Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Trend Compass - A raw gem in the Data Visualization treasure box

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On my recent post, I received a request is the form of comment from someone claiming to be from EPIC Systems requesting a review of their product. Out of curiosity I took a look of the product and after my initial review, I can say that this product definitely looks like a raw gem which can be made an industry class standard in data visualization and analysis. There are still some questions open in my mind regarding this software, which I would come across very shortly.

If anyone has worked on dashboards using platforms / technologies like performancepoint, novaview, mySap portal, dundas dashboards, telerik dashboards etc, analytical charts is one of the components that works in the context of scorecards. We are accustomed to analyze and represent data in the form of year to year or quater to quater using functions like ParallelPeriod in MDX. Now this period is defined in the form of slicers which functionally works as filters rather than an axis. Also many on these analytical charts developed using excel services and other regular image / graphic based functionality are not that impressive, though the Santa Claus of Microsoft ( I mean to say Silverlight ) is changing the traditional way of dashboard development. In summary interactive motion graphics and time as an axis concept is almost absent in present days dashboards, except Silverlight based ones.

Coming to the star of the post is a Data Visualization software "Trend Compass" from a company called EPIC Systems. I have a favourite quote of mine, "A picture is worth thousand words and A Dashboard is worth thousand reports" (may be I should get it patented), here is a must look demo application of this software.

1) The graphics are very impressive and still it manages the issue of "Too Much Information" in a very descent way. Data Applied ( a silverlight based data mining service provider for modest volumes of data ) suffers too much from the issue of "Too Much Information" in my views.

2) The data visualization presented contains the concept of layers which we see in present days SSRS reports development using Bing Maps layers. This helps to manage the data representation is a very nice manner and give control to the viewer to analyze the information in a very interactive way.

3) The biggest USP of this data visualization software is it provides time scale as an axis with interactivity of data visualization and analysis still preserved at its best. In fact it really fuels the way data is represented for analysis.

4) Exporting data to different formats is one of the most admired functionality in any applications, and Trend Compass scores full marks for the same. It can export data in EXE, SWF, AVI and other formats too which is really fantastic.

Coming to the downside of the application, which is the reason I call it as a RAW GEM, is as follows:

1) For any application to get widely accepted, providing developer information is very vital, which leads to developing an army of technical workers around it. Developer expertise is one of the major factors considered while evaluating any product for procurement. On the product website, there is no technical information available like object model, integration, data sources supported etc.

2) Nice demos are presented, also trial version is available for download. But whether it can be used as a component on collaborative environments like Sharepoint using some webparts, such kind of information is also missing. One might be very much interested in using this component as a constituent of a dashboard instead of using it as a off the shelf tool which does not integrate into the solution.

3) There are no comparative study available on the site, or no whitepapers available where they demonstrate how this software can be used in collaboration with other leading products in the same domain.

It seems like still the viewpoint of the promoters of this application is not that wide, an there is still a lot for them to learn from industry leaders like Performancepoint, Dundas and Panorama. But I have no doubt that this is a RAW GEM and the data visualization it offers is very impressive. Many would argue that it might not be efficient and collaborative, which even I would agree, but it would not fail to appeal the users ( senior management ) of the organization for sure. And some of the features like exporting to formats like AVI and EXE which have never even been heard of, should make the minds of industry leaders ticking in this direction.

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