At iDashboards, our main goal is to make data easier and more accessible for our customers. While every industry has its own unique data challenges, there are certain commonalities that anyone experienced in database management and Excel reporting will recognize. One of the most time consuming and hair-pulling aspects of data reporting is the need to blend multiple data sources. Frequently, data is pulled by different parts of an organization, from different programs, CRMs, databases, or web applications. This means that related data is not only living in different files, but can be organized just differently enough to make a headache for whomever needs to compile the report. Essentially, you’re trying to hook up apples and oranges.
Enter: The Data Hub.
Data Blending (even for the Non-Data People)
When iDashboards 9.5 launched, we debuted the Data Hub – a revolutionary, built-in ETL tool native to our Enterprise software. What is an ETL tool? Well, ETL stands for Extract, Transform, Load. Essentially, an ETL tool is any self-service tool that allows the user to take data from multiple sources, standardize it into a unified form, and write that data into a target destination or database. This could mean transforming the labeling, formatting, data type, and so much more. The goal is to prepare the data so it can be analyzed effectively, and ultimately be visualized in a custom dashboard. The Data Hub is also iDashboard’s central data repository, so all your data sources, ETL jobs, and final files live in the same place.
You can perform any number of data cleansing actions within the Data Hub, and with the release of 9.6 there is even more functionality. Here’s a partial list of the kinds of transformations you can make in Data Hub:
|Date Truncation||Change Case||Auto-Target Table|
There are a few new additions with 9.6 to this list that we’re really excited about. Date truncation is an immensely useful tool for summarizing specific parts of a complex date value. It’s important to view data in context, and one of the most useful contextual lenses to use is time. Since the premiere of the Data Hub, Our users have always been able to make certain truncations in the Data Hub, by year, month, day, hour and minute. We incorporated feedback from our accounting and financial analyst customers and added in Fiscal Year, Fiscal Quarter, Quarter, and Week.
Another cleansing option we’ve provided in our most recent update is the “Change Case” transformation. One of the most frustrating things about working with data from multiple sources or databases is how columns that *pretend* to have the same data use different cases – lower case, title case, or upper case. As data is dependent on case usage, there are numerous situations in which you might have a newly combined single data set that contains all three! This makes pivoting or sorting difficult, and manually changing each entry is a pain. Now, it’s a simple as selecting your columns and pressing a button.
The Auto-Target Table is probably my personal favorite new task in the Data Hub. It saves our users a ton of time, because it takes a formerly very complex job and turns it into a snap. The “Load” part of ETL requires you creating a database table for your data destination. Before, a user needed to look back at each individual source file, determine beforehand what table headers the destination would require, make notes on what changes you needed to make in each file, go back and forth… but now, you can accurately make database tables directly from the data flow of an ETL job. It’s also robust and adjustable, so you can fine-tune on the spot without having to start another job over or modify the source file.
New to ETL? Not a problem! We’re all about supporting your ability to access information easily and quickly. Each task within the application has a blue Information button, so you can learn about the task right there in the Data Hub. All the info you need to perform the task you want is built in, so you don’t have to navigate away from the workspace to get your answer.
More than just ETL
There are a number of ETL services, consultants, and a la carte solutions out there, but the Data Hub is much more than an ETL tool. The Data Hub is the main place for your data in iDashboards, designed for easy navigation and manipulation. While we provide a few different options within the application to upload your data, like directly into the administrative portal, the Data Hub is quickly becoming our users’ favorite location to organize and blend their data.
One of the reasons is our new Multi-File Excel Upload function. This saves our users tons of time, because they can upload a virtually unlimited number of Excel files in one task. Simply select the files that you need to upload, and initiate the task. It has a beautiful cascade loader, so you can see the progress of each file. It also error captures without stopping the process. You’ll be able to see which files need fixing, whether they have no named ranges, are password-protected, or have some other barrier to their integration.
This update was all about putting more information into the user’s hands. We’ve created a new search functionality that operates just how an OS file directory would. Simply use the search bar to look through all of your data sets and ETL jobs. We’ve also made your log files available in real time. The new interface makes logs easy to view and sort, so you can get to troubleshooting on your own terms. We’ve even made your license and deployment information more easily available in the updated About page. See user information, expiration dates, license files and directory info, and easily copy to your clipboard and share with our support team when you need an extra set of eyes on your issue.
At the end of the day, we want your self-service dashboards to be just that – self-service. No matter what, though, our team is always available to guide and help you along the way. Drop us a note today to schedule a personalized demo with our team, and learn how iDashboards can help you solve your data challenges.
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