Latest Entries »

Ridgian are thrilled to be selected as one of just a handful of Microsoft UK BI partners to present at the “Accelerate your insights event on the 1st May, 2014 and Microsoft UK Headquarters, Thames Valley Park.

2014 has seen the launch of some exiting new technologies from Microsoft such as SQL 2014 and Power BI for Office 365, taking innovation to the next level and proving why Microsoft are a global leader in the field of BI Platform.

Microsoft are inviting their customers to join their key BI partners and industry specialists for a day of presentations and workshops, covering areas such as the in-memory features of Microsoft SQL Server 2014, Power BI for Office 365, SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse and Windows Azure HD Insight.

Ridgian’s Senior Consultant, Steve Lynn will be presenting and providing delegates with a deeper understanding of Power BI for Office 365 and how self service BI enables business users to discover, visualise, interpret and collaborate on a wide range of data.

Delegates will no doubt take away a deep understanding of the impressive innovations Microsoft are delivering, allowing businesses to empower users with the tools they need to quickly uncover business insights and make smarter business decisions.

For more information on the event please get in touch http://www.ridgian.co.uk/contact

Ridgian’s BI Team’s March article has been written by Jon Lunn, Senior BI Consultant who investigates the way in which the global generation of data has increased of recent years as a result of innovate technologies and how even household gadgets now have the potential to produce large amounts of data. Moreover, Jon reflects on how this will impact upon the application of Business Intelligence.

Things tend to have many names, my name is Jon, my wife calls me a nickname I’m too embarrassed to share, my daughter will call me dada, daddy, dad. Another assigned with many names is the Internet or the World Wide Web, Information Super Highway, Interweb, Online, Dial-up, Narrowband, Broadband, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Internet of Things and onwards.

I’m going to take a guess that this year – 2014 – there will be more discussion on the concept of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). It seems to be gathering pace, but as with most early concepts people seem to be talking about it, but we’re not sure of what it actually is, or how it will benefit individuals, companies, consumers and producers.

What is the IoT? In fairly basic terms, connecting everything to be a data gathering and information producing device. But for what ends, would you get a friend request from a bridge that you use regularly?

Kevin Aston’s paper on the subject http://kevinjashton.com/ provides one of the best definitions of IoT I’ve came across;

“To track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”

I’m going to assume this may cause some issues due to the volume of items that may need to connect to the internet. Using the example of my own house, I have a total of 9 connected items:

• 1 Desktop PC
• 1 Laptop
• 1 IPad
• 2 Smartphones
• Wi-Fi enabled TV
• Wi-Fi enabled Blue Ray player
• 2 Raspberry Pi’s

With the some of the concepts of the IoT, I may in the future add a further 28 items
• 1 fridge
• 1 cooker
• 1 washing machine
• 1 tumble dryer
• 1 Electric Smart Meter
• 1 Gas Smart Meter
• 20 light bulbs
• 2 Cars

Giving a total of 37 data gathering/information producing items in my home. You may see that most of the new items are light bulbs. If you haven’t already seen it check out the LIFX light bulb, Wi-Fi enabled, with LED’s as illumination, you also get a phone app, so you can choose the output colour to fit your room design, colour scheme and even your mood with a twist of a virtual dial. At the moment they are about £20 per bulb, but as the economies of scale kick in they will drop in price to something reasonable.

Why have a Wi-Fi light blub? Image your connected oven, sending a signal to the lights in your house, which then detect which room you are in, and change colour to let you know the chicken is ready. You only cooked the chicken as your fridge indicated that it was nearly at its use by date, and suggested a recipe based on the ingredients in your fridge and cupboards. By the way your online shopping has been updated with recommendations that those items that have been used need replacing.

