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Aptude's Blog - IT Staffing, Consulting, and Software Development Services

Welcome to Aptude's blogging center! Our blogs are written by experts in each respective field. We hope any information gathered in these articles will be beneficial to you and your company. For more information about how we can assist you with your IT Staffing, IT Consulting, or Software Development needs please give us a call at (630) 692-6700!

5 challenges that stymie Business Intelligence adoption in the transportation industry

5 challenges that stymie Business Intelligence adoption in the transportation industry
The demand for Business Intelligence (BI) in the transportation industry is palpable. Tackling volatile costs, tighter regulations, and the pressure to chase sustainability, requires transportation companies to leverage data to identify and snap up opportunities for growth. While increasing liberalization and globalization have opened new avenues for expansion for transportation companies, they also need to understand and tackle evolving geo-political regulations and risk due to heightened exposure to factors not under their control. Business Intelligence has proven to be exceptionally useful to tackle such challenges. It helps companies gain clarity about their transportation costs, and hence give them the ability to control it more effectively. BI also helps them identify negative trends and pre-empt them before their impact is felt, while also providing them with the opportunity to explore opportunities through the analysis of alternate scenarios. Naturally, BI for transportation is not a new phenomenon. In case you want to know...
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Natural Language Processing in Business Intelligence: Potentials and Pitfalls

Natural Language Processing in Business Intelligence: Potentials and Pitfalls
In our last blog on BI trends to watch we touched on the exciting prospect of Natural Language Processing (NLP) becoming a tool for building queries in business intelligence. Advances in NLP are giving rise to potentially groundbreaking technology, and the subject deserves more than a cursory glance. In this blog we’ll explore some of the pitfalls, challenges and barriers that have kept NLP out of BI, as well as some of the exciting possibilities of its application as BI developers begin to integrate NLP into BI. If search engines like Google have been using NLP technology for the past couple of years, why is BI only beginning to make use of this incredible tool? Clearly it’s not for lack of interest, demand, or potential applications. Bridging the chasm between human language and machine language is far more complicated than one might imagine. Computer scientists have been racking their brains over...
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Business Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2017

Business Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2017
Now that we’re solidly in Q2 2017 we’re looking at emerging trends and what to watch for in Business Intelligence for the remainder of the year. This year appears to be focused on expansion, integration and collaboration, as well as some interesting advances in the field. Many of the trends we reported on from 2016 continue to factor heavily in the market, as do new iterations of familiar concepts and ubiquity of BI applications. BI functions that were once only available to large organizations are becoming available to small businesses through cloud-based applications and services like AWS and Microsoft Azure, and BI products are becoming ever more user friendly so that they are available to more individuals. Self-Service Data Prep BI continues to move out of the realm of IT and analysts and into the hands of end users. Self-Service Data Procurement has become commonplace and has allowed those in various...
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Improving your BI Systems with ITIL Process Management

Improving your BI Systems with ITIL Process Management
If you’re a left-brained, analytical thinker, like I am, then you love the efficiency and consistency that universal processes can deliver. I’m system-oriented, and will develop procedures, templates, and process flows for almost everything I do. It requires an initial investment of time and effort, but the return is that I deliver better results, more quickly, and I free-up mental space (creative capital) for other uses. ITIL Process Management has the potential to similarly affect your entire IT infrastructure, and thus your BI. The focus is on a systematic, proactive approach to eliminating root problems, and minimizing reactively (and repeatedly) addressing individual incidents while simultaneously allocating IT resources to those places they are most needed and will yield the greatest returns. I’m not going to dive into the details of ITIL in this blog, so if you’re not familiar with ITIL there are plenty of short videos available to give you...
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2016 in Retrospect - Business Intelligence

2016 in Retrospect - Business Intelligence
2016 was a big year for business intelligence. The field began an evolution into a new iteration of analytics as innovations in hardware and software enabled both greater capacity for data collection and greater ability to interpret that data. We’ve seen BI continue migrating to cloud computing and remote devices. We’ve witnessed a rise in the use of operational intelligence (OI) to gather real-time data on manufacturing machines, vehicles, and warehouses. We’ve watched the Internet of Things (IoT) expand exponentially as OI and connected devices continue to provide an ever expanding field of data. And we’ve watched artificial intelligence (AI) become more integrated into daily life and into the workplace. As we come to the close of a wild year, in so many ways, let’s take a look back at some of the most influential advances in BI over the last 12 months Notable Updates and Upgrades All the biggest players...
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History and Impact of Business Intelligence on the Logistics and Transportation Industry

