Making Alfabet Your Own - part 7

Configuring reports

In this “Making Alfabet Your Own” series of articles, we look at how to configure the Alfabet product for best fit and best practices in business and IT transformation. This episode focusses on what types of reports can be configured in Alfabet.

Issue 4, 2018 Download PDF

Alfabet is a facilitator for transformation

Alfabet helps plan and monitor the performance of IT support for business throughout its lifecycle—ensuring that business strategy and demands are understood, prioritized and executed upon. It also ensures that the costs, quality and risks of IT support are known and considered during decision-making.

Alfabet is a facilitator for the team of planners, strategists, architects, portfolio managers and the CIO office tasked with business and IT transformation. It enables them to evolve business vision into successful projects and reliable operations.

A prerequisite for this, of course, is having a comprehensive information base on hand and visual aids for rendering that information quickly understandable. The way information is visualized can be a help or a hindrance in understanding the impact of change to the landscape. Alfabet’s ability to capture the many relationships each planning element has is what makes its repository the powerhouse of information that it is. By understanding complex network structures and multi-level hierarchies, users can better manage the complexity that is today’s business IT reality.

Configurable visualizations

Alfabet offers a wide variety of means to visualize information. In addition to more than 1,000 reports delivered out of the box, Alfabet offers templates and configuration assistants to design reports that display datasets, matrices, lifecycle charts, bar charts, pie charts, geo-maps and more. These can be filled with any combination of information needed to provide answers to the questions at hand.

Colors, variable sizing, different line types and icons can be used in reports as indicators of a certain metric or criteria and to draw attention to important information. All reports support drill-down to the specific objects depicted in the display. Interactive filter criteria also allow the user to change the view to fit his/her precise information needs.

The following types of reports can be configured:

Tabular reports are used to show a lot of detailed information. This is the most basic report form in Alfabet and the foundation for many other graphical reports. The cells can be colored and contain icons to indicate a particular characteristic. Multiple headers are possible for rows and columns and columns can be resized and reordered ad hoc by the user.


Fig 1: Tabular reports are the most basic representation form of data. They are useful when a lot of detailed information needs to be shown.

Lifecycle charts or Gantt charts help readers understand the roadmap for an object or a combination of roadmaps for several different objects. Roadmaps are a key part of many business  and IT transformation scenarios be it the realization plan for a strategy, the implementation plan for a project, the retirement of an application or technology, or the enablement of a new capability. A variation of the Gantt chart is the stacked-flow Gantt chart which allows multiple related bars (for example, the consecutive application versions governed by an ICT object) to be shown in one bar, allowing a more vertically compact visualization. Milestones along the bar represent significant events. There are diverse shapes available—circle, triangle, diamond, square—for different types of milestones on one and the same bar. These can be placed on the bottom, top or middle of a bar. Further, the text in the columns on the left can have a vertical orientation to take better advantage of screen real estate.


Fig 2:  Evaluation of timeframes and time relationships between objects are the strength of Gantt charts.
 


Fig 3: This stacked-flow Gantt chart shows the ICT objects owned by the suborganizations of "AllFinance Holding" along with the productive use of various versions of applications. The milestones are defined to represent productive use and retirement.

Portfolio charts compare a distinct set of options or facts, for instance a portfolio of demands, project proposals or applications. Analysis is based on two (or three) dimensions such as “Business Value," “Criticality” and “Cost," The criteria used to evaluate the objects and their weighting in a particular scheme are freely definable. Portfolio charts can have either the BCG quadrant layout or ordinary axis definitions. Portfolio chart sectioning can be used to express the information in portfolio charts based on where an object falls in the underlying scheme. In addition to classic quadrant scheme, Alfabet provides wave-, squared- and checkerboard-shaped chart backgrounds for more meaningful interpretation of bubble placement. Different coloring and color intensity connote the fulfillment of the chart criteria. Portfolio chart sectioning helps identify the “profile” of a chart object and draws attention to particular areas of interest quicker. The user can quickly identify changes by using connecting lines to indicate trends, plans or dependencies.


