The building block of every IT system is ‘data’. Optimal and secured storage of data has always been the key concern for any organisation. The volume of data is growing every minute and it is a difficult task to manage it. This immeasurable digital data is named as big data.
The Internet, by reaching out to each and every computing platform has led to an outburst of information, thereby making big data too big to be handled. A scenario where the data grows beyond the reach of the present management techniques, will lead to total chaos.
Some of the challenges faced with big data are:
- Managing data appropriately is a challenge for any organisation. The optimal use of data in an organised way is a priority task.
- Accessibility and connectivity of huge data are a hurdle. Data points are not integrated and there is no precise platform to manage data between various projects.
- The ever-growing data volume demands a larger technological landscape.
- Security of big data is another important aspect that is of concern to companies.
The following chart explains the growth of big data in the recent years:
Fig 1. Graphical Representation of Rise of Big data
Business Intelligence – A Resourceful Solution for big data:
Business Intelligence (BI) provides a solution to big data in the form of data analysis process. BI includes a variety of tools, applications and methodologies that streamline management of huge data.
This system incorporates technologies that provide a correct decision making platform for the organisations.
Some of the important advantages of Business Intelligence solutions are:
- BI simplifies the process of data management, by collecting data from various sources and organising it, to create reports and for other data analysis requirements.
- BI accelerates the decision making process, thus enabling us to increase the productivity of internal business processes, enhancing efficiency and directing the flow of revenue.
- The simplicity of operation allows BI tools to be accessed by anyone from an IT professional to a business executive.
- BI provides data visualisation in the form of charts and other graphical methods.
- It simplifies advance data analysis functions like data mining, text mining, statistical analysis and predictive analysis.
Microsoft, the Leader in BI Solutions
A Business Intelligence Solution can be leveraged to its fullest, when it is able to collect data from all possible data points.
To be more specific, the solution should be able to provide all users with the required data, anytime. Microsoft has achieved this apical level by utilising the functionalities of various in-house tools.
Exhibiting exceptional competence, Microsoft has emerged as a leading name in the Business Intelligence Solutions segment.
The various formats of Business Intelligence Solutions from Microsoft are more than capable of meeting the growing expectations of the users.
The aspects that make Microsoft the leader are explained below:
Microsoft BI Development
There are various BI technologies provided by the Microsoft BI Development team. The customer can use them independently or utilise a suite of applications. This completely depends on the customer’s requirement.
A good example is Power BI for Office 365. Microsoft allows customers to build a BI system on applications like SQL Server, Sharepoint and Excel.
The complete assembly is called Power BI for Office 365. The result of grouping powerful tools has brought about a revolutionary change in managing Big data.
The various Microsoft BI technologies are:
- MS SQL Server
- Power BI for office
- MS Power View
- MS SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services)
- MS SQL Server Analysis Services
- MS Excel and Excel Services
- MS SharePoint
- MS Power BI
- MS Power Query
- MS SQL Server Data Tools
- MS SQL Server Integration Services
- MS SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel
- MS PerformancePoint Services
Microsoft BI Stack
Microsoft BI Development has designed various BI tools and applications which the consumer can select from. The requirements of the customer are matched with a specific software tool.
Based on the requirements, Microsoft Business Intelligence can be classified into three categories vis. personal, team and organisational. All these types are interdependent and any change in one aspect can affect the other two.
As an example, an application like Performance Point server uses MS Excel, Office Sharepoint server and Excel services to complement its BI requirement. Every corporate BI system thus has dependable personal and team BI systems.
It is basically related to fetching of data for individual use. Personal BI is independent and is not always connected to databases. The most commonly used personal BI is MS Excel.
Team BI is for a group of individuals working as a team. The system focuses on improving coordination and transfer of data amongst the team members. This helps in acceleration of the decision making process. The most well-known Team BI tool is Office SharePoint Server and Excel Services.
Corporate BI constitutes the Business Intelligence requirements at the organisational level.
It is a collection of tools to support coordination and promote goal congruence. It provides streamlined synchronisation of data and showcases individual efforts in the form of scorecards and strategy maps. The most commonly used Corporate BI is PerformancePoint Server 2007.
