DSI's customers needed the ability to take the data they have and analyze it in as many ways as possible. Questions such as, "How many non-English speaking clients are staying at which homeless shelters, and do I have people there that can speak their language?" were common, but the variations were endless. DSI identified an ad hoc analysis capability as the solution to this ongoing need. Standard reporting techniques were not accomplishing what was needed to serve these types of ad hoc queries and discovery.
Nonprofit organizations must continue to communicate the value they provide to their sponsors. There is a saying in this industry, "You don't get credit for what you did unless you tell someone." Simple, canned reports may provide compliance and static information, but they fall far short of providing directors the ability to reach into their data on an ad hoc basis to generate good quality, quantitative information that is graphed and charted for easy understanding.
It was clear from the beginning that a cube-based analysis solution was the only way to solve this problem. The problem then became creating an analysis solution that was graphical and intuitive enough to be used by nontechnical managers and low enough in cost so that it would not drive a homeless shelter out of business.
As a Microsoft Certified Partner, DSI began evaluating options available on Microsoft Analysis Server. This provided both a consistency in platform and a cost advantage, given that Analysis Server is an included part of Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Other potential solutions were evaluated but were priced higher than what nonprofits could afford without taking money away from those in need that they serve.
The end solution absolutely had to be in a completely Web-based environment for the end users to be able to use the application without special operating system security privileges. Large government organizations have strict controls on what can be installed on end-user machines and what applications can have elevated privileges. Because of this, it would have taken years to roll out a client/server application, and it would be impossible to keep it current.
DSI still needed to identify a way to deliver the solution graphically with the programmatic control to enforce the HIPAA requirements that could not be enforced on the Analysis Server side of the application design. The Enterprise Blocks framework quickly rose to the top. eBlocks allowed DSI the programmatic control to enforce all HIPAA requirements and an exceptional interface layer that far surpassed anything else available in the industry. The result of combining Microsoft Analysis Server with eBlocks was stunning.
From the first demo of an early beta version of the solution to the implementation of the product today, every prospect that has seen the solution has wanted it. The value is immediately apparent to anyone in this industry. With this tool, anyone can slice and dice data to determine how effectively they're spending their limited funds and then relate that information back to their funders.
Since DSI introduced the eBlocks-based solution, competitors have tried to emulate it using canned solutions with the more established Oracle-based providers and have failed to capture the usability or cost benefits found in the eBlocks offering. Customers still come back to DSI to comment on how amazingly the eBlocks-based solution works when compared to the other Web-based analysis applications they have seen.
As a result, DSI is enjoying strong growth in large part due to the success of the eBlocks-based analysis capability. DSI's customers are raving about their newfound ability to pursue grants and funding sources they couldn't go after before.
Enterprise Blocks is an integrated set of components and Web services for building custom business intelligence applications. It is available for a fraction of the cost of proprietary analytic development platforms and integrates easily into any application or enterprise portal.
David Talbot, vice president of development of Data Systems International.