The amount of data that the IoT will produce will be staggering in terms of the current data flow and the historic data, which will be used to drive analysis of patterns to improve efficiency. However at some point the machines will take over, not in a Terminator style nuclear Armageddon (fingers crossed!), but in the day to day of running things. For example, network connected traffic lights, cameras and self-drive cars. It will automatically determine traffic volumes and route traffic more effectively and efficiency than humans ever could. We will even see the start of ‘Emergent Behaviour’, patterns arising out of complex systems. Engineers at one major Cloud based technology company, already see this in there autonomous server load balancer, which covers their data centres across the world, and controls many thousands of servers. In one recent article they admitted even they are not quite sure why it makes some decisions to do things, it just works nicely, which is the aim of many a developer, myself included.

However there is a danger as recent news reports have noted that smart TVs, and even a smart refrigerator have been use to create e-mail spam, as vendors have pushed out smart appliances without attempts to make them secure. So broad up take of the IoT will have to be measured in the terms of data volume, connections and security.

Whatever the ‘Internet of Things’ becomes, one thing is fairly certain that volumes of data will increase and the human capacity to store and understand such volumes will be increasingly stretched. So timely, accurate, smart intelligence and business intelligence will be further demanded.

We were thrilled to be asked to support Ricoh at the MobileGov event in London earlier this month.

The MobileGov event is an annual conference for Industry Specialists to discover and discuss new innovations in driving forward mobility across Government, examples of good practice, tools and experience to provide support and guidance for those initiating and implementing mobile working programmes.

With tablet sales expected to surpass PC sales by 2015, it is clear that the era of mobile working is now well established. The emergence of sophisticated tablet devices, smartphones and faster mobile internet connections have empowered the mobile worker. This is certainly true of the public sector, who need to turn to innovative technologies to implement efficiencies in order to ensure that in times of austerity, service levels still remain high. As Information Management experts, we have developed a number of business applications designed to accelerate mobile working and extend our Public Sector Information Management solutions out across devices. Ridgian’s Business applications put tools in the hands of employees to allow them quickly surface critical business information whether they are working on a desktop, tablet or mobile device. For example, we have developed a concept for delivery of our Troubled Families Dashboards to tablet devices via Window’s 8- an invaluable enhancement to the solution. We were delighted to have the opportunity to showcase our solutions to such a varied Government audience and received an overwhelming response from delegates visiting us on our stand.

Moreover, the event served as the perfect opportunity to promote our much-valued Partnership with Ricoh, who we have been working very closely with in recent months to develop a Public Sector strategy. Ridgian and Ricoh work together to drive the future of information management by empowering customers with applications and data on their terms irrespective of location and form factor. Ridgian compliments Ricoh’s long term strategic customer engagements by leveraging Microsoft technology to innovate and support the move to a digital, and always on world.

Ricoh were demonstrating some really impressive technology on the day, such as their 360 degree mobile camera, Theta.

We look forward to collaborating with Ricoh again during the coming months, we will keep the website posted of future events and initiatives so watch this space.

Ridgian are delighted to announce that our first Windows 8 App, ‘ProjectView’ is now live on the Windows Store.

With tablet sales expected to surpass PC sales by 2015, it is clear that the era of mobile working is now well established. The emergence of sophisticated tablet devices, smartphones and faster mobile internet connections have empowered the mobile worker. As Information Management experts, we have developed a number of business applications designed to accelerate mobile working and extend our Information Management solutions out across devices. Ridgian’s Business applications put tools in the hands of employees to allow them quickly surface critical business information such as project updates and real-time reports, whether they are working on a desktop, tablet or mobile device.

Our first release, ProjectView, designed for Windows 8 Tablet (and PC), is now available to download in the Windows Store in Beta version, allowing organisations to get a feel for how the technology could be applied within their own business.

Designed to surface key business information from a centralised database that takes feeds of data from many disparate line-of-business systems such as CRM, SharePoint, Time Sheet, Holiday and Project Management tools. ProjectView demonstrates how information from many data silos can be pulled together into one ‘single pane of glass’ experience.

