Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Preview of the Pentaho Agile BI Initiative

The following is a preview of Pentaho's new approach to building and delivering Business Intelligence solutions. Watch how you can quickly deliver self-service reporting and analysis all while iterating through the development process rapidly. This process ensures accurate results to your business users as well as provides a uniformed development process all from one tool.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guided Ad hoc with Pentaho Report Designer 3.5

Many of you remember the advanced technique I created in order to create a dynamic SQL query and Pentaho report layout using the Pentaho Report Designer version 3.0. It was a method that demonstrated advanced parameterized reporting for Enterprise and Operational type reports. I called this technique Guided Ad hoc. With the release of Pentaho Report Designer 3.5 there have been some enhanced functions and capabilities that make creating Guided Ad hoc reports even easier. Please review this video to see that functionality in action with Report Designer 3.5.

video

Friday, October 16, 2009

Recovery: A good time to read, Pentaho Reporting (not just) for Java Developers

Well guys I just had some minor surgery. As I am relaxing in bed, I figured this would be a good time to catch up on some reading. No, I did not grab a Tom Clancy espionage thriller, but in fact a Will Gorman original. Will Gorman is an Engineering Team Lead at Pentaho, a fantastic talent, a friend and colleague as well as the author of Pentaho Reporting 3.5 for Java Developers. I received a complimentary copy of the book from PACKT Publishing and have been meaning to write some brief reviews. I will be expanding in more detail in future blog entries. (This is just a quick reminder for all those following me on Twitter and my blog. If you are evaluating or using Pentaho, you "need" to pick up this book, it covers almost anything and everything you wanted to know about Pentaho in the most desirable way possible.) It can be found here.

Now, keep in mind that this book is not only for Java Developers, but for information technologists and anyone who is interested in Business Intelligence and building reporting applications. The book is clearly written and steps you through setting up your examples, both from the Report Designer perspective (GUI) and from the Java Developer perspective (code).
Within a matter of minutes I was able to have my first Pentaho Reporting Java Swing Application running and then follow that up with a deployment to an enterprise web application. I am extremely proud of this accomplishment because it was so easy "even the technical sales guy could do it"! This only empowers me to speak and demonstrate with even more conviction on my sales calls in regards to the embedded capabilities of Pentaho.



To give you a bit more depth and breadth into the Pentaho Reporting Capabilities which can be called via the methods mentioned in this book, there is a Pentaho Reporting 3.5 Tutorial I created located on our Pre-Sales Tools page. This tutorial covers some of the fundamentals used when creating reports with the Pentaho 3.5 Report Designer. Give it a look in your spare time and I am sure you will be excited to engage with us and want to know more.

http://www.pentaho.com/products/demos/presales_tools.php

Great job Will and team..as I continue to read I will post additional comments. Thanks for creating such a valuable addition to the Pentaho documentation stack.

Now, off to sleep.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Pentaho Analyzer is here - Imagine that!

Imagine non-technical business users easily creating meaningful, attractive and interactive web based reports and charts with only a few mouse clicks. Imagine putting intuitive, analytical capabilities in to the hands of your knowledge workers without the usual complexities of traditional Business Intelligence applications and with little to no training. Imagine turning that raw data into actionable information that someone can actually use. Now... Imagine having all this capability and more without the costs of exorbitant software license fees. Well imagine no longer. Along with Pentaho's other innovative technologies, we introduce to you Pentaho Analyzer. Available soon in Pentaho 3.5 Enterprise Edition. Here is a sneak peek of our new web based analytics tool. Please note that existing Pentaho Enterprise Edition subscription customers will be able to take advantage of this new offering without any upgrade or migration pricing. Imagine the possibilities.

