As mentioned in my previous post, the objective of the Web Intelligence input controls is to allow a report consumer to quickly filter content in order to see the most relevant information. A report consumer does not want to navigate through pages and pages of information just to get to the parts that are relevant to them. The input controls provide an on-report means of applying one or more information filters that can change the context of an entire Web Intelligence report or a single report component (e.g., a line chart). This a great way to achieve guided analysis (especially when combined with the new fold/unfold and track changes features).
Improved storytelling for content consumers and creators
As an information consumer or analyst, you are always reviewing information for a purpose – rather it is for a specific requirement or just for exploration. Once you have acquired information that is relevant, you then need to put that information into the context of a particular business need or scenario. This is the point where you need to piece together a story. Whether you are explaining why sales are down in North America or how increasing the manufacturing of a particular widget will increase sales by X%, the need is still the same – the ability to tell a cohesive story with information.
Input Controls help you achieve this by acting as a tool for guided analysis and by clarifying the content of a particular Web Intelligence report. By providing a mechanism for guided analysis, you are improving an information consumer’s ability to get to the information that they need quickly, which then allows them to put that information into a business context quicker – and ultimately tell their story. In addition, by providing a mechanism that allows users to quickly understand the purpose of a report (based on the contextual clues of the input filters), you are reducing the amount of time that they spend looking for an existing report or creating a new report for the same purpose.
For example, if I have a report that shows the sales revenue by year for all retail stores, I could create input controls that would allow a sales manager to filter the results by Year or State.
This would allow the consumer to only show them information that is either relevant to the states for which they are responsible or for the years that they are interested in for their analysis. A screenshot of the content filtered to the State of California is shown below. I could then use the Year input control to filter out only the years in which I am interested.
This allows the report consumer to not only get to the information that they need quickly, but also allows them to build their story quicker – so that they can share it with others quicker as well.
For more information on storytelling with Business Intelligence, review one of my earlier posts.
Better user experience for business users
For report consumers that want go a step further than the content that is available within the current report, they can do so by adding new input controls or using all of the other interactive features provided by Web Intelligence. Adding a new input control is easy. A report consumer can be defining a new input control on the existing data in the report within two clicks. If they want to pull in more data from the data source, then they can be adding a new input control in as little as four clicks. Using the same report as above, I am able to add a new input control by clicking on the “Edit” button and then clicking on the “New” button under input controls.
For the steps to create a new input control, Web Intelligence SP2: Input Controls.
For more information on the interactive analysis features of Web Intelligence, check out the following guide.
First step into adhoc for any user
The use of Input Controls is a nice starting point for adhoc analysis on the part of a report consumer. This is due to the ease with which the feature can be accessed. When a report consumer is looking at a Web Intelligence report, they only need to click on the Input Controls button under the navigation map to turn on the feature.
In addition, the use of the Input Controls is self-explanatory. There is no training required to learn how to use the feature. Once the user turns on the feature (with the click of a button), they are able to easily understand what the controls mean within the context of the report.
The use of the Input Controls should allow your content consumers and creators to be more productive by allowing them perform analysis quicker. In addition, the ease with which the feature can be used provides a comfortable experience for report consumers to access adhoc capabilities in order to explore information presented in the report.