MicroStrategy Personal Cloud – a Great **FREE** Cloud-based, Mobile Visualization Tool

Have you ever needed to create a prototype of a larger Business Intelligence project focused on data visualizations? Chances are, you have, fellow BI practitioners. Here’s the scenario for you day-dreamers out there:

Think of the hours spent creating wire-frames, no matter what tool you used, even if said tool was your hand and a napkin (ala ‘back of the napkin’ drawing) or the all-time-favorite white board, which later becomes a permanent drawing with huge bolded letters to the effect of ‘DO NOT ERASE OR ITS OFF WITH YOUR HEAD’ annotations dancing merrily around your work. Even better: electronic whiteboards which yield you hard copies of your hard work (so aptly named), which at first, seems like the panacea of all things cool (though it has been around for eons) but still, upon using, deemed the raddest piece of hardware your company has, until, of course, you look down at the thermal paper printout which has already faded in the millisecond since you tore it from machine to hand, which after said event, leaves the print out useless to the naked eye, unless you have super spidey sense optic nerves, but now I digress even further and in the time it took you to try to read thermal printout, it has degraded further because anything over 77 degrees is suboptimal (last I checked we checked in at around 98.6 but who’s counting), thus last stand on thermal paper electronic whiteboards is that they are most awesome when NOT thermoregulate ;).

OK, and now We are back…rewind to sentence 1 –

Prototyping is to dashboard design or any data visualization design as pencils and grid paper are to me. Mano y mano – I mean, totally symbiotic, right?

But, wireframing is torturous when you are in a consultative or pre-sales role, because you can’t present napkin designs to a client, or pictures of a whiteboard, unless you are showing them the process behind the design. (And by the way, this is an effective “presentation builder” when you are going for a dramatic effect –> ala “first there were cavemen, then the chisel and stone where all one had to create metrics –> then the whiteboard –> then the…wait!

This is where said BI practitioner needs to have something MORE for that dramatic pop, whiz-AM to give to their prospective clients/customers in their leave behind presentation.

And finally, the girl gets to her point (you are always so patient, my loving blog readers)…While I biased, if you forget whom I work for, and just take into account the tool, you will see the awesomeness that the new MicroStrategy Personal Cloud is for (drum roll please) PROTOTYPING a new dashboard — or just building, distributing, mobilizing etc your spreadsheet of data in a highly stylized, graphical means that tell a story far better than a spreadsheet can in most situations. (Yes, neighseyers, I know that for the 5% of circumstances which you can name, a spreadsheet is more Ă propos, but HA HA, I say: this cloud personal product has the ability to include the data table along with the data visualizations!)

Best of all it is free.

I demoed this recently and was able to time it took to upload and spreadsheet, render 3 different data visualizations, generate the link to send to mobile devices (iPads and iPhones), network latency for said demo-ees to receive the email with the link and for them to launch the dashboard I created, and guess what the total time was?

Next best of all, it took only 23.7 minutes from concept to mobilization!

Mind you, I was also using data from the prospect that I had never seen or had any experience with.

OK, here is how it was done:

1) Create a FREE account or login to your existing MicroStrategy account (by existing, I mean, if you have ever signed up for the MicroStrategy forums or discussion boards, or you are an employee, then use the same login) at https://www.microstrategy.com/cloud/personal

Cloud Home

Landing Page After Logged in to Personal Cloud

2) Click the button to Create New Dashboard:

Create Dashboard Icon

  • Now, you either need to have a spreadsheet of data OR you can choose one of the sample spreadsheets that MicroStrategy provides (which is helpful if you want to see how others set up their data in Excel, or how others have used Cloud personal to create dashboards; even though it is sample data , it is actually REAL data that has been scrub-a-dub-dubbed for your pleasure!) If using a sample data set, I recommend the FAA data. It is real air traffic data, with carrier, airport code, days of the week, etc, which you can use to plan your travel by; I do…See screenshot below. There are some airports and some carriers who fly into said airports whom I WILL not fly given set days of the week in which I must travel. If there is a choice, I will choose to fly alternate carriers/routes. This FAA data set will enable you to analyze this information to make the most informed decision (outside of price) when planning your travel. Trust me…VERY HELPFUL! Plus, you can look at all the poor slobs without names sitting at the Alaska Air gate who DIDNT use this information to plan their travel, and as you casually saunter to your own gate on that Tuesday between 3 – 6 PM at SeaTac airport , you will remember that they look so sad because their Alaska Air flight has a 88% likelihood of being delayed or cancelled. (BTW, before you jump on me for my not so nice reference to said passengers), it is merely a quotation from my favorite movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ …says Holly Golightly: “Poor cat…poor old slob without a name”.

On time Performance (Live FAA Data)

If using your own data, select the spreadsheet you want to upload

3) Preview your data; IMPORTANT STEP: make sure that you change any fields which to their correct type (either Attribute or Metric or Do Not Import).

Cloud Import - Preview Data

Keep in mind the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, MicroStrategy will designate your data as either an Attribute or Metric correctly using a simple rule of thumb: Text or VarChar/NVarChar if using SQL Server, will always be designated as an Attribute (i.e. your descriptor/Dimension) and your numerals designated as your Metrics. BUT, if your spreadsheet uses ID fields, like Store ID, or Case ID, along with the descriptor like Store DESC or Case DESC, most likely MicroStrategy will assume the Store ID/Case ID are Metrics (since the fields are numeric in the source). This is an Easy Change! You just need to make sure ahead of time to make that change using the drop down indicator arrows in the column headings – To find them, hover over the column names with your mouse icon until you see the drop down indicator arrow. Click on the arrow to change an Attribute column to a Metric column and vice-versa (see screenshot):

Change Attribute to Metric

Once you finish with previewing your data, and everything looks good, click OK at the bottom Right of your screen.