To learn more, please contact us a www.pentaho.com.




video

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great Article on Self Service BI

The following is a great article on Self Service BI. Click here to view the article.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pentaho goes to the Movies - Data Integration and Citrus Report Designer

Yep, once again I roped you in with one of my wacky blog titles. Seriously though, the point of this blog entry is to share some powerful capabilities in the Pentaho BI Suite as well as to preview a feature in the up and coming release of the new Pentaho Report Designer, version 3.5

I have always stated that a powerful technology differentiator within the Pentaho BI Suite, when compared to traditional proprietary BI software or even other commercial open source reporting, is that the Pentaho architecture brilliantly brings together data integration and content delivery under one common BI platform from one vendor. A good example of this is seen below in this brief 15 minute video. It will demonstrate using Pentaho Data Integration 3.2 to create a transformation which accesses a public movie listing web service (WSDL)...then transform the response from the web service to make the columns and data available to a Pentaho Report created with the new Pentaho Report Designer.

Now..., this was always possible with the current release of Pentaho but only during run time of the report. (there is a document in the KB that explains this process) However, with the new Pentaho (Citrus) Report Designer 3.5 we have added many more data access components, one of them being Pentaho Data Integration. This means you are now able to access the Pentaho Data Integration transformation (.ktr) as a data source during design time to create your BI content. Your report or BI content now has a real-time or near real-time data access method.

So whether it is input from a web service, salesforce.com CRM, or even our new Google Analytics step, you have increased the possibilities of creating more robust and real-time or near real-time types of applications.

Imagine the possibilities and take a look at the video below, please provide your comments if you wish.

You can view the Pentaho TechCast here.

video

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pentaho and the Google Visualization API

There a number of times on a sales call when I am asked, "How does Pentaho integrate with other 'packages'?". Now 'integrate' and 'packages' can mean a number of different things. It can cover anything in the realm of application frameworks, extension points, plug-in architectures, data access, data integration, content delivery, distribution, ETL, SOAs, APIs, portals, etc. However, upon narrowing it down, a common request is one where a developer wants to know how Pentaho can use other 3rd party visualizations. Those visualizations that are provided by a number of vendors, both open source and proprietary.

In short, the Pentaho BI Platform is built on open standards. Java and XML to name a few of them. Its architecture can utilize the Pentaho Action Sequence technology (.xaction) to orchestrate and perform such a request. Many 3rd party visualizations, whether it is a Flash / Flex based charting engine or a JavaScript API based widget, have some means of accepting and processing data input. For example, those components may process data that is in the format of XML, JSON or even a JavaScript API. With a Pentaho Action Sequence, you are able to query and access almost any data source, traverse/iterate and dynamically format the result set into one of those means. Parameterization in the Action Sequence only enhances this capability and provides non-technical users an easy way to provide input as well as customize the visualization the way they want to.

Watch this video below, to see how I use Pentaho and and the Google Visualization API to create enhanced interactive visuals that can be easily added to a Pentaho Dashboard using the Pentaho Dashboard Designer.

Just another example of the power and flexibility of the Pentaho BI Platform. With Pentaho you are not only able to provide point solutions for the here and now problems..., you are able to evolve with it to also meet your future needs.

video

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pentaho: "Guided Ad hoc" , "Structured Ad hoc" , Parameterized Reporting...which one already!

(This is how it would be done in Pentaho 3.0. With the introduction of 3.5 and the new Pentaho Report Designer, there are even easier ways to achieve this. )

This blog entry is an introduction to a video which highlights the fundamentals of creating a Pentaho "Guided Ad hoc", "Structured Ad hoc" or parameterized report using the Pentaho Report Designer and Pentaho Design Studio. Here you will find a Pentaho Wiki entry which has a bit more detail and also demonstrates a slightly older example.



One of the biggest barriers in adopting a Business Intelligence tool is ease of use. It is possible that if the BI tools are too difficult to use, then most business users will not use them and may resort back to the way they used to do things, MS Access and Excel. ;-) No really...if the tools are not being used to the best of their abilities, then the organization is not leveraging their investment in BI. Therefore they are not going to realize a return on investment for that solution.

So...enters:

"Guided Ad hoc", "Structured Ad hoc", advanced parameterized reporting...whatever you want to name it, it is a simple way for non-technical business users to create numerous combinations of reports, without the need to involve the IT department. It not only provides the ability to limit the desired result set, but can have added functionality to re-structure sort groups, change measures and even add user defined drill down paths. Oh, and if you are using the Pentaho BI Suite, then you even have the ability to add components for on demand distribution, alerting, collaboration, scheduling and more. All this integrated under one platform, designed on open standards, reducing IT dependency and providing complete flexibility and end user empowerment.




