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Using MicroStrategy Transaction Services and Automation to Achieve a Simple Multi-tenant User Management Interface

AvatarOctober 21, 2015

The multi-tenancy model (1) is emerging rapidly in the business intelligence industry, given that this common infrastructure is shared by multiple customers in the form of different MicroStrategy projects. This makes the model very cost-effective in terms of infrastructure management, but it’s not easy to achieve. With multiple customers hosted on same server, it becomes necessary to design a rigid user access structure to ensure that customers have access only to their project on the MicroStrategy platform. What user management challenges does this model bring?

  1. It creates a dependency on the MicroStrategy administrator to create users with the correct user groups assigned.
  2. The administrator needs to be vigilant in assigning users to the correct access groups, which could lead to human errors.
  3. Lastly and most importantly, MicroStrategy has different components, such as security roles, security filters, and ACLs, to fill-in while creating users — a painful task for non-MicroStrategy users who are not accustomed to it.

This scenario represents a real-life problem with customers who have MicroStrategy-based multi-tenant products rolled out to 100s and 1000s of end users across different customers, geographies, and departments. If such an organization’s sales team wants to set up customer accounts on the MicroStrategy platform on demand of the end users wanting to attend the latest product demo, creating and configuring the huge list of user level security can become a huge task in itself. Imagine the complexity here with multiple tenant (customer) projects on production platform and three user groups (privilege, ACL, and security filter) for each tenant. It becomes painstakingly difficult and time-consuming to perform user creation for each attendee.

What’s the solution?

With these challenges, a portal to setup user accounts in MicroStrategy (just like it is done for any other web applications, such as Gmail) can be a real boon.

We designed and implemented a “user creation portal” for one of our clients with a similar need. This portal provides users with an interface through which they pass the user account details (login and password) and select the suitable groups (for instance, this could be based on work area like HR, operations, etc.), and the rest is handled by the MicroStrategy User Management workflow, designed by InfoCepts.

Essentially, the portal we developed helps with these two tasks:

  1. Creating MicroStrategy users based on user inputs.
  2. Updating the password/ enabling user accounts expired or disabled in MicroStrategy.
How we approached the project

Using MicroStrategy Transaction Services, a report is generated that allows users to enter inputs required to create a username, password, and to select the appropriate groups. The System Manager workflow then reads the data entered by the user from the database and takes the suitable action (user creation/modification). Success/failure logs are sent to the user through mail.

What MicroStrategy components does the solution utilize?

  1. MicroStrategy Command Manager to automate the user creation task.
  2. MicroStrategy System Manager to integrate the Command Manager tasks with non-MicroStrategy components.
  3. MicroStrategy Transaction Services to provide a UI interface for end-user data entry.
The benefits

This portal provides a number of benefits:

  1. Dependence on the MicroStrategy administrator for user management is no longer needed.
  2. Since the workflow is designed using System Manager, it can be deployed quickly across different client environments by changing few parameters.
  3. Users get success/failure logs via email, eliminating the need to monitor the logs manually.
  4. Coding is not used in this workflow, making it easy to understand and implement for end users.
Usage of the automation

User management is a very routine task in every project, and this automation can be easily adopted in situations where:

  • A multi-tenancy model is implemented.
  • The number of users is very high, thereby making administration efforts high.
  • Dependence on the MicroStrategy administrator for user creation/updating tasks is not practical.
The limitations

While the User Management portal solves a number of problems, it also comes with a few limitations. For one, any company using it would need to have MicroStrategy Transaction Services and System Manager licenses. In addition, the current workflow is designed to update only the password. Any further requirements would need to be addressed by modifying the underlying Command Manager script.

Want to learn more about how InfoCepts approaches BI automation and management projects? Reach out, and let’s find a time to talk.

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1 Multi-tenancy refers to content that is created once, maintained in one place, but delivered to multiple tenants/customers who view that same content using their own data.

A Real-World Look at How BI Empowers Employees

AvatarOctober 14, 2014

It can come as a surprise to see that even in today’s technologically advanced world, employees still juggle numerous spreadsheets to make sense of their business. This way of operating not only consumes precious resources but also results in delayed, misinformed decisions.

Business intelligence (BI) can help by providing an up-to-date, eagle-eye view of business performance, plus the flexibility to quickly analyze and identify outliers at an individual unit level. It’s important to realize, though, that BI only works when it’s tailored to the people who use it — your company decision-makers and employees.

How, exactly, can BI empower your employees? What does successful implementation look like in a range of industry settings? Here, we share real-world examples of how BI, done well, helps both power users and decision-makers consume organizational and third-party data, and to share this information at the click of a button or even automatically. Thus, the need for information flow from top to bottom or bottom to top becomes obsolete, expediting decisions that improve the bottom line of businesses and give them a competitive advantage over others.

 

Scenario 1: A VP of business operations monitors market performance

A leading contract sales organization has just launched a new product in the market. The vice president of business operations would like to monitor the market performance and marketing effectiveness on a weekly basis. However, it requires up to 50 different spreadsheets to arrive at a measure as simple as the market share of the newly-launched product. Consider maintaining this large volume of analyses on a weekly basis and consolidating it to arrive at the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — an incredibly daunting, error-prone, and time-consuming task.

In contrast, BI offers an automated alternative that churns the weekly data load overnight and presents the KPIs to anyone who needs access to this critical business information anytime, anywhere, along with the option to dig deeper into the performance metrics for a top-down analysis.

