Business Intelligence Portals: A Single Interface for Accessing Reports, Dashboards, and Visualizations

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Introduction

There are many ways to access business information. A traditional approach is to log onto a business intelligence (BI) application, such as Tableau or Power BI, and navigate to the report that you need, search for one you hope exists, or create a new report altogether. Most organizations have multiple BI applications that require individuals to log onto each of those applications separately in order to find and access the desired report, dashboard, or visualization. A BI Portal serves as an application layer that simplifies the access by providing a single interface to multiple BI applications and their corresponding content.

BI Portal Evolution

First generation BI Portals, in many cases, were simply a web page with a series of links to BI content. Most were developed internally within organizations, if they decided to undertake such an endeavor. Search capabilities were limited to the report names and tags that were assigned to a report. Depending on how sophisticated the BI Portal, the reports were either static web pages or they were rendered from within the connected BI application. While first-generation BI Portals provided a centralized point of view for users, they were a maintenance nightmare for information technology departments since the links and tags had to be manually monitored and maintained.

Second-generation BI Portals evolved beyond a series of static reports and web links into an application layer that provided direct connectivity into the underlying BI applications. In many cases, the underlying user security of each of the BI applications was inherited into the BI Portal, thereby providing report-level security of the data.

A BI Portal Centralizes Access

To enhance user experience, a BI Portal is designed to centralize access to BI reports, dashboards, and visualizations. Through the BI Portal, users can find information from the corresponding connected BI applications. For example, an organization may use Tableau for its operational reporting and Power BI for its financial reporting. Analysts who need to access operational and financial reporting must log onto Tableau and Power BI separately to obtain that information. However, a BI Portal that is connected to both Tableau and Power BI allows the user to simply log onto the single interface and access both Power BI and Tableau content without having to log onto each of the underlying BI applications separately. With centralized access, users save time and are more productive.

Another benefit of a BI Portal is that users can search for and discover information quickly and easily without having to navigate across multiple systems. Users also want their tools to be intuitive so that they don’t need much training in order to utilize these resources effectively. A good BI Portal allows users to access the information they need, in the way that makes sense to them. The portal should be easy to find what you need, and it should be easy for users to navigate through. This means that they don’t have to learn how to use separate tools for each type of content. Users can search for content by title or keyword, view any related items (such as related reports or dashboards), drill down on the visualizations in a report, filter the data behind a visualization, and more.

BI Portals are an important way to access business information in a user-friendly way. This allows everyone — from executives to managers to salespeople — to be able to easily find and use the information they need when they need it. BI Portals make it easy for anyone within an organization to get their hands on everything from sales data to customer metrics.

Based on my past experience and observations, BI teams (composed of individuals who implement BI applications, create and maintain the BI application and corresponding reports, dashboards, and visualizations) spend one-third to two-thirds of their time answering basic inquiries about BI application connectivity and the names/content of reports from business users. With a BI Portal, connectivity is a simple pass-through of user access/security rights and a self-service environment that enables users to easily find and access the content they need.

The evolution of BI Portals continues. In recent years, the introduction of analytics hub technology has essentially taken second-generation BI Portals beyond BI applications to amplify value across the entire analytics ecosystem. While the core of an analytics hub is a BI Portal, an analytics hub provides users access to reports, dashboards, and visualizations that are embedded within applications (such as Salesforce.com), documents located in the cloud or network drives (such as PDFs), spreadsheets and other report types that are part of the modern technology stack.

In addition to BI Portal capabilities, analytics hubs incorporate analytics catalog, collaboration, automation and governance components. Information about analytics hubs can be found here.

Conclusion

BI Portals are an important way to facilitate access and search capabilities for business information in a user-friendly way. They provide users with a single point of access for reports and dashboards, which can improve the productivity of your organization. With BI Portals, users can interact with data and dashboards in ways that intuitively make sense to them. The future of BI Portals has evolved into analytics hubs that provide far greater information access, collaboration and automation.

Learn how organizations are using analytics hubs to drive more value from analytics.

Published January 11, 2023
About The Author

Jonathan Wu has more than 30 years of experience in the field of Data and Analytics, which began with defining the reporting requirements for developing a multi-currency portfolio fund accounting system at Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors in the mid-1990s. He has practical experience designing, developing and implementing data and analytics solutions at organizations such as Silicon Graphics (acquired by HPE), Visa, Pfizer, and the State of Hawaii Department of Health. Jonathan has held various executive leadership positions with several leading Data and Analytics companies beginning with the co-founding of BASE Consulting Group in 1994. In 2003, BASE merged with Knightsbridge Solutions and was subsequently acquired in 2006 by Hewlett-Packard to establish their Information Management Practice. In 2007, he joined Sand Hill Angels (SHA), a group of Silicon Valley executives and accredited investors that are passionate about entrepreneurialism and the commercialization of disruptive new technologies through startup companies. In 2016, Jonathan was elected Chairman and CEO of Diyotta, a pioneer of serverless data integration technology in the cloud and a SHA portfolio company, which was acquired by ThoughtSpot. He is currently the COO for ZenOptics, a SHA portfolio company. In addition to his primary work activities, Jonathan served as a Business Intelligence columnist for DM Review and Information Management magazine for many years, and a faculty member of TDWI/Transforming Data With Intelligence, Santa Clara University and the University of California, Berkeley Extension.

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