Ironside is an Enterprise Data and Analytics firm and Advanced AWS Partner specializing in building innovative solutions leveraging AWS native analytics services. In a recent project, we worked with Homer Learning to build and launch a solution leveraging Amazon QuickSight to assist their marketing department gain greater visibility into the attribution and conversion of digital marketing spend. 

As a provider of digital education products to children via mobile and web, recent changes by the major industry ecosystem vendor data privacy terms & conditions (Apple & Google) have made tracking usage of Homer’s products very challenging. For the growth of their business, they needed to understand which digital advertising and marketing efforts were converting new customers and driving user consumption. 

Partnering with Homer’s data and analytics team, Ironside engaged to implement Amazon QuickSight Dashboards and Reports sourced from their data lake of advertising spend and user product usage information. The solution required close coordination with various business users within their marketing department and Homer analytics technical leadership to determine the effectiveness of advertising spend for both new user acquisition and user attention. 

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Exhibit A:Homer Learning Marketing Attribution Amazon QuickSight Dashboard and Reporting

Ironside’s Practice Lead for Business Intelligence, Scott Misage, shared, “The Homer Learning solution is interesting as it brings the headlines in the newspaper to customers engagement with the requirements, with Homer leveraging AWS to house their data analytics platform, Amazon QuickSight ”

Understanding the data elements from their variety of advertising and product platforms is essential for Homer’s marketing decision makers and is what Amazon QuickSight delivers. Ironside worked closely with business users to understand how they were looking to consume the data and align that to traditional and advanced features within Amazon QuickSight. Jin Chung, Sr. Architect, Analytics Platform at Homer shared, “The Ironside team worked closely with our business stakeholders to understand how they have interacted with the data previously and put forward solutions that could enhance that experience with some of the new features in Amazon QuickSight.” 

The Homer Amazon QuickSight environment is integrated to many other AWS analytics and management platform services that provide data processing and security capabilities. A key component of the platform is the aggregation of 3rd party data delivered to Homer via AWS S3 and blended in Databricks Delta Lake.  Ironside worked to create a secure and functional solution that integrated QuickSight to the Delta Lake with AWS Athena. 

About Ironside

Ironside helps companies translate business goals and challenges into technology solutions that enable insightful analysis, data-driven decision making and continued success. We help you structure, integrate and augment your data, while transforming your analytic environment and improving governance.

About Homer

The journey of parenthood begins without a map. As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to grow up to be confident lifelong learners who are ready to take on the world. At HOMER, our purpose is to give kids the best start to their learning journey during the window of opportunity—before the age of 6—where 85% of brain development takes place. We guide and champion children through this pivotal time as they build their skills and deepen their love of learning, and we partner with parents to provide the support that all kids need.


Your data needs are different from those of any other client we’ve worked with. Plus, they’re ever-changing. 

That’s why we’re fluid in our approach to creating your framework and why we ensure fluidity in the framework itself. 

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Whether your current investment in assessments, governance, and technology is heavy or light, we can meet you where you are, optimize what you have, and help you move confidently forward. 

These steps are all necessary, but don’t happen in a strict sequence. Each of them is an iterative process — taking small steps, looking at the results, then choosing the next improvement. You need to start with assessment and governance — unless you already have some progress in those areas. 

Analytics are constantly evolving, and the Modern Analytics Framework is designed to evolve more readily as users discover new insights, new data, and new value for existing data. There will be constant re-assessment of the desired future state, modifications to your data governance goals and policies, design of data zones, and implementation of analytics and automated data delivery. Making these changes small and manageable is a key goal of the Modern Analytics Framework.

Can we ask you a few questions?

The better we understand your current state, the better we can speak to your specific needs. 

If you’d like to gain some insight into how your organization can move most effectively toward a Modern Analytics Framework, please schedule a time with Geoff Speare, our practice director.

Geoff’s Calendar
GSpeare@IronsideGroup.com
O 781-652-5758  |  484-553-1814

Get our comprehensive guide.

