggregating external data into a central resource without the need for code or schema changes beyond the ETL changes required to import new data

● External Data Compilation - External data from multiple sources compiled into one interface allowing for simple and efficient comparison of data across all sources

● Embedded Tableau Reporting Infrastructure - Streamlined production of quality, standardized reports and visual data analysis

● Dynamically Rendered, Easy to Use Graphical Interface - Rich GUI, dynamically rendered via the metadata attached to indicators was designed to increase general staff exposure to commonly used data. This reduced the need for subject matter expertise in acquiring relevant data and allowed for either ad hoc or structured access to data for a broad range of users

● Search, Browse, Collect functionality - Reduced time spent collecting relevant data
» Search - Discover indicators based on specific terms via the user interface or SQL query
» Browse - Explore the table of contents and filter by geography, date and other dimensions
» Collect - Users are able to build and persist a named collection of disparate data and metadata to Excel and other tools for analysis

Results

The BI solution was delivered on-time and on budget. The application has since provided its broad user base with streamlined abilities to seek, store, and share the quality, reliable data. This informs their team’s choices about where and how to invest resources and provides the ability to create reports directly from the application. In turn, our client saves time and expense as data is more easily accessed, compiled, shared and re-used by broader employee teams. Quality reports are crafted and delivered swiftly in standardized, easy to consume formats.

Additionally, all components of the application are coupled loosely, so the resulting modules are re-usable and can be leveraged for future applications. This allows for greater consistency in the design of future solutions and a great deal more institutional knowledge application to application while saving our client additional expense.