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Financial Reporting and Accounting Blog

Yes, the AS400 is a Great System. Still, Its Time has Passed for Our Clients

Adam Jacobson October 1,2015

So, my recent post on the AS400 provoked a number of comments and tweets. All of them saying I don't know what I'm talking about.  

While it's certainly true I don't always know what I'm talking about, I stand by my opinions. I addressed the feedback in a comment to the original post, but let me state them here as well. 

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Tags: AS400

Is it Hard to Access Data From the AS400?

Adam Jacobson August 31,2015

As you know, we do all our business intelligence development with Microsoft BI tools. But we access data from multiple systems, including the AS400. (We’re in the process migrating a customer's from AS400 data to Windows, but it’s not going to happen overnight.) It was a great machine for the time, but that time has passed. (See our post: 6 Keys to Moving from AS400 to Windows.) That said, I don’t think folks should be afraid of working with it.

This came to mind when I downloaded the white paper 4 Steps to Cost-Effective Mid-Market Supply Chain Business Intelligence (registration required). It’s a good piece—as it agrees with much of what I've written here. And the paper goes into detail on software selection, which is something we generally don’t do because we tend to use the Microsoft tools our clients already have.

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Tags: AS400

Accessing Data From AS400 Internally Described Files with SQL

Adam Jacobson August 27,2015

The AS400 gets a bad rap. It can be hard to get at its data. But generally, that's not its fault. For decades, the AS400 has come with its own database that works just like any other SQL database. If your programming staff updated their skills sometime over the past 25 years and use the database properly, you should have no more difficulty getting your data from the AS400 as from any Access or SQL server.

But, if you have old code, old programming methods or both, AS400 can be a real challenge. Depending on the age of your system, you may have a lot or a little data stored in "internally described files" as opposed to database tables. And if you have limited AS400 knowledge, this is a problem.

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Tags: Financial Reporting Software AS400

4 Problems With Using Multiple Business Intelligence Products

Adam Jacobson August 26,2015

I recently read a good post by Liam Gooding on 5 Steps to Becoming a Data Driven Organisation. It's worth a read, especially to see him perform a no-holds-barred take down of his prospect (a self-declared data driven evangelist). People think I’m direct. I’ve got nothing on this guy!

But seriously, Gooding does make a good point about the difference between BEING data driven and SAYING your data driven. It's much easier to say it than do it.

At the same time, from my perspective, you have to keep in mind the difference between Gooding's startup/technology customers and our mid-market manufacturing/distribution clients. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’re helping our clients figure out how to make money and handle their complex accounting challenges. Generally, becoming truly data driven isn't within our mandate.

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Tags: Business Intelligence

5 Big Business Intelligence Problems: Is Your BI Project Doomed to Fail?

Adam Jacobson August 24,2015

As business intelligence consultants, we want our projects to succeed. After all, successful projects are profitable projects with happy customers. When we start a BI project with a new customer, we can never be 100 percent certain it will succeed. But, over the years, we've identified five indicators that a business intelligence project will fail. Here they are:

1. You Don’t Have a Strategic Reason for Doing the BI Project 

Let's talk about what I mean by "strategic reason." A strategic reason isn't what you wrote on a form to get management approval. It’s not something where you calculated (to four decimal points) that Project X will save Dollars Y and therefore provide Payback Z over many months. A strategic reason isn't that your project will make life easier for a few folks in the back office.

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Tags: Business Intelligence

How Much Does Business Intelligence Cost?

Adam Jacobson July 30,2015

As a small business owner, I know the importance of understanding costs before starting projects. For example, you may have the best marketing system since sliced bread, but I’m still not going to spend $15K in one go. The risk is too high.

My clients, on the other hand, are all much larger than my company. They generally range between $50 million and $500 million in revenue. (Although we’ve done a lot of departmental level work for multi-billion dollar companies—and their finance folks.) But even they want to know what a business intelligence project is going to cost before they invest. (Finance executives tend to be risk averse. They hope for a return, but mostly they want to know the size of the hit if it doesn’t work out).

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Tags: Business Intelligence Costs

How Much Does a Data Mart Cost?

Adam Jacobson July 28,2015

You’ve undoubtedly heard of data marts and data warehouses. And perhaps you’ve wondered about building one or both for your own company. But you haven’t looked into it yet because you have no idea how much they would cost.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a project we recently completed for a client, where we built a simple data mart. At the end, I’ll include estimates of what you could expect to pay for a similar data mart project.

Data Mart vs. Data Warehouse

Before we start, let’s clarify the difference between a data mart and a data warehouse:

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Tags: Data Mart Infor SunSystems

Calculating Business Intelligence ROI: Four Examples

Adam Jacobson July 7,2015

Research the topic of business intelligence ROI, and you’ll find a huge range of estimates. Some promise a whopping 1300-percent return (!), while others vaguely promise “soft benefits,” which means they have no idea.

We can only speak to the issue based on our experience as a small firm of business intelligence consultants. The cost side is fairly straightforward to calculate, and we’re working on a series of posts on how much everything we do costs. (If you’re interested, sign up for the newsletter (see the box to the right), and we’ll keep you posted.)  

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Tags: Business Intelligence ROI

More Financial Data Visualization Options

Adam Jacobson June 29,2015

After reading our latest posts on data visualization, Russ Davidson from www.findaccountingsoftware.com pointed me to a post on various kinds of visualizations by Adam Bluemner, 7 Alternatives to the Bar Graph and When to Use Them in BI Reporting, and asked for my comments. 

Bluemner gives a good overview. Indeed, I’m probably the audience for the post as I probably use bar charts and line charts excessively. That’s not necessarily bad—my customers are financial folks after all. Many are just getting started with visualization so it’s best to keep things simple.

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Tags: Data Visualization

Financial Data Visualization Key #3—Argue Against Yourself

Adam Jacobson June 24,2015

Having read so far in this series on financial data visualization, you’ve learned not to put too much data into your charts and to beware of false variances. So, you may have created some good data visualizations and hopefully sparked the interest of your users. They may even have started asking questions. But our job as business intelligence consultants isn’t done. Indeed, just when you think you’ve spotted a meaningful trend, you need to push further and ask—is this really as meaningful as it seems?

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Tags: Data Visualization

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