In a recently completed survey of non-customers, we found that analysts who used Query/400 reported spending an average of 1.625 hours per day extracting, manipulating, and distributing data. We know from previous studies that people who move to NGS-IQ typically cut the time they spend on these tasks by approximately 50%.
That reduction in time is due to NGS-IQ having many more features which let analysts and business users write and run fewer queries and automate data transfers, spreadsheet updates, and report distribution. The math works out to 0.8125 hours per day in labor savings or about 10% of an eight-hour work day. Using a national average of $70,000 annual salary for a business analyst, the financial savings equate to $7,000 per year.
This productivity savings doesn't include the intangible business value and impression you make on your customers when staff members regularly have meaningful, accurate, timely data at hand.
While it’s unlikely that many companies will store their IoT device messages in the IBM i environment, it's easy to imagine most IBM i customers having systems (maybe cloud based) that store IoT message streams alongside their DB2 on i/ERP database.
While the data is stored separately, there is value to be realized from “merging” IoT and ERP data. Think about sensor data (IoT data) captured from products being used by thousands of customers. This data, once parsed and placed into a searchable format, needs to be viewed in different ways – by product, by customer, by order or install date, and so on. That product, customer, and order information is in the ERP database. Business people need this combination of data to give meaning and perspective to the IoT data.
Depending on the format and volume of your IoT data, with a little data cleansing and filtering, you could probably upload extracts of IoT data to DB2 on i. Once the extracted IoT data is there, forward thinking IBM i customers can begin to discover its business value.
2017 Marketing and Software Sales in IBM i
Despite what some have said is the worst name of any server or computer brand, IBM i is still going strong. (As you have heard many times, try adding “i” to any search and see if anything different turns up.) Fortunately, it is more effective to add “NGS” to an internet search. Give it a try and encourage your customers to do the same.
Seriously, NGS’ Business Intelligence is going strong, with great response to Web searches and ads. The Web presence is just one aspect of our marketing efforts. Our marketing plan for 2017 will emphasize Webinars for prospects and customers as well as on-site sessions with business users. We'll also exhibit at many of the regional and national conferences in the IBM i ecosystem.
For and With Partners
With partners we are always happy and available to do one-on-one discovery sessions and demonstrations, which usually lead to a proof of concept. While we can do all of these activities remotely, our travel to customers provides us many opportunities to go on site with prospects to develop personal relationships during the evaluation process. When we are in the area, we can add in a few prospecting visits with your other customers.
Partners can always drive attendance to our Webinars. We do about six Webinars per year just for prospects. Outside the general schedule, I am happy to organize Webinars with a partner. We can jointly drive attendance in your area through email and telemarketing invites along with your personal contact.
After the individual Webinar playback is recorded, it is useable for months as a destination or action in a marketing message or embedded in a website.
There are still several large conferences around the country for the IBM i ecosystem. Some of these are vendor specific while others, like COMMON, are general.
If NGS will be exhibiting at a conference in your area, we will work with you to get the message to your customers. Schedule permitting, we can hang around the area and do some prospecting meetings, too. Keep this in mind as the year goes along.
I am not the only one to say it – business intelligence is integral to enterprise resource planning.
ERP does a great job of working with individual items, transaction, orders, and so on. Getting aggregate views is generally done in current generation ERP applications, but older versions usually lack the cool, built-in reporting features (often marketed as “analytics” by ERP vendors).
Due to the steep cost of an ERP upgrade or conversion, most small and midsize companies need to keep running their current ERP system and maximize their return on investment by surrounding the ERP system with reporting and analytics software. They may not be as slickly integrated, but third-party reporting products do a better job than hard-coded reports built into the ERP screens.
With custom or “homegrown” ERP software, a reporting solution can make or break a company. Obviously, there isn't an ERP vendor to turn to, and many of the developers who originally wrote the ERP system have probably left the company. Simply deciphering the data base to run reports and to create “analytics” in the ERP is much simpler than modifying the old custom code to do the same.
This tactic can put off the need (and expense) of installing a new ERP for many years.
Are you an NGS-IQ query developer who hasn’t had time to get familiar with our Web reporting features? You’ve probably seen us demonstrate WebRunner and IQ Client’s HTML design features, but up to now, your company has left Web software development and support in the hands of a separate person or team that views your IBM i environment as an uncharted island, best avoided. Maybe you feel the same way about that team’s strangely named Web servers, languages, and development tools. There’s a lot to be gained by connecting these islands. Let NGS help you build a bridge between the IBM i and Web experts in your company. IQ Client and WebRunner can be the catalyst.
If you’ve never set up or just rarely used Apache Web Server for IBM i, we encourage you to contact us so we can guide you through the steps. It usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes. If you have NGS-IQ queries that your users might like to run from a Web browser, help us introduce your Web developers to the HTML report design features of IQ Client. We can help them install IQ Client and you can identify a few queries to download and copy. After that, we can teach them how to add the HTML design touches needed to transform your query into an attractive Web report that can be run from a portal or Web page. Along the way, you may both become a lot more comfortable with each other’s area of expertise.
The item file is seemingly a simple file. Use the item number the same way as on sales orders along with the human readable description and maybe a few other fields such as color, weight, and so on. Throw in a few department or categories, too, to make summarizing easier and more meaningful to businesspeople.
