Mike Applegate

About Mike Applegate

As Chief Technology Officer at Solver, Mike leads the product strategy and research & development roadmap and manages product conception, technology, operations and delivery. Previously serving as a Business Intelligence (BI) Architect, Mike leverages his technical and financial experience in his role to bridge the customer & market needs with product strategy and technology for Solver’s BI360 suite.

Mike Applegate
Beyond Accessibility: 9 More Reasons why CFOs are Starting to Love Cloud Business Intelligence Tools

Image taken from Shutterstock.

There’s a lot more to cloud–based business intelligence tools than easy data accessibility. This article examines why CFOs and accounting pros see cloud BI as a great return on investment.

Like a lot of productivity and management software, business intelligence (BI) tools are moving to the cloud. Why? Sure, the cloud makes BI more accessible, and deployments more manageable, just like data of every kind. Whether it’s Corporate Performance Management (CPM) or even music, you can access it via any web browser or mobile device, anywhere, anytime.

But there are other reasons why the cloud and business intelligence tools are a perfect match, especially for CFOs or accounting pros who rely on BI to boost bottom-line performance. We’re talking about solving problems such as lowering costs, gaining flexibility, and increasing productivity, all while realizing BI’s promise of delivering the right information to the right people at the right time so they can make more informed decisions.  As Solver builds – and gets ready to deliver BI360 as an innovative cloud service, we continue to discover reasons why cloud is the future for Business Intelligence.

Here are 9 reasons why a cloud-based Business Intelligence Tool may be right for you.

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Mike Applegate
How BI360 Data Warehouse Drives Better Decisions

When it comes to financial and operational reporting and budgeting, our BI360 Solution delivers everything your organization needs: detailed reporting that runs live on your ERP, excel- and web-based with mobile access, pre-defined templates, drag and drop simplicity, and very easy implementation. But a growing area of interest for many of our customers is our BI360 data warehouse, which has the capability to bring in all kinds of data in addition to financial and budget data, such as statistical data and operational data sources.

For example, in the education industry, a university could use our data warehouse to more effectively track critical information such as student enrollment, registration, faculty performance, financial information—everything a university needs to turn stagnant data into a competitive advantage. For a healthcare organization, it could be patient records or healthcare system statistics that would not only deliver better compliance with industry regulations, but better patient care as a result.

With BI360, any industry-specific organization with high-value data can pull that information into our data warehouse to glean insights and make it part of its standard reporting process. From there, it’s easy to combine it with financial data for powerful dashboards and management reports. These are just some of the ways organizations can use BI360 data warehouse as the engine of their business intelligence solution, and drive better decisions as a result.

Mike Applegate
Free White Paper: BI360 for Salesforce.com

The BI360 Excel-based report writer is not only easy to use, but is one of the most powerful reporting tools on the market. Now with a Salesforce integration, it opens a whole new world for all the Salesforce customers world-wide that are accustomed to exporting their Salesforce data to Excel for reporting purposes. BI360 is the most modern Excel-based report writer on the market and now Salesforce customers can fully automate their pipeline reporting and even combine it with financial reporting and budgeting/forecasting, as these are core features in the BI360 suite.
By completing the Salesforce connector, we’ve further realized our strategy to build a library of pre-defined connectors to cloud-based and on-premises data sources. In less than 15 minutes, customers can now configure the connector, populate the BI360 Data Warehouse with Salesforce data and run pre-defined reports, as well as using the modern BI360 Excel-based report writer to create their own reports.
Some of the advantages of using BI360 as a report writer for your Salesforce and data are:
1. Powerful Excel- and web-based sales pipeline reporting that business users can manage.
2. Combine Salesforce sales pipeline data with your ERP data through the BI360 Data Warehouse for a combined view of actual data and forecast data.
3. Very quick and non-technical to get up and running.
Learn more by downloading our complimentary whitepaper.

Mike Applegate
BI360: Aligned with Gartner’s Predictions for the Future of BI

In a “High Tech Tuesday” webinar, Gartner projected its Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics market trends for the future. One of the key projections is that business analytics will be the catalyst for $24 Billion increase in BI-related investments by 2014.
Much of the increase in this area will be in BI services (11% increase), BI platforms (4.2% increase), data integration and quality (1.8% increase), and data warehousing (5.5% increase).
BI services: Solver and its global partner channel offer leading BI services including consulting, training, and responsive, ongoing customer support. Our teams of BI360 consultants starts by understanding your business objectives, then customizes a tailored BI solution to meet your specific needs.
BI platforms: Our BI360 suite is a
powerful web and excel-based BI solution that now includes enterprise collaboration, as well as our industry leading reporting, budgeting, dashboards, and data warehouse solutions.

