4-page Case Study - Posted 5/18/2010
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Software Firm Combines Geospatial Mapping, Analytics to Enhance Applications
Montana-based CyberSavvy is a growing software developer that creates data-driven software-as-a-service solutions for a diverse set of business applications. The company wanted to expand its customers’ analysis capabilities to incorporate geographic information and improve reporting processes. CyberSavvy implemented Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, which includes new geospatial mapping and report management features in Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services. As a result, the company can provide its customers with advanced data analysis and rich reporting capabilities. Also, its developers can meet customer demands faster and develop software features more easily than before. In addition, CyberSavvy has saved money by not having to invest in third-party report software; instead, it capitalizes on its existing development skills and SQL Server experience.Situation
Based in Heron, Montana, CyberSavvy develops custom software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions based on Microsoft technologies. Its customers include major enterprises such as Microsoft, Lowes, and Spherion, along with small to midsize businesses such as eGraphics and Neuwaukum Industries, Inc.
||SQL Server 2008 R2 is a game-changer for us .... We can ‘wow’ our customers by giving them location-based functionality that brings the ‘where’ to the ‘what’ for their applications.
CyberSavvy describes its primary solution DataPlace as a “SaaS platform.” CyberSavvy uses DataPlace to create and modify applications at high speeds, providing a combined development and hosting environment. DataPlace combines Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise data management software with the company’s automated database design technologies and Web-based synchronization using the Microsoft .NET Framework. DataPlace also uses Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services, which provides integrated business intelligence (BI) capabilities.
For the past several years, CyberSavvy has focused on trying to meet and exceed its customers’ needs for better business insights. “Most Web analytics today don’t really drive better business understanding,” says Peter Hammond, President, CyberSavvy. “You can have flat graphs showing hours worked or number of orders, but what does that really mean beyond the metric?”
CyberSavvy was determined to help customers improve their visual representation of data analysis through integrated geospatial maps. “The ‘where’ factor is what businesses need to combine with metrics to make smart business decisions, and it’s one of the keys to our own business success in terms of our products,” Hammond says. “Most reporting metrics just show lists or charts of sales data for certain locations. They fail to show what the demand might be in nearby areas that might cross the normal city/state groupings.”
The company’s customers also wanted more in-depth reporting capabilities. For example, they use Project360°, a CyberSavvy resource management solution that runs on DataPlace, to create daily productivity reports. “Our users access these reports every day, and the reports are great at showing executive-level business analysis,” Hammond says. “However, our customers wanted to be able to look at charts showing employee activity for an entire region and then break that down by individual workers in the same geographic areas.”
In addition, CyberSavvy wanted to make the overall data-reporting process simpler for its customers. For example, users want to export their reports to current and previous versions of Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet software. That process was manual and time-consuming. “Our customers like consolidated reports grouped with customized tab names,” says Hammond. “But when they exported the reports to Excel, the
|Project360⁰ Daily Summary Report shows the use of the new ability|
to embed individual charts on a row by row basis.
tabs would default to Sheet1, Sheet2, etc., so they had to manually rename each tab to match the report’s document map.”
To resolve these customer business challenges, CyberSavvy decided to look for a new solution.Solution
Always on the cutting edge of technology, CyberSavvy chose to upgrade to the beta version of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 in late 2009. “We were very excited to embrace this new version of SQL Server, because of its rich business intelligence features and new visualizations for geospatial data,” says Hammond.
CyberSavvy was most excited about Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services, which gives developers the ability to create reports with rich data visualizations. For example, it provides new functionality for creating maps that combine geospatial data with business analytics. Developers can also incorporate visualization tools called sparklines, which are small information graphics that can present sales trends and other data in a condensed and insightful way.
||SQL Server 2008 R2 is a quantum leap forward in terms of what we can bring to our customers …. They have been very impressed with the metric overlays on the maps and how that helps bring home the underlying business reality of the numbers in the reports.
Additionally, SQL Server 2008 R2 introduces new features designed to streamline production processes. For instance, the report management interface in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services has been redesigned to provide an easier overall user experience. Now, users exporting reports to Office Excel can take advantage of tab names that are automatically set to match a report. And with new drag-and-drop report indicator controls, report developers can easily add existing or custom images to bring visibility to common data conditions such prioritization and status.
Also new are data bars, which workers can use to quickly create reports that embed individual charts on a row-by-row basis, and a chart data–editing feature, which can be used to streamline chart development.
CyberSavvy began deploying SQL Server 2008 R2 in December 2009, running it on the company’s existing Dell PowerEdge 2950 server computers with dual quad-core Intel Xeon processors with 32 gigabytes of RAM. The company also started using Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Business Intelligence Development Studio, a development environment based on Microsoft Visual Studio used for creating BI solutions.
As part of the solution, the organization also chose to implement beta versions of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4, along with the latest version of the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in, Silverlight 4.
