| Situation: You need a robust reporting solution, but don't want a full-blown data warehouse.|
The whole business intelligence thing can be fairly daunting. Implementations can be costly and complicated when sometimes you just need "more reports, faster". JReport is one of the software tools that can help get you there. We recently spoke with Whit Mathis, VP of Sales at Jinfonet, who gave us some insight into when this sort of tool might be right for you.
Q. What are three things that people often forget when creating reports?
-The type of architecture required and flexibility of the reporting application. It is very easy for reporting requirements to become complex and JReport reduces that complexity with simple, straight forward architecture (less hardware), yet is flexible enough to meet demanding reporting requirements. Large BI vendors can require complex configurations for installation and on the other side Open Source vendors often do not have the flexibility to meet enterprise BI requirements.
- Considering future reporting needs and how they will change/adapt to those new requirements. JReport is very extensible and can meet embedded BI requirements now and those to come.
- Some users will want to create their own reports easily or chose their own data to view. JReport offers Adhoc capabilities which empowers the end-user to view the data they determine relevant.
Q. What makes JReport different from its competition?
- Completely Java based with robust functionality.
A major credit card processing company wanted to integrate their existing Java architecture that is used for their mission critical applications with a robust reporting platform. JReport offered a fully compliant java solution along with all the features they needed to support 1000's of users.
Our ISV customers, which represent many top tier technical companies, use JReport since they can have a very small resource footprint in their applications, yet offer value add features to their end users. With the ability to white label our application, this creates a competitive advantage for the solutions which embed JReport.
Q. What skills and knowledge enable a user to effectively use your report designer?
-JReport provides IDE that makes using the report designer very straightforward. Customers that understand data relationships and how reports should look will easily be able to create highly usable business data. JReport also provides professional services to those who need assistance with this or would like jump start.
Q. Which types of reporting are perfect for your software? Which are not?
- We’re good for extremely lightweight, powerful reporting
- We’re good for departments who need a solution that can adapt to specific reporting need or an enterprise that does not need to be integrated with a Data warehouse.
- We’re good for challenging performance and scalability requirements.
- We’re good for business users that need real time access to data but do not want to learn complex reporting platforms
-We’re not perfect for big, overarching BI + data warehouse architectures or small, one-off reporting fixes
-We are not good for very simple reporting with small user base
- We are not good for anyone stuck on excel spreadsheets for reporting because they won’t utilize the capabilities that a robust reporting solution like JReport delivers.
| Situation: You Could Use a Little Mash-up Primer.|
PMs deal with reporting a LOT. Whether you are dealing with reporting on projects within the enterprise, or building an enterprise app that has a strong reporting component, its good to know a bit about how mash-ups might play a role in your overall approach. Recently, we spoke with Chris Warner at JackBe - who gave us some quick answers to questions I think many of us share.
Q. What’s a good example of a Project Manager using an enterprise mashup? Do you see them being used to actually manage projects or are they more a class of applications that many PMs will be involved in implementing?
Everyone seems to have a gut ‘feeling’ for mashups. And many of us have played with the proverbial ‘Chicago apartment locator’. But defining a mashup in the context of the enterprise is another story. So let’s start with an example of a sophisticated enterprise mashup: connecting your SAP ERP data with your Oracle/Siebel CRM data and two sets of online third-party demographic information while maintaining single sign-on through your global LDAP server, then sharing the mashup with your management. And doing it without IT’s involvement.
A good definition of an enterprise mashup would be ‘a user-centric micro-integration of Web-accessible data’. While short, this definition contains a number of important points worth considering:
• “User-centric” – Mashups are always intended user consumption and are often created by the users themselves, not the by black-box back-end integration systems such as ESB, BPM, BPEL, etc. Without this guiding principle, we are merely sending the users back to IT for more development.
• “Micro-integration” – Think of a user taking data from multiple sources and copying it into Excel. As these users typically deal with small amounts of knowledge-oriented information (as opposed to IT-managed applications that typically deal with large amounts of transactional information), these are called “micro-integrations”.
