Review: Panorama Necto Socially-Enabled Business Intelligence

by Vangie Beal

Necto combines the consumer model of social media with enterprise business intelligence in the new version of the Necto BI suite.

Panorama Software has been in the business of business intelligence (BI) for more than 14 years.  The company offers a suite of business intelligence applications that are designed to help your company make better, more profitable business decisions and then track the results of those decisions.

Until recently, Panorama's NovaView solution was the company's standard business intelligence solution for query and analysis reporting, performance dashboards, key performance indicators (KPI) scorecards, modeling, advanced visualization, and automated report distribution.

Seeing a need to move beyond "traditional" business intelligence processes, in May 2011 the company released a second suite called Panorama Necto, a socially-enabled business intelligence solution that provides collaboration and automated intelligence capabilities.

Business Environment Changes Prompt Business Intelligence Changes
Panorama's belief is that traditional BI does not deliver in today's changing business environment and that the process of using analytic tools to make better business decisions should be easy.  Many companies never venture beyond the "basics" offered in their BI software to really understand what's in the BI package.

With the Necto release, Panorama addresses a number of issues commonly reported with traditional BI solutions. The first is that business intelligence can be complicated for end users.  Cost overrun and complications in using the business intelligence solution after deployment are often cited as reasons why business implementations fail.  Necto addresses this issue with self-service capabilities in the BI.

From the company's perspective, they have seen a number of business environment changes that just are not compatible with most traditional BI systems.  Before we discuss how Necto performs, it is important to understand the three main concepts that Panorama based this release around:  

1.       Social Intelligence Connects Users and Data social business intelligence enables BI users within the organization to connect data, insights, and people across the enterprise. In Necto users can conduct and track conversations inside the BI.

2.       Contextual Discovery with Intelligent BI Engine – in Necto, contextual discovery is used to recommend the right reports to the right user at the right time.  The intelligent BI engine is Panorama's Automated Intelligence Driving Engine (AIDEN). It learns users' behavior and automatically provides users with relevant data and insights contextually. The system can spot issues from volumes of data and automatically identify the causes of these.

3.       Self-Service BI Relieves IT – the third interesting concept behind Necto is the way self-service is integrated making the BI both an automated and visual process.  Users shouldn't have to submit a request to IT to have reports created, but that is often the case with traditional BI solutions.  Necto provides a user interface and automated processes that lets business users to easily create their own views, reports, links, and analysis frameworks to reduce dependence on IT for report generation and data mining.  

So, with a focus on self-service, social intelligence and obtaining relevant data with an intelligent BI engine, Necto moves beyond traditional business intelligence into what the company refers to as Business Intelligence 3.0.

How Panorama Necto Business Intelligence Works

For business users, the core of Necto business intelligence is Panorama Workboards (or customized dashboards). Workboards is where business users can work with different sets of data and add social communication and collaboration on top of the data layer.

In Workboards, users are working within the business principles set by administration, such workflow, data access by user and so on.

When users login to the BI system, the main homepage is where you find quick access buttons to Favorite Workboards, Recent Workboards and My Relevant Workboards.

The first two are rather self-explanatory by name and the third offering (My Relevant) is where Necto's intelligent BI engine knows what you have used in the past, what others in the organization 'like you' have used and recommends Workboards that are highly relevant to you.

Often users tend to stay within their BI comfort zone and might not venture beyond the "basics" offered in the system. This is where Necto recommendations can expand the way you use the BI and lower IT requirements and involvement for reporting.

Also located on the homepage for quick access are Recent Discussions and Waiting Discussions. This area of the BI is where you can follow others inside the BI system to follow-up on conversation regarding specific data or Workboards and you can also follow other users in the system (Twitter style). 

By following other users you can choose users who are responsible for the insights you need to use or those who you can learn from.

The Workboards are laid out to provide immediate visualization of the data so you can see issues immediately.  Through the easy interface to simple drag-and-drop actions it does appear to meet that goal. 

There are also some useful time-saving features in Necto as many of the typical BI reports are automatically generated or can be performed quickly with one-click actions. For example to compare sales results between 3rd and 4th Quarter there is no need to load in previous quarter data. In Necto you simply use the Insights Button to compare previous quarter (or year) to current reports.

Using the Social Layer to Improve Insights

There are a number of scenarios when collaboration and social insights can be used in business intelligence.  The Necto approach is to layer the social data between users on top of the insights data. This is useful in a number of scenarios where the knowledge that people within your organization have is not necessarily reflected in the hard data.

For example, if a manager were to spot low sales in a specific city and was tasked with finding out why profits are down, the social stream in Necto would be the quickest way to the answer. The manager can attach a question to that specific data in the Workboard and select key individuals who would best be able to comment on the issue.  Literally the process is no more difficult that dragging and dropping the comment icon on top of the data you want to discuss, selecting the recipients and typing in a message.

The social communication stays attached to the Workboard so the enterprise social collaboration basically generates another layer of useful data for a report.

Another useful social tool is the Social Ribbon where you can access users for collaboration as described but also where you can follow other users in the BI system. Necto also recommends the BI users you need to work with for specific data, reports and issues.  In this way Necto enables business users to create collaborative workboards and visual presentations to provide better context for ad hoc business teams.

Panorama Necto: Who's it for?

From a business user's perspective, Necto's approach to business intelligence is to make BI a tool anyone can use and at first look it meets that goal well.

For businesses needing a business intelligence solution that integrates collaboration and automated intelligence, Necto is an option that is scalable to any sized organization. Companies using Panorama's NovaView solution can migrate to Necto in a few hours.

Panorama Software does not make its pricing publically available (you can expect typical per user license fees). Necto is currently available as an on-premises installation; however, the company has said it expects to launch a hosted deployment solution in the very near future.


  This article was originally published on Wednesday Aug 24th 2011
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