Unfortunately, different industries have different ways of identifying, classifying, and describing items. There is no easy way of generalizing a single structure for covering all items that will satisfy reporting needs in all industries. Indeed, even within a single company different departments have different ways of looking at items individually and in groups.
The term "item" covers services, too. Think about the chargemaster in healthcare — basically an item master file used to bill for specific services provided. Other companies in services usually have a list of standard offerings. These are essentially item master files just like a distributor would have in its ERP as far as sales reporting is concerned.
An important point about creating an item file in a data base geared for reporting sales data is flexibility. Inevitably, the industry will change, additional divisions and departments will use the reporting, new ideas on management and sales process will be implemented, and a wide variety of other changes could occur in the company to add to the different ways items are viewed.
Additionally, item numbers will change over time. The same product coming from different vendors may have the same item number now, but will be different in the future.
There are the usual ways around this problem, such as adding additional columns or writing some logic that looks at the invoice date to find the appropriate item description. It seems like everyone can create a system that fits their company’s need if they emphasize flexibility for the future rather than perfection in the present.
IBM, Oracle, HP, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, SAP, and virtually every other major technology company want you and your company to use their cloud. Each quarter, these companies release new products and acquire companies to bolster their cloud offerings and grow their cloud revenue. Industry analysts forecast remarkable growth in cloud spending. Yet, global spending on information technology has been nearly flat for several years now and Gartner expects it to remain that way for the rest of this decade. So what is the source of all this cloud growth?
As consumers, we generally think of the cloud as a place where we can backup and save files, access applications and websites to do online banking, pay bills, share photos and music, or communicate with our healthcare providers. But if you’re a publicly traded technology company striving to meet ever higher quarterly revenue targets, the cloud can be much, much more. Here are some ways technology companies increase their cloud revenue:
Whether it’s software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (Iaas), business process as a service (BPaaS), a private cloud, a public cloud, a hybrid cloud, or even remote backup, all these resources are commonly treated as cloud revenue today.
Yes, new technology is creating demand for cloud computing, and companies are using clouds in an effort to gain flexibility and reduce cost. But technology companies, eager to impress investors, will continue to creatively expand the definition of cloud computing to ensure they achieve their targeted rates of growth.
In my last blog entry, I misspoke. I said there were two main entities – customers and orders – on which sales departments base their reporting. While true, the real world is a little less clear.
For most sales reporting, the most important starting point in the data architecture is the order detail table or equivalent. Sure, there are a lot of reports that will just look at customer characteristics, but those are more suited for marketing than sales use.
For true sales reporting, start with the sales.
I mentioned the detail file because it is the most important. Within ERP applications, there are often order header files which is useful mostly to the ERP application itself. Real world reporting will need to look at the detail level in order to arrive at custom aggregation and tailored analytics.
The data needed for the order detail is simple. The fields needed are broken into foreign keys and facts.
For foreign keys, the simplest ones are who, what and when the sale occurred. Roughly, that is the customer number, item number, date, and salesperson number.
For facts, companies can get a little too wild with this information. Start with the basics of price and quantity. If there is a cost or margin field, grab that, too. Getting more detail might help some people, but the vast majority of sales reporting is handled just by those basic fields.
Keep it simple to start. Too much choice takes up time and creates confusion in the minds of businesspeople.
For a long, long time NGS has worked with customers who have sales related data tied up in their ERP system without easy ways to access and summarize it. Their CRM system (using that term loosely for many companies) does not interface well with the ERP data.
Whether planning marketing strategies or conversing with customers in person, salespeople often do not have accurate information on past order history or comparisons to other customers. Running a green screen application in front of their customers is not something most sales reps want to do. Instead, many simply dodge the issue by saying they will look up order history later and get back to the customer.
That is not a good response to build stronger customer relationships.
Through the years, NGS has come up with a basic data mart useable by virtually any sales department. It takes a few NGS-IQ jobs to populate the tables on a regular basis, but the layout is easily understood by any salesperson who wants to create his or her own views and reports.
Here is the quick overview. The sales reporting data model centers on two primary entities — customers and orders. All the other tables join with these entities. Of course, using the NGS-IQ meta function also eliminates the need for any of the report authors to know what a join actually is.
Upcoming blog entries will highlight critical tables and the fields we have found vital at a wide array of companies. The discussion will not cover in-depth issues or advanced analytics. I will concentrate on the typical needs of companies who use IBM i and want more effective sales reporting on older ERP systems.
In the 1980’s a political consultant coined the phrase “perception is reality,” and over the past 30 years that phrase has become widely used and accepted in both business and social settings to help explain or justify behavior. But in fact, perceptions we can’t verify through data provide a very weak foundation on which to make business and personal decisions.
Our perceptions do shape our individual impression of “reality,” but things aren’t always as they seem. Most of us know from personal experience that when someone says, “(Fill in a number) people can’t be wrong!” that there is a chance all those people just might be. We need to look at the data.
Assuming perceptions are the same as a company’s reality is high risk business behavior. Instead, cultivating skepticism is much more productive for developing a business. Combining creative thinking with the effective use of data to test perceptions and make informed decisions is the way to move your business forward.
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