Home
 
About us
 
BoardwalkTech
 
Solid State Disc
 
Grau Data
 
School-Softw.
 
Contact
 
 
Info PDF   FAQ
 

FAQ

  1. What is a Boardwalk Collaboration Platform (BCP) and how does it work?
  2. What makes BCP unique?
  3. When users collaborate on spreadsheets, do you centrally store a given spreadsheet and then make changes to that spreadsheet, or do you synchronize changes between multiple, locally stored spreadsheets?
  4. Since users can make cell-level changes concurrently to the same data, how does BCP determine which value in a spreadsheet "wins" when conflicting values are input by two separate users?
  5. How does BCP handle change management & reporting?
  6. Does BCP support analytics?
  7. Does BCP have versioning?
  8. Is there an audit trail of who and what changes?
  9. Does BCP support access and validation controls when users are working in the spreadsheet?
  10. Does BCP support workflow?
  11. Does BCP support derived data input in a spreadsheet-based process?
  12. Does BCP still let me use all of Excel’s capabilities for other data manipulation?
  13. Can BCP work with data from backend systems such as backlog & shipped data?
  14. Can you change ASPs and other measures over time?
  15. Can BCP be accessed from any internet link worldwide?
  16. Does BCP support top down override (i.e., management adjustments after discussion with distribution/sales)
  17. Do you allow for the automated sharing of formats or of other Excel features such as graphs?
  18. How does BCP handle what’s often accomplished through links in standard Excel?
  19. How does BCP work with Microsoft SharePoint and other file management & collaboration solutions?
  20. How does BCP compare with "spreadsheet compliance" solutions?
  21. How does BCP compare with Office 12 and Excel Services?
  22. What about Google Spreadsheet and other web-based spreadsheets?
  23. What’s the difference between BCP and traditional relational database models interacting with spreadsheets?
  24. Is BCP’s method of working with row & column data in an object-storage relational database world unique?
  25. What’s the difference between BCP and traditional relational database models which have been published into an OLAP cube which is then interacting with spreadsheets?
  26. How does BCP compare with a data warehouse?
  27. How does BCP integrate with an ERP system or other system of record?
  28. Why would I not buy an enterprise point solution rather than use spreadsheets for an enterprise application?
  29. What advantages does BCP offer as a client server application, rather than a web-based application?

1. What is the Boardwalk Collaboration Platform (BCP) and how does it work?

A BCP is an enterprise-quality, positional data management system which supports collaborative desktop-based processes that are either initiated from the desktop in spreadsheets or initiated from an ERP system and a workflow is executed on the desktop in conjunction with the ERP system.

To enable this, a unique database technology, which we call a Positional Data Management System, has been developed to enable enterprise-quality desktop processes driven by spreadsheets or other tabular data environments. BCP is used to store and retrieve data using a row & column address similar to Excel but with two additional dimensions added to each cell update—user and time. BCP's unique, patented design means you can collaborate using a shared range (or ranges) of positional data. In addition, role-appropriate row & column-level access control to the data is automatically controlled by BCP or leveraged through another enterprise application. 

All the capabilities of BCP are exposed through a rich set of BCP APIs which have been developed to support creating and managing tabular data in Excel, any tabular desktop application, or a form. Currently, the server-side APIs are all Java based while the desktop interactions can be driven through the Boardwalk Command Language (BCL) which is a VBA macro control language.

back to top --->

2. What is the Boardwalk Collaboration Platform (BCP) and how does it work?

BCP is very different than other products that support "collaboration" because BCP supports collaboration between any number of users and systems at the cell level without leaving the desktop.  BCP lets you select positional data in ranges, like a PrintArea, and links the cells to a BCP Server running on top of a traditional relational database which captures the data and formulas stored in the positional range of data and then presents this shared range back to any number of user in the positional data environment (often a spreadsheet) on their desktop, on-demand. 

That means that once the data is linked into BCP – the “single version of the truth” for that data is on the server – and when users look at their spreadsheets, they are seeing a representation of that data that has been designated for them to see.  In other words, with BCP, instead of managing spreadsheet files, you are managing positional data at the cell level. Users still work with Excel on the desktop, but the data is transparently controlled and managed by the server to support collaboration between Excel desktops and backend systems.

This unique (patented ) technology includes:

  • An industry-standard relational database management system with a specialized schema and an “abstraction layer” which runs on top of the relational database to manage the interaction between the tabular row & column world of the spreadsheet and the record storage world of a relational database.
  • A desktop client which manages interaction between local spreadsheet-based data
  • A browser-based application which can be used within existing applications to enable "positional" data management.

back to top --->


2. When users collaborate on spreadsheets, do you centrally store a given spreadsheet and then make changes to that spreadsheet, or do you synchronize changes between multiple, locally stored spreadsheets?