The graphical representation of the various levels of Microsoft BI solutions include:
Fig 2. Graphical Representation of Various BI Frameworks
The Business Intelligence Solution has two types of containers vis. the On-premises containers and Cloud containers.
On-premises containers are BI solutions that are implemented in a local setup. Examples of On-premises containers include MS office tools, Share point applications and SQL server.
The Cloud containers deal with the Internet and portable applications. Examples of Cloud containers are Excel Service Power BI and Asure IAAS solutions.
The Microsoft BI Ecosystem
The Microsoft BI Ecosystem is the environment created using various BI tools. The ecosystem supports the ever-changing needs of users
The various important aspects of Microsoft BI Ecosystem include:
This the most widely used feature of the Microsoft BI Ecosystem. The strength lies in its ability to reach every user.
A complete self-service BI solution is delivered through Excel and Office 365. This tool facilitates fast data search, analysis and visualisation. It helps the user in getting valuable insights from the data.
The Power BI for Office 365 allows an even more advanced level of data management. It allows easy sharing, access and integration of data using the cloud technology.
Dashboard and Reports:
Reports are one of the most important features of data analysis. The BI tool, SharePoint server provides a convenient platform for report generation and dashboard management.
Filtering of search attributes, interactive analysis and visualisation are the key features of these Microsoft BI solutions.
Analysis of data from various perspectives is another key feature of any important decision process. The Microsoft BI solution i.e. the SQL Server Analysis Services platform supports multi-dimensional analysis of data.
This feature can be used for visualisation, reporting and data analysis. It supports solution prototyping at the enterprise level.
Microsoft BI Ecosystem allows gathering of data from various sources including historical data. The data analysis is even more precise when a detailed gathering of data i.e. data mining is done.
This helps in projecting a concept more assertively. Some examples of predictive analysis can be the Data Mining Add-ins in Excel or SQL Server Development tools.
Bigger the Data, Sturdy is the Microsoft Solution
The various challenges that IT organisations faced earlier, while dealing with huge data, has found an optimal solution in form of Microsoft Business Intelligence Solutions.
The vast array of BI tools allow the users to customise the solutions as per their requirements. The previously forecasted scenario of unmanageable data at the local and cloud level can be precisely managed by Microsoft BI solution.
Being the pioneers in providing various IT solutions, Microsoft has also stood strong to lead its way towards Business Intelligence Solutions.
So when do you plan to embrace BI? Do you have any points to share? Please feel free to share your opinions below and thanks for reading!
Choosing the right content management system for your project depends on the amount of people working on your site, the size of your site and how frequently you will have to access it. There are, of course, many different options available, and in this blog post we are going to look at two different platforms to consider, Drupal and SharePoint. We will weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each CMS, and look at ways you may be able to use them to get the best out of your website.
What is a CMS?
Firstly, we’ll get back to basics and answer a simple question – what exactly is a content management system?
Essentially a content management system (CMS) allows the user to have full control over the addition of content, editing and organisation of their website through a conventional web browser. Without having to delve into code, a CMS can be entirely customisable and adapted to suit an individual or a business’ needs.
Drupal vs. Sharepoint
Before we look too deeply into a comparison between the two management systems, it would be a good idea to revisit exactly what each system offers its customers.
Released in 2001, Drupal is today considered to be one of the leading content management systems for businesses around the world. Released as an open source project, the software is available for free and comes with an unlimited licence for customisation and re-distribution. This is part of Drupal’s appeal – the ‘building blocks’ approach allows users to have flexibility when it comes to their site.
Microsoft Sharepoint comes from a slightly different perspective. Originally produced and developed as a document management system, it has seen numerous development cycles and iterations to make it into the product it is today. There are many different SharePoint products available from Microsoft to enhance the content management of your website – and much of it is based around the cloud and access of a wide range of information from a wide range of devices.
How popular are Drupal and SharePoint as CMS platforms?
The graph below indicates how successful more recent iterations of Drupal have been. Of all sites running Drupal, Version 7 has 69% of the share – with sites such as Twitter and Weather.com being notable examples that highlight the scalability and size of Drupal’s strengths.
The matrix shown underneath from w3techs.com highlights the market position of Drupal and SharePoint as a CMS – showing that both are preferred by many high traffic sites, even though widespread adoption has not yet occurred to the extent seen by Joomla or WordPress.
