[Blog Post] The need for visualizing data in the enterprise and satisfying it

  • By Shiroshica Kulatilake
  • 10 Feb, 2014

We live in an interconnected world today. There are many systems which an individual would use to proceed with his or her daily tasks. Such systems generate huge amounts of data. Being able to visualize all this data on one personalized dashboard is an important requirement in today's business world.

Enterprises which provide such systems should provide tools with which they can access this data and then present it in a meaningful manner. Also, such tools need to provide the users of such systems the ability to personalize an individual's data dashboard according to his/her functional as well as aesthetic requirements.

In turn, providers of tools need to cater data visualization toolboxes where enterprise users can create visualizations linking up different data views. This underlying tool should have the capability to link up to a multitude of such data sources, convert this data into a visually meaningful state and also provision for personalizing such representations.

WSO2's User Engagement Server is one such tool which comes with the WSO2 middleware product suite. This post will look at how WSO2 UES caters to the data visualization needs of today's enterprise users.

UES in a Nutshell

The above picture gives the functionality of WSO2 UES in a nutshell. Within an organisation there are different sources of data. UES provides the ability to represent this data in suitable representations. Each such representation is called a gadget and a collection of such gadgets are put together in an appealing layout to create a dashboard. Gadgets and dashboards can be created and published to an enterprise store through which users can reuse these artifacts. These artifacts are shared across user categories based on roles. Once a dashboard or microsite is created and published these can be viewed through any device.

Business Requirements and how WSO2 UES supports them

1. Rapid user interface development

In an organisation the main requirement would be the ability to create proper representations of data, in a rapid manner, with ease, and in a way which caters to changing needs. The ability of being able to create visually correct data views from data sources is a key requirement in a data visualizing tool. An enterprise should be able to cater to the changing needs of the environment in order to be agile - this requirement leads to being able to view the same data in different dimensions and in different views over different time periods. These requirements are satisfied via the provision of gadgets of various types such as line charts, bar charts, pie charts, trends etc to satisfy visual representation needs of different types of data. These gadgets can be arranged in a user's dashboard as he/she prefers based on the individuals viewing priorities. WSO2 UES provides the ability of a single dashboard shared among many users of a single role to be personalized for each individual. The intuitiveness that is displayed in WSO2 UES enables business users themselves to create the required views in a simple and rapid manner.

2. Advanced application development

Each of the dashboards that are created via WSO2 UES is in fact a jaggery application. With jaggery these dashboards are powerful in their strength as a complete web application which can easily integrate with HTTP focused web services and server side logic support. WSO2 UES also comes with an inbuilt web IDE for jaggery which can be used for ease of use development of the dashboards created. Through the management console of WSO2 UES it is possible to govern the artifacts used and hence application governance of the visualization artifacts is also supported.

3. Providing role based views

In an enterprise there would be several categories of users which use enterprise systems. In order to better manage such users the concept of user roles is widely used where the individuals of the organisation are divided into groups which are assigned roles based on their functional areas and responsibilities. These principles also apply when providing data visualizations. Certain data views would be more beneficial to certain categories of users and also some of the data would be access controlled based on the confidentiality needs of the organisation. These requirements are satisfied via WSO2 UES by being able to define access to gadgets and dashboards to specific roles. The gadgets and dashboards published can be shared based on roles available in the organisation's user store which is linked to UES.

4. Discovery of views

Several individuals within an organisation would need to look at the same representation of data. It would be inefficient if each of these individuals had to create these representations over and over again to use in one's dashboard. Similarly there would be dashboards carrying information which are of interest to several users - again creating these for each and every user is pointless. WSO2 UES provides the ability to create and publish such data representational gadgets and dashboards so that they can be shared. These are published into the embedded store within UES and can be either included or accessed by users who wish to do so. It is also possible to do activities such as searching for already created data representations, rating created data representations and providing social commenting on artifacts in the store.

5. Easy integration to an enterprise

Having a visualization tool which is powerful in being able to amalgamate data from various sources and display this data in the way users want it is only one part of such a tool being successful. A data visualization tool should also be flexible and versatile enough to be able to integrate it into and existing enterprise environment. Each of the data gadgets and the dashboards created in WSO2 UES are governed by user roles as mentioned above. In order to do this WSO2 UES has provision to either allow the enterprise use it's inbuilt user store or link up to an external store which can for example be the organisational LDAP or Active Directory. WSO2 UES also provides out of the box single sign on capabilities so that embedding dashboards created within UES in an organisation's enterprise applications can be done seamlessly.

6. Providing an engaging user experience

For any user based tool to be successful it needs to provide a user experience which engages the user. This is dependent on the first impression such a tool creates, the interactiveness it supports, the intuitiveness of the user interface, and the ability to personalize. With WSO2 UES a user is easily guided through the creation of dashboards via a simple and easy interface to use. Due to the intuitiveness of the tool a business user can create a dashboard according to his/her preference in a very short time. The display of data via the gadgets in the dashboards provide the user with an easy to read and interact interface.

Looking at the above business requirements and how the various features of WSO2 User Engagement Server fits in to these, it can be easily seen that this is a product that empowers an organisational user to carry on his/her daily duties in a highly efficient and productive manner.

Refer to Shiro's blog