Features:

  • Overall sales performance indicators

  • Filter project sales by pipeline, issued not won, won and active

  • Filter project stage by percentage, days, quarters, development

  • Show Customers by location using Bing maps

  • Show top Customer sales and type of business

  • Filter overall by sales person

  • Follow key projects and people for instant updates

  • Project dashboard showing detailed statistics and charting

  • Personalise to your corporate name, logo and colours

ImageImage

The application is a demonstration based on illustrative Customers, Projects and People information. Deployment of a tailored, fully functional solution would require a consultation beforehand to ensure the technical framework is in place to allow for full ProjectView functionality and may require Ridgian’s Business Intelligence and Applications specialists to work closely with an organisation to plan and implement the infrastructure to make a fully functional deployment possible. If you would like to discuss a specific requirement and how ProjectView can be tailored to your organisation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

If you would like to download the app and try it for yourselves, it can be easily located in the Windows App Store

After a much anticipated wait, Microsoft have announced that SQL Server 2014 will be launched on 1st April 2014.

The powerful new features of SQL Server 2014 ensure that organisations have a cost-effective platform from which they can easily develop high-performance mission-critical applications, enterprise-ready Big Data assets, and BI solutions that help users to make better decisions, faster. Users also gain the flexibility to deploy solutions on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment, managed through a common and familiar tool set.

On the 23rd May, we are hosting a seminar at our Birmingham head office, which we hope will provide delegates with an understanding of the benefits of the new upgraded SQL Platform, delivering interactive presentations on some key features, such as:

– Break-through in memory performance
– High availability and disaster recovery
– Enterprise scalability
– Hybrid data platform
– Business Intelligence- faster insights across the entire organization with SQL Server and Office 365

This event is a “must attend” for anyone looking to migrate to SQL Server or upgrade from an existing SQL Server environment. Organisation’s looking to migrate to the cloud or aiming to leverage their existing Microsoft investment to deliver an enhanced information management strategy across their business would also benefit greatly from attending.

Details:

Time: 23rd May, 2014
9am-12.30pm
Venue: Ridgian
54 Hagley Road
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B16 8PE

To register please visit www.ridgian.co.uk/news/SQL2014_launch

Ridgian were selected from a number of Microsoft Business Intelligence Partners to tour the UK with JISC’s regional support centres and Microsoft to contribute to a series of conferences for strategy makers and practitioners working in the Education Sector. JISC offer a wide range of knowledge and expertise, from strategic planning to staff development, JISC play a vital role in enabling learning providers to turn their ICT ambitions into reality, support education providers across the UK in the effective use of technology. Ridgian have a wealth of best practice expertise in Information Management within the education sector and were seen as the ideal partner to demonstrate innovative Business Intelligence and Collaboration technologies. In just two weeks we have already taken part in events in Manchester, London, Cambridge and Bridgenorth.

Upcoming events include:

• 25th June, London
• 4th July, Bury St. Edmunds

To register for upcoming events, please register via the JISC events page http://www.jisc.ac.uk/events

It has been recently announced that UK E-Commerce sales in 2013, after the predicted December’s Christmas E-Sales boom, will be up by 15% on 2012, the largest year-over-year increase since before the 2008 financial crisis. As economic optimism spreads and consumers begin to open their wallets, retailers are investing in the technology they need to stay competitive. Investments in mobile and social media solutions may grab the headlines, but retailers are also dedicating significant resources behind the scenes. Emerging technologies and solutions, including e-commerce data and insight platforms, email promotions, SEO, and SEM, underpin any effective e-commerce strategy and are critical to success.

Traditionally, tech investments were authorised by the CIO, and the IT team implements and administers the technology across the relevant areas of a business. However, these “technology gatekeepers” are generally not the people on the front lines of the company’s retail efforts — the merchandisers ordering products, developing promotions, and interacting directly with customers. As a result, many companies experience disconnect between those that control the technology and those with the front-line insights to best leverage it.

This historical approach has to change to ensure that E-Commerce businesses can take the helm from the front line. Just a few short years ago, there was a sharp distinction between the technical skills of the IT team and the expertise of the merchandising team. While there is still a distinction, Gartner predicts that “CMOs will soon be spending more on IT than CIOs.”
(Forbes)

This suggests that many more modern applications are becoming directly accessible to merchandisers and marketers who drive a company’s sales and marketing strategy, not just to IT specialists. Coupled with the broader trend of the consumerisation of modern business in which user-friendly and, often mobile, devices and applications are making technology and data widely accessible to everyone within the retail organisation, it is clear that enterprise technology is no longer solely owned by IT departments.