I like the term "Guided Ad hoc". I used the term when demonstrating similar functionality with my old company's software. I believe the terminology accurately describes the meaning of the tool quite well. "Guided", because it "guides" the business user to the answer they are looking for. "Ad hoc", because the tool is usually used "for a purpose". It makes report generation easy without sacrificing functionality and again, without IT involvement.

"Guided Ad hoc" is really nothing more than a fancy term for parameterized reporting. The concept is to provide an easy to use, familiar user interface for users to interact with. If the business users are familiar with the web and have used eBay or either a banking or social networking web site; or better yet have shopped on-line, then they are already familiar with the concept of "Guided Ad hoc". They have seen the common form controls like text boxes and radio buttons, drop down lists, sliders, folder trees and pick lists. Using a combination of these form controls while providing them a simple navigation interface, allows them to simply pick what they want and how they want it. Almost 80% of reporting needs can be satisfied in this manner while at the same time requiring little to no training to use and understand.

The below video briefly demonstrates some simple fundamentals when creating a "Guided Ad hoc" report with the Pentaho Report Designer and Pentaho Design Studio. It also quickly demonstrates a completed version that I have built using the new Community Dashboard Framework which is now integrated with Pentaho 3.0

Just remember this, whether you call it "Guided Ad hoc", "Structured Ad hoc" or parameterized reporting, the result is always the same; it is easy to use and can be delivered using the Pentaho BI Suite.




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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Continuation of the Unmatched Power and Flexibility of Pentaho

Continuing my blog post in regards to the Unmatched Power and Flexibility of the Pentaho BI Suite, I wanted to share another powerful component that I have been working on. I know you might be thinking this is a shameful attempt of Pentaho publicity, but sincerely it isn't. I am truly passionate about my job and I love to share what is possible so others can benefit from it. The Pentaho BI Suite allows a level of flexibility and customization that surpasses many BI frameworks simply because of its Action Sequence architecture. The Pentaho BI Platform architecture allows easy integration with many 3rd party components and frameworks. It allows you to step outside of the box while still utilizing open standards and common skill sets, something that may be hard to achieve with proprietary BI software.

Please note that this is one possible way of how something can be represented.

There are a few ways you can visualize change of data over time, but most commonly used for this is the Line Graph. A Line Graph can be described as a visual representation of connecting data points or sets of data points that have been collected over a period of time. The most useful benefits to a Line Graph are recognizing trends over time as well as observing the rate of change (slope) more clearly. Whether you are plotting sales figures or unique page views, what a Line Graph can tell you depends on the individual reading it. However, when wanting to view this data over long periods of time there are some creative ways that it can be represented.

I have chosen to represent large amounts of data over time by integrating the LGPL 2.1 Chronoscope Timepedia widget into the Pentaho BI Platform. I created a reusable, customizable component that can be easily added to Pentaho Dashboards by non-technical users. This dynamic widget can visually represent metrics over large periods of time in an interactive, browser only, Time Series Line Graph.



The idea was introduced to me by a colleague, Zachary Zeus from Sydney Australia. Originally it was structured as a JSP page which would execute a Pentaho Action Sequence and generate a JSON data string to feed the Timepedia Chronoscope Widget. This was a great idea, but I needed to enhance the capability to make it easy to use, include and modify.

Utilizing the flexible nature of the Pentaho architecture, I was able to reconstruct the example to be completely self contained in the Pentaho Solution Repository. This eliminated the need to setup a separate web application path, JSPs and any external web references needed by the component. It can be easily executed from the Pentaho User Console and added as a component to the Pentaho Dashboard Designer with full parametrization. With the added parametrization capability in the Pentaho Dashboard Designer, all filters and metric variables can be exposed so a non-technical user can customize the component to meet their need.


Because this component is utilizing the Pentaho architecture, my data can be retrieved from almost any data source. I could use a SQL query, RDBMS stored procedure, Pentaho Metadata Query, Mondrian Analysis MDX statement, XQuery, or even a call to Pentaho Data Integration (ETL) with no changes to my underlying application.