Benefits of Drupal
As well as the flexibility and ‘building blocks’ approach mentioned earlier, there are many other benefits to using Drupal for your website
- Wide graphic design capability and possibilities – including responsive design
- Unlimited amount of customisation between the front and back end of your site. The administrator portions of the site can be fully altered to suit your needs
- No limits in terms of scalability
- Intuitive content structure, minimizing the learning curve for new administrators
Benefits of SharePoint
SharePoint is an excellent way to store, share and manage a large amount of documents. It is mainly used for Intranet services and eCMS solutions.
- Flexible and customisable document management
- Cloud services
- Top-down collaboration for large amounts of content
- Best used when treated as a database rather than a ‘one size fits all’ CMS solution.
It has been argued by many developers that using Drupal and SharePoint combined will yield the best results from a CMS system – although of course as with any content management system carefully consideration will be needed to ensure you are getting the best from any platform you decide to use.
In many cases should you wish to use SharePoint exclusively as content management system for your website, significant workarounds and add ons will have to be installed. Where is does excel however is in document management and collaboration – you can easily keep track of who is creating and sharing what within your system, and it is therefore highly useful to internal systems, such as the Intranet within organisations, for example.
Choosing the right CMS can determine to a large extent how you wish to use your site, and how you wish your site to be grown and scaled in the future. Both SharePoint and Drupal have enormous benefits to the users in terms of content management – and Drupal in particular has many customisable options to benefit your site as it grows. If, however, you are looking for a CMS that provides first-class document management, for instance if you are building an Intranet site, then SharePoint is becoming an increasingly obvious choice.
If you need any help choosing your CMS, expert web developers and content management experts can point you in the right direction and in the long run save you time, money and energy migrating. If you make the right decision from stage 1, you are likely to have an excellent and long-term relationship with your CMS.
Intranet portals have been in existence for several years in many organisations, institutions, schools etc. Businesses have realised the benefits, an intranet site offers, to the thousands of employees connected to it, as well as to the company, in general.
Intranet enable the employees get password-based access to a centralised corporate database on the company’s LAN (Local Area Network). These intranet sites have proved themselves useful from the standpoint of easy navigation to the company’s employee contacts list, time tracking applications, company event details, messages from the CEO or from the top management etc.
A major advantage of the company intranet portals has been the use of web-based applications, which have allowed the companies to avoid investing in software licenses for individual employee desktops / laptops.
All employee records are maintained on the intranet for restricted access by the HR team and the employees themselves.
The ticket-based employee service app or portal is one of the common apps in a company’s intranet that enables employees to receive immediate help, with regards to any issues, with their computer hardware, IDcard, project IDgeneration, new software installation, international or domestic travel, etc.
Intranet forums or communities help employees get in touch with each other socially and understand what’s happening across various departments of the organisation.
Having dealt with many innovative intranet product enhancements, it is of paramount importance for us to keep coming up with new ideasto revamp / modernise the existing intranet system in organisations.
Reasons to Revamp Intranet Portals
If you think there is no need of revamping your existing Intranet portals, these reasons will make you think otherwise.
- Although the investment for intranet portals is restricted only to the web server on which it is hosted, it is still possible to reduce costs further and leverage more benefits out of cloud infrastructure services such as Salesforce, Amazon, Azure etc.
- Instead of simple social intranet forums or communities, a comprehensive social networking platform with 24×7 access is required for businesses.
This is because, apart from helping employees stay in touch and know about various events and happenings quickly across the business line, the social intranet apps can go a long way in assisting the HR or the resource team. It helps find the right internal candidates for various short-term and long-term projects, within a short span of time.
- With the rising trend of mobile websites, it is now imperative for companies to extend mobility to their intranet websites as well.
Tips to Modernise Intranet and Social Apps
Let’s check out some innovative ways to modernise a company’s intranet applications.
Increasing the Social Quotient
Enterprise apps, like Yammer, help employees stay connected and share critical information in various modes across geographical boundaries.
It is necessary to spice up the existing corporate social networking apps as the world thrives on social networking outside the corporate arena.