• “Web-accessible” –Mashups are best created from standardized data formats such as WSDL, REST and RSS, which we summarize here as ‘web-accessible’. In other words, our data sources shouldn’t require too much manipulation for the user to make sense of it.
It is important to note that this describes what an enterprise mashup is but not its usage. That is left to the user, whether that user is an intelligence analyst performing an evaluation of a terrorist hotspot or a securities trader completing an analysis of an interesting investment opportunity. More importantly, the way a user interacts with a mashup makes it distinct from IT-centric integrations. Users dynamically create and interact with mashups. The net effect is that IT doesn’t prescribe the integration, they only need to provide a framework to govern their creation.
With all this as background, it is reasonable to expect that enterprise mashups will be both a tool for Project Managers and a part of the new class of ‘Web 2.0’ applications PMs will be involved in implementing. As a tool, enterprise mashups can greatly improve the real-time decision-making capabilities of a PM. And JackBe can attest that mashup adoption in industries like financial services and government has already begun; some PMs are already learning what it means to deal with this new style of ‘Web 2.0 mashup application’ with requirements like ‘loosely-coupled’, ‘user-driven’, and ‘browser-based’.
Q. At a portfolio level, executives often use Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Tools to organize and prioritize projects. For example, the Daptiv Product Suite has a Cognos back-end that allows access to project data via a data warehouse. If I’m trying to manage a portfolio of projects, do enterprise mashups replace some of this functionality or is it complementary?
Mashups are very complimentary to today’s popular reporting/analysis tools. Enterprise mashup solutions provide users with the ability to mash data from a data warehouse/mart as easily as any other data source. A good example would be mashing your warehoused project data with third-party resource availability/cost data in real-time.
But it’s also worth noting that mashups don’t require a warehouse/mart. Mashups can easily be constructed from transactional ERP/CRM/SFA systems and newer interface technologies like SOA and RSS services. Mashups can make these disparate technologies easy to dynamically combine for real-time information solutions.
Q. What is the most common executive dashboard application created via a mashup? What is the most unique one you’ve seen (something that would not have been possible with older technology)?
Common dashboards constructed from enterprise mashups have been in executive hot-spots like real-time financial benchmarking and regulatory compliance. The most unique enterprise mashup application is certainly Project ‘Overwatch’, the real-time intelligence briefing interface JackBe helped build at the Defense Intelligence Agency (there’s a short case study online). They’ve replaced the low-tech cut-and-paste into Powerpoint approach with a rich browser-based interface that connects live to data sources. Every briefing can be given based upon real-time, live information and that information can also be shared collaboratively among analysts. This is what Web 2.0 is all about. PMs and their clients will all come to expect this kind of dynamic information in the near future.
Q. Mashups seem to make data and reports more directly accessible to executives, allowing them to dream up reports and easily pull them together on the fly. How do you think that will change the nature of future large scale application development projects?
In general, mashup applications are the antithesis of the ‘big bang’ software projects of the past. These are constructed from data sources that have standardized interfaces (making them easy to assemble) and are deployed as ‘containerized’ micro-applications that are built from browser-based ‘rich internet’ technologies like Ajax, Flex and Silverlight (making them easy to embed in websites/blogs and making them easy to share with others), and they are often created by the users themselves. As we often say at JackBe, enterprise mashups can be constructed in minutes, not months!
| Situation: Skype Just Isn't Cool Enough For You...|
Developers are starting to do some cool things with Ribbit (which helps developers create phone applications for the web) - this desktop version of an iPhone is one them. It's one of those "hey look at this" conversation pieces reserved for those on the very bleeding edge of poor time management.
| Situation: You're an IT PM on the Leading Edge of Tech...|
Microsoft's new Silverlight technology is making quite a splash in the developer community. It can be used as:
- a great way to deliver video
- a higher end replacement for Flash as a development environment (see examples)
Take a look at the TechCrunch review for more details.