Creating ROI Models with SAP’s Crystal Presentation Design

If you need an ROI or other type of model for your website, I strongly recommend trying SAP’s Crystal Presentation Design tool.  Essentially, Crystal Presentation Design lets you transform any Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into a Flash model that can be embedded on a website or in an Adobe PDF, Microsoft Powerpoint or Word document.  The cool part is that you can hide the ‘ugliness’ of the spreadsheet and control a user’s input to what you want them to see as well as simplify their user experience by using sliders and spinner gadgets.  [Note that you will have to get the Crystal Dashboard Design Personal if you want to use the Flash option to embed on your website.]

This tool has a bit of a history over the past 10 years and I have used this tool since it was started as Xcelsius by Infommersion in the early 2000′s.  In 2005, Business Objects acquired Infommersion and the product was renamed Crystal Xcelsius.  Then in 2007, SAP acquired Business Objects which recently renamed the product as Crystal Presentation Design.  Knowing the original Infommersion CEO from my days at Oracle has also added to my fondness for this product.

While researching background info for this post, I ran across a blog entry titled Xcelsius Will Always Be Xcelsius by BI expert Paul Grill.  In the post, Paul makes a case that SAP should not have renamed Xcelsius and I thoroughly agree.  In my mind, the SAP “mouthful-of-a-product-name” will always be Xcelsius to me, so I will use that naming convention for the rest of this blog post.

What can you do with Xcelsius?   Xcelsius lets you easily create stunning presentation-quality models and dashboards using standard Excel spreadsheets.  In the SAP website, they tout that you can create a model in “just a few minutes”.  That may be an overstatement, but you should be able to create a workable model in about 30 minutes.  Part of the challenge is that you have to think of the enduser experience when you start your project as you are just presented with a blank slate when you begin an Xcelsius project.  Actually, there is a lot you can do with Xcelsius including bringing in external feeds and extensively formatting the output.  One of the uses for Xcelsius is to use it as a reporting dashboard.  Thankfully, there are a number of pre-built templates and help for getting started with the tool.

Can you show us some examples?  My most recent project with Xcelsius was to develop a revenue model for the Morphlabs website.  A screen shot of the model is below and here is a link to this project:

Morphlabs MSP Revenue Model

Two of the models I created for the iRise website in 2008 are still available too and here are screen shots of these models which show how graphics can be incorporated into the models too.

iRise Re-Work Model

Link to iRise Re-Work Model

iRise Project Delays Model

Link to iRise Project Delays Model

Recommendation –Xcelsius gets high marks from me and is ideal for adding interactive ROI features to your website.  Xcelsius comes with a free 30-day trial so you can check it out for yourself before investing $195 in the product (or $895 for the Dashboard Design Personal).

I’ve Seen the Social Analytics Future…

…and it’s already here.

Lawrence Liu from Telligent responded to my Walking the Social Media Walk blog post last week with some great comments and a suggestion to check out their Harvest Reporting Server.

So I did.

Being a longtime fan and advocate of business intelligence and analytics, I am wowed by what Telligent has done.  And they have certainly raised the bar in terms of what I expect from other community vendors.

After taking a quick spin with the Telligent Harvest Report Server this morning, here’s what I like about it:

  1. You Can Test Drive It – Telligent lets you actually test drive their software on their site with real data.  Not many vendors are brave enough or confident enough to put software in the hands of prospects (or competitors).  I really like the idea of playing with it by myself, so kudos to Telligent!
  2. It Behaves Like Google Analytics – I love Google Analytics and think it sets the standard for how analytics packages should operate and behave.  I use Google Analytics to monitor activity on the several websites that I manage.  My favorite part about Google Analytics is how it lets you chose your own date ranges and easily drill up and down into the data – and Harvest provides similar functionality with a 2-month default view or you can select your own time period.
  3. Easily and Visually Measures Trends – The reports are very visual and display the data over time – rather than just points in time.  Plus, the dashboard clearly identifies directional trends with green or red arrows.  You can also look at the information in the aggregate or easily drill down to the individual user or comment.
  4. Incorporates “Social Fingerprinting” - Telligent has come up with a unique way to analyze member behavior using 6 different axes that they call Overseer, Originator, Answerer, Asker, Commentor and Connector.  The interface provides a ‘spider-chart’ view of each user along each dimension.
  5. Introduces Sentiment Detection – This is another new feature that I have not seen in an social media/community analytics package, but I know that it has been on the top of everyone’s list for quite some time.  This feature measures the tonality of the traffic on your community and organizes it into positive and negative sentiments.  I am not quite sure about how well this works yet since it seems that you have to have clearly defined positive or negative words or phrases.  However, this is the first vendor I know who has taken a shot at delivering this type of information.

Granted, having great analytics will not necessarily make a great community.  However, providing rich and robust data in an easily accessible format definitely helps us community managers who are tasked with analyzing community activity and behavior – and turning that data into actionable insights.

Here is a screen shot of a User Report and some links where you can make your own judgments about the Telligent Harvest Reporting Server:

Example of User Report Tab from Harvest Reporting Server

Example of User Report Tab from Harvest Reporting Server

Now if they could only let me bolt this onto the community of my choosing (just like Google Analytics).