Learn about our proven, streamlined approach to taking your current analytics framework from where it is to where it needs to be, for less cost and in less time than you might imagine.

Download the eBook now

Check out the rest of the series.

Your data needs are different from those of any other client we’ve worked with. Plus, they’re ever-changing. 

That’s why we’re fluid in our approach to creating your framework and why we ensure fluidity in the framework itself. 

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Whether your current investment in assessments, governance, and technology is heavy or light, we can meet you where you are, optimize what you have, and help you move confidently forward. 

These steps are all necessary, but don’t happen in a strict sequence. Each of them is an iterative process — taking small steps, looking at the results, then choosing the next improvement. You need to start with assessment and governance — unless you already have some progress in those areas. 

Analytics are constantly evolving, and the Modern Analytics Framework is designed to evolve more readily as users discover new insights, new data, and new value for existing data. There will be constant re-assessment of the desired future state, modifications to your data governance goals and policies, design of data zones, and implementation of analytics and automated data delivery. Making these changes small and manageable is a key goal of the Modern Analytics Framework.

Can we ask you a few questions?

The better we understand your current state, the better we can speak to your specific needs. 

If you’d like to gain some insight into how your organization can move most effectively toward a Modern Analytics Framework, please schedule a time with Geoff Speare, our practice director.

Geoff’s Calendar
GSpeare@IronsideGroup.com
O 781-652-5758  |  484-553-1814

Get our comprehensive guide.

Learn about our proven, streamlined approach to taking your current analytics framework from where it is to where it needs to be, for less cost and in less time than you might imagine.

Download the eBook now

Check out the rest of the series.

In the same way that Software as a Service eliminates the need to install applications on your local network, Data as a Service lets you avoid storing and processing data on your network. Instead, you can leverage the power of cloud-based platforms that can handle high-speed data processing at scale. Combine that with the ready availability of low-cost cloud storage, and it’s easy to appreciate why so many organizations are turning to Data as a Service. 

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One key component of a modern analytics framework.

In Ironside’s Modern Analytics Framework, Data as a Service is one of 3 key components.

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How can Data as a Service serve your organization?

We know your time is valuable. So, let us speak to your specific needs. 

Schedule a time with Geoff Speare, our practice director.

Schedule a time with Geoff Speare, our practice director:

Geoff’s Calendar
GSpeare@IronsideGroup.com
O 781-652-5758  |  484-553-1814

Get our comprehensive guide.

Learn about our proven, streamlined approach to taking your current analytics framework from where it is to where it needs to be, for less cost and in less time than you might imagine.

Download the eBook now

Check out the rest of the series.

If you rely solely on a data warehouse as your repository,  you have to put all your data in the warehouse–regardless of how valuable it is. Updating a data warehouse is more costly. It also takes a lot of time and effort, which usually leads to long delays between requests being made and fulfilled. Analytics users may turn to other, less efficient means to get their work done.

If you rely solely on a data lake, you have the opposite problem: all the data is there, but it can be very hard to find and transform it into a format useful for analytics. The data lake drastically reduces the cost to ingest data, but does not address issues such as data quality, alignment with related data, and transformation into more valuable formats. High value data may reside here but not get used.

When you have a system of repositories with different levels of structure and analysis, and a value-based approach for assigning data to those repositories, you can invest more refinement and analytics resources in higher-value data.

Striking the right balance between refinement and analytics is key. Performing analytics on unrefined data is a more costly, time-consuming process. When you can identify value upfront, you can invest in refining your high-value data, making analytics a faster, more cost-efficient process. 

Our value-based approach can help deliver higher ROI from all your data.

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This value-based approach also helps your modern analytics framework better meet the needs of your knowledge workers. For example, analysts can jump into complex analysis, rightly assuming that high-value data is always up to date. In addition, automated value delivery automatically distributes high-value data in ways users can act on. 

Let’s invest in a conversation.

We want to hear about your current framework and your changing needs. 

