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Find Out if NGINX Is the Right Web Server for You

Ankit ChaudharyDecember 15, 2015

By now, you’ve likely heard of NGINX, the lightweight web server growing rapidly in the marketplace and giving heavy weights like Apache some serious competition. Yet given the fairly recent arrival of NGINX to the web server scene (it became a company as recently as 2011), many businesses are struggling to decide whether to go with a traditional web server like Apache or the newer model, NGINX.
Here, I give you the lowdown on NGINX and explain how it differs from traditional web servers so you can make the right choice.

What is NGINX? How does it work?

NGINX (pronounced “engine x”) is a free, open source web server with high performance, high concurrency, and low memory usage. A number of features make NGINX a good choice for modern website architectures. These include:

  • Multiple protocol support (HTTP, HTTPS, WebSocket, IMAP, POP3, SMTP)
  • SSL termination (TLSv1.1/TLSv1.2/SSL/SNI/PFS/PCI-DSS and OCSP Stapling)
  • HTTP video streaming using MP4/FLV/HDS/HLS
  • Caching static and dynamic content
  • Content compression
  • Header manipulation
  • Request filtering
  • Extended monitoring and logging
  • Upgrades without downtime using live binaries
  • Graceful restart with non-stop request processing
  • Complete reverse proxy and load balancer
  • Access and bandwidth control
  • The ability to integrate efficiently with many applications 

Likewise, NGINX has been tested and approved in a number of operating systems and platforms, from FreeBSD 3/5 to Linux 2.2/2.6/3, Solaris 9/10, Mac OSX, and Windows XP, to name a few.

From Apache to NGINX: how to decide

 
If you use an HTTP server like Apache, knowing whether to jump to NGINX isn’t easy. After all, Apache is an established, flexible web server that many enterprise-level customers rely on for delivering both dynamic and static content. It can run on a range of operating systems, is well-maintained, and is used so widely that a substantial amount of user-generated documentation exists, making it easy for developers to find what they need. Another key benefit is Apache’s customization capabilities, which include a rich set of features that can be modified and extended through the use of readily available add-on modules to fit many different technical or business needs.

With these benefits, however, come drawbacks. For one, because of the primarily process-based processing model Apache uses, it consumes more memory under high server loads, which can result in degraded performance (although the recent Apache 2.4 release promises improvements in speed and caching). And while the worker multi-processing module (MPM) has been available since 2004, it uses threads, not processes, to serve requests, which can cause compatibility issues.

NGINX, on the other hand, is designed to be simple and lightweight, and to require fewer hardware resources than other web servers. It does this in part by using an event-based processing model, which generally requires less memory than a process-based server. Because of this design, NGINX can serve static webpages quickly. For instance, if a website receives a large number of concurrent hits seeking static pages, NGINX has the advantage of keeping up without overly taxing the server hardware.

But this doesn’t mean you should automatically transition to NGINX. Because NGINX is newer, you will have to get by on less documentation and support, compared to more established web servers. The lightweight design also means that it can be more difficult to customize, which might be necessary for large or complex configurations. Consequently, many sites use both: NGINX as a reverse-proxy front end that kicks back to Apache to do the dynamic processing. Further, since NGINX excels at delivering static content, some sites will offload these tasks to dedicated NGINX servers that do nothing but shovel static content like images, CSS and JavaScript files, and streaming media files. In fact, if you’re inspecting those sites from the client level, it can appear as though NGINX is running the show, when it’s just fronting Apache or other services.

Top reasons to recommend NGINX

Whether you use the Apache HTTP server (“httpd”) server or are without an httpd server, you can use NGINX. What makes it a great choice?

  • NGINX is fast because it does not need to create a new process for each new request.
  • It uses very little memory, especially for static webpages.
  • It’s open source.
  • You can use NGINX with a range of systems.
  • It’s highly scalable, and performance does not depend on hardware.
  • The high-performance reverse proxy server is used as a load balancer.
  • While HTTP is stateless, NGINX offers session persistence and can preserve some cached data, such as that of a shopping cart with long results pagination. Additionally, it makes sure that repeated requests from the same client are routed to the same shared server to actually maintain session-specific data.
  • Unlike Apache, NGINX is built for high concurrency, so it can handle multiple concurrent requests at the same time.
  • NGINX is easy to install and configure.

The NGINX market share


As you can see by the survey conducted by Netcraft in February 2015, NGINX is growing and gaining market share among the top web servers:

NGINX_Chart-1024x175

Ready to make the switch? You can download NGINX and choose between the free open source version and paid commercial version, NGINX Plus, with the added perk of customer support.