Boardwalktech's approach to spreadsheet collaboration is much different than copying a spreadsheet to a hosted server which is then used as a "centrally stored version" which can be used for collaboration. BCP takes a range of "data" (data and formulas) from a spreadsheet and populates that into a patented "positional" database. Once in the database, the data can be used to support a collaboration between multiple users working in locally-stored spreadsheets or through a tabular browser interface. Every time a user makes a change, it is versioned in the BCP database and then, regardless of whether the user is working locally or through the browser, the changes are synchronized between all the users automatically using the "single-version-of-the-truth."

back to top --->

4. Since users can make cell-level changes concurrently to the same data, how does BCP determine which value in a spreadsheet "wins" when conflicting values are input by two separate users?

BCP’s approach to conflict resolution is to present all changes from all users during a given period to the participants-- this is a unique part of our versioned database system which lets multiple users work concurrently and in isolation. All changes are presented to the user who can then determine which one "wins" which, in our parlance, means is made the current version. There is no check-in/check-out and locking out users while concurrent updates are being processed. It's important to note, too, that all the non-winning changes are not lost. Our users prefer this approach to wading through endless "conflict forms" to determine which change should win.


back to top --->

5. How does BCP handle change management & reporting?

All changes to every cell for both data and business logic (formulas), by all users including other enterprise applications, is automatically captured as a new incremental net-change version such that only the changes are captured. These changes are captured in the BCP Server which relies on a relational database for storage. You can run all kinds of change reports on the data through Excel or directly (through interface tables) into any reporting application which leverages data in a relational database. The most recent changes are called out using Excel's comment feature for the cells that have been updated.


back to top --->

6. Does BCP support analytics?

All updates to the BCP data can be accessed through a query and used to support analytics. For example, you can compare the current data with a change last week by a particular user. You can compare any slice of data against any other slice of data within the Excel or any other reporting environment enabling robust report presentations & analytics.

back to top --->

7. Does BCP have versioning?

When an individual user then makes changes, they "submit" the changes (including structural changes like a new column, added/delete rows assuming they have permissions to do so) back to the BCP server. BCP tracks every change to every cell whenever a user submits changes to the BCP Server. These changes are captured as versions which can be used for change reports and other analytics. When another user then "refreshes" the latest data from BCP, all changes made by any other user will be brought locally into that user's local version. A typical version control system is one-to-many whereas BCP is many-to-many.

back to top --->

8. Is there an audit trail of who and what changes?

You can produce reports that show all the changes to every shared cell, row, or the entire range of shared data, who made them, when, and why. You can see changes made by both other users and other systems.
Back to top

back to top --->

9. Does BCP support access and validation controls when users are working in the spreadsheet?

BCP leverages the capabilities of Excel for checks and validation such as being able to verify that all required input has been captured or that changes made do not exceed an allowable amount. There is another layer of validation that is possible at the server level such as validating part numbers and customer names with an ERP system before allowing updates from the spreadsheet process.

back to top --->

10. Does BCP support workflow?

BCP supports workflow in several different ways. It can trigger events and initiate alerts driven by changes in Excel which are validated when the user submits and/or refreshes data into their desktop. Equally, BCP can pass off updates or other interaction events to other enterprise workflow applications.

back to top --->

11. Does BCP support derived data input in a spreadsheet-based process?

BCP is driven by Excel, which means if you can model your data requirements using a tabular (row-column) environment including business logic, then it will work the same way with BCP. For example, if you want to work with both the booking and ship date, the ship date can be an automatically calculated date based on either a fixed lead-time ratio or it can be specific to each part (unit). Any logic model in Excel driven by a formula is easily incorporated into BCP and the unit booking and shipment information can be captured in additional columns (right next to the forecast information or anywhere else in the Excel file). Also, since data entry is governed using cell-level access control, you can set it up such that an individual ship date can be adjusted manually if required. All changes are also tracked at the cell level so you can always know who has made what change and why.

back to top --->

12. Does BCP still let me use all of Excel’s capabilities for other data manipulation?

BCP fully leverages Excel's capabilities for data manipulation and reporting. Since BCP shares a "range" of data, users can have other data models within their Excel workbooks (like commission calculations for sales reps) which is not shared with others, but is driven by the shared data. This means there's no "export" and associated risk of version mix up — all data manipulation is done in and managed by Excel.

back to top --->

13. Can BCP work with data from backend systems such as backlog & shipped data?

BCP supports two-way collaboration and consolidation which means in addition to rolling up information from field users using Excel, information from the factory, such as backlog, can be integrated and viewed by any authorized users of the spreadsheets. BCP can take information from ERP and order management systems and automatically merge this data into the forecasting process seamlessly. The same capability used for backlog data is used for actuals, current booked & shipped orders.

back to top --->

14. Can you change ASPs and other measures over time?

BCP lets companies forecast any unit measure including units, ASP, and revenue. The ASP input by the rep can be validated against an approved range upon submittal to insure ASPs are managed. The ASP range (or specific amount) can be managed proactively by marketing to effectively control prices while forecasting. Also, you can dynamically manage ASPs across all forecasts for any given product since all forecast input is automatically consolidated. This means you can easily calculate the forecasted ASP across all orders while capturing forecast information. This gives management the ability to manage ASPs & gross margins based on forecast data versus having to wait for booked orders.