Schedule a time with Geoff Speare, our practice director:

Geoff’s Calendar
GSpeare@IronsideGroup.com
O 781-652-5758  |  484-553-1814

Get our comprehensive guide.

Learn about our proven, streamlined approach to taking your current analytics framework from where it is to where it needs to be, for less cost and in less time than you might imagine.

Download the eBook now

Check out the rest of the series.

Today’s companies have no shortage of data. In fact, they have more than ever before. And they know that, hiding in that data, are insights for better business decisions and competitive superiority. 

But even with all the investments they’ve already made, in everything from data marts and warehouses to operational data stores, companies suspect the most valuable insights may remain hidden. And they’re often right. If your current analytics framework is no longer meeting your needs, the signs are all around you.

Top indicators that it’s time to evolve your current framework

  1. Frustrated users can’t find the data or insights they need to drive better decision making. 
  2. Users rely on self-created spreadsheets not accessible to others. 
  3. Analysts spend more time on manual updates than on actionable insights. 
  4. IT-owned analytic assets take too long to update, reducing their usefulness. 
  5. High cost to manage data curtails innovation. 
  6. Your framework is already overwhelmed by the data sources you have, leaving no room for new ones. 
  7. Value leakage — in the form of data you aren’t acting on — grows every day.

So, what’s stopping you?

In working with companies across virtually all major industries, we’ve encountered just about every obstacle that keeps companies trapped in a data analytics environment that no longer meets their needs. Here are the most common concerns we hear, and how Ironside helps to address them.

“We can’t walk away from the investment we’ve already made in our current framework.”

We get that. It’s why a core part of our approach involves meeting you where you are, and helping you move forward from there – not from the starting line. You keep what you have and invest in ways that will give you the greatest ROI based on your needs.

“We don’t have the budget for a big increase in analytics spending.”

We find that a lot of companies actually spend more than they need to by treating all their data equally. It all goes to the data warehouse, where processing costs are high. With our value-based approach, you could end up reducing your spend. 

“We don’t have the time or resources to take this on right now.”

We can function as an add-on to your existing team, so that they won’t be overwhelmed by even more to do. Plus, the new architecture could drastically reduce manual tasks that are taking up their time—freeing them up to focus more on generating game-changing insights.

Three framework components will help you reach new levels of data analytics.

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Let’s make time for a conversation.

We want to hear about your current framework and your changing needs. 

Schedule a time with Geoff Speare, our practice director:

Geoff’s Calendar
GSpeare@IronsideGroup.com
O 781-652-5758  |  M 484-553-1814

Get our comprehensive guide.

Learn about our proven, streamlined approach to taking your current analytics framework from where it is to where it needs to be, for less cost and in less time than you might imagine.

Download the eBook now

Check out the rest of the series.

Looking back now that we’ve reached the one year anniversary of the Take30, we appreciated the opportunity to share our perspective on a range of Business Intelligence (BI) topics with a wide and diverse audience.  

The topics we covered ranged from the strategic and thought provoking, to the deep technical and “how-to” with a consistent focus on how to improve the analytics experience for you and your user community.

Over the course of the year we hosted 28 sessions focused on BI, most were either focused on a specific technology (Amazon QuickSight, IBM Cognos, Microsoft Power BI or Tableau) or a comparison on how these technologies addressed a capability such as Natural Language Query (NLQ), Embedded Analytics or Cloud BI.

Many of our sessions focused on our heritage as the go-to Cognos experts including deep dives into the modern BI features in Cognos Analytics including Data Modules, Data Sets and Explorations.  In one of our most highly anticipated (and highly attended) sessions, Rachel Su from IBM Offering Management joined Ironside to lead an overview of Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 – a role she reprised last month for Cognos Analytics 11.2).

In a number of other sessions, we explored Tableau new features, touched on many of the enterprise capabilities of Power BI and introduced Amazon QuickSight to our audience. 