At InfoCepts, our team of BI and data warehousing experts have strong experience working with NGINX, Apache, and other web servers. Get in touch to talk through your needs.

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External-Facing BI Apps: Customize Your App for a Global Audience

Vaibhav FatingApril 24, 2015

In today’s global business world, plenty of companies have customers and partners scattered across three or more continents and dozens of countries. They conduct business at all hours, in many currencies and languages, and in ways that accommodate broad cultural needs.

Though sometimes overlooked, accommodating users from various parts of the world is critical in our line of work: business intelligence (BI) application development. It’s all the more critical when the application isn’t just for an internal audience (like your employees) but also for outside audiences like your customers and partners. Broad, external users have varying BI skills and expect a smooth, unintimidating experience. If they don’t get it, they stop using the application, and the time and money you spent creating it are for naught.

But adding custom features to adapt your application to a broad, global audience isn’t easy and can be incredibly time-consuming. Developers call this process internationalization — or “i18n” for short. Why is i18n a key component of external-facing BI app development? What makes it so complex, and what time-saving solutions can help?

Why i18n matters

i18n features enable BI applications to be used efficiently and effectively by target audiences across multiple geographic regions and time zones. To achieve this goal, applications need to be adapted to various languages so that users (particularly users made up of outside audiences) can make proper selections and navigate their way through the app without getting frustrated and giving up. Even for audiences who can read multiple languages, presenting the analysis in a user-defined language leads to enhanced understanding, an improved user experience, and faster overall adoption of the BI application.

The challenge of i18n in external-facing BI applications

Making existing BI apps adaptable to audiences from various parts of the world isn’t easy. The challenges are many. They include:

  • Enabling i18n for first-time developers of BI apps. Configuring a BI app for i18n is an integral yet complex process. In many ways, building in translations changes the nature of the development methodology, which has to be totally conceived before the project begins.
  • Addressing change requests due to a change in translations. If the process isn’t automated with a “bulk translations wizard,” then addressing change requests due to a change in translations becomes painful and time-consuming. It will require single byte and double byte languages.
  • Automating the metadata translation process with incremental i18n development. Automating the translation process is tedious and challenging because of the many prerequisites. A very limited number of databases are supported as translation repositories.
  • Database readiness and support for data. Data-level i18n is achieved in two ways: through connection mapping or structured query language (SQL). With the technology stack and architecture already defined, it’s challenging to create i18n data due to limitations with the infrastructure or technology. Depending on the available database options, it is important to choose a type and data model design that can implement i18n.
How to get around the challenges

Automated tools can streamline the process of optimizing your external-facing BI application for i18n. We’ve customized a number of BI apps for i18n and recommend these two time-saving strategies:

  • Utilize bulk translation for metadata translation, which allows you to address change requests, single/double byte language translations, conduct bulk translations via the automated translation wizard, and ultimately decrease the complexity of your development efforts and the time it takes to achieve them.
  • Take advantage of translation repositories, which make bulk translation and maintenance over a period of time quick and easy. Realize that BI tools support few databases as translation repositories (including Oracle, SQL Server, Teradata, and others), so examine the pros and cons of your options and select the best-suited repository to meet the i18n needs of your app and its end users.

As we’ve discussed several times on this blog, your external-facing BI application won’t do much good if your users can’t access it. i18n is a critical step in making your app work for a broad user base. It really can’t be overlooked.

To learn more about customizing your BI application for outside audiences, listen to a replay or our webinar, “Customizing the MicroStrategy Experience to Deliver External BI Applications.”

External-Facing BI Apps: Improve Usability with Interactive Features

Vaibhav FatingApril 14, 2015

In our last few blog posts, we’ve explored some of the challenges of creating business intelligence (BI) applications for external audiences like partners and customers. We want to continue the discussion here by honing in on another important part of application development, interactivity.

 

Whether you’re creating a BI application to use internally or for an outside group, one thing is certain: today’s users expect more interactive features. These features range from custom filters and search boxes to an optimized flow between grids. Essentially, they enable users to interact with the data in ways that suit their timeframe and objectives.

 

Default BI systems provide limited interactivity, and adding custom features is challenging. What specific challenges do developers face when it comes to making applications more interactive? How can you overcome the challenges? In this blog post, we walk you through the difficulties and share a solution. If you want to learn more, make sure you sign up for and attend our upcoming webinar, “Customizing the MicroStrategy Experience to Deliver Effective External-Facing BI Applications.” (Details follow at the end.)

