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A Simplified Approach to Powerful, Flexible Data Visualization

Written By: Lyndsay Wise
Published On: March 16 2007

Data visualization tools allow organizations to integrate various best-of-breed offerings to create customized business intelligence (BI), performance management, and analytics-based solutions. For organizations that cannot afford enterprise BI solutions, or that require a subset of functionality, data visualization allows them to use specific analytics on the back-end, and to couple it with customized scorecards, dashboards, heat graphs, etc. to present statistical and performance-based data visually. This visual data representation, if used properly, ties back to an organization's strategic initiatives through the use of metrics and other performance-based indicators to drive corporate performance.

Corda Technologies Inc., a Lindon, Utah (US)-based company, provides organizations with a simplified approach to dashboard design, and an easy way to develop front-end dashboards that link to source data. Corda's specialty in data visualization and performance dashboards evolved from the vendor's strength in providing software and developer tools used to build information portals. Capitalizing on its niche expertise, Corda developed CenterView, the company's enterprise dashboard product. Corda's additional offerings include data integration capabilities to link back-end, third-party offerings and Corda's front-end solutions.

Software Components

CenterView 2.0 executive dashboard leverages data from BI, enterprise resource planning (ERP), spreadsheets, and operational applications, and present that data in the form of executive dashboards and balanced scorecards to help organizations manage overall organizational performance initiatives. Key features of CenterView 2.0 include the ability to customize the design and layout of dashboards, the ability to define how key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards are presented in print, and a gallery tool that allows users to save and share their designs.

Corda's combination of dashboarding, data integration, and developer tools allows organizations to link back-end, analytic data to its dashboards without the need for third-party support. CenterView 2.0 is the executive dashboard and data visualization tool that works as the data presentation layer. Additionally, data integration capabilities leverage organizational data from multiple sources to feed data into CenterView so that organizations can use one product to develop their dashboards, instead of leveraging various vendors for data integration, management, etc. Finally, using development tools to design and build dashboards, scorecards, and other business-specific, custom visualizations within a server-based environment empowers users to grow their dashboard environments internally, to manage that process in the long term, and to control the data integration process.

Corda's data integration tool eliminates an organization's need for a third-party tool when implementing Corda's product offerings. Many data visualization vendors focus on front-end visualization tools to build dashboards and scorecards for its customers, whereas Corda takes its offerings one step further and coordinates the data capturing and consolidation as well. Included in CenterView 2.0 are data cleansing, mapping, and consolidation features to pool data from across the organization to feed information to CenterView.

Developer tools include the following:

  • CORDA PopChart—a server-based graphing product that can generate charts and graphs for any high-demand, Web-based application.

  • CORDA OptiMap—a server-based mapping solution that presents data in a dynamic, geographical format for display on any Web browser.

  • CORDA Highwire—a tool that delivers high-speed, server-based hypertext markup language (HTML)-to-PDF conversion for high-quality document creation and print output.

  • CORDA CenterView Builder—a graphical design tool used to build complete interfaces for Corda's CenterView 2.0.

  • CORDA Tools Builder—a graphical design tool used by developers to customize the look and feel of charts, graphs, and maps.

Product Strengths

Corda's core strengths are its products' ease of use and quick build and deployment times, and the service and support customers receive from the company, which all help to set this vendor apart from its competition. Additionally, the company's partner strategy offers software vendors the ability to integrate data visualization tools into their own products so that users have a single, integrated solution.

Corda's dashboards are easy to use. Unlike other BI-related products that require detailed user training, Corda's dashboards can be deployed throughout the organization without a concern for in-depth training due to the way users see the data. For example, data values become viewable as a user moves a mouse over the item he or she is interested in viewing. This allows users to drill through in order to complete additional analyses, or gives users an overview of multiple data sets without the need to view several screens.

Corda's partner strategy directly affects its solutions' implementation times. Because Corda's solutions can be integrated as front-end tools with those of their partner analytics vendors, organizations that implement dashboards as extensions of analytics vendors' products can implement dashboards in weeks, as opposed to months. Furthermore, organizations do not have to be concerned with integration at their end, since platform issues have already been dealt with at the vendor level. This is advantageous to organizations, because often implementations take longer than anticipated due to problems with integration. Additionally, organizations can take advantage of best-of-breed vendors and their key benefits and differentiators while still presenting a strong user interface. This can be readily seen by Corda's partnerships with data mining and predictive analytics vendors, giving users the ability to capitalize on both vendors' strengths within a single platform.

Product Challenges

Corda's key challenge stems from being a new entry in the data visualization market. Being a young company suggests it has areas that require growth in order to successfully compete in the market and to ensure long-term viability. In addition, future product and company viability, and user customization are areas of growth Corda needs to focus on.

Based on Corda's newness in the market, corporate viability is an issue. In an industry such as BI, certain vendors have emerged as market leaders, creating a difficult market for any new vendor to penetrate successfully. Corda's partnerships with analytics and data mining vendors give the company an advantage by merging its product with various vendor offerings. However, most of these partners integrate Corda's solutions into their own product offerings, creating a seamless integration without any name recognition for Corda. This means that although Corda's partner strategy works, it has a negative side in that the company's recognition has not extended as far as it could. What this comes down to is that many organizations could be using Corda products without knowing it. Instead of expanding its installed base, Corda may have to rely on the expansion of back-end products to fuel its sales strategy.

As long as Corda's partner strategy stays strong, its current users will not have to worry about this issue. Future customers should evaluate the company's current product offerings and compare them to other, more mature data visualization vendors to make sure Corda provides the appropriate features required. Otherwise, users may have to wait for the organization to grow in order to take advantage of new features and functionality needed to stay competitive within the market.

Corda's current development tools allow customers to develop dashboards. However, enhanced features should be transferred to the user community to allow for independent dashboard development within different business units. This includes the current software functionality for users not using the development tool when building their own dashboards, as well as the documentation available to the users themselves. Users should be able to enhance and change the features used and data analyzed based on changing needs within the organization. As an organization's environment matures, users' requirements grow and change. The ability to customize dashboards at the user level allows users to integrate dashboard use into their business processes, and to tailor their dashboard designs to changing departmental needs.

Recommendations

Corda's product offerings focus on data visualization and on providing organizations with the presentation layer of their business intelligence and performance management solutions. This includes the presentation of data mining, predictive analytics, and defined metrics to give users access to summarized results of required analyses. Additionally, with Corda's data integration and developer tools' functionality, data can be pulled and consolidated from multiple sources and platforms, and dashboards can be built to user specifications.

Organizations requiring analytics or the measurement of metrics to help develop successful organizational strategy, but that do not require a full BI platform, should consider Corda's solutions for their data visualization capabilities. Additionally, organizations using BI solutions that do not provide enhanced data visualization features should consider integration with Corda's solutions as front-end layers. Organizations that want to implement dashboards or scorecards to align their key metrics with their organizational strategies should look for solutions that provide analytics capabilities in addition to data visualization features. Data visualization vendors generally provide front-end graphics, but not the analytics layer.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is a research analyst for business intelligence (BI) and performance management. She has over seven years of IT experience in business systems analysis, software selection, and implementation of enterprise applications, globally. Wise has been featured in numerous publications covering topics such as BI, data integration, enterprise performance management (EPM), and customer data integration. In addition, she has written a number of articles covering major vendors in the BI industry. Wise can be reached at here.

 
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