FAQs

Many professionals cannot get the information they need from the current volumes of ERP production data. This is the main reason spending on Business Intelligence (BI) solutions have continued to grow during a severe economic downturn. Executives cannot afford to make decisions based on financial statements that compare last month’s results to a budget created up to a year ago. They need information that helps them quickly answer the basic questions: What still works? What continues to sell? How can cash be conserved? What costs can be cut without causing long-term harm?

Business intelligence systems provide the ability to answer these critical questions by turning the massive amount of data from production systems into a format that is current, actionable, and easy to understand. These systems provide information that is decision ready. They allow you to analyze current and long-term trends, alert you instantly to opportunities and problems, and give you continuous feedback on the effectiveness of your decisions. Business Intelligence is not a new idea; the largest and best-managed organizations in the world have been making use of it for more than a decade. Along the way, the organizations that pioneered Business Intelligence made an important discovery – the path to true business intelligence passes through a data warehouse.

The data needed to provide reports, dashboards, analytic applications, and ad hoc queries all exists within the set of production applications that support your organization. Why not just use one of the Business Intelligence tools to obtain it directly? Business Intelligence pioneers quickly discovered the “direct access” approach does not work well. Some of the many reasons why direct connection to production data almost never works include:

• New releases of application software frequently introduce changes that make it necessary to rewrite and test reports.
• These changes require significant technical resources/expenses.
• Writing reports against production data usually requires significant technical assistance.
• Production field names are often hard to decipher, and at times can be meaningless strings of characters.
• Application data is often stored in odd formats.
• Application tables are usually normalized; writing reports against these tables requires many “joins” even for simple reports.
• Tables can be structured to optimize data entry and validation performance, making them hard to use for retrieval and analysis.
• There is no superior way to incorporate worthwhile data from other sources into the database of a particular application.
• Developing and storing metadata, or metrics, is an awkward process without a data warehouse, because there is no obvious place to put it.
• Many data fields that users are accustomed to seeing on display screens are not present within the production database, such as rolled-up general ledger balances.
• Transaction processing on production systems is given priority over reporting. Reporting and analysis functions tend to perform poorly when run on the hardware that handles transactions.
• There is a risk that Business Intelligence users might misuse or corrupt the transaction data.
• There are many ways in which Business Intelligence users can inadvertently slow the performance of applications.

We invite you to see, first hand, how our reporting toolkits will enhance your ability to report against your Lawson data.

To schedule a product demonstration, either call us at 763-208-9937 or send an email to sales@dashboardgear.com
We will perform the product demonstration using webex and phone conferencing technology. The product demonstration takes approximately one hour.

Here are some of the benefits a Business User will experience with a Dashboard Gear Toolkit:

• The Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits allow easy report writing and analysis because the fields in the tables and cubes are easy to understand and use.
• The data in the Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits is intentionally de-normalized, making report queries execute quickly, and allowing the data to be used in charts and graphs on Dashboard displays.
• All the fields needed for report writing are stored as database fields in the Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits, eliminating the need to derive and calculate amounts. This significantly speeds up the reporting process and makes report maintenance simple and fast.
• There are no character or format limitations (as is the case with standard Lawson report writing) when using the Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits. When using our Toolkits, a report can contain all necessary fields.
• Data is available in both a Relational format and an Analysis Services format, allowing the data to be used for both reporting and analysis.
• The ability to embed Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Metrics in the data allows the information to be more efficient and accurate than trying to build custom formulas on each report.
• The Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits store data in a Microsoft Office friendly format and can be efficiently consumed by all of the tools in the LBI product family.
• The Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits use data from Lawson structures directly. As the changes are made and refreshed, the Lawson system updates are reflected in the Dashboard Gear reporting structures.
• With the Financial, Human Resources, and Procurement Reporting Toolkits, reports can now be created in less time. This leads to greater and more efficient use of the reports, which leads to a fast and simple analysis of the financial and human resource data.