History and Impact of Business Intelligence on the Logistics and Transportation Industry
Business intelligence (BI) has revolutionized logistics and transportation, and the rate of change is only increasing. Before we look at where the industry is headed, though, let’s take a moment to look at how far it’s come. The concepts of logistics and transportation are as old as trade itself. The term logistics was first used in the early 1800’s to describe the calculated movement of troops during conflict and from there the idea was transferred to business as the management of the movement of raw materials to production and finished goods from production to market. Logistics and transportation have always been focused on the best means of moving people and goods from origin to destination, but prior to BI the emphasis was on geography and available infrastructure. Clearly things have changed since those humble origins. Early applications of BI in logistics and transportation relied on descriptive analytics to provide information about...
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Defining Personas for Building Business Intelligence Dashboards

Defining Personas for Building Business Intelligence Dashboards
Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, or enterprise dashboards, are collections of infographics representing a snapshot of data from various sources about an organization and/or industry in real time. They are intended to provide access to up-to-date, relevant information that allows users to make the most informed decisions within a business. Like anything in life, whether that goal is achieved depends upon the implementation. A well-designed dashboard gives the right information to the right people within an organization in a format that makes sense the user. It can streamline decision making, allow for more sophisticated analyses of data sets, provide real-time insights into what is and is not working within an organization and inform decisions to maximize gains and limit losses. With poor implementation the end result could be the quite the opposite. So how do you design a dashboard that meets the needs of your organization? One way is to carefully define...
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Comparing Oracle REST Data Services to Microsoft’s Power BI REST API – Business Intelligence Web Services Features

Comparing Oracle REST Data Services to Microsoft’s Power BI REST API – Business Intelligence Web Services Features
Our last blog about implementing microservices for Big Data applications had me thinking about how well two of the biggest names in Business Intelligence – Microsoft and Oracle – compare with their RESTFul API offerings. Creating your own API services can be quite challenging, even with the large number of software platforms available to choose from to help expedite implementation. Some of the big challenges include coordinating teams to standardize data formats, ensuring scalability, and maintaining data quality. While both Microsoft and Oracle provide solutions for reporting from databases in their own respective dashboard solutions, and have pre-built connectors for common enterprise solutions (such as Salesforce or Big Data platforms), other services will always require a method to consume your data. This can include a handful of your in-house or 3rd-party applications, or external sources such as a vendor or partner. Using the Oracle and Microsoft RESTFul API’s are supposed provide...
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Benefits and Challenges of Using Microservices with Big Data Applications

Benefits and Challenges of Using Microservices with Big Data Applications
While implementation of DevOps practices has been on the rise lately, a slightly lesser-known concept has also been gaining popularity – microservices. The idea behind microservice architecture is to build your application as many independent services rather than one large code base (commonly referred to as a monolith). Rather than accessing the majority of your data using large databases, communication is often handled with API calls between the services, with each service having its own lightweight database. Microservice architecture doesn’t necessarily mandate any more than the core concepts mentioned above, but there are many other best practices that help facilitate better integration across many facets of software development lifecycles. The primary practices associated with microservices include containerization, continuous integration, DevOps, automated integration testing, and – in many cases- the Agile development methodology. When implemented properly in combination with these best practices, implementation of microservices can deliver many benefits to your project’s...
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Using Power BI for Tracking Digital Marketing Initiatives

Using Power BI for Tracking Digital Marketing Initiatives
Microsoft’s initiatives to make Power BI user-friendly and easy to configure have helped propel it to the forefront of BI/Data Analytics solutions, according to an early 2016 release by Gartner. A big proponent of this success can likely be attributed to healthy selection of data connectors which allow accessing data sources from popular services without the need to develop custom web services.   This capability is much more than being able to access all of your data in one dashboard. If your marketing and sales data sources are connected to Power BI, you can correlate metrics across platforms and attribute changes from each-other. By having a more complete view of your data, the likelihood of attributing “false positives” is also reduced. Connecting these data sources and making informed decisions - whether you’re using Power BI or not – is the true goal of any business intelligence solution. For the Power BI...
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Reasons to Migrate to Microsoft SQL Server 2016