In about 30-35 seconds, MicroStrategy will have imported your data into the Cloud for you to start building your awesome dashboards.

4) Choose a visualization from the menu that pops up on your screen upon successfully importing your spreadsheet:

Dashboard Visualization Selector
Change data visualization as little or as often as you choose

Here is the 2010 NFL data which I uploaded this morning. It is a heatmap showing the Home teams as well as any teams they played in the 2010 season. The size of the box is HOW big the win or loss was. The color indicates whether they won or lost (Green = Home team won // Red = Home team lost).

For all you, dear readers, I bid you a Happy New Year. May your ideas flow a plenty, and your data match your dreams (of what it should be) :). Go fearlessly into the new world order of business intelligence, and know that I , Laura E. your Dashboard Design Diva, called Social Intelligence the New Order, in 2005, again in 2006 and 2007. 🙂 Cheers, ya’ll.



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‘Social Intelligence’, the bridge between social networking and business intelligence, Starts To Build Momentum

Several years ago (in early 2009), I blogged about two of my passions, social networking and business intelligence. It was about the time that business folks starting building their profiles on LinkedIn, extending their networks via Twitter and started realizing that FaceBook wasn’t just a tool for their children to build their socialization skills but was a vehicle for networking with other professionals within and outside of their own personal networks. Grasping the power of the social network was still this abstruse almost arcane concept in its theoretical potential for corporate America. And while there were those visionaries, like the Wynn in Las Vegas, about whom I shared an anecdote within my TDWI presentation on Social Intelligence (one I will share in a moment) later that year, most companies saw social networking websites as distractions and often, banned them from use during the work day.

Why was Wynn different?

As a frequent corporate traveler, I have had many “check-in” line experiences: from the car rental counter to the hotel check-in line, I have had both good and bad experiences. On one somewhat lackluster experience, I was standing in line to check into the Wynn Hotel in Vegas. Several people ahead of me was a gentleman, fairly polished but obviously frustrated by his conversation with the desk clerk. As a highly perceptive observer (or at least, that is how I am spinning being nosy), I listened in on the situation. This gentleman had reserved a junior suite, since he and a colleague were sharing the room, a common occurrence as companies started to tighten their belts around corporate travel expenses. And, the suite was not available. The clerk seemed to want to help but was strapped by her computer system telling her no suites were available until the following night in the category booked. It turns out, she was new.

Quite gruffly, this gentlemen left the line, and proceeded to stand in the lobby, talking to his colleague about the disappointment, and commented that he was going to Tweet (post a message to his Twitter account) that buyer beware when it came to staying at the Wynn. Now, in a city like Las Vegas where capacity can exceed occupancy rates, combined with a name like the Wynn, combined with the sheer reach of a site like Twitter, this kind of negative word of mouth can really hurt a vendor. And more often than not, comments like this are over looked, or at least, were overlooked in the past, because of the lack of technology or reporting to alert such vendors to such disturbances in real time. In a travel situation, do you want to know that your issue was addressed after your trip with a gift and apology in the form of a coupon for choosing the stay there in future?

No…In fact, the breakage rate on such post-trip coupons is 70-80% (remember, I used to work for the largest online travel consortium) :). Thus, granting coupons is ineffective at winning the customer back. And it is because your trip, whether for business or pleasure, was ruined. And no, I am not being dramatic. You might not think a rooming issue can ruin a trip but it can. In fact, just being placed on the wrong floor or near an elevator or merely any event that is different that you were expecting can ruin a trip from a customer’s perspective.

But, I digress…

Back to my story: As soon as the customer finished posting his Tweet to Twitter, he turned to his colleague and walked to a cafe and sat down to order some refreshments. By the time I reached the front of the check in line, I noticed what appeared to be someone who appeared to be in charge (dark suit, name plate, piece of paper in his hand) approach the gentlemen and start a dialogue with him. Within moments, the two shook hands and the paper (which turned out to be room keys and an invoice) were swapped and the authority figure left about his business.

Intrigued, I walked up and asked the gentlemen what had happened. He was so excited by what had happened that he asked me to wait while he posted a note to Twitter. Since I had heard the original part of the story, I started to deduce what was happening. When he was finished, he said that gentleman was the hotel manager. He had been alerted to the room situation via a Twitter application which alerted management to travel disruptions as they occurred in real time to his smart phone. It was his job to make sure the customers were found in the hotel and the situation fixed to the betterment of the customer, no matter the situation. In this case, the customer was treated to an upgraded full suite, which was available, at no additional cost and given vouchers for the show that evening. The customer was so pleased, he had to go back to Twitter to recant his previous post, and to alert people to how well the situation was handled not days after the fact, but within the hour of it occurring.

I was floored.

You hear about the concept of the customer feedback loop but rarely do you see it implemented well or in a way that can affect overall customer loyalty or perception of the brand. In this case, it not only affected the customer and his colleague, but his entire social network.

Later, I found that same manager and asked his what he used to alert him to the Twitter incident from earlier.

He smiled and said we are in the business of pleasure, thus, it is our job to know when we fail. Alerting in real time is not as hard as you think with the right tools and technology. And left it at that.

Ok, so Vegas is a pretty secretive world of proprietary tools and technology, and are often market leaders when it comes to adoption.

And that is where Social Intelligence comes in: the ability to understand the Voice of the Customer as expressed within the intricate web of the social network via tools and technology. What better tools for alerting and reporting on incidents in real-time than those offered by the Business Intelligence suite of tools (at its most generalized state).

I am so happy to also report that in 2011, BI technology is taking an even larger footprint into the Social Intelligence space. When I can say more, I will. Just know I am really excited about the future ahead of us folks!

Happy New Year readers.