Companies of all sizes are starting to appreciate the value of archived and historical data, yet accessing and analyzing that data has proven to be a challenge. Datawatch Monarch Professional brings analytical capabilities to those data sets, while meeting the needs of businesses that cannot afford expensive, time-consuming business intelligence solutions, “big data” platforms and enterprise data mining products. What’s more, Datawatch Monarch Professional can also work hand-in-hand with those other analytical platforms to bring more value to the data analytics process.
The benefits offered by Monarch Professional are numerous and can be leveraged across multiple business segments. For example, the product can be used to scour data from previously generated reports to identify trends for marketing purposes. Auditors could choose to use the product to look for statistical anomalies across several archival data stores. The potential for an analytical platform that supports both structured and semi-structured data is almost unlimited; it all comes down to experimentation and manipulation of the data and then applying analytics to uncover value. This is more art than science. However, artist and scientist alike can turn to the impressive toolset offered by Monarch Professional to analyze scores of data sets.
A Closer Look at Monarch Professional V11
Monarch Professional is available in the single-user standalone version, called Monarch Professional version 11, and as the design tool for the server-based product, Monarch Enterprise. Monarch Enterprise is for companies that require multiple users to share analytics across an organization, while meeting IT security and data-governance requirements.
I took a look at Monarch Professional Version 11, and put it through its paces to find out what type of value Datawatch’s analytical engine offers. First and foremost, I found the product easy to install and configure. The single-user version installs on your Microsoft Windows desktop (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2003/2008) with little fuss or muss, making it easy to get started with analyzing data.
The more complicated aspect of the software is figuring out what exactly you want to look at. While that is more of a user-focused concern, and not really an assessment of the software itself, it is indicative of how powerful the product actually is.
Simply put, Monarch Professional V11 is a data-analytics tool that is used to gather information from multiple internal and external sources so the user can identify trends and make informed decisions using data that was previously inaccessible. It is the ability to gather information from multiple sources that can make the product complicated to use. Again, this is not an indication of any design flaws; it is just an observation that with so much data available to the typical user, separating the wheat from the chaff can be a challenging process. If I was pressed to come up with a definition of the product, I would classify it as one part data extraction tool, one part analytical engine, one part data transformation and one part report generator-a nice formula that defines a product that brings creativity to the data-visualization process. For situations where critical decisions must be data-driven, Monarch Professional is a must-have tool.
Out of the box, Monarch Professional can work with multiple types of reports. For example, the product can scour through PDF, XML, HTML, text, spool files, ASCII files and many others. With the product’s report-centric focus, you simply gather up electronic versions of reports, whether these documents are invoices, balance sheets, inventory lists, logs or spread sheets. You are then able to quickly select what files you want to work with and how you want to handle them. Applying user-defined “filters” allows the user to narrow the views to only data immediately needed.
That means the user can work with structured and semi-structured data. What’s more, if you want to analyze the content of a large database, you can just dump all the data to an ASCII report and have at it-a methodology that eliminates the need to integrate Monarch Professional with databases (although integration is simple and only takes a few mouse clicks), or risk downtime while running complex analytics. By focusing on report output, Monarch Professional allows analytics to take place at any time, all without disrupting operations or impacting network performance. The product also offers a database connector, which allows users to grab information directly from SQL databases, as well as from Microsoft Access or Excel.
Using Monarch Professional Is Straightforward
For my tests, I dumped a large SQL database of pseudo-sales information into an ASCII file, using a simple report-generator. I also grabbed some sales content stored in PDF files, as well as some log files from an online store application (a shopping cart). Finally, I included a few other data files related to the sales process that a typical small-sales Website might have.
The idea here was to use Monarch Professional to uncover some sales trends that could be beneficial to a company looking to enhance marketing plans or try something different. My example has a relatively narrow focus, and potential users shouldn’t try to pigeonhole Monarch Professional into only one scenario. The product is powerful enough to handle many types of analytics and data extraction.
Ultimately, the goal here was to demonstrate how Monarch Professional can allow a user to view, print, analyze, extract and transform data from existing files. The product works by examining reports and then creating a soft copy of the report that can be visualized on-screen. This basically provides automated intelligence to give reports a data structure, which can then be viewed, manipulated or even exported out to Microsoft Excel or other applications.
In practice, using Monarch Professional is a straightforward and easy-to-learn process. Users create a template, which offers instructions on how to extract the data out of an existing report and then transforms that data into a visual representation. This allows the users to manipulate the data. Once a template is created, it can be stored in a model file, which allows the template to be applied to future reports. There are several options available when building templates, which help users create a workable structure around unformatted data. Ideally, users can associate the header of a report with field names and then target the actual data on the report – transforming the original report into workable data that can be linked to other files or used to look up additional data from an external source, such as a SQL database. External data can be incorporated by using real-time lookups or via importation.
It just depends on how you want to work with your data.
Once a template is applied against a data set, Monarch delivers a visual representation of the data in a tabular format. Users can then apply algorithms using a data-extraction wizard to the newly created data set. The application offers more than 60 functional commands to work with the raw imported data set to create output that makes sense. The function set proves to be very familiar to users that have worked with spreadsheets and Boolean logic commands. In addition, calculations are included in the function set, allowing users to create some very complex scripts that offer algorithmic behavior.
Working with the included wizards and definition tools proves quite easy, and I found myself spending more time thinking about how to work with my data than actually defining filters, traps and calculations. While that may sound like a bad thing, in actuality it is a good sign that Monarch Professional can deal with almost any idea that you can come up with on how to mine and transform data.
For example, I created a data set that filtered out customers by a specific geographical area and then set a date range to see what was purchased. I was able to further engineer my transformation logic to tie those purchases with specific categories of products that were related to a seasonal quarter. From my data set, I was able to determine that people in Vermont buy snow skis a month earlier than those in Massachusetts-information that I could use to build off-season sales incentives to get late-season buyers to purchase skis earlier in the season.
Of course, that is only one narrow example of how Monarch Professional can be used. The product’s flexibility creates an almost unlimited number of scenarios. The product’s biggest strength comes from the way it helps people to think about data differently and to see the value in archival data, especially historical reports. That is a major accomplishment since many business operators struggle with the cost of storing data and find elements such as compliance-driven archiving a burden. Monarch Professional brings value to that data, and makes it much easier for IT to justify the need to store historical data.
What’s more, it offers value directly to IT. The product can be used to formulate conclusions from data logs, participate in the auditing process, check against compliance requirements and so forth.
While Monarch Professional may not have the power of very expensive analytical platforms driven by big data systems, it does bring the ideology of business intelligence and analytics to companies that want a lot of data analytical power for a relatively small investment.
With Monarch Professional, even the smallest data sets can offer additional information and at the very least, it offers an intuitive way to create custom output from canned, closed systems-where data can be gathered from static reports and combined with external resources to create information that is actionable by most any business.
In short, Datawatch Monarch Professional V11 will prove to be the perfect tool for those individuals or workgroups looking to make better decisions using automated analytics without incurring the enormous investment in traditional business intelligence systems.