These are the Server Requirements for running a Dashboard Gear Toolkit:

• The Dashboard Gear Toolkits are supported on SQL Server 2008 2008, 2008r2, 2012 or 2014.
• Dashboard Gear requires an ODBC connection be established from the SQL Server to the Lawson Server where the source data resides (If Lawson isn’t in a SQL Server instance).
• The required size of the SQL Server varies depending on the amount of data, however, we recommend 4 GB of RAM and at least 200 GB of free disk space as a baseline. Most Dashboard Gear customers are running on 4 CPU boxes, but our Toolkits are also being run on a 2 CPU box at several locations.
• On the SQL Server side, we require SQL Server, Analysis Services and the SQL Agent Service (which are all part of the standard SQL Server license).
• We will also need a user id that has System Admin access to that SQL Server instance.

The database tables that Lawson has designed for its ERP systems are optimized for production data processing and storage. The standard Lawson tables are intended for Online Transaction Processing (OLTP). OLTP Applications are characterized by a high volume of smaller transactions. This is the common database design for most major ERP software systems. Appropriately, Lawson has created its database table structures using database normalization and OLTP friendly techniques.

Direct Lawson reporting against production tables can be difficult. These tables are not designed for efficient or optimum reporting as well as data analysis. That is why a data warehouse is beneficial to you. Data Warehouses contain database structures that are intended for Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) use. In contrast to OLTP databases, OLAP databases and operations are primarily “read mostly.” OLAP applications tend to extract historical data that has accumulated over a long period of time. For OLAP databases, “de-normalized” or redundant data is common. For example, dimensional tables in a star schema often contain de-normalized data. Dashboard Gear’s data warehouses are specifically designed for optimum reporting and data analysis.

The Dashboard Gear data warehouses contain:

• Relational reporting database tables that are intentionally de-normalized for optimum report creation.
• Star Schema Data Marts for “asking questions” of your data.
• Microsoft Analysis Services OLAP Cubes for “slicing and dicing” your data.
• Common Database Views, this allows your Lawson production data to be used for efficiently creating common reports such as a Balance Sheet.

The Dashboard Gear data warehouses can be used with any of the third party reporting tools such as Cognos, Crystal Reports/Business Objects, Hyperion, Microsoft Reporting Services/Performance Point, Microsoft Excel/Office, or Lawson Business Intelligence Tools (LBI).

For over two decades, large organizations have been using data warehouses to maximizing their investment from the massive amounts of business information that is collected. Some of the key benefits of implementing a data warehouse are:

• Reporting data is made available to individuals without affecting the ongoing production system.
• Reporting does not need to end when key production systems are running.
• An organization can provide a common data model for different interest areas, regardless of the data’s source.
• Production data inconsistencies can be more easily identified and corrected.
Single location for reporting data; everyone is analyzing and reporting on the same data.
• Reporting data is under the control of the data users.
• Data security can be optimized.
• Reporting against a data warehouse is more efficient; more timely business decisions can be made.
• More data can be retained for reporting than is usually available in production systems.
• Data is stored specifically for reporting and analysis efficiency, not for production efficiency as is the case for ERP systems.

Many professionals have heard of data warehousing but are unsure of how it works, and whether your organization would benefit from utilizing a data warehouse. The concept of data warehousing is actually fairly simple. A data warehouse is a unique central repository – a warehouse – for data that an enterprise’s various business systems collect. Periodically, production data from online business applications and other sources is selectively extracted and organized in the data warehouse for useful analysis and access for reporting. Meaning, a data warehouse stores a standardized, consistent, clean, and integrated form of data sourced from various operational systems in the organization. A data warehouse is structured in a way that specifically address an organization’s reporting and analytic requirements. The resulting data warehouse becomes the main source of information for an organization’s report generation, analysis, and presentation through ad hoc reports, portals, and dashboards.