Reasons to Migrate to Microsoft SQL Server 2016
As of June of this year, Microsoft SQL Server 2016 – Microsoft’s database management software – has been unleashed for commercial use. There are many new features that enterprises will benefit from that its predecessor didn’t offer or lacked. This beefed up suite of features will have new users grinning from ear to ear. Here is why your organization needs to make the switch to the new and improved SQL Server. Home is where your data is... SQL Server 2016 is blowing the roof off of data access and how fast data analysis is performed. Why? Updating machine learning models, deploying new models, and monitoring performance can be done in the database without redeploying applications. R Services (In-database) allows users to to use the R language and packages to create models and generate predictions using your SQL Server data. R Services (In-database) integrates the R language with the SQL Server which...
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Microsoft Power BI – Power BI Embedded and other data-driven updates

Microsoft Power BI – Power BI Embedded and other data-driven updates
In July, Microsoft Power BI Desktop made several data-driven updates including a major one - Power BI Embedded. To recap, Power BI is a desktop program you can download and a cloud service that have different and overlapping capabilities for organizations to get the most out of their collected business analytics. Something to be aware of, while Power BI’s desktop software is a powerful tool to have, it’s for Windows-only users - at least for now. The Power BI cloud service on the other hand functions across many platforms. How an organization analyzes their collected data is vital to the success and future of their business. Power BI continues to add features to beef up their tools, especially when it comes to how organizations are monitoring and analyzing their data. Power BI Embedded This update will be very useful. What is it? Power BI Embedded is an Azure service that allows...
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3 Crucial Steps to Building Effective BI Dashboards

3 Crucial Steps to Building Effective BI Dashboards
One of the most important steps to implementing a business intelligence solution is defining the criteria for how you will visualize data for your BI Dashboards. Business intelligence initiatives will always vary, but the end goal is always the same – to provide actionable insights to business users so that they can make informed decisions. These business intelligence solutions should help streamline user workflows, address any existing data inconsistencies, and discover any hidden data opportunities which will help save time and costs for an organization. To address some of the challenges with building effective BI dashboards, I’ll be covering three important steps to defining personas, choosing the right data sets, and dashboard usability. 1. Understanding your end user’s roles and defining personas Interviewing and defining the end user – the user that will be utilizing the reports – is an important step in the process of creating your BI dashboards. In...
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Power BI Desktop vs. Excel - A Feature Comparison

Power BI Desktop vs. Excel - A Feature Comparison
Although Microsoft Excel isn’t likely to vanish into thin air any time soon, Power BI Desktop has the potential to overtake it in popularity as it continues to flourish and become more feature-rich. Most of Excel’s latest improvements have only become available if you have a separately installed Office ProPlus license or are an Office 365 E3 tenant. So what’s so great about Excel? Excel formulas and pivot tables are close to being the number one programming language around for anything from simple to relatively complex data organization, and tools such as Power Pivot, Power Map, Power View and Power Query are also very powerful to: Transform data explore and filter data build key performance indicators (KPIs) Creates visualizations Although Excel is a robust platform to use in order to build the data model you’re going to analyze, the tools to actually conduct that analysis isn’t part of Excel’s interface, meaning...
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How the Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service Integrates with your BI Solution

How the Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service Integrates with your BI Solution
Last year, Oracle released a data visualization cloud service that helps businesses not only organize data, but do so in a very visually-appealing way, making it easier to digest and analyze. The data visualization cloud service is a type of self-service business intelligence (BI) that allows information discovery and exploratory BI for business users who do not have a background in statistical analysis, BI or data mining. Adopting an exploratory analytics strategy will lead to richer insights for existing data going forward in addition to discovering new data that will build a robust BI solution for your organization. Illustrates Your Data Pretty self-explanatory right? The Oracle data visualization cloud service generates easy, yet detailed visual analytics automatically with the ability to change layouts and present new insights. In the age of  big data, Oracle’s data visualization service will help your organization thrive as it helps create a visual out of your...
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Latest Power BI Updates Bring Big Benefits to Enterprises with New Features

