Tough Goodbyes can be Easier

Over the last couple of years, we have worked with clients all over the country to help them implement PowerBI and to create the data visualisations and dashboards that can make their data more accessible and informative.

We have been struck, though, by how many of those clients have held on to their former ‘go-to’ reporting layer, Business Objects, and that prompted us to ask why, when they now have all this presentation power at their disposal.

And the answer was enlightening.

While PowerBI gives them so much at the report consumer’s level, it takes away the security of Business Objects universes. Those universes have long been the data teams’ maps around their records systems. Many councils had built a universe for each reporting suite, simply to know which data items were being called upon and where to find them, and they are uncomfortable giving up those navigation charts to rely solely on the CRM-vendor’s built-in datamarts to provision PowerBI.

But there is an alternative. In the most recent projects, we have, wherever appropriate, introduced clients looking for PowerBI solutions to our own Cascade system.

Cascade is a suite of structured output-led data tables that sits between their CRM and reporting layers, and in that way replaces the old BO universes. When a new report is needed, the data analyst can simply pull the required data from the output tables without needing to delve into the darker recesses of the CRM.

As the name suggests, Cascade is a single flow and becomes broader as it descends from CRM to reporting layer. In data terms, this means that the minimum number of CRM data items are used a minimum number of times for the maximum number of report outputs. All manipulation and logic functions are applied once and at a stage in the flow that maximises the use value of the result and each item is individually and uniquely labelled and described and tailored to the council’s own workflows and processes and the requirements of Statutory Returns. Where requirements or workflows change, a single edit at a high level instantly adapts all downstream reporting.

Cascade also accelerates the process of creating new reports and dashboards, as the need for fresh extractions and new scripts is significantly reduced. Where the workflows are unchanged, a new report can be provisioned simply from the data tables within Cascade, without any further need to interrogate the CRM.

So where council analysts in the past may have accidentally, but easily, created very different but similarly-named items in different universes, or applied changes to one universe but not another, leading to unjustified confusion when the two items come face-to-face in a subsequent report or comparison, Cascade offers report builders a list of items to draw on that cover all foreseeable needs in a discrete way and present a 'single version of the truth'.

KEY Intelligence has developed separate Cascade modules for Childrens’ and Adult’s Services, and for Social Care Finance, so whichever business area the council analysts need to report on, they can now finally let go of those Business Objects universes, and move to the single high-resolution map of their data that is Cascade.

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