Frequently Asked Questions

What is InfoSilk?
InfoSilk is an Application Server which simply snaps on to your existing databases to deliver a simple, powerful and flexible Web-based query and reporting interface without programming.

How is InfoSilk different?

InfoSilk is different because it is not a reporting tool like Crystal, Business Objects or Access. There is no development environment, layout tool, visual designer or other technically oriented component. A non-programming InfoSilk administrator fills out 2 simple forms and, in minutes, your reports are ready for use by your end users.

What is different about the reports produced?
Unlike the fixed reports delivered by standard reporting products, InfoSilk delivers an interactive ad-hoc query which the end user can quickly and easily filter, sort, customize and interact with a hyper-linked view of their database.

What are some of InfoSilk’s key features?
We examined the reporting features of the leading Web Apps and built those features into every InfoSilk report. We also eliminated all time consuming layout programming as analysis shows that the vast majority (over 90%) of reports do not need custom layouts.

What is the “time to market” with InfoSilk?
It takes approximately one hour to install the InfoSilk Server. The average report takes a few minutes. Typically, you will have InfoSilk up and running and serving at least 40 interactive queries in four hours

What are InfoSilk’s self-service reporting capabilities?
InfoSilk’s self-serve reporting capabilities allow users to easily create their own query and reports and save and share them for repeated use thereby eliminating technical staffing requirements and immediately filling data requirements.

What are the typical cost savings?
InfoSilk Server eliminates 90%-95% of the development time typically required to deliver reporting solutions. One customer has over 8,000 user views and has saved close to a $1,000,000 of development costs.

Who is using InfoSilk?
InfoSilk is being used by 1,000s of users in Fortune 100 companies such as Morgan Stanley, Con Edison and Wachovia Bank. Small and medium businesses are also benefiting from InfoSilk on in-house servers and in hosted application environments.

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Creating a Great User Experience

Components of a Great User Experience
A great user experiencing has three critical components
1) Gets the job done
2) Simple to use
3) Easy to customize

For the purpose of illustrating how InfoSilk meet these goals, here is sample display of a table of payments made by customers.

Getting the job done
For a business user, the first and most important requirement is getting the job done and done right. Without this essential ingredient the application is useless. Getting the job done means that the user must be supplied with the functionality they need without making the application overly complex.

InfoSilk enables you to give you users a clear picture of the all the information in their tables and views. The list display allows the user to access the data they need in a simple manner. The navigation, filter and sort components provide the functionality to find the exact data required.

Simple to Use
A great user experience is simple to use. Simplicity is often defined as requiring zero-training. The Web has provided many examples of how to simply perform navigation, filtering and sorting tasks. We’ve abstracted those familiar patterns in InfoSilk so that you can apply them to any set of data.

With InfoSilk, as soon as the user is presented with the data it is clear how to perform the necessary tasks. The navigation links, sorting by column headers and the quick filters and search boxes are familiar and require no training.

Easy to Customize
Customization is the ability alter to according to individual specifications. This ability saves time is necessary for the business user to maximize their use of the application.

In InfoSilk we provide this easy customization through user views. The end user fills out a the create view page with their specifications. These views are saved, reused and shared.

Of course there are other areas that contribute to a great user experience, but research has shown that for business users, these 3 facets are at the top of the list. InfoSilk enables you to provide your user with this great experience every time.

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List, Card & Detail Views

List View
The List View is the ideal method to interact with your Database Tables and Views.

When we sat down to build this view, we wanted to create the best, most intuitive way to interact with Databases. The List View is just that!

It is no secret that viewing data in a list makes sense; just look at the sites that you work with every day from Google to your online account statements, and you can see that Lists are the preferred method of viewing data.

Using the List view your users will be able to easily interact and navigate their data:
- Determine data page size by clicking on Rows Per Page.
- Easily navigate through the data using First, Previous,Page, Next Page & Last.
- Simply sort data by clicking on the row headers.
- Easily filter data by using Quick filter boxes above the column header.
- Understand how many lines of data by clicking on Get Row Count.
- For power users, Show SQ, enables, seeing (and copying) the SQL Statement that powers the view.
- Save and tweak your settings with Edit & Create View.

Card View
The Card View is a great way of looking at rows of data without horizontal scrolling.

Sometimes it just makes sense to see all the fields of a row of data without horizontal scrolling. For those times, we created the Card View!

This view organizes rows of data vertically, index card like, so you can see all the information on a row without scrolling to the right.

The Card View has the same filtering, sorting and navigating features of the List View.