Creating a Centralized Metadata Model in Power BI (4/16/20)

In our first session of the Take30 series, we explored the concept of shared datasets in Power BI and offered our point of view that, for many organizations who are maturing their Power BI capabilities, shared datasets mapped well to the “traditional” approaches of centralized (and governed) metadata, yet offered a degree of flexibility for decentralized teams to move at their own pace.  (Checkout this Playlist for Power BI)

Cloud BI: A Comparison of Leading Technologies (6/25/20)

As a majority of organizations see Cloud-based analytics as critical to their current and future analytics strategies, we thought it an opportune moment to take our audience through a review of the leading BI tools we work with on a daily basis.  

We reviewed the benefits of Cloud BI, including serverless and subscription-based licensing, then provided a comparison of vendors including Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, IBM Cognos and Amazon QuickSight.  

Amazon QuickSight – New Features (10/1/20)

While relatively new to the BI marketplace, we were excited to continue our focus on Amazon QuickSight and the significant progress the AWS team is making toward a solid enterprise featureset.  

Since that time, the roadmap and feature releases have become even more aligned to the enterprise reporting use case, especially in consideration of the compelling licensing story and scalable serverless architecture on which it is based.  (you may also want to check out this intro to QuickSight session  Introduction to Amazon QuickSight (5/7/20))

Enterprise Reporting: Assessment, Simplification and Migration (2/18/21)

Lastly, we wanted to address a topic that is of increasing prominence in our day to day conversations with clients – that of enterprise reporting migrations.  

In this session, we provided our point of view on the reasons why organizations migrate from their legacy tools, offered perspectives on approaches to migrations and the important pitfalls and lessons learned when considering such an initiative. 

We touched on tooling and accelerators we’ve developed to help those who have embarked on this journey reach their destination more quickly.

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Throughout 2020, the Take30 webinar series gave our BI Experts a new way to connect with our clients and prospects in what was otherwise a challenging year. We confirmed that our participants are not only interested in diving deep into tool functionality, they are looking for guidance in managing multiple BI tools at enterprise scale, and understanding how cloud BI can enhance their analytics capabilities without breaking enterprise reports and functionality which are critical to their business operation.

Looking forward, we are going to explore those and other questions with you as we continue to share our knowledge and provide a mix of content; from the tactical to the strategic, across all the tools we help our clients with on a daily basis.

The Ironside Take30 webinar series premiered on April 16th, 2020, with the goal to share expert dialog across a variety of data and analytics related topics to a wide range of audiences. The series has three primary dialog categories, each hosted by a BI Expert, Data Scientist or Data Advisor. In the past year, we’ve shared best practices with over 200 companies ranging from Fortune 50 to small businesses. Our success has been measured by participants returning and telling a colleague; on average, each unique company attended over six Take30 sessions. 

While some Data Advisor sessions are more technical, the focus is on describing concepts and tools at a less detailed level. We want to give people a sense of how rapidly the data and analytics environment is changing. To that end, the Data Advisor series worked with our partners, including IBM, AWS, Snowflake, Matillion, Precisely and Trifacta, to bring demonstrations of their tools and discuss the impact of their capabilities. We talked about the rapid expansion both of data and of the solution space to move, structure, and analyze that data. 

Most importantly, we had a special series on the Modern Analytics Framework, Ironside’s vision for and approach to a unified approach to insight generation that puts the right data in the hands of the right people. Regardless of your industry, your tools, or your use cases, you need a way to keep your data, users, and processes organized.

“What do you need in your data warehouse?” used to be the chief question asked when thinking about data for analytics. That time is past. Now, a data warehouse is just one possible source of analytics. Most organizations have so much data that building a warehouse to contain all of it would be impossible. At the same time, data lakes have emerged as a popular option. They can easily hold vast amounts of data regardless of structure or source. But that doesn’t mean the data is easy to analyze. 

And just as there’s no longer a single question to ask about structuring data, there’s no longer just one voice asking the question. Data scientists and data engineers are among the many personas that have emerged as consumers of data. Each has their own toolset(s) and preferences for how data should look for their purposes. 