A quick look at the growing level of business intelligence applications we’ve developed for retail customers over the last year, spanning store sales and inventory management to digital sales analytics, illustrate clearly that this transition is taking place now. That said, in our initial conversations with new customers we have come to understand that technology to “consumerise” e-commerce is lagging behind, and the power of retail data analytics – analysis, development, testing and reporting – is largely still in the hands of IT departments. As e-commerce revenue continues to increase and more money is invested in the technology, the toolset of the merchandiser must grow if retail is to keep pace and reap the benefits of modern data applications.

Ridgian intend to ensure that we build organisation wide relationships across the retail organisations that we work with to ensure that as they embrace data driven strategy we ensure that our solutions meet the direct needs of those utilising insights to drive a reactionary and competitive sales and marketing approach. The real power in retail comes when merchandisers can integrate front-line knowledge with technology to positively impact business results.

This is not something that will happen overnight, but there are a few things that must start now in order to empower merchandisers and bring them into the modern era. On the back end, cloud-based architectures and standard APIs must be used to scale and support large product inventory’s and to capture and analyse the growing collection of customer data ( We dealt with one Retailer last year who had 41 million rows of transactional sales data in one country alone! This resulted in a significant challenge in retrieving the value that could potentially derived from that data.) This, in turn, will allow front-end interfaces that make daily access and deployment of online retailing strategies simple and accessible to merchandisers. It will be these web-access interfaces that empower merchandisers to view and deploy a variety of strategies across product ranges, digital and/or store operations in real time in order to adjust to fast moving, consumer controlled markets. Mobile applications are now also catapulting us into an era where we can develop mobile interfaces for retail insights, quite literally delivering strategic insights to your fingertips.

Let’s look at a real-life example. I recently observed a presentation during an Industry best practice event, from a Global E-Commerce Global retailer, a customer, who were explaining their approach to extracting value from sales data to drive more effective marketing campaigns and reach their customers with more tailored campaigns. The scenario consisted of their marketing department, who are determining promotion strategies for an upcoming summer campaign, set to hit both email and social promotions. They have a general idea of what shoes to pair with a particular skirt for the offer, purely based upon their experiences in observing shopper behaviour. That front-line knowledge is extremely valuable, but what if the marketing team could take that knowledge and pair it with actual data on how customers interact with the items online? With the entire global mix of shoppers providing data on their favourite skirt and shoe combination via online sales data (perhaps pulling in some social analytics data into the powerful mix too) the marketing and promotions team were then able to build on their initial inclination and adjust online placement and promotions accordingly — all without having to go through the IT department- invaluable decision making.

The ability to leverage and act on intuition in collaboration with real-time data will move retail companies closer to a culture of empowerment that pushes access to data and insights as close as possible to the customer rather than relying on the IT gatekeepers. Merchandisers will be able to use these insights to identify trends, refine strategies, and reap better e-commerce performance. This will undoubtedly lead to e-commerce capabilities (systems and people) that consistently add value to customers and the bottom line.

For more information on Ridgian solutions delivered customers in the Retail Industry please contact us. We are also planning a number of Retail showcase and forum events for the New Year, details will follow shortly, so watch this space.

You may have already seen news of our Business Intelligence eXperience Workshop, which we have been running in partnership with Microsoft, both at Microsoft’s London Offices and at Ridgian HQ in Birmingham.

If you are not yet familiar with the workshops, they are aimed at both IT and business professionals who want to leverage their Microsoft Investment to get more hands-on with their data. Held on a monthly basis, delegates are given their own laptops and are immersed into a real-world business scenario to allow them to fully experience the benefits of Business Intelligence first hand. Focused on solving real-world scenarios, delegates are coached on how the tools and capabilities can align to an organisation’s strategy and deliver value incrementally and quickly. A number of integral areas are covered, such as self-service BI, visual data exploration, dashboards, ‘what-if’ analysis and tools even take advantage of data from Cloud and Big Data sources.

