Remote Scenarios with Xcelsius and SQL

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Over the years, I have seen a lot of different business requirements for Xceleius to writeback to a database. The most common is remote scenarios where dashboard end user can persist data to a database so it can be recalled at a later date. Recently for a customer project, my team had re-created the local scenario button user experience with remote storage on a MS SQL 2008 database.

Essentially, the custom Flex component transacts data to a simple .NET web service that triggers a stored procedure. I wanted to see who else has recently had requirements for Xcelsius remote scenarios to see if this is something we can provide to the marketplace. I am in the process of setting up the database on our web server so you can try it for yourself and provide feedback.

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12 Comments

  1. In my current project, the client wants this database writeback feature into Oracle. I was thinking of trying the Infosol XDM too for this.
    Like mentioned in the previous posts, i dont think a dashboard should provide DB writeback feature to users. But if that’s what our client wasnts, then it’s worth a go.

  2. I agree with Reid, that if you are willing to MacGyver around Xcelsius’ limitations, you can do a lot with Xcelsius. However it is equivalent to using a hammer to do tasks other than hammering a nail.

    Another issue that may arise would be political pushback from larger corporations who are not as willing to go with addons, custom web service development, and extra maintenance.

    Ryan do you have the remote scenario demo ready for testing? Using write back to a separate database can leverage other aspects such as user personalization as well. I’ve seen requests from multiple clients already that are interested in personalization and saving what-if scenarios.

    Thanks!

  3. I agree what Ryan said. It will be really helpful to do the What-If modelling and when the model becomes more complex to complex, this flex componenet will be of really help. By the way, when the demo will be available to the public?

  4. Thanks for the feedback.

    I agree that Xcelsius is not a great tool for write back because at that point you have moved from a presentation tool to a full blown application. The reality is Xcelsius’ rigid Excel design paradigm does not lend itself very well for application design though it is possible if you know what land mines to avoid or develop add-ons to fill in the gaps. This is where you may want to look at Adobe Flex rather than Xcelsius as the front-end tool.

    In our case for this remote scenario component, we created a new database specifically for saving and loading Xcelsius scenarios. The data we save and load to SQL is 100% independent from the original data warehouse where the pricing data originates. This remote scenario tool provides remote persistence for dashboard end users to save and manage scenarios that they create in the dashboard for later use. This feature extends an additional level of personalization. Most dashboards that only display output will never require this functionality, but the many customers who use Xcelsius for calculator or what-if modeling would need a reliable method for persisting or even sharing their work.

  5. I think its always good not to write data back through BI tools. BI tools are not made for this otherwise users of BI tools will start changing values if they dont like any… like slaes values 😉

  6. Excellent Idea!
    We are currently working on a Project Portfolio Dashboard where we had to create a an Admin page which will be used by the select few to assign projects to various Project Leaders. However, we had to say no because of the fact that we cannot write back to the database. Ultimately we ended up building a Silverlight Shell with an iFrame and integrated the Dashbaord SWF as one of the Tabs, looks uniform, however the Admin tab is Silverlight.

    I think it will be of great use if you are planning to develop full fledged BI apps with which the end user can not only consume, but also contribute to the BI initiative. With controlled input fields and a powerful write back logic, this will be a effective tool for a typical BI user.

  7. We’d be interested. We’ve had similiar queries and have looked at TAAWS to meet the requirement. But, BI is traditionally about extracting data, not pushing back data, so does that mean our industry is going to change again…

  8. I have used this write back idea many times in a very similar setting (Xcelsius to MS SQL 2005 using a custom webservice). We also created a database just to house the user write back, and use it to store variables for custom modeling, budgets, goals, to save user profiles, and pre-load user specific parameters. This was a HUGE request from our customers before we added it, and we get nothing but compliments on these features now that we have implemented them.

    As Ryan said, Xcelsius can be far more than just a presentation tool if you are willing to MacGyver around its limitations. I have used it to create full websites, complex interactive web applications, and simple reporting and analysis dashboards.

    I think lots of people would be interested to buy a component that would simplify this process by creating the custom web service for them so they can start running SQL stored procedures to get data, and to write data. It dramatically increases the possibilities beyond the BO Universe or static spreadsheet deployments.

  9. Hi Ryan,

    We have a requirement for users to be able to add comments on the dashboard by period and cost centre to explain variance to budget.

    Other managers could then access the dashboard and see the comments by cost centre and period.

    I’d like to try Take Action as a Web Service however we’re on BOE 3.1 SP3 and it only supports up to BOE 3.1 SP1.

    thanks

  10. Hi Ryan,

    We have been looking for this option, we have created a model, which was being worked on by different users and when they need to send it back to us, it is impossible. hence if you could help us with this option, we really would be very much pleased.

  11. Hi Ryan,

    I agree wholeheartedly with the comments that suggest that writeback should never be used to adjust data warehouse values but there is nothing wrong with supplementing your values with additional information.

    The two most common scenarios have already been discussed here, namely commentary and what-if scenario capabilities. I’d be interested in hearing if other applications are gaining as much traction.

    Personnally I think there’s a market for a good commentary capture and writeback application in its own right. If you look at the capabilities of YellowFin in this area, you can immediately see what people are looking for in commentary capture.

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