Detail View
The Detail View enables drilling down to examine a specific row of data in more detail, one row at a time.

While Lists are perfect for working with many rows of data, they are not optimal for looking at one row of data. That is why we built the Detail View!

This view organizes one row of data vertically so you can see all the information without scrolling to the right.
Additionally, you can see all tables and views that this data links to below the main row. Think of an Order that links to Items that were ordered. These parent-child relationships exist in every database and you can easily deliver this power to you users without hassle.

With the Detail View, you can:
- Navigate one row at a time by using ß Previous Detail or Next Detail.
- Scroll through Related Rows
- Navigate to the detail of related rows

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Interactive Query vs Fixed Reports

Interactive Query
Most reporting products are designed around the concept of fixed reports. The user needs some information from the database and the report programmer defines the fields to display, the field formatting, the filter criteria and the sort order. A fixed report is generated and displayed in a report browsing program or on the web. The problem is the data is relatively fixed. Many reporting packages allow the end user to change some of the parameters, but at the end of the day, the user is interfacing with the online equivalent of the 500 paper green paper report of yesterday.

With InfoSilk we take a different approach by allowing the user to actively interact with the data. With interaction the user actively takes control of the reporting process. The search, quick filter and quick sort feature of every InfoSilk report make this possible.

Search

As illustrated below, by default, every InfoSilk report has a built in search feature. By entering text into the Search box and clicking Search every character based field in the database will be searched to determine if it contains that data. This gives users a quick and easy way to interact with their data.

Quick Filter

For more refined searches, every column in the database has a box above the heading which can be used to filter the displayed rows.

In the image to the left is an example of the Charge Amount being filter for values greater than 1000. All the expected operators (<, >, <>, =) can be used in the quick filter as well as operators such as contains, does not contain and starts with.

You can easily define drop down fields for the quick filters so the user can selected from a list of known values.

Date filters limit the list to the date entered or range of dates. You can specify a range by entering two dates separated by a comma. You can also specify one of the following special values: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, LastWeek, ThisWeek, NextWeek, LastMonth, ThisMonth, NextMonth, LastQuarter, ThisQuarter, NextQuarter, LastYear, ThisYear, NextYear, Last nnn Days, Next nnn Days.

The quick filter puts the user in control of the reporting process without consuming any manpower resources.

Quick Sort

The quick sort enables the user to sort on any column by clicking on the column heading. If the column is already sorted, the sort order will be reversed in addition, clicking on the right end of the underline will sort in descending order.

Quick sorting is a common feature for web applications.

The beauty of InfoSilk is that this facility is built into every report automatically so that your user can interact with the data.

All these features taken together make for an interactive live data feel for your reporting which create a superior user experience. More detailed customization options are described in the Customization Ease and Power article.

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Webify Your Database

What Does Webify Mean?

Webify is often taken to mean the transformation of your data from your database to something that can be displayed on the web such as HTML or XML. We take take this concept beyond this technical definition by looking at it from the end users point of view. From the end user, web presented data is easily to manipulate, visual and hyperlinked.

In the List, Card & Detail Views and the Interactive Query vs Fixed Reports articles we’ll describe some of the visual display and manipulation InfoSilk provides. In this article we illustrate hyperlinking describe and the calendar visual presentation.

Hyperlinking Your Database
Hyperlinking, or Linking, is the ability to click on a bit of text or an image and have it jump you to a related page. This is probably the fundamental building block of the web and what makes it so useful.

With InfoSilk we make it simple to create those hyperlinks so you can easily link together data such as your charges and customers. In the screen shot below we show a charge with a link to associated household. Clicking on that link takes the user to the the detail view for that household.

Almost every relationship in you database can benefit from this type of link. When your database becomes navigatable in this way you are easily applying the power of the web interface to all your users.

Calendar Views

The InfoSilk Calendar Views are the perfect way to interact with date-based data.

We set out to take the benefits of Web Calendars and apply those benefits to any database. Essentially, any row that contains a date field will benefit from being displayed in a Calendar format.

This Calendar shows rows where the date falls within the range being viewed. For instance, if you are looking at the month of January then you will see links for each row of data occurring on the specific dates in January.

This at-a-glance view of the calendar is very informative. Additionally, simply hover over the link to see the details of the row of data. Or click the link to drill into the Detail View for that row.

With the Calendar View, you can:
- Navigate by selecting the appropriate Month or Day from the left Navigation pane.
- Select a different Layout Like Day, Week, Month
- Hover over links to see quickly see row details
- Click on a link to drill into the Detail View
- Click on a Date number to go to the Day view for that date

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Enabling Self Serve Reporting

Increasing Reporting Requirements
The need to share up-to-date information with employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders is an increasing requirement in today’s environment.