Fig 4: Portfolio charts are good for comparing objects in two or three KPI dimensions.
 


Fig 5: Portfolio Chart Sectioning helps to readily identify an object’s “profile” on a portfolio chart. The first example here is a technology innovation group portfolio whose checkerboard sectioning indicates the strategic value of the individual innovation according to its impact on operations and impact on business. The second example is a “green IT” portfolio of applications. The wave sectioning indicates a need for action according to an application’s energy consumption and energy savings potential. The third example is a portfolio chart for investment strategies for business supports. The sectioning informs not only on the criteria “refactoring need”, “suitability for innovation” and “outsourcing need” (the three fanned sections) but also the strength in each of the individual sections (low, medium and high depending on the color intensity).

Treemap reports are used to display hierarchical data by organizing rectangles in columns. Using color and size on the rectangles as well as icons within the rectangles to denote measures of certain indicators makes it easy to discern patterns and find items falling outside of the norm. Also, treemaps make efficient use of space in evaluating hierarchical data. They are well-suited, for example, for hierarchically analyzing business capabilities.

A variant of the treemap report is the rectangular treemap. This report displays hierarchical data by organizing rectangles in a fitted, nested display. The diagram shows a two-level hierarchy, for example domains and associated applications, processes and associated sub-processes, organizations and associated applications. The size of the nested rectangles indicates the ranking of the object compared to other objects on the chart. The size of the top-level rectangles also indicates ranking order. Color and other indicators show defined KPIs and make it easy to discern patterns and find items falling outside of the norm. Rectangular treemaps make efficient use of space in evaluating hierarchical data.

A variant of the Rectangular Treemap is the clustered treemap report. The diagram shows a three-level hierarchy, for example domains, their sub-domains and the applications associated to those sub-domains. The size of the nested rectangles in the bottom two levels indicates the ranking of the object compared to other objects in the cluster. The width of the clusters is the same making a clean and neat visualization that makes efficient use of space when evaluating hierarchical data.


Fig 6: Using a treemap, the user can determine, for example, which domains contain the most mission-critical applications and therefore deem added attention.
 


Fig 7: The Rectangular Treemap provides representation and analysis of objects as they relate to each other in a bi-level hierarchy. It uses size to show the ranking of the objects, and colors and indicators to communicate defined KPIs.
 


Fig 8: The Clustered Rectangular Treemap shows business processes in a two level hierarchy and their supporting applications. The size of the application box indicates the number of business support objects that the application represents.

Layer diagrams are a way of visualizing the associations of objects in different classes to each other. For example, what are the demands associated with a selected strategy, what projects are associated with those demands and what applications or capabilities are associated with those projects. Each object class is displayed in a separate layer and is related to the objects displayed in the layers preceding the current layer through a business rule. Users may select any of the objects represented in the diagram and show the end-to-end traversal paths associated with this object. Layer diagrams are helpful in identifying dependencies and the impact of change. Like treemaps, layer diagrams allow color-coding depending on attribute values and icons as indicators.


Fig 9:
 Layer Diagrams are good for understanding dependencies between objects - such as the business processes and organizations associated with an application. They are very good for assessing the impact of changes to an object.

Grid reports are graphical representations of relevant relationships to individual objects. The user can navigate through a dependency network by simply clicking on the objects. With the individual object of focus in the center of the diagram and its relationships extending in both directions, the report shows all of the other objects in the reference framework helping the user understand the specific object’s positioning in the network or hierarchy. Additionally, color rules and indicators can be used in the report to highlight specific aspects or add other information dimensions to the report. Grid reports provide good end-to-end traceability.


Fig 10: This grid report shows legal ownergship relationship of an organization

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article where we’ll explore the rest of the reports that can the configured with Alfabet.

Visit www.alfabet.softwareag.com to learn more.