Selecting the right software stack for your business analytics project
Thu 17 Apr 2014
Once you have decided your data warehouse needs business analytics rather than a dashboard project do you go for a front end or back end solution or perhaps now a full stack offering? Elad Israeli, the founder and chief product officer at Sisense weighs up the options
When assessing the various alternatives for extracting intelligence from your data, differentiating between business analytics and dashboard reporting is key. Business intelligence or business analytics refers to a set of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes.
By contrast dashboard or report projects have a more limited scope and generally address current requirements rather than future ones. Dashboards and reports tend to be static, created once and simply refreshed with updated data, as opposed to Business Analytics, which allows an organisation to create new reports and dashboards as required.
If your organisation requires a short-term solution or has projects of limited scope, you might opt for a project specific approach in which reporting requirements are predictable and consistent and can be handled with static reports based on single or simple data sources. But often organisations require the ability to handle increasingly complex reporting and that generally means implementing a data warehouse or data mart.
Data warehouses or data marts both refer to the back-end of the business analytics software stack. This is where the data is stored, transformed and managed. Neither the data stored in a data warehouse nor data mart is accessible by end users. In order to extract the data from the back-end, you will also need a front-end visualisation tool for data discovery and visual analysis.
Business analytics software is offered in three different configurations. Back-end software stacks provide back-end functionality like data storage, transformation and management (i.e. data warehouse and data mart functionality, as well as ETL capabilities). Front-end software stacks provide end user facing functionality, such as data visualisation, data discovery and visual analysis. While full software stacks deliver both. For an in-depth review of how to choose the stack that is right for your organisation, read this white paper.
The majority of business analytics vendors offer either the back end solution or a front-end tool. This puts the responsibility of integrating the front and back end solutions on the customer. You may be able to find the best of both worlds in a mix and match solution but often you will bump into integration and synchronisation issues, not to mention the need to deal with multiple vendors, supports, licensing etc. Recently, some younger companies have released full stack solutions that offer the promise of a strong and fast back end with a visually stunning and powerful front end. Vendors with this type of cross platform expertise hold the promise of power and beauty in one package.