 
A number of factors are driving this increase in demand. Every company has new reporting requirements necessitated by changes in the competitive business environment in which we live. Increasing financial pressures to cut costs and increase revenues is a drivers. The demand for increased productivity from workers is a third reason often cited. The bottom line is that users at all levels need to leverage information to perform their tasks more efficiently and more effectively.

In most environments, technical staff fills these reporting requests adding little business value in the process. The need to involve these personnel creates inevitable backlogs, resulting in dissatisfaction among business users and continual pressure on the technical personnel.

Self-Serve Reporting

The answer to this problem is to provide end users with self-serve reporting. Self-serve reporting allows users to easily create their own reports and save them for repeated use. Companies have found this solution tremendously effective as business users are empowered with the ability to create the reports they need, while understaffed technical areas free up resources for other projects.

InfoSilk’s self-serve reporting capabilities provide tremendous cost savings over the expensive to purchase, train and deploy costs of complex reporting solutions.

Summary

- Users continually need new reports to perform their business tasks
- Existing reporting tools are expensive to deploy and require extensive technical support
- InfoSilk’s self-serve reporting capabilities put the business user in control of the process

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Customization Ease & Power

Customization Requirement

Customization is the ability to modify a report to more clearly fill the business requirement. Customization includes filtering, column selection, sorting and summarizing the data in a report. To hit the sweet spot for end users, the customization features have to be sufficient to meet the need yet easy enough to perform.

Let’s use a Charges Report to illustrate some of the customization features.

Filtering

Filtering enables the user to select a set of rows from the table. The user selects the column and operator (less than, equals to, …) from a drop down and specifies the filter values in a text box, from a pop up list of values or from a calendar. The graphic below illustrates the simplicity of the process.

Column Selection and Ordering

In the column selection section the user can select which columns to select as well as the order that they will be displayed.

Sorting & Summarizing

In the sorting section, the user specifies the sort order as well as an subtotals to be calculated. In the Summarize section, summarize operators such as Sum, Avg, Max, Min and Count are specified.

Resulting Report

Here is the result of the customization.

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Exporting and Auto Emailing

Exporting
InfoSilk’s export capabilities enables the exporting of data from any view to a variety of formats including Excel, Word, PDF, CSV and text files.

Emailing
The data can also be emailed to a group of users on either a one-time basis or on a regular schedule. Scheduled emailing facilities include automatically emailing the data to users on a Monthly, Weekly or Daily basis at a specific time or at multiple times during the day.

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Editing Your Data

Editing
In addition to its powerful reporting features, InfoSilk allows you to create Web applications for updating the data in your databases with a multitude of security features.

All the user interface functionality you would expect from the best data entry applications is built-into InfoSilk. Editing, validation, popup date selections, drop down lists, searchable lists and other ease of entry features are automatically provided.

Displayed below is an example of an edit transaction:

Multi Record Editing

Multi record editing enables the end user to edit a number of records on one page resulting in faster data entry. All the entry features described in single record editing are available in multi record, in addition to the ability to assign the set values to multiple rows at one time. The multi record editing can be done in both browse and card views as illustrated below.

Displayed below is an example of a multi record edit in browse view:

Displayed below is an example of a multi record edit in card view:

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Intelligent Cost Cutting

Cost Cutting While Increasing Deliverables


Many companies are tasked with cutting costs. The two most common approaches to cutting costs are putting requests on hold and/or reducing head count. In both scenarios there is a significant loss in deliverable produced.


With InfoSilk, we took a more intelligent approach to cost cutting. By using application design patterns techniques we analyzed what are the key elements of a great Web Report. In addition we analyzed where the most time is taken in development reporting.

Saving Money By Design

Armed with this research we produced InfoSilk whereby using database metadata and drastically reducing development specifications, IT departments can create a high quality Web Report with a powerful self-service user interface without programming.

All InfoSilk applications have the following interfaces and functions built-in:

Interface Capabilities
o List view
o Card view
o Calendar view
o Detail view with related transaction
o Summary views
o Quick Filters
o Quick Sort
o Customizing views

Functions
o Exporting of data in Excel, Word, PDF, CSV, …
o Emailing of data
o Optional Editing of Data
o Optional Multi Record Editing of Data

Now, instead of reducing deliverables, you can deliver higher quality Web Reports and drastically cut costs at the same time. We believe this approach makes a compelling case for introducing InfoSilk into your company.

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