CATEGORY: Business Intelligence
REVIEWER: Jin Zhu, director of information strategy for The Arlington Institute.
BACKGROUND: Founded in 1989 by futurist John L. Petersen, The Arlington Institute is a nonprofit research institute that specializes in thinking about global futures and trying to influence rapid, positive change. We encourage systemic, nonlinear approaches to planning and believe that effective thinking about the future is enhanced by applying newly emerging technology. Therefore, we strive to be agents of change by creating intellectual frameworks and toolsets for understanding the transition in which we are living.
PLATFORMS: Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional Edition running Oracle9i database servers.
PROBLEM SOLVED: We have assembled a tool suite/methodology called LISA (large integrated search and analysis) for tracking global trends and potential surprise events across various subject areas. LISA components have been orchestrated to support deeper interaction and integration to enable analysts to find information, picture the relationships, realize the situation, foresee the outcome, model the possibilities and decide on a course of action. The picture component of LISA requires a visual interface that provides a wide array of visual displays. A single visual display is simply inadequate to solve and relate large quantities of unstructured data to the complex analysis process of anticipating the future. Further, the visual interface must have the flexibility to be highly customizable to work with many types of data and to address many genres of problems. ADVIZOR Analyst Workbench addresses these requirements nicely.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ADVIZOR provides a flexible, visual, exploratory face to the vast amounts of data collected, stored and algorithmically analyzed by the other LISA components.
STRENGTHS: The primary strengths of ADVIZOR as used in the context of LISA are: 1) ADVIZOR provides a simple integration point with our back-end analysis engines; we were able to easily apply simple transformations to the analysis results to fit the data specification defined by ADVIZOR. 2) Currently, LISA is a Web application that operates in a browser environment. The ability to deploy the ADVIZOR visual components into a browser environment plays well with our current architecture and presentation layer for our application. 3) Analysts can directly interact with the ADVIZOR visual components to slice and drill down in an ad hoc manner through the underlying data to gain immediate insight into LISA's analysis results. 4) ADVIZOR visual components are plug and play and inherently linked to each other. This enables powerful visual perspectives - a layout of multiple synchronized visual metaphors - to be quickly assembled. The ability to visualize information across these varying interactive perspectives allows analysts to quickly discover unknown trends, patterns or relations.
WEAKNESSES: The following items are what we feel could be improved for use in the LISA environment: 1) The ability to customize labels and metrics information is not supported in our current version of ADVIZOR. We believe that the most recent release of ADVIZOR addresses this issue. 2) Although the ability to auto-assign colors to values is provided in ADVIZOR, the ability to associate static colors with a particular category to use as a legend is not easily accomplished without some tweaks. This is an enhancement that ADVIZOR Solutions has planned in its upcoming release later this year.
SELECTION CRITERIA: ADVIZOR was chosen because it is highly customizable, intuitive to use and supports wide arrays of displays to look at data. It does not require significant training to get prototype solutions up and running in relatively short amount of time. The initial investment is also in the acceptable range.
DELIVERABLES: ADVIZOR provides a set of interlinked visual components that allows users to visualize relationships and structure of the data. This is a critical piece in the overall analysis process enabled by LISA. Unknown trends, patterns and relations - and in general, high-value anomalies - are uncovered through visualizing the same information from multiple perspectives.
VENDOR SUPPORT: ADVIZOR's vender support has been exceptional in answering both architectural and technical questions. The turnaround time on questions is usually within a couple of days. The technical support team was able to provide potential solutions to issues and best practices on integrating ADVIZOR visual components into the LISA application.
DOCUMENTATION: Overall, the documentation is comprehensive and sufficient for our needs. I think more examples will be helpful to explain some of the analytical capabilities that ADVIZOR offers.
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