With this provision available within the organisation, the employees will be motivated more than ever before and this will help improve the overall business productivity.
Your company’s intranet might be accessible from mobile devices to the few employees at top-level positions.
But it is necessary to have this intranet mobility for each and every employee in the organisation.
If employees can raise travel requests, fill time cards for weekly effort tracking, book meeting / conference rooms, check the monthly training calendar and send nominations for training programs etc. on the move, it will allow your company to save precious working time.
Online Forms for Better Feedback
One of the major contributions to your company’s improvement and progress often comes from employee feedback. It is necessary to tap useful statistics from employee feedback and opinions, not just annually, but even more frequently.
This can be easily done through feedback or survey forms created using a good e-form builder app for the intranet. You can seek employee opinions for any new business services, new office locations, event ideas, and training programs to name a few.
Conditional Triggers and Intelligent Workflows for Automation
When it comes to managers and the HR department of a company, a major part of working time is spent on approving requests, providing permissions, checking feedback from project teams and more.
When the employees fill any of the online forms, conditional triggers and intelligent workflows for seeking permissions, triggering notifications etc. prove useful.
This helps automate the entire form-filling process for various employee-based activities in an organisation.
Enhancements to Employee Directory
Probably the first thing that comes to your mind when someone asks you to define intranet is access to the employee directory.
Instead of having traditional data such as employee name, address, telephone number, email id, project, and service line mentioned in the directory, you can focus on offering much more through this database.
Some useful tips to enhance the employee directory are listed below:
- By sharing their vehicle numbers along with their starting points, employees can co-ordinate for car pooling and make their daily commute hassle-free.
- Similarly, allowing employees to maintain their social network IDs (for Facebook, Twitter etc.) in the directory will enable them to quickly connect outside the office as well.
- Accommodation information can be maintained for employees willing to share rented flats with their colleagues.
The purpose behind sharing the tips for a modernised intranet is to help realise that, as much as the technologies, products and services offered by a company need to be frequently upgraded, it is imperative to keep upgrading the intranet system as well, to keep up with the needs of the hour.
It is a lifeline for the employees within your organisation and if they are happy, content and connected, your business is bound to grow in your desired direction.
So what do you think about modernising your intranet? Have you planned to do it soon? Please share your comments below. Thanks for reading!
PHP open source and ASP.NET have been major contributors to web development for many years now and continue to be used for their flexibility and other strengths in the programming arena.
In our experience as knowledgeable website development agency, we are often asked by clients whether we feel they should move forward with an ASP.NET or a PHP based solution for their project.
ASP.NET was designed as an enterprise wide solution platform
In response to this question there are a few points that we like to make clear to clients who ask for our opinion. But before we get started in our exploration of these two powerful platforms, it’s important to understand that PHP was originally built as a platform for building Personal Home Pages.
PHP was designed to be a web language, more than an enterprise wide solution platform. ASP.NET was designed as a platform for enterprise wide solutions and therefore was built for scalability and to be robust.
One is open source and the other is from Microsoft
First of all we mention the fact that ASP.NET is produced by Microsoft and PHP is an open source product. Quite often the client hasn’t got a lot to say about that. After all, it’s not really as important as what the difference are between them when it comes to areas such as:
- Whether it’s possible to extend
- Average development time
PHP is available as an open source product and therefore does not come with the background support that ASP.NET is provided with. The latter not only has Microsoft user support available with it, but also potentially a more structured developer culture that we can expect so see associated with MS products.
Regarding the first three points. They are actually remarkably similar in performance of them. Similar results are possible with either platform. Good security is down to the work of the programmer, they need to ensure that the application is secured well and safe.
The big differences between ASP.NET and PHP
The big differences lie more within these areas:
Microsoft ASP.NET is equipped with just several frameworks just as PHP open source is. The big difference lie in the requirement in question. On a case to case basis, we feel, one framework is better suited to a project than the other. We have the experience to be able to advise on this
Scalability works better in ASP.NET in our experience with smaller projects working better in PHP. In fact PHP is good for start-up solutions whereas ASP.NET has industrial strength with many different features. If you’re looking for flexibility and scalability then go with ASP.NET.
With regards to average development time, it is sometimes more advantageous to use PHP. Very small projects can often be created faster on this platform as it’s easier to find web hosts and development machines are so very easy to set up.