Top Interactivity Challenges

Often, default systems do not come with the kind of interactive features today’s users need and expect, and customization is time-consuming and convoluted. What are the biggest challenges?

 

  • Optimizing the data grid
    Most default grids on BI tools do not support the selection of single or multiple grid rows, which is necessary when information from certain rows drives other components, and in creating requests to fetch extra information for selected rows. “Select all” and “de-select all” are other important grid features that can be utilized to perform operations like “delete,” “refresh,” “move to folder,” and “copy to folder.” These, too, are not often possible with default set ups.
  • Making multiple selections on a grid to drive data to other grids or charts
    A default dashboard created in a BI application like MicroStrategy does not enable users to make multiple selections and drive data to other grids or charts. This feature is helpful in quickly comparing data across multiple selections on trend lines and in filtering data on a second grid.
  • Creating user-defined attributes on the fly
    Many business scenarios require analysis to be drawn against user-defined attributes like geographical areas, zip codes, or market regions. Typically, users expect to be able to make these selections on the fly and to create user-defined groups of elements with a specific name (such as “growth in the northeast” or “sales in western Asia”). These capabilities are not available with out-of-the-box BI implementations, given that users aren’t able to select multiple rows on the data grid.
  • Reporting data filters
    BI software comes with a fixed layout and placement of components. For instance, data filters are always placed at the top of the grid and consume valuable real estate on the screen. This placement forces users to scroll up and down to filter and view changes.

Strategizing Solutions

Getting around the default dashboard’s limited interactivity isn’t easy. The trick is to utilize the BI platform’s application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK) in innovative ways. How can you achieve that?

 

Consider, for instance, that with the MicroStrategy SDK, a plug-in can be created to extend the behavior of transform layer changes. Then, using java script listeners, you can allow for the multiple selection of data grid rows, and facilitate the ability of users to create user-defined attributes on the fly.

 

In this example, selections on the grid are submitted to the web service, which fires a query to insert a new entry in the database. A response is then sent back to the user on the successful creation of the new asset (i.e., a new user defined entity).

 

Additionally, consider adding features like a search box to allow users to look for and identify terms in the grid’s content, and to filter rows by interests. You can make the search box even more interactive by building in “live search,” which starts filtering results immediately (while users are typing). Increasingly, “live search” is a common feature that users expect to see in the UI.

 

 

External-Facing BI Apps: Overcome Common Layout Challenges

Shantanu DixitMarch 27, 2015

Old-school analytics reports on business intelligence (BI) tools feature row after row, table after table of data — all in a tabular format on a single page. Often, columns extend beyond the screen view to the far right, causing users to get lost (and frustrated) as they scroll endlessly to read the report and find what they need.

This ineffective use of visual components challenges even those users who know and understand the data. When the target users are no longer internal analysts but outside audiences like partners, suppliers, or customers, a poorly designed layout can lead to a BI application that’s too cumbersome and time-consuming to use.

As we’ve discussed before on this blog, external-facing BI applications are the new frontier in business intelligence. And they require a new approach to design and development — one that keeps a broad user base in mind. Unfortunately, most application layouts fall short on user friendliness. What are the most common flaws? And how can you design a layout that encourages widespread use?

Layout Challenges in External-Facing BI Applications

Creating an effective application layout calls for a keen understanding of visual elements — and how the mind consumes and responds to information. Too often, application layouts feature these flaws:

  • An inappropriate visual hierarchy that deters users from focusing on relevant information or getting a clear view of all elements on the screen at once
  • Too much information on a single screen display, which slows the time it takes for users to understand and react
  • Visual clutter resulting from inappropriate or overuse of design elements, such as flashing buttons, images, color bands, patterned backgrounds, and 3-D effects — all of which distract the user
  • A lack of white space around each UI element (or a grid report that lacks padding), which creates an unappealing, cluttered layout.
  • Inappropriate use of colors, selected on a whim or just for decoration, and that fails to do things like highlight data or group similar items together.
Overcoming Layout Challenges

An effective layout makes all the difference in how users interact with your application — and whether they get the right information in the right place at the right time. Before designing a layout for an analytical application, determine the priority of the information you’re providing, and lay out your application accordingly. Typically, you want to:

  • Reserve the top left corner for the most important information, and place lower-level information in the bottom right area.
  • Group together related information so it can be assessed and monitored quickly.

Application content must be organized in a way that reflects the nature of the information and supports efficient and meaningful monitoring.