All of this diversity demands a more distributed approach to ingesting, transforming and storing data – as well as robust and flexible governance to manage it. All of the topics covered in the past year of Take30 with a Data Advisor touch on these points, and on Ironside’s goal to help you make better decisions using your data.  Here are five of the 27 Data Advisor sessions we hosted this year: 

  • Modern Analytics Framework: Series Summary  (7/30/20-9/1/21) – This 6-part series covers all aspects of Ironside’s Modern Analytics Framework: overall concepts, assessment and design, governance, identification of user personas, implementation, and usage. If you are looking to upgrade your existing analytics environment, or creating one for the first time, this is an essential series, and one that Ironside will be expanding on in 2021.

  • Snowflake as a Data Wrangling Sandbox (6/3/20) – Snowflake is a tremendous cloud database platform for data storage and transformation. Its complete separation of compute and storage allows for many usage scenarios, and most importantly for easily scalability based on volume of data and consumption. Nirav Valia (from Ironside’s Information Management practice) presents on one common Snowflake use case: using Snowflake as a data wrangling sandbox. Data wrangling typically involves unpredictable consumption patterns and creation of new data sets, as an analyst seeks to discover new insights or answer new questions by manipulating data sets. Snowflake’s power and flexibility easily handles these types of activities without requiring up-front investment or significant recurring costs. It’s easy to create transformations, let them run, then let the data sit until it is needed again. (If you are interested in Snowflake, also consider our later Take30 Snowflake: Best Practices (9/24/20), including commentary from a Snowflake engineer.) 

  • What is Analytics Modernization? How can Data Prep Accelerate It? (with Trifacta) (2/4/21) – Toward the end of our first year of Take 30s, we held a panel, hosted by Monte Montemayor of Trifacta, around data prep and accelerating analytics modernization. As I mentioned earlier, there is a tremendous amount of data available today – but getting it analytics-ready is a huge challenge. Tools like Trifacta (known as Advanced Data Prep, or ADP, in the IBM world) are extremely useful for giving analysts and business users the ability to visualize and address data quality issues in an automated fashion. This is useful for data science, dashboarding, data warehouses – any place where data is consumed. (If you are interested in Data Prep, check out IBM Advanced Data Prep in Action (7/8/20) and Data Wrangling made Simple and Flexible with Trifacta (5/6/20))

  • A Data Warehousing Perspective: What is IBM Cloud Pak™ for Data? (5/27/20) – IBM has created a single platform for data and analytics that works across cloud vendors and on-premise. If you want to be able to shift workload between local nodes and the cloud easily, this is the solution for you. In this Take30, we provide an overview of the technologies that make Cloud Pak for Data possible, and how you can take advantage of them. (We also have a session Netezza is back, and in the cloud (7/23/20) discussing Netezza, one of the many technologies available on the Cloud Pak platform)

  • A Data Strategy to Empower Analytics in Higher Ed (7/1/20) – Occasionally, we have the opportunity to host an industry-specific Take30, and where possible, we have clients join us. Northeastern University joins this Higher Ed focused Take30 to discuss their approach taken with Ironside in developing a multi-year roadmap. This was geared towards increasing the “democratization of data and analytics” by establishing the organizational foundation, technology stack and governance plan necessary to grow self service throughout the institution. Our discussion highlights the particular challenges of a decentralized, highly autonomous structure, and shared the value of a data science pilot in the admissions area executed during the strategy engagement to generate tangible results.

2020 was a unique year. At Ironside, it gave us the opportunity to reach out to customers in a new way – one that we are continuing into 2021. We look forward to more detailed sessions on the Modern Analytics Framework, and on trends and tools that we see gaining prominence. 

After a year of delivering these sessions, we’ve realized that customers are not only looking for specific solutions, but for a sense of where the analytics world is going. Which cloud platforms make the most sense? What transformation and data wrangling tools are the most useful? Should I redesign my warehouse or just add a data lake? We look forward to exploring those and other questions with you.

