ProClarity Analytics 6.2 is a business-intelligence package that brings relative ease of use to the power of Microsoft SQL Server's Analysis Services for managers and business-analysts. Perhaps the biggest selling point is twofold: Its feature set is rich enough to satisfy the needs of experienced business analysts who design and publish perspectives of data, and at the same time, the professional and standard UI are sufficiently easy to navigate—and the data easy enough to explore—for beginners.
ProClarity Analytics is a modular product.The core server component,Analytics Server, lets you select, analyze, and display data in various ways. Because it can display descriptions of cube data, it supports the more casual user's understanding of evolving data sets. Analytics Server delivers data views to users in the form of Briefing Books. Business Logic
Server, an optional module, moves the creation of complex Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from the DBA realm to that of the business analysts, offering wizard-driven support for complex calculations. As a repository for member and set definitions, queries, business logic, and KPIs, Business Logic Server improves the consistency of analysis throughout the organization. The third server-based module, Dashboard Server, lets you create graphical views of KPIs and data.You can modify dashboards to meet your needs and use them as a drill-down starting point for further analysis.
On the client side, ProClarity offers three primary interfaces. The optional GUI-based module, Desktop Professional—the interface of choice among analysts—lets you create and publish views of data for use by others. Alternatively, you can use Web Professional, an Active-X module used with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), to create and publish views of data.You and other users who want to explore data relationships without needing to create and publish new views can use Web Standard, a zero-footprint IE-based interface. A variety of special-purpose modules are also available—for example, for exporting data to Microsoft Excel.
To test the product, I used a Microsoft Virtual Server R2 x64 environment, running Windows 2003 and SQL Server 2005. To gain quick familiarity with ProClarity Analytics, I worked with a Virtual Server system image provided by the Microsoft ProClarity group. The image included all three server modules and Desktop Professional. A testing script walked me through the creation and publishing of analytic views of data through Desktop Professional.
Desktop Professional's easy-to-navigate UI makes rich use of simple keyboard shortcuts and right-click menus. Hovering the mouse over a data point displays the value and related information, and right-clicking a point displays a menu of analysis options. One of the options, Decomposition Tree Analysis, lets you create a hierarchical breakdown of the underlying values that contribute to a particular business result—for example, high sales in a particular area. Another view, Performance Map, graphically displays the relative values of performance measures. You can save and publish views for other users, who can further explore the underlying relationships. The only navigational element I feel is missing is a hierarchical display of analysis steps that would afford single-click access to a previous analysis state.
ProClarity Analytics' server modules require Windows Server 2003 or Windows 2000 Server, along with SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services or SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services. (Analysts will particularly value the product's support for SQL Server 2005's Unified Dimensional Model— UDM.) The server modules support 64-bit versions on x64 platforms. Desktop Professional works with Windows 2003, both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows XP, and Win2K. The Web clients require IE 6.0.
This spring, Microsoft purchased ProClarity, but the company plans no immediate changes to ProClarity's marketing and support for the product line. Next year, Microsoft plans to integrate ProClarity Analytics into its business-intelligence product line, PerformancePoint Server 2007, offering current users a growth path to the additional capabilities of this product line.
ProClarity Analytics has many more features than I have room to describe here. Suffice it to say, those seeking insight into the "whys" of business performance— experienced users and newcomers alike— will enthusiastically embrace ProClarity Analytics.
PROCLARITY ANALYTICS 6.2
PROS: Offers a rich feature set and many ways to manipulate and display data relationships; nicely implemented keyboard shortcuts, right-click menus, and navigation panes
CONS: Lacks a one-or two-click means to return to an earlier analysis point
RATING: PRICE: Starts at $15,000; clients start at $195 (per named user) for thin Web clients (Web Standard), and $495 for rich publishing clients (Desktop Professional and Web Professional)
RECOMMENDATION: ProClarity Analytics is sufficiently feature-rich to satisfy the business analyst and easy enough to be accepted by decision makers. If you're in the market for a BI product, put it on your short list.