Here is a short list of the Value and Benefits to this component -
  • LGPL 2.1
  • No software licensing fees (had to get that in there)
  • Can be added to a Pentaho Dashboard
  • Can be executed from the Pentaho Solution Browser
  • Completely Pentaho Solution Repository based
  • Reusable
  • Easily customizable
  • Provides Parametrization for changing metrics, date range filters, vertical and horizontal ranges




For information about the TimePedia Chronoscope Widget itself see the links below:

http://timepedia.org/chronoscope/
http://timepedia.org/chronoscope/license/

Please note that I am working with Pentaho Product Management to get all the samples I create included in to the Pentaho BI Platform. If you are interested in becoming a Pentaho Subscription customer, or just want to know about what is possible with Pentaho, please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pentaho: Unmatched Power and Flexibility

With each passing day I am continually amazed at the power and flexibility of the Pentaho BI Suite and its architecture. With the Pentaho Dashboard Designer, found in the new Pentaho Enterprise Edition 3.0, I was able to add the capability for even the non-technical business user to utilize "dynamic" Google mapping mash-ups. "Dynamic" meaning that the map displayed and its points, are based off of what the user selects from the input screen. These dynamic Google Map objects can be created as parameterized templates for the business users to add, layout and interact with - in their own Pentaho Dashboards.

Google Maps has a powerful Geocoding service that Pentaho can seamlessly pass data to without any coding. I have always stated that one of the differentiators in our stack is the ability to easily integrate results from Pentaho Data Integration in to Pentaho Reporting, Analysis and Dashboards. This holds true even when using Google Maps. With Pentaho Data Integration and its HTTP transformation entry, I am able to pass user input such as address, city and state to the Google Maps Geocoder web service and return the appropriate coordinates to be mapped. This PDI transformation can be called from one of Pentaho's work-flow objects and pass back the results to another component without any coding. Now I am sure there maybe a number of ways that this can be achieved with other methods, but the differentiator here is that there wasn't any hard-coded complex coding involved. Due to the fact that our BI Platform is nicely integrated with Pentaho Data Integration, the approach is reusable for and callable from other applications and objects with little to no modifications per application. Using open standards is a key when creating any type of application. Another differentiator in the Pentaho architecture. I believe the founders of the Pentaho BI Platform and those of Data Integration (formerly Kettle) have much to be proud of when their decision to merge the two together came forth.

From just "one" parameterized Pentaho Action Sequence (a core Pentaho work-flow object) I am able to get the user's input, get the required data to be mapped (from almost any data source), send a call to the Geocoder service via PDI, and display the appropriate Google Maps center area along with the associated plotted data points. With Pentaho's service based architecture, I am able to easily change my data source and/or query on the fly without having to change any other layers in my application, which is a must when quickly deploying BI applications to the masses.

See the brief demonstration YouTube video here on the Pentaho YouTube channel that I created. YouTube's normal resolution can be a bit hard to see, so make sure to view the video in HD mode and select full screen to see the example fully. Just another example of many showing unmatched power and flexibility.





To learn more about Pentaho and see an "Introduction to the Pentaho Enterprise Edition" come see our new 5 minute introductory video on our home page at www.pentaho.com.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Evaluations and implementations fail because of people, not the software - (usually)

At one time, Open Source software had a stigma about being poorly documented. In my opinion, I believe that has changed for the most part. While working for Pentaho, a Commercial Open Source BI company, I have taken part in tasks that help create awareness around our software. It involves many resources made available to understand it, use it, explore it, modify it and even evolve it. Whether it is creating Wiki pages, video tutorials, tech tips, and blog entries or working with documentation services, I have come to find that having a successful implementations or evaluations really comes down to two things. Not only is the (1) content as good as the people that "write it" but it is also depends heavily on the aptitude of the (2) person who CONSUMES IT.

The new Pentaho Knowledgebase is one of those excellent resources. It is made available to paid subscription customers and trial evaluators and contains professional documentation, technical tips and more. Our documentation services team has been exceptional in getting information out there as quickly as possible and to those who need it most.