The integration of BI solutions within business process applications or interfaces has become a modern standard. Over the past two decades, Business Intelligence has dramatically transformed how data could be used to drive business and how business processes can be optimized and automated by data. With ML and augmented analytics movement, BI applications are vital to every organization. Analytics embedding enables capabilities such as interactive dashboards, reporting, predictive analytics, AI processing and more within the touch of existing business applications. This differs from traditional standalone BI applications that put all the capabilities of business intelligence directly within the applications on which users have already relied. Now you may ask, when should I consider embedding to maximize my ROI?

Embedding Use Cases

Bar graph with upward trend     Business Process Applications

In this case, the integration of data & analytics is embedded into applications used by specific personas. For instance, embedding historical client information into a CSR application. One outcome will be improved decision-making based on readily available customer insights and higher levels of user adoption.

Shopping cart    Software / OEM Solutions

Digital transformation is all about software. Data visualization, forecasting and user interactions are must-have features of every application. Save the time you would spend coding. Embedding analytics in software not only saves cost greatly but also prominently enhances functionalities of software application.

Forest scene     Portals / Websites

Integration of data into your website or portal is another popular option. The benefits are obvious – information sharing provides your customers with valuable insights through a unified platform; you are able to go to market much faster since you are reaching customers directly. It helps your customers access the data they need to make decisions better, quicker and within their fingertips.

Embedding flow for embedding for your customers

Prepare for Embedding

Ready to get started? Let’s take a look at things to be considered. At a high level, the following areas to be carefully examined before design begins:

  • What are the embedding integration options? Especially with regards to security, how do you enable other application access to your secured BI assets? What are the options to manage authentication and authorization for thousands of users, both internally and externally?
  • Which functionalities will be open and accessible to BI embedding specifically? Typically not all UI functionalities are supported via embedding. Verify that critical functionalities are supported. Map your requirements to embedding functionalities and features.
  • Cloud vs On-premise hosting. Besides management and cost concerns, your organization may have cloud strategies and road-maps in place already. If that is the case, most likely no exception for BI application including embedding. Plus source data cloud modernization is another big driver to go with cloud. 
  • Cost – yes, no surprise there is cost associated with BI embedding. Each BI vendor may collect fees differently but legitimately you will need to pay BI embedding based on consumption pattern even when a single application user account is leveraged. Do the math so you know how much it will be on the bill. 

 Next let’s examine the tool differences. 

Embedding API by Leading BI Vendors

VendorAPIFunctionalities
IBM CognosSDK – Java, .NetMashup Service (Restful)New JavaScript API for DashboardNew REST API   Full programming SDK is almost identical to UI functionalitiesSDK can execute or modify a reportMashup service is easy to web embedding, limited report output formats are supportedJavaScript API and extension for dashboard, display/editNew REST API for administration 
Power BIREST APIJavaScriptREST: Administration tasks, though clone, delete, update reports are supported tooJavaScript: provides bidirectional communication between reports and your application. Most embedding operations such as dynamic filtering, page navigation, show/hide objects 
TableauREST APIJavaScriptREST: manage and change Tableau Server resources programmaticallyJavaScript: provides bidirectional communication between reports and your application. Most embedding operations such as dynamic filtering, page navigation
AWS QuickSightSDK – Java, .Net, Python, C++, GO, PHP, Ruby, Command lineJavaScriptSDK  to run on server side to generate authorization code attached with dashboard urlJavaScript: parameters (dynamic filters), size, navigation

BI embedding opens another door to continue serving and expanding your business. It empowers business users to access data and execute perceptive analysis within the application they are familiar with. Major BI vendors have provided rich and easy to use API, the development effort is minimum, light and manageable while the return benefits are enormous. Have you decided to implement BI Embedding yet? Please feel free to contact Ironside’s seasoned BI embedding experts to ask any questions you may have. We build unique solutions to fit distinctive requests, so no two projects are the same, but our approach is always the same and we are here to help.