  • Avoid placing information randomly on the screen or sizing sections simply to fit the available space.
  • Also stay away from using multiple tabs and links that divert users’ perception from the most critical information. Instead, place critical information in one area so users can monitor it at a glance and easily compare.

As you design your application layout, follow these dos and don’ts.

  • Do

  • Highlight key metrics of the summary data.
  • Use visual elements to highlight patterns, trends, or complex relationships effectively.
  • Add adequate white space around UI elements.
  • Use clear, descriptive titles and labels.
  • Keep a consistent layout through the application.
  • Allocate minimal space to the header.
  • Provide drill-down links to groups with detailed information.
  • Don’t

  • Use vertical scrolling or horizontal tabs running off    the screen.
  • Highlight too much information.
  • Place too much information on a single screen display.
  • Use dark and bright colors as background.
  • Use animated effects in charts and visualizations.
  • Oversize your visuals simply to fill a void.
  • Use multiple tabs or confusing navigational links.

Keep these visual strategies in mind as you design the layout of your external-facing BI application. To learn how to customize other features of your BI application for a broad user base, read Amar Bhose’s blog post, “External-Facing BI Apps: Why Prompts Make or Break the User Experience.”

External-Facing BI Apps: Toward a More User-Friendly Navigation

Sarang MasneMarch 10, 2015

Developing a business intelligence application for your customers, partners, or suppliers comes with a different set of parameters than creating an app for employees to use in-house. While you can train in-house employees, you won’t have access to external users and can’t count on them to have even a little experience with standard BI applications. What can you do?

As we’ve discussed before on our blog, external-facing BI apps need to be designed with a broad user base in mind. Outside users tend to expect a convenient and self-explanatory navigation within the app’s various modules and screens. Unfortunately, most out-of-the-box BI apps come with a generic navigation that fails to meet users’ needs. Unable to find their way around or use the tool effectively, they grow frustrated and stop using the app altogether.

How can developers and companies alike create a navigation that encourages, rather than discourages, user engagement? Here, I explore the navigational components lacking in out-of-the-box BI functionality and provide strategies for working around these limitations to satisfy an outside audiences’ needs.

Navigation challenges of external-facing BI apps

Just as out-of-the-box BI functionality makes it difficult to create custom prompts, it also limits navigation capabilities. The most common navigation challenges include:

  • An inability to save prompt answers under user preferences. Users notice and become frustrated when they have to key in the same information time and again. Yet most generic BI apps don’t allow them to do things like create a favorites section; have a link to a preferences screen remain visible throughout the application; or save prompt answers under a favorites section. This, in turn, makes the navigation cumbersome and complex.
  • A lack of integration with other company portals and platforms. When users are accustomed to a particular corporate portal for accessing things like communications and data, they expect the new application to have the same look and feel, along with the same user experience. Unfortunately, most generic apps don’t accommodate a fully-integrated set up.
  • Inadequate display of report output sections. Some BI apps feature a large number of components like grids, maps, and charts — all on a single page. Here, users have no choice but to scroll through a long vertical page. In addition, the user interface of out-of-the-box systems makes it difficult to represent hierarchy folder tree structures to access saved reports. Users benefit greatly when they can save the reports they create in a defined hierarchy folder. Without that feature, navigation is a real pain point.
  • Sub-par report and object management capabilities. Standard BI apps lack a single place to view the status of a report that has been executed or to manage user objects, leaving users to poke around and find their way “out of the dark.”

How to overcome the navigational challenges

There are ways around the many navigational challenges of out-of-the-box BI app functionality, but it takes a skilled developer and a strategic approach. Here are some possibilities:

  • Create a feature that enables users to pick up prompt answers from multiple prompts and store them as a list or collection that can either be used directly in reports or applied as a filter on any executed report. Users would then be able to manipulate the list at runtime and collect their favorite assets in a separate bucket.
  • Integrate the navigation of the BI app into the company’s existing portals and platforms. Try, for instance, aligning navigational components such as tabs, and consider a mutually inclusive approach in which you launch the application in the same inline frame (iframe) as that of the portal. Likewise, weigh the pros and cons of an exclusive approach, in which you launch the application in an independent window. Consider the “to and from” exchange of data and events, such as whether the portal logout will drive the application logout.
  • Utilize the screen real estate efficiently to optimize user experience. Create a custom “Jump to Section” button, defining which section of report output opens first, and which sections should be hidden from view. For example, in a document with multiple grids, charts, and maps, a well-placed button in the header will allow users to jump to a particular section. Likewise, a floating “Go to Top” button can make it easy for users to navigate to the top of the page and avoid having to scroll.
  • Use the application programming interface (API) to create a custom report management interface to capture information such as the status of a report that has been executed, the date created, date accessed, and report type. Also embed options to perform operations on reports like single/multiple refresh, move to folders, copy, delete, and publish to other users.