Those who depend on the vendor to provide support and those who care to be successful when using the software to meet their objectives. Sometimes, they are also the ones that sign up for training, whether it be at a customer site, at the Pentaho HQ or over the web. (You don't have to be a customer to get training.) These are the people that are the most successful with the software, any software. In addition to the KB, there is also a wiki page that I maintain in the community for non subscription customers and evaluators. This is an additional resource that allows me to quickly post information at a moments notice which can help others. This resource also creates an awareness and makes me become more scalable.

However, as with any vendor's collateral, if you don't use it, read it or care to learn it and at the same time expect someone to hold your hand, your chances of becoming successful are low. It is that simple. If you are one of those people, there isn't anything wrong with that, (ala Seinfeld) just make sure you hire the proper talent to get the job done and expect to pay. (Keep in mind that with Pentaho, you are not paying for software license fees, you are paying for people's knowledge and expertise to help you meet your objectives as well as the other things covered in a subscription- additional features, IP indemnification etc. )

Of course, there is always an expectation of vendor support, but when one does not take the time to review the collateral and expects to get a POC, CRM, EDW or ERP system up an running with a push of a button, they are in for a rude awakening. These are the same type of people that blame the vendor for their failures.

(These are not exact quotations - but I think you get the point I am trying to make)
  • "I called your customer support and expected to learn all your tools."

  • "I have unlimited support and the project still failed. I only opened 4 cases ,that were resolved to my satisfaction, but I never called you for more help. So your support did not help me."

  • "I want to test your software. I want for you to help me create a POC,. I do not have budget or a time line or a defined project in place, and there is no guarantee that I will become a customer, can you help me?"
Please be aware that there is a difference between development assistance and training. There is also a difference between kicking tires and having clearly defined project criteria. Can you imagine if I called Microsoft, and asked them to walk me through creating a DB application in MS Access, at no cost? Have you even seen their support guide lines? HERE it's a mile long.

In closing, this is just another example that supports my prior blog claim (in regards to BI) that BI (or an application that use any software for that matter) is truly in the heads of people that know the software best. See entry here.

It is up to you to work with those people and get the help you need. It is a theory that makes sense not just with BI but with anything that is new to anyone. If you are new to sky diving would you go it alone the first time? Wouldn't you research it first, or at least jump tandem? In fact unless you have your own plane I don't even think you can go it alone without some sort of training or knowledge awareness. Whether you "SOLICIT" , "CONSUME" and "APPLY" that awareness is up to you. Remember, it is not just the vendor that can assist, but it is you as well. You can help make anything successful if applied correctly.

Teamwork, with each party doing their part can create successful evaluations and implementations.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pentaho 3.0 the Community and the Cloud - WOW

Commercial Open Source Business Intelligence company Pentaho is joining the roster of applications available via Amazon.com Inc.'s EC2 Web hosting service.

Companies will be able to "rent" the new release of Pentaho, Version 3.0, via EC2. That arrangement should lower the upfront start-up costs of using Pentaho -- though those costs were already low to begin with. ;-) A Pentaho subscription is a fraction of what a proprietary vendor would charge you for software licenses alone.










In fact many well known companies are saving money and subscribe to Pentaho to receive development assistance as well as the Enterprise Edition certified build. EE is Q/A'd, updated and maintained on a regular basis which also includes a host of features and functionality that are not available in the Community Edition.

Other new features in Pentaho 3.0 include redesigned dashboards that incorporate Adobe Flash technology for enhanced visuals and are now easy enough for most business end users to build themselves using the Pentaho Dashboard Designer.

Another great accolade is the integration of the Community Dashboard Framework project, initiated by Pedro Alves and Ingo Klose. For even the most novice developer who wants to go outside of the box, Pentaho now includes the Community Dashboard Framework. CDF is built upon the superior Pentaho architecture. Imagine creating more of your own rich and interactive content with very little development. In fact even "cut and paste" programmers can benefit from this easy to use framework. With complete documentation, samples and cut and paste markup, customizing Pentaho content is easier than ever. Pentaho's open-source community includes 40,000 registered members and "hundreds of active contributors."

Pentaho Commercial Open Source Business Intelligence, user friendly, cloud ready and community powered.

www.pentaho.com