Having already received some fantastic feedback from customers attending the sessions, it was great also to see such a positive review of the session in Industry online magazine, ITPro. ITPro praise both the value of the session with regards to the content, approach and resources available, and the skills of our Business Intelligence Consultant Steve Lynn, stating,

“The second pleasant surprise was the presenter, Steve Lynn from Birmingham-based Microsoft partner, Ridgian. Considering he was dealing with some complex subjects, and presenting to an audience of varied experience, he pitched the content just about right”

They were also equally impressed with the way in which the interactive approach to the session allowed delegates to openly discuss their own business challenges and how the technology they were getting to grips with could be utilised to overcome these,

“What was really impressive was that most of the attendees had questions about their own implementations and problems that cropped up in their everyday working lives. At some courses I’ve been on, these are often hard to answer and frequently ignored. Steve (and his colleagues from Ridgian) attempted to answer all of them, demonstrating vast knowledge and a willingness to help.”

We pride ourselves on the expertise of our Business Intelligence team and our willingness to assist customers in learning how Microsoft Technologies can support their businesses, the Business Intelligence eXperience workshops provide us with a fantastic opportunity to do just that.

Here, Steve talks about his views on the Business Intelligence eXperience and what it delivers.

To Read more of the review, the full article can be found here.

For more information on the workshops, or if you would like to register for the next event, please contact us. There is a waiting list for those wishing to attend, so please ensure you register quickly to avoid disappointment.

Ridgian’s Business Intelligence specialist, Jon Lunn has written another topical take on data and analytics; an insightful reflection on how data forms the footprint of our own existence; how we use data to look into the people of the past, how technology in modern society allows for the grand accumulation of own historical data “footprint” and how we can learn from this in how we approach big data in business.

I’ve been researching my family tree and been getting some great data on my ancestors. One night I found a great great great great great grandfather of mine William Lunn, and also his brother Samuel Lunn. Samuel was born around the 1800’s and in one night I found his birth, his brothers and sisters, where he lived, his occupation, the date of his marriage, the birth of his two daughters, the death of his wife, and finally his own death. I have bits of data, small snapshots of lives captured by certificates and census information, nothing of the man himself. That’s the difference between data and information on the human scale, basic data of his existence remains, but the information of who he was is lost forever.

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) Greek philosopher and polymath was possibly the last person in history who knew everything that was known at that point in time……he literary knew everything. Since then the total sum of collective human knowledge has growth nearly beyond comprehension. How we define data and information is one of the most important things of the current Internet age.

One base measure of information is the unit of the ‘Book’. How many books are there, or have been at a point in time. Hard to tell, but Google had a stab at it and found a total of 129,864,880 titles. Around the 6th century there were roughly 10,000 books (copies of, not titles). It took another 600 years to the 12th century to reach 1 million copies. To reach 1 billion took another 600 years, and then main increase was due to the invention of moveable type and the printing press.

If you look at the human history through the filter of data/information it suggests that with every technological change, comes an increase in the production of data. From hand illumination, to wood cut printing, to movable type and onto to the Kindle, every step change has increased the volume of data nearly exponentially. With the internet progression of size had exploded. According to some figures 90% of the world’s data has been produced in the last 2 years, you could be critical of that figure, as most of it seems to be images of cats, cupcakes and selfies (Just added to the OED).

Looking at some examples, YouTube had the equivalent data size of the internet in 2003 uploaded to it daily in 2007. The figures for Facebook are staggering. 200 billion photos have been uploaded to it. In 2012 Facebook was 50 Petabytes, or 50 times the size of the whole internet in 2006. In book size, Facebook is 10,737,418,240 copies of the complete works of Shakespeare.