Taking advantage of these technologies, CyberSavvy is launching a new SaaS solution called PostingPlace.com, where businesses and communities can post location-specific announcements and messages. “PostingPlace.com was inspired by cork bulletin boards, found in businesses and gathering places throughout the United States, and a desire to help local entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow,” says Hammond. “It integrates the simple idea of the bulletin board with the geospatial data visualization capabilities provided by SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services and the rich user experience of Silverlight 4.”Benefits
CyberSavvy continues to be on the cutting edge of technology, using SQL Server 2008 R2 to offer its customers new advanced BI capabilities
|PostingPlace.com's business members can leverage geo spatial data|
and usage metrics to build campaigns targeting local regions and
get instant results through reports with the new Indicators Control.
faster than its competition. The company can meet customer needs better and can continue to scale while delivering real-time reports to ever-increasing demand. And with the new visualization features included in SQL Server 2008 R2, CyberSavvy saves money by avoiding the need to purchase third-party tools.
Transforms Applications Through Powerful New BI Capabilities
CyberSavvy has been able to provide customers with powerful new applications by using the advanced data visualization tools in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services and the functionality in Visual Studio 2010 and Silverlight 4. These applications, including PostingPlace.com, combine geospatial data with relevant, up-to-date business metrics. “SQL Server 2008 R2 is a game-changer for us because now we can blend maps with analytical data,” says Hammond. “We can ‘wow’ our customers by giving them location-based functionality that brings the ‘where’ to the ‘what’ for their applications.”
Now, CyberSavvy can create applications that transform business data into visually exciting, more useful information. Deborah Palmer, Reporting Services Developer at CyberSavvy, says, “With SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services and Business Intelligence Development Studio, we can take all of the data we already had in DataPlace and, with minor modifications, pinpoint locations with mapping components that bring customers improved understanding.”
Helps Customers Understand Data “Beyond the Charts”
To enhance Project360° productivity reports, the company used the new data bars in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services. Project360° users can now create daily summary reports, which provide a high-level view of work hours, to help determine whether individual employees are underutilized or overutilized. “With the new data bars, report creators can combine detailed charts into a single comprehensive view, which is a fantastic enhancement,” Hammond says. “This immediately draws the user’s eyes to the information that requires the most attention and helps the report viewer understand the data beyond the charts.”
The company also created the DataPlace Event Management Solution, which provides both a registration solution and an analytics solution in one. It used the new geospatial components in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services to show registered event attendees by country combined with population statistics. “This gives viewers an immediate visual understanding of complex relationships,” says Hammond. “SQL Server 2008 R2 is a quantum leap forward in terms of what we can bring to our customers—today rather than tomorrow. They have been very impressed with the metric overlays on the maps and how that helps bring home the underlying business reality of the numbers in the reports.”
|DataPlace Event Management Solution, showing registered |
attendees totaled by country.
Speeds Delivery of Analytical Reports by 53 Percent
With the improved performance in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services, CyberSavvy developers can design reports for customers much faster than before. Recent CyberSavvy statistics show that over a two-month period, the average time for report rendering for more than 7,000 executions dropped from 0.4958 seconds to 0.265 seconds, a 53 percent improvement. “This improvement is essential for us to scale to meet an ever-increasing workload from the demands of both subscription-based and real-time report executions,” says Hammond.
With these improved design-time capabilities, CyberSavvy developers can meet customer demands faster. “If a company needs a customized report, we can deliver that in days instead of weeks with SQL Server 2008 R2,” Palmer says. “Customers are surprised at how quickly we’ve been able to bring these new analytical reports to them.”
By using the new chart data–editing features in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services, CyberSavvy developers can consolidate three separate chart designers into a single user interface, which speeds development of particularly complex charts. “This has saved us an average of more than 30 minutes for each new or modified report,” says Hammond. “Because we’re creating multiple reports per customer each week, those timesavings help reduce our development costs. We used to have to charge separately for custom report development, but now we’re able to include it as part of the overall solution, saving our customers money and enhancing their success with our products.”
Using the new drag-and-drop report indicator controls, developers can more easily add stock images to their reports. “This eliminates time-consuming manual steps, such as developing custom code statements embedded into each report, that used to require extra hours for both development and testing,” says Hammond.
Saves Reporting Time for Customers
Using the new report creation capabilities in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services, CyberSavvy customers can create and export analytical reports more easily. “Now, when users want to export reports to Microsoft Office Excel, the tabs are automatically named to match those in the report,” says Hammond. “That may seem like a small feature from a development perspective, but it’s a huge improvement that affects our customers daily. For a typical report with 10 tabs, this can mean several minutes saved for each report exported. We have received a lot of very positive customer feedback on this feature.”
Reduces Software Costs
Because SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services comes with built-in geospatial mapping tools and other visualization technology, CyberSavvy did not have to invest in an outside solution. “We did some initial research on competitive solutions, and we estimated it might cost up to $350,000 to purchase additional software to get the same functionality that SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services provides out of the box,” Hammond says. “That reinforced our decision to implement this solution.”
CyberSavvy saved additional money by implementing SQL Server 2008 R2 on the same hardware it used to run SQL Server 2008. Hammond says, “We did not have to purchase any new hardware for SQL Server 2008 R2, and we did not have a single hardware incompatibility issue when we went into production.”Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 delivers higher scalability for mission-critical environments, more efficient IT, and expanded reporting and analytics through self-service business intelligence.
For more information about Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, go to: For More Information
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