Latest Power BI Updates Bring Big Benefits to Enterprises with New Features
Last week, Microsoft announced that Power BI has integrated with Azure ExpressRoute, just one of the many Power BI service updates that will benefit organizations. These benefits include more security by creating private connections, enhancing data security and a seamless solution with a cloud-based network to your organization’s existing network among many others to streamline your business operations and give your productivity a boost! ExpressRoute for BI Users ExpressRoute allows you to extend your on-premise network (or multiple networks) into the Microsoft cloud over a dedicated private connection facilitated by a connectivity provider. Connectivity can be from any IP VPN network, a point-to-point Ethernet network, or a virtual cross-connection through a connectivity provider at a co-location facility. The most appealing feature is that ExpressRoute connections do not go over the public Internet which means more reliability, faster speeds, higher security and lower latencies. I don’t think any business would argue with...
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5 Tips for Formulating your Business Intelligence Strategy

5 Tips for Formulating your Business Intelligence Strategy
Business Intelligence (BI) has been a mainstream effort for nearly the last two decades, and yet many organizations still fumble when it comes to formulating a business intelligence road-map.  With rogue power users (who are not rogue) to back-room big data initiatives, it’s no wonder that organizations still can’t find a clear, clean strategic path for business intelligence. BI refers to a variety of technologies, applications and practices that are used to analyze and process, report and strategize about data. BI trends have been evolving and growing over the years as more businesses are using data to uncover insights as the volume of their data grows. As the number of technologies within the BI ecosystem increases, there is more room for error or for mistakes to be made if certain measures aren’t taken into consideration. Organizations have been looking to find the “holy grail” to their data mining since the inception...
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Tips for Upgrading OBIEE 12C - Oracle Business Intelligence Guide

Tips for Upgrading OBIEE 12C - Oracle Business Intelligence Guide
Although OBIEE 12c has made its debut and has boasted its new features that will enhance and simplify administration and configuration, there are some features that might cause some drawbacks. Just like any other upgrade, there may be some snags or difficulties along the way that might interrupt your daily workflow. If you’re looking to upgrade to Oracle BI EE 12c (12.2.1), there are some new features and changes to keep in mind! Security Upgrades 12c requires JDK 1.8. This includes important security fixes and Oracle recommends that Java SE 8 users upgrade to this release. Java SE 8u74 is a patch-set update including all of 8u73 plus additional features including IANA time zone data version 2015g. Take note, the JRE expires whenever a new release with security vulnerability fixes becomes available. This JRE (version 8u74) will expire with the release of the next critical patch update scheduled for April...
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The Big Data Implementation Checklist

Big data analytics projects are on many organization “to-do” lists, which isn’t surprising given the many benefits that can be realized from an implementation. As with any new technology implementation, it would be unwise to haphazardly introduce any big data solution to your technology ecosystem without properly analyzing and preparing for this kind of project. Big data can’t prove its business value if it remains in a perpetual proof of concept phase, without the availability, security, backup and recovery, and other reliability aspirations we take for granted on our traditional transactional systems. How can you prepare your big-data deployment for delivery into a production IT environment? And what exactly does it mean to say that big data, or any IT initiative, is truly ready for production? Production readiness means that your big-data investment is prepared to realize its full operational potential. If you think “productionizing” can be done in one step,...
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Taking a Look at Big Data and Business Intelligence Project ROI

Any time a business unit is asking for funds to make an investment, whether it’s for production equipment or an infrastructure investment, the very first question always centers on respected ROI. That's the question which we can understand, if for no other reason it ensures that the requesting group has spent necessary time justifying the costs associated with investment. And, that the person who requests has a firm grasp on the potential benefits. However, as Daniel Newman points out in this Forbes post, calculating the ROI associated with big data prior to making the investment can be quite challenging. That's true in part because a properly structured big data implementation has wide sweeping implications.  Newman suggests big data can build communities, encourage culture through customer and employee retention as well as driving revenue. Big data is (or should be) almost every company’s focus these days. Now executives of almost all industries...
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