Data integration and quality: One of the most beautiful things about BI360, is its ease of integration and data preservation. BI360 integrates with all major ERPs, preserving all of your legacy data and delivering it in an easy-to-search, easy-to-use format.
Data warehouse:The need to centralize and consolidate your data will only become more valuable as big data continues to explode. BI360’s data warehouse is a next-generation, pre-configured and customizable solution based on Microsoft SQL Server platform.  All your key data, whether in-house or cloud-based, can be stored and available for consolidated reporting, analysis and dashboards.
Learn more about Solver’s BI360 solution, and how it aligns with Gartner’s predictions for the future of BI.
Source: “High-Tech Tuesday Webinar: BI and Analytics Market Trends, 2020 Vision.” Dec 2012, Gartner, Inc. , Web. 08 May 2013.

Mike Applegate
BI360 Data Warehouse: Configure, Load, Done!

The BI360 data warehouse is a next-generation, pre-configured and customizable data warehouse based on the world-leading Microsoft SQL Server platform.

With BI360’s data warehouse, you get all your key data, whether in-house or cloud-based, stored and available for consolidated reporting, analysis and dashboards. It’s priced for the mid-market and can be implemented in a days or weeks, instead of months or even longer.

Its user-friendly, non-technical administrative interface allows business users to configure and manage the data warehouse, including adding modules and dimensions, inserting new dimension members, managing attributes to empower better reporting, and running processes to manipulate data… basically all the things that used to require heavy involvement from IT.

We created this short video to demonstrate just how easy and intuitive the BI360 data warehouse is to get up and running, and how effectively you can manage your company’s data.

Mike Applegate
Better feedback through Collaboration, Safer Landings!

On a recent flight, I was talking to a colleague about the importance of collaboration in business intelligence, and how new collaboration tools are driving better, data-driven decisions. He listened to a few of my analogies as I explained the advantages, and then said, “too bad they didn’t have those tools in 1988.”

He went on to explain the circumstances behind what was at the time, a newly delivered “fully automated” Airbus A320-111. On June 26, 1988, Air France was demonstrating the plane at an airshow. The plane was supposed to do a fly-by at a low altitude of 100 feet. Instead, it dipped below 30 feet and crashed into the trees beyond the runway.

Apparently, the avionics on that A320 were built with only two “feedback loops,” and where there was signal disparity, the flight management system (FMS) was left to arbitrarily pick one over the other. Unfortunately in this case, it picked the wrong one. But this was only part of the problem. When the pilot realized the plane was flying too low, he tried to pull up to regain altitude but was over-ridden by the FMS.

My friend’s point, while somewhat unsettling (especially since we were on a plane), was a good example of what happens when companies combine lack of input with organizational arrogance. Important strategic decisions are made every day where lack of insight, suggestions, or feedback leads to force-fed decisions made in isolation.

Today’s collaboration tools solicit insight from sources all over your organization… sources with great ideas and input that you would have never imagined. Sources that help build in redundancies so your organization can make sure its decisions have been completely vetted, all while reducing the time and resources it used to take to get there. How can BI collaboration tools help your organization make better decisions? Learn more.

Mike Applegate
Enterprise Collaboration: The Water Cooler of Performance Management

We all know about the enterprise collaboration tools that have been introduced over the past couple of years, and the accompanying issues that come with them. While there still may be a perception that enterprise collaboration tools are merely a Facebook-type of experience tweaked for the business world, the right tools—with proper usage of the right features—can significantly increase your efficiency.

But there’s more than just better efficiency and productivity at stake. Yes, a good collaboration tool will probably result in fewer emails and email trails, less time spent in planning and attending meetings, and make it easier to search and find information such as people with specific expertise that may apply to a project. I believe, however, that one of the biggest gains from an enterprise collaboration tool, especially as it applies to business intelligence, is better retention of your discussions from:

1)    The strategy formulation
2)    The budget process
3)    Monthly reports and dashboards
4)    General or specific improvement ideas and projects

Enterprise collaboration tools such as BI360 Collaboration organize and store all information (discussions, ideas, attachments, employee profiles, etc.) in a central repository. So, your company’s knowledge database isn’t just protected, it continues to grow and add value over time. Things like meeting notes that never get recorded, or conversations that are quickly forgotten are all captured and securely stored for future use, with Google-like search tools to find and retrieve the information, even if it’s years later.