Which programming knowledge does a company have access to?
One of our main considerations is whether a client wants to work with one type of technology stack vs another. They may have already invested in in-house programmers who have more knowledge and experience of one over the other.
In some cases, our clients prefer the stability that going with Microsoft offers. They will be able to gain support, look forward to upgrades and more if they go with ASP.NET. Some clients will prefer the idea of a product that is open source.
Our clients may well have Linux servers already set up what they want to use to their full capacity. Of course, open source comes with little overheads in terms of cost due to it being free.
However, if our clients don’t know which they prefer, or come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter, then we will choose for them based on what we feel they will gain the most overall value from. We may even look forward to what else they may need in the future, and make the decision based on what makes sense.
A couple of our developers even have the viewpoint that it’s not so much a matter of ASP.NET vs PHP as more a case of PHP vs C# when it comes to programming. Now that C# has had optional parameters added in its version 4.0, then the advantage that PHP had over it is now defunct. It’s possible to perform dynamically typed variables, which of course keeps the abilities of the language very flexible.
What about cost?
When it comes to cost, we feel that PHP is first over the line. Although it’s possible to run ASP.NET on Mono on a Linux server, it will not be without issues. However, Webforms (one of the frameworks of ASP.NET) can be run on SQL Compact and SQL Server. Although we do sometimes use Webforms, we find that there is more control using ASP.NET.
In our opinion PHP is perfect for starter solutions, but if you are representing a large enterprise and are looking for a solution that is robust and capable to being scalable then we would recommend ASP.NET to you. We are fans of both as they both have their virtues. However, we would guide you based on what the future is for your project.
Which one do you prefer and why?
It is no secret that the online space is competitive and changes quickly. With customers in nearly three dozen different countries, nobody knows that better than our talented team of web designers.
Whether your focus is on UX or UI, the end goal of designing any online platform is to attract more users, keep those users on your platform longer, and motivate them to take meaningful action.
If you want to remain competitive, have a look at this list of 10 of the biggest web design trends you can expect to see in 2015.
1. Large Background Images
Full-width background images and videos have emerged recently, and their popularity does not show any signs of slowing. Paired with large, bold, and rich typography and parallax effects, these background images create a visually impressive experience.
2. Responsive Designs
Responsive design most certainly is not a new trend. In fact, designing websites to load beautifully on devices of every size has been happening for several years now.
What you can expect to see are new iterations of responsive designs, with a mobile-first approach to all web layouts. It is important for branding purposes for any web-based platform to provide a consistent experience regardless of device type.
3. Vibrant Colors
Colors that make a bold, vibrant and often unexpected statement are rising in popularity. This is especially true when contrasted against muted background colors.
This type of bright color usage is very effective when combined with significant transitions, animations, and large typography.
4. SVG Elements
Scalable vector graphics, often shorted to SVG, allow images to look sharp on any screen size. They can be easily animated and go a long way to reducing overall load time.
The prevalence of SVG usage will rise heavily in 2015.
5. Interactive Elements
Studies repeatedly show that users who enjoy an engaging and interactive online experience are more likely to emotionally identify with a brand.
Most importantly, users who are able to create a memorable experience online tend to spend a longer time on your website.
You can expect to see an increased level of interactivity between users and websites this year.
6. Large Typography
We have already alluded to this point, but the trend continues that large and bold fonts are being favored in all areas of web design – not just when used as headlines.
This means the emphasis is now on saying more with less, and improved readability.
7. Ghost Buttons
In case you are not familiar, a ghost button is similar to a standard button on a website – except it is completely transparent. Ghost buttons are often implemented with hover animations, and look excellent when contrasted against a full-width background image.
Although this could be considered a fairly small trend, the use of ghost buttons is increasing and we will definitely see more of them in 2015.
8. Plenty of Scrolling
Largely due to the prevalence of mobile web browsing, scrolling will be favored this year over clicking. This is the main reason that one-page web designs were first introduced. In most cases, users would prefer to scroll the length of one longer page than navigate to multiple different pages.
Another scrolling trend will be the use of horizontal scrolling functionality. This allows all the website content to appear above the fold in a slideshow format instead of navigating to additional pages.