What we must remember in the IT and BI world is that data is neutral, the size of it, the scope of it doesn’t matter, it is the grains of information that are produced from it that are important, we distil data into information for use by the businesses. You can see this in the Data Warehouses & Datamarts that Ridgian build, we take the huge raw data sets, and reduce it down into the important nuggets of truth, as defined by the dimensions, facts and measures. The current buzz word of ‘Big Data’ tends to be used to refer to the size of the data or the analytics on it. What is often missed it the small information that comes from it. That’s the important part, that’s it the part that should endure.

Going back to my original point of Samuel Lunn, the persistence of data and information is already changing, in 100 years when my descendants are researching me; they will have a whole data trail to go through, Facebook, Tweets and websites and just maybe even this blog post.

What is clear from Jon’s article is that as the human capacity to share information has grown steadily over time as a result of technological advancements, our compulsion to share information about ourselves, our knowledge and opinions grows with each additional channel we gain at our disposal to do so. Technological advancements have impacted our lives to the extent that it has almost become instinctive to both share and consume information on an unprecedented scale, and so, “Big Data” was born.

However, as Jon points out, it’s not the vast amount of data that’s really significant, it’s what we take from it. The ability to reflect upon the information available to us becomes ever more difficult as we each generate a sea of data to sift through, yet it is possible to piece together the information and put together an insightful picture. Insight is where the true value in our increasingly deep footprints lie- understanding how a person is/was, learning from their ideas, opinions and behaviours. This is no different to the case for big data in business, where big data has generated big noise for a couple of years now. Big data is no more significant as small data, in fact the amount of data is irrelevant, the important bit lies in the ability to take value from that data, utilising technology to delve in and get insight from business information.

There is a buzz in the air at the moment at Ridgian HQ as we prepare to move to our sparkling new offices based at one of Birmingham’s most prestigious central locations, 54 Hagley Road. We are due to move on Friday 14th June.

In the last 4 years we have experienced an outstanding period of growth. High profile client wins with customers such as Tesco, The Department For Work and Pensions, Unilever and Barclays have led the company to more than doubling in size from 22 to 52. After reaching capacity in our current location, we have had to seek a larger office location to accommodate new team members and ensure we have room for future growth.

Work has commenced on the preparation of the office space for our arrival, the builders have been busy, the carpets are down and the kitchen is finished.

Some of the team receiving a tour of the new, high spec facilities.

Some of the team receiving a tour of the new, high spec facilities.

This is how the office looked 2 weeks ago, as you can see very much a blank canvass but all the team were impressed at how, light airy and spacious the room felt

This is how the office looked 2 weeks ago, as you can see very much a blank canvass but all of the team were impressed at how, light airy and spacious the room felt

A great amount of time has been put into the impressive design and branding for the new office space, our creative lead Richie Chew and Design experts, ‘Design Religion’ have done an incredible job of creating an cutting edge but welcoming space to work in. We intend for the new location to not only serve an inspiring place to work, but somewhere we can be proud to host clients at customer meetings and events, and reflects our positivity here at Ridgian.

Some of the impressive office branding visuals created by the Design Religion team.

Some of the impressive office branding visuals created by the Design Religion team.

officedesign1

Meeting rooms

“It’s very exciting times here at Ridgian at the moment and the move to our new offices not only gives us the room to expand, but also demonstrates how much we have grown. With us taking the entire 5th Floor this has given us a blank canvas to create a space that fits our needs perfectly and also creates an impressive and inviting environment for our staff, Customers and Partners.”
Jason Betteridge, Managing Director, Ridgian.

“The new office space will allow continued growth and success. First class facilities and an impressive location will ensure that we can host successful events and further raise our profile. This serves as another significant stage in our journey to becoming the number one UK Information Management solutions provider. Exciting times here at Ridgian, I look forward to all the future holds at 54 Hagley Rd.”
David Freeth, Finance Director, Ridgian.

We intend to unveil the new location to clients and partners in the autumn and will keep you posted on the website, blog and social networking pages…watch this space.

In the meantime rest assured we have put measures in place to ensure there is no disruption to service levels on moving day. Please note down our new contact details

54 Hagley Road
Edgbaston
Birmingham,
B16 8PE
0121 452 4500

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.