Let’s say your team wants to review a report from three years ago, but the finance manager has long since left the company. With enterprise collaboration, you can access the archived information in seconds, plus leverage social media technologies with @mentions and #tags within live discussions, automatically cross-linking that information so others can view it at the same time. It’s like having a virtual water cooler that can serve up every discussion, from every meeting, on any project—throughout the history of your company. #goodstuff.

See more features of BI360 Collaboration here.

Mike Applegate
Configuring the BI360 Warehouse just got easier

Our mantra here at Solver is “make it simple, sexy and powerful”. Traditionally, Data Warehouse projects are reserved for the IT folks in an organization, but we have set out to change that notion with the BI360 Data Warehouse.

We are busy working on many new and exciting features for the upcoming version of the BI360 suite. Here is a quick sampling of two items in the cooker: 1) Adding Attributes and 2) Time Dimension.

Adding Attributes in a Snap

It is a common practice to want many attributes for each dimension. In the current BI360 Data Warehouse (BI360 DW) version, dimension attributes can be added using the Data Warehouse Manager user interface or they can be configured through SQL Server. We have now also added a dimension and attribute import wizard In order to accelerate the time to design and deploy to the warehouse. The wizard automates the process of creating a large number of dimensions and related attributes. Simply create the dimensions and/or attributes in an Excel or text file and import using the Warehouse Manager.

Once the new dimensions and/or attributes are loaded, then they are immediately available to be managed within the Warehouse Manager as well as the Reporting, Planning and Dashboard Modules.

Take Control of your Time Dimension

Configuring the time dimension has always been quick and easy and met most requirements out of the box.  However, we decided to take it to the next level and add controls to define the date ranges within each period from the Warehouse Manager.  Now, configurations such as 4-4-5, 5-5-4, 4-5-4 or any other fiscal configuration, then the BI360 Warehouse Manager can easy implement it.

Mike Applegate
New Exciting Features in BI360 Version 3.5

The latest release of BI360 is loaded with lots of new features and enhancements. You talked and we listened.  BI360 3.5 is setting the bar with advanced reporting from Excel.

Take Control of Your Data

Many Accounting / ERP systems allow custom tables and attribute fields.  Prior to v3.5, these custom fields and tables could only be accessed using our full Meta Data Integration application.  Now, the power to control your integrations is available for everyone within the same Administrative application you are already familiar with. All changes made to the integrations are instantly available throughout the BI360 suite.  The customizations are self-contained so your changes are never affected by version upgrades.

Modifying your integration has never been easier.  You can pick your integration to edit Modules, Dimensions, and Factsets (Transaction tables). Change labels, hide fields, make joins from fact tables to custom fields as well as a host of other extremely powerful options to control what you see throughout the BI360 suite.

Design Your Own Drill-To Logic

With the new Drill-To feature, you have control to design drill-downs the way you like them.  You can define the transaction table to drill to, as well as the fields visible when drilling into the transactions.  The below screenshot is an example from the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 integration.

Planning Ribbon Update

Not only have we added many new features to Planning, but we also have also reorganized the Ribbon to improve the users experience when working within the BI360 Planning application.

Planning Assignments Redesign

The Planning Assignments menu has been updated and reorganized.  End users are presented with an updated Assignment experience organized by three categories of Assignments (Upcoming, Active, and Ended).  In addition Assignment Details, start and end dates, as well as other important status information is now clearly visible.

More Dimensions = More Freedom

In version 3.5 of the Data Warehouse, all predefined dimensions are now conforming.  This means that every dimension can be used in every fact table (Module).  So for instance, in the past, the built-in Employee dimension was only available within the Payroll module.  In order to see Employees across modules, you needed to create a user-defined dimension.  Now in v3.5, the Employee dimension can be added to all pre-defined and user defined modules.  Additionally, Administrators can add up to 40 user defined dimensions that can also be used across all modules.  Similar to v3.0, an unlimited number of attributes for both dimensions and fact tables is possible.  The beauty is that the changes are instantly visible across the entire BI360 suite.  The updated Module Schema menu (below) now makes it incredible easy to configure the warehouse structure, all in a user interface designed for the business power user.

Upgrade to BI360 Version 3.5 Today!

Read the v3.5 Release Notes to find out more about all the amazing new features and enhancements available today.