 

Scenario 2: A CEO analyzes daily store performance

The United States retail industry typically operates on razor-thin margins. To keep improving the bottom line, the CEO of a giant retailer needs to analyze daily store performance across the entire country. Reviewing thousands of spreadsheets every day can prove to be a nightmare and a performance drag, and conducting video conferences every morning can already be too late to make an immediate impact on the business.

A smart BI solution consolidates data from all of the retailer’s stores and publishes an executive reporting package within just a couple of hours of the day’s closing. Imagine the productivity boost BI provides to this efficient, focused, early-riser CEO who now doesn’t have to wait for the office to open at eight a.m. to begin taking inventory of the operations of the day prior.

 

Scenario 3: A data scientist conducts predictive analytics

A data scientist has been positioned to employ trend and predictive analytics for a renowned consumer goods retailer that undergoes seasonal business cycles. However, the organizational data is scattered across the various business units and corresponding databases. It has been this way for ages, with individual units maintaining their own spreadsheets for corporate reporting.

Not surprisingly, it is monumentally difficult for the data scientist to do his or her job effectively and efficiently. By deploying BI solutions, however, all of the data stored in silos is virtually or physically brought together and made available to authorized personnel for analyses, while keeping the existing reporting mechanism intact to minimize organizational change and possible resistance to adopting BI. This helps employees develop a more data-supported understanding of the business cycle, followed by a more efficient supply chain management through timely business decisions.In each of the three scenarios, employees struggled to obtain the information needed to make decisions and do their jobs. They faced silos of data that took infinite time to coordinate and sift through, and they needed answers on the spot that they could share with other team members. Once they implemented BI, they received the information they needed — in the time span they needed it. And the entire company benefited as a result.

Optimize Your Sales Team with Mobile BI Apps

AvatarOctober 7, 2014

Mobile business intelligence (BI) apps are cropping up everywhere in the business world, providing countless improvements to the way we do our jobs, make decisions, and deliver information to clients and customers.

One area, in particular, that stands to benefit from mobile BI apps is sales. For sales representatives and executives, mobile BI apps can mean fewer worries on the road, increased efficiency, and the ability to deliver what prospects need with the sweep of a hand. All of this makes a real difference in how sales teams come across.

How, exactly, do mobile BI apps help sales teams? First, a look at some of the challenges today’s sales professionals face, followed by insight on why mobile BI is an effective solution.

 

Sales in the 21st century: a state of constant motion

Today’s sales executives are pressed for time, whether they’re on the road meeting clients or making pitches in front of a screen. Increasingly, they’re relying on mobile apps to coordinate their schedules and place at their fingertips the data and information they need to come across as highly knowledgeable and prepared. With the right app, sales professionals can optimize an entire day over their morning coffee by pulling up appointments and lining up presentations and collateral needs for each appointment.

Sales reps who travel frequently face multiple appointments across a geographic region in a given day. They need to make every minute count — and can’t afford to get stuck in traffic or delayed with technical difficulties. Downtime is filled with conference calls using collaboration tools to update documents or work on campaigns, while time after appointments is consumed by follow up emails and information — and doing what it takes to push prospects further down the sales funnel.

On the prospect side of the deal, time is equally precious, as few modern-day decision-makers can make room in their schedule for leisurely sales lunches. “When meeting with a prospect, a salesperson no longer wants to waste time firing up his or her laptop and fiddling with the projector to give a canned PowerPoint presentation,” explains Adam Caplan, the CEO of Model Metrics, in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “Instead, the salesperson might pull out an iPad and, using cloud-based technology, present a pitch using an interactive sales aid that is loaded with product information, demos, images, and videos.”

 

Professionalism and knowledge are key

The fast-paced lives of today’s sales executives make it challenging to perform at the top of their game. Yet studies reveal that this is exactly what it takes to close deals. In an article for Harvard Business Review, business scholar Steve W. Martin says that “winners” in the highly competitive world of sales show up 100-percent knowledgeable and prepared, meaning they understand what the prospect needs and tailor their pitch accordingly. “Losers,” on the other hand, turn up with poor resources, run into technical difficulties, and lack the knowledge to guide prospects through the decision-making process.

 

How mobile BI apps can help

Martin’s findings reinforce what many of us already know: when sales execs are armed with the right information, and when they can access, distill, and deliver that information in a timely, accurate manner, they have a powerful advantage. Mobile BI apps can be designed strategically to improve many aspects of a sale professional’s job. Apps enable them to:

  • Break down complex data and transform black-and-white Excel data sets into effective, colorful visuals that tell a story
  • Educate and impress prospects with interactive content and captivating multimedia presentations that can be tailored and customized to each client
  • Streamline travel, scheduling, and other logistics
  • Improve time and workflow management
  • Facilitate communications with key team members
  • Access essential data and information in real time

What kind of data and information can mobile BI apps provide? It depends on what a company needs. Apps can provide up-to-date sales trends and marketing content, order status and history, and sales reports, plus enhanced analytics that sales teams can use to demonstrate long-term trends or granular short-term data sets.

Sales teams that can back up their claims with data and use it to guide prospects to the right choice are a real advantage in today’s marketplace, where companies are searching for solutions to complex problems — and value sales professionals who can educate and inform.

Are you considering a mobile BI app for your sales team? InfoCepts works with companies every day to figure out the right BI solution. Contact us to start the conversation.