Dashboard Insight recently spoke with PureShare's Christopher Dean about the reporting process, the ActiveMetrics™ solution - and how to get a ActiveMetrics interface up and running in a week.
Dashboard Insight: PureShare recently began talking about its No Reports – Just Answers! vision. Can you explain that vision and what it means in practical terms?
Christopher Dean: Yes, our vision has developed from a very practical reality: Managers need better information and better tools to understand organizational information in a way that helps them on a day-to-day operational basis. Providing them with direct access to answers means critical information is at their fingertips at all times without extra effort to assemble and analyze data.
DI: And you are saying that reports can’t do that?
CD: Reports are designed to provide summaries of historical information and to support forward-looking planning and decisions. But they aren’t the right tool for operations managers, who need immediate, timely metrics to support day-to-day operational decisions. A manager needs to know “what’s going on right now” and this is much more useful than “what happened last week.”
The reporting process is contrary to a manager’s daily reality. It takes days and sometimes weeks to compile the required data from various systems and spreadsheets, then assemble it into a report, analyze what that report is showing – which is already out of date – and then annotate and distribute the report to other stakeholders. That protracted cycle keeps managers in what I call “firefighting” mode and leaches time away from being able to optimize operations. Our focus is to free managers from firefighting so they have more time for process improvement.
Reports have their place, but that’s not in day-to-day operations. In today’s fast-paced environments, people need answers!
DI: How do PureShare products enable the No Reports – Just Answers! vision to become a practical reality?
CD: We focus on delivering on-demand operational metrics directly to managers. Our products give managers immediate access to the most current operational information that they need. Our products are practical tools that managers, directors, VPs, executives, staff – even customers and partners – can use to see what’s going on at any time, without having to request, build, analyze, or manage a traditional report.
Our solutions aren’t short on detail, either. While our goal is to provide the important answers literally at a glance, our products also provide access to greater levels of detail depending on who the user is and when they want to see more of.
We give our customers the ability to proactively manage their organizations through metrics. We call that proactive metrics management and it's what our “just answers” philosophy facilitates - PureShare’s ultimate goal to get all of our customers to that point.
DI: You recently released PureShare® ActiveMetrics® v2.0 – can you elaborate on how this product gives managers the answers they need?
CD: ActiveMetrics essentially automates all the work of gathering and consolidating operational metrics and then presents them in visual displays that deliver the answers that managers need. To do this, the product provides three primary capabilities: the ability to connect to any data source whether it is internal or external, next it transforms and merges data into useful metrics and incorporates targets, trends and other context, and finally it present the metrics in visual displays. For this last step, the engine has integrated best-of-breed visualization tools and incorporated new capabilities of its own. The result of all this is the ability to see operational information in a truly complete way in absolutely any format.
DI: Can you elaborate on those three things?
CD: Sure. The first is leverage any data source. ActiveMetrics automates the collection of data from literally any electronic data source. Most BI and reporting systems do a great job of reporting and displaying trends based on the information that they house. But managers sit in the middle of many groups and systems and the answers they need typically rely on data from a number of different places.
With ActiveMetrics v2.0, we felt it was imperative to place absolutely no limitations on the data that the product is able to gather. In addition to accessing data from databases and data warehouses, it can also collect information from spreadsheets, web services like hosted CRM or other SaaS tools, external web sources, third-party and remote systems and even custom APIs connecting to real-time systems like ACD phone switches. Taking it one step further, ActiveMetrics can also collect data from end users through web forms and other tools.
The final point was the ability to present the information in any format. ActiveMetrics places absolutely no limitations on how that information is presented to the users. The product ships with Dundas charts, gauges and maps embedded along with HTML widgets, calendars and other types of control – but at the same time it can leverage anything else that the customer wants to use, such as doing Google Maps or Microsoft Live Map mashups and so on.
Metrics can also be trigger proactive emails, alerts and notifications – and generate files, heads-up displays, or even portable dashboards. For example, we have been getting a lot of traction doing mobile views on BlackBerry devices and iPhones. This flexibility is important because it means that the metrics can be designed to best suit the needs of the business and its users.