Both executed as mixture of branding and user engagement, storytelling is now a prominent aspect of many popular web designs.
Storytelling focuses on a minimalist web design, such that each carefully placed element serves a purpose in directing the user to what he or she should be doing next.
10. Remove Distractions
As touched upon in the previous point, minimalist web designs are favored over cluttered content with multiple calls to action – aka distractions.
Everything that is non-essential will be removed in 2015.
This may include removing large headers, unnecessary navigational menus, multiple images, sidebars, and more. In most cases, it also means sticking to a fairly simple color scheme.
While this list certainly represents some significant trends to keep an eye on, it is not exhaustive.
The online world changes every day, and we want to hear your input.
Did we miss a web design trend you think is worth noting?
Let us know with a comment below.
Everyone seems to be excited and talking about Agile product development these days. Let’s see why.
Getting a product to market is more challenging and competitive than ever before. Adaptability is crucial, and many traditional product development methods overlook the importance of that flexibility.
It’s not that traditional development methods are inherently bad – they simply lack in the necessary flexibility to be effective. The primary objectives of product development are to reduce time to market, increase product quality, and save money, all while delivering a product that exceeds client expectations.
To begin this guide, let’s review the Waterfall model, a more traditional approach to product development that you may already be familiar with.
The Waterfall Development Model
If you can imagine progress flowing from top to bottom in a cascading fashion, you will begin to get a sense of the allegorical origins of the ‘Waterfall’ method.
First used in the manufacturing and construction industries, the Waterfall model follows a sequential design process. In other words, each of its seven phases of development must be satisfied in order to move on to the next. If an error occurs in a later phase, the Waterfall model necessitates returning to an earlier phase in the sequence.
In essence, this results in having to retrace a number of steps in between. Needless to say, a mistake in a later phase can be both expensive and time-consuming.
To put it simply, a model that relies upon moving through only one of seven sequential phases at a time will be slow, tedious, and without flexibility.
Thankfully, the Agile product development methodology has demonstrated the ability to overcome these limitations.
What Is Agile Product Development?
The Agile model calls for a team-based approach to problem solving and product development. As opposed to Waterfall, which takes a sequential approach to task completion, Agile boxes development into phases called ‘sprints.’
Product development using Agile development methodology keeps priorities focused based on their perceived value to the client. As work is completed, conclusions are drawn to considering the timing and planning for upcoming sprints.
The bottom line is that continual input from the client is a necessary component to the Agile model.
Types of Agile Product Development
The Agile product development methodology, as flexible as it is, is often known to take on one of the following variations:
- Extreme Programming (XP): Ideal for software development projects, this variation incorporates many real world applications observed by developers.
- Dynamic System Development Model (DSDM): This variation incorporates the concepts of iteration, incremental delivery, and customer collaboration.
- Scrum: A variation that concentrates on taking an iterative and incremental approach to managing tasks within a team-based environment.
- Lean Development (LD): This variation is best known for creating a smooth workflow, a mentality of ownership, elimination of unnecessary waste, and a demand for high skill levels.
Certainly there are numerous variations to the Agile model, but Scrum is the most widely adopted Agile methodology for its proven effectiveness in development projects.
Process for Agile Product Development
Regardless of the variation on the model itself, the phases – or sprints – of product development using Agile methodology are fundamentally similar to Waterfall:
The main difference, as outlined above, is that input is required from the client upon completion of each phase. This generally results in a more transparent approach to completing the job, early delivery, predictable costs, a more engaging end-user experience, and ultimately more flexibility with respect to unforeseen changes.
Agile Product Development Methodology Is Ideal
A lack of speed and flexibility tend to be the downfall of onshore and offshore product development alike, most often the result of using outdated product development models.
While Waterfall may follow a predictable and routine series of phases, it often overlooks the small yet crucial details necessary in the early phases of the project. It also overemphasizes the end goal, without the due respect and attention the in between steps deserve.
On the other hand, product development using Agile methodology keeps the focus on project quality, customer requirements, and carefully prioritized work phases, or sprints.
Consider using Agile product development methodology for your next major project – the flexibility and team-oriented collaboration will add immeasurable value to the final product.