Why I VitaraCharts for MicroStrategy, and you should, too!

Given that I’ll probably reference VitaraCharts on a lot of my blogs, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain a little about why I’m so keen on this visualization plug-in.

Full Disclosure
I am a partner of VitaraCharts – this means that if I recommend them to you directly, and you buy them, I do get financial benefit. I’m also a terrible salesperson, so I am going to just put this blogpost out there, and let you contact them yourselves if you want to. I like them more than I need the money.

My Vitara History
I’ve known co-founder of VitaraCharts Hema Pratapa since we were both slinging cases of fresh-squeezed computer wizardry in MicroStrategy Technical Support way back in the early 2000s. So, of course when she and Srini started VitaraCharts, I looked on with the amount of interest that I would when a friend starts anything new (i.e. Like it on facebook and move on to cat videos). Srini, by the way, is a former Engineering Manager from MicroStrategy’s technology team – so I knew they would do a good job, but as I say, I lead a very exciting life away from the office (I don’t like to brag, but I also watch videos of baby goats on occasion), so I had better things to think about.

But, I saw references to their work from time to time, and occasionally I’d see a new visualization. And I’d linger more and more thinking about how I could use these things.

The need appears
Then one day, I needed outline mode in a MicroStrategy dashboard. There used to be a customization that could give me what I wanted, but it didn’t work in Visual Insight and required code changes. I checked around, and the only option anyone could think of was an option from VitaraCharts:

So, suddenly, I couldn’t simply, politely keep track of something my friend made – they had hooked me as a technical user. And the thing about these visualizations is that they feel like such natural additions to the product that when you do need them, you immediately think “why aren’t these already a part of MicroStrategy?”

And they are a mix of subtle additions and powerhouse functionality.

A few quick examples:
Calendars – which seriously, think about how you would achieve that without this visualization.

Waffle charts – which have become so useful in the media, because they solve the biggest issues with pie charts. Pie charts are a terrible visualization because while they show a relationship between entities at a glance, you can’t really get more than a vague sense of that relationship – and the more entities, the less you understand.

Waffle charts give you the same sort of at a glance information, but if you need to be more accurate – the detailed view is there as well, because everything is broken down into countable blocks.

But they don’t stop there, VitaraCharts also add things like the “play” axis, which allows you to watch your data change over a parameter – usually time, but imagine breaking sales by age group, or color.

Here, watch this – seeing the charts in action will give more of a clear picture of what I’m talking about:

And the team keeps developing new things
A few months ago it was a Microcharts visualization with outline mode built in (yeah, they improved on what made me pay attention in the first place).

And just this past week they released a new feature for mapping, which Hema did a great blog on. Trust me, it’s worth checking out.

Flexibility
Vitara also put in an edit menu on each of the charts to let you modify look and feel to get it closer to your needs and corporate design guidelines.

It’s such a small thing, but it makes the design process so much more pleasant.

Consistency
And, these things work across the board. Too often I’ve seen situations where a custom visualization is built for web, and you can’t use it in visual insights, and there’s no mobile equivalent. This is a stressful situation for a dashboard design project.

These guys just make their visualizations work in all interfaces. So, again, if these are the visualizations you need – you have them wherever you need them. From an implementation perspective, for those of you who have done customizations for specific visualizations, the benefit is obvious. Rather than designing for multiple interfaces in multiple different technologies, yourself, it’s ready to install.

Installation
And it’s just a plug-in to install in the usual way in MicroStrategy. You can be up and running in a few minutes. No coding, it just works.

More information
I’ll be using VitaraCharts in an upcoming blog on MicroStrategy Desktop, and posting deep dives into the various visualizations that I really like over the coming months, as I get the chance.

But in the meantime, there’s a wealth of information on the VitaraCharts website, and you can meet with a rep at a MicroStrategy event, contact me directly, or attend a Webcast from the company.

Or if you want to be hands on, just sign up for a demo – or even just play with examples for yourself.

I feel like anyone who tries these visualizations will want them. Need is another matter entirely, and worse case scenario if you look at these you may realize you don’t need them. So I recommend that everyone who is using MicroStrategy take a look at VitaraCharts, know that they exist, and maybe one day, like me, you’ll see that need and they can solve a problem for you.

Contact me for a demo, or contact Vitara directly here