A number of small but effective customizations can add up to better navigation and a better user experience. In turn, this can make your external-facing BI app more widely adopted — and ultimately create a stronger ROI.

External-Facing BI Apps: Why Prompts Make or Break the User Experience

Amar BhoseJanuary 6, 2015

Using a business intelligence (BI) application with an unfriendly interface is like looking for a book in an uncategorized library: you might eventually find what you need, but the experience will be arduous and time-consuming. This is especially the case with external-facing BI apps. Created for outside audiences like customers, partners, and suppliers, external-facing BI apps require an easy and inviting user interface — and are difficult for many developers to pull off.

In my last post, the first in a series on external-facing BI apps, I talked about some of the development challenges that come with designing apps for broad, non-employee-based audiences. Today, I’d like to explore what our BI development team at InfoCepts considers critical to the external users’ experience: prompts.

 

What are prompts?

Prompts enable end users to narrow and focus their analysis on the facts and data they need, instead of spinning their wheels sorting through irrelevant information. Prompts play a crucial role in any BI app or dashboard, particularly those used by broad, external audiences. With well-designed prompts, users can access and utilize necessary hierarchies, levels, and dimensions of the data sets — and find what they’re looking for in a few clicks.

In many ways, having an effective, user-friendly, and interactive prompting system is essential — and becomes mandatory when your BI system is used by thousands of users untrained or unfamiliar with the typical BI user experience.

 

Why do default prompting systems fall short of their potential?

Most of the default prompting systems in BI tools are ripe with limitations. Often, they lack flexibility and come across as rigid and rough to the end user. Common problems with default prompt implementations include:

  • A bare and basic UI layout that confuses users with an illogical flow.
  • A lack of interactive features that today’s users expect, from quick search to prompt options like auto suggestions, selection validity, prompts driving prompts, storing favorites, quick help, and quick selection summary.
  • Inadequate performance that makes re-prompting or reselecting options a painful experience for users to get the desired result.
  • An inability to integrate business-driven prompting and handle the unique needs of individual businesses. For example, if a user selects the first option on a prompt (such as “mobile devices”), then a business rule is applied to determine and populate the next round of prompt options (“tablet,” “smartphone,” “smartwatch,” “all of the above”). Without the ability to customize business rules, companies are limited in the goals they can accomplish with the app.

 

What is the key to better prompt design?

Default BI tool prompting poses limitations beyond what I describe above, all of which detracts from the user experience and makes the BI application inappropriate for large-scale user adoption. Fortunately, these challenges can be addressed in a couple of ways:

  • Option 1
    Developers can create custom prompt pages that implement a company’s unique business rules for controlling the behavior of the prompt — and, in turn, entice users to interact and take action in strategic ways. Consider using advanced scripting (ExtJs, jQuery, and AJAX) to create highly interactive features. And for further performance improvement and complete control over the queries to fetch prompts data, adopt the incremental or lazy load techniques.
    These custom prompts can be integrated with your BI tools to provide a seamless user experience. In addition, a reusable custom prompting framework can be developed to reduce your development efforts.
  • Option 2
    Though less effective and far more restrictive, another option is to customize the default prompts page instead of building custom prompts from scratch. Just know ahead of time that you’ll only be able to add a few basic features, such as changing the fonts and default colors. Use the API or SDK provided by the BI tool to create these customizations, but understand that this can be a time-consuming task with limited results.

The prompting system your external-facing BI app utilizes can make or break the app’s effectiveness. The best option, by far, is to create custom prompts, but doing so takes understanding the behavior of prompts; knowing how to integrate prompts seamlessly into the BI app; fully grasping the specific business rules and objectives of the app owner; and understanding what users expect and how they’ll interact.

At InfoCepts, our team of experts has broad experience creating custom BI apps for many industry leaders. Learn more about our approach, and stay tuned for our next post about BI external-facing apps, which looks at navigation.

External-Facing BI Apps: Designing with Customers and Partners in Mind

Amar BhoseDecember 9, 2014

“Externalizing BI will increasingly be an expected part of most customer and partner relationships. If I am a customer or partner of your organization, it is expected that your organization will provide me with certain information about my interactions with your firm.”

 – Kurt Schlegel, “New Business Value: Turning BI from a Cost Center into a Revenue Generator,” Gartner Business Intelligence Summit 2010

 

Business intelligence (BI) dashboards and apps have, for years, helped company leaders utilize data to make better decisions. It’s only recently, however, that BI apps have moved beyond an internal-facing audience to help customers and business partners access and apply data in meaningful ways.

 

Given the relatively new and evolving focus on external audiences in BI, developers and companies alike are scrambling to figure out how to create and implement these apps — and for what purpose. In many ways, external-facing BI app development is like the Wild West, where rules and laws are not yet written, and lines on maps not yet drawn.

 

What’s driving the outward focus, and what opportunities do external-facing BI apps bring to companies and consumers alike? What challenges do developers face, and what solutions or “best practices” help? This blog post is the first in a series designed to answer these and other questions about external-facing BI, and to share what we’ve learned at InfoCepts developing these apps for major companies across a range of industries.

 

In this first post, we look at how these apps differ from conventional BI systems — and the challenges those differences bring. We also share how external-facing apps can be used by companies. As we progress through the series, we explore a number of essential design and development elements, from prompts and exporting capabilities to interactive features like notifications and alerts.

 

A natural progression

Over the past few decades, business intelligence has evolved from finance-oriented BI dashboards to applications used by companies and teams in sales and marketing, human resources, manufacturing, healthcare, and countless other departments and industries — all for internal purposes. As the amount of data generated continues to grow, and as technology evolves, opportunities now exist to make the data accessible and useful for external audiences like customers, partners, and suppliers. We call this the “democratization of data,” and it’s happening now as products like the Fitbit enter the market and allow individuals to track and measure their own health-related data; as Netflix and Amazon make personalized recommendations to customers based on browsing and purchase histories; as retailers like PetSmart and Staples collect consumer behavior and preferences that can be reported back to manufacturers and distributors as actionable data; and as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn sell users’ personal information to third-party companies and partners.

Essentially, companies are realizing that they have a lot of valuable data at their disposal, so the trick is to figure out how to package and sell the data and make it accessible and useful for outside audiences, whether those audiences are customers or distribution partners. There’s enormous opportunity here, but it’s a new field and requires a new approach.

 

Broader user base, new challenges

This new kind of BI differs in many ways from more conventional BI. When we develop a conventional BI app or dashboard for a company, we’re creating a solution for an internal team with specific needs and skill sets. We can design the app to meet those specifications — and train the team to use the app effectively. External-facing BI apps, on the other hand, have much broader target audiences, and it’s impossible to know what level of technology and analytical skills the users will bring to the interactive experience. Since we don’t have access to the audience and can’t train them, we have to develop a user experience that is smooth and unintimidating.

Users of internal BI apps tend to understand BI tools, but we can’t make that same assumption with the users of external-facing apps. With the rise of mobile and web-based apps and portals, the majority of external users are accustomed to highly interactive experiences, fast performance, and one-click actions. Developers need to meet these expectations to make BI apps for external audiences successful.

 

More about product development

At their core, external-facing BI apps do what apps for internal audiences do: help users gather and make sense of data, and use that data to make decisions, gain insights, or take action. With external-facing apps, however, the app itself is a product sold by the company, instead of a system used by the company, and the developer needs to approach it as such. This requires a shift in the developer’s mindset: the app no longer serves internal audiences for the purpose of improving how a company operates. In most cases, the app is a product for sale to a partner, supplier, customer, or even the general public.

 

Enormous potential

Companies are beginning to take advantage of the huge data pools they’ve acquired — and use them to generate revenue. How that happens varies widely. At InfoCepts, among the external-facing apps we’ve created are a product that helps music fans access detailed analyses of artists, albums, single songs, airplay, and what’s being talked about across social media channels; a product that enables companies to analyze data from real-time online engagements with their customers; and other products that streamline and simplify how companies access and analyze vast amounts of consumer data and client demographics.

In all of these cases, the end users are the consumers, customers, suppliers, or business partners of our clients, and they range from the management teams of major corporations to the music fan searching for songs on a Saturday night. This broad audience requires a totally different user experience design tied closely to human factors. It also requires tighter security, a higher level of interactive visualization, and the necessary piloting that comes with the rollout of any technology-based product.

As we progress through this blog series, we’ll explore these specific development requirements and share some of our approach to creating BI apps for customers and partners. So stay tuned, and read our case study about a BI solution we created for a leading provider of consumer analytics.

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