back to top --->

15. Can BCP be accessed from any internet link worldwide?

BCP manages access to shared data using a URL address which means any Internet connection can be used to access data. Even better, users can continue to work in isolation with their Excel-based data meaning reps (for example) could get the latest updates from the forecast system on Monday and then work on their data for a day or longer and then "re-sync" with the shared data. BCP handles the synchronization automatically-- any changes done by others are incorporated into the local user's view of the data and any changes they have made are automatically shared with others. This is an essential capability to insure adoption amongst users-- let them continue to use Excel the same way they do today, just remove the tedious "save-as" and email collaboration and versioning process! BCP makes existing Excel-based processes collaborative and enterprise quality with no user disruption.

back to top --->

16. Does BCP support top down override (i.e., management adjustments after discussion with distribution/sales)

BCP's two-way collaboration means management can make adjustments to any forecast item and the next time a rep updates his/her local forecast, they would see the change done by management. This can be done on the sales rep's forecast data (or an aggregation of forecast data) or in an "adjustment" column which is next to the sales rep forecast input. This adjustment column can even be hidden from the reps and only available to management. As with all other updates, all changes are automatically versioned so you can always "replay" all changes to understand forecast history.

back to top --->

17. Do you allow for the automated sharing of formats or of other Excel features such as graphs?

BCP does this through a "template" mechanism which provides a "starting"local Excel-spreadsheet based report for users in a collaboration. Once "materialized" on the desktop which means the latest data & formulas from the appropriate shared range of data is loaded into the local spreadsheet, users can make their own format changes to their local copy while not losing data persistence. With BCP, data persistence means subsequent changes are refreshed and change manageable. This is quite different from other "Excel reporting" approaches where a new file is sent every time a change is made and the user loses the changes made to the previous file and, worse, needs to manually figure out what's changed. Graphs and pivots also automatically refresh as new data is brought into the local spreadsheet.

back to top --->

18. How does BCP handle what’s often accomplished through links in standard Excel?

Companies will have multiple enterprise spreadsheets which can be all independent or connected to each other-- they can even be inside the same spreadsheet and even have data that's connected to multiple enterprise spreadsheets! There's tremendous flexibility built into the BCP technology to match the flexibility of Excel itself and how many enterprise spreadsheets a company uses is tied to its business process requirements (which are already laid out in the existing spreadsheets which they use to work with BCP). For example, many companies have multiple spreadsheets (or tabs within a spreadsheet) to support consolidation of a budget rollup across multiple departments. With BCP, these can be combined into a single BCP and leverage BCP's access control and consolidation capabilities to handle the consolidation process automatically. Each user would only see their data in their own local spreadsheet (or on the browser), but their changes would be rolled into a single BCP.

back to top --->

19. How does BCP work with Microsoft SharePoint and other file management & collaboration solutions?

Document management and workflow solutions work at the file level. BCP provides a cell-level version management solution which is a perfect compliment for content management applications.

back to top --->

20. How does BCP compare with "spreadsheet compliance" solutions?

Most spreadsheet compliance solutions work with spreadsheets as individual files (not ranges of data) and tell a company what has happened with the file not unlike Excel's own basic revision tracking capability-- there is no central version of the truth for shared data/formulas at the cell level—only at the file level. This means there is:

  • No collaborative sharing of data/formula sharing
  • No consolidation
  • No cell-level access control
  • Versions are done at the file level using a "diff" capability (versus through a versioned database)
  • Changes are managed through a tabular dump-- there's no "in spreadsheet" change management

Also, data security is managed by the database with BCP-- not just locally in a given spreadsheet.

back to top --->

21. How does BCP compare with Excel Services?

Excel Services is designed for viewing and exploring spreadsheets in the browser. When using the browser to view and interact with a spreadsheet, it is not possible to author a spreadsheet from scratch, edit formulas on a row basis, or change values in any cell that has not been designated as a parameter by the spreadsheet author.

This will not work for a dynamic, collaborative (let alone consolidation) multi-user environment where multiple users are working concurrently in isolation. BCP extends the capabilities of Excel by addressing the tabular data abstraction issue as it relates to storing Excel data in a relational database, providing persistence for data in Excel, and versioning. Since Excel Services is not using a database in the backend, it’s impossible to share and collaborate different parts of data with different people—a key capability of BCP. BCP lets companies continue to use their spreadsheets “as-is” and only share the data they want to. If any part of this shared data changes, even from another part of the spreadsheet, BCP will track it as a change so it will be evident to all process participants. In summary, Excel Services can be another client of data for our Boardwalk Collaboration Platform (BCP) solution.

back to top --->

22. What about Google Spreadsheet and other web-based spreadsheets?

Web-based spreadsheet applications are just that—web-based. You cannot continue to work with your desktop Excel data in conjunction with a web-presentation of the same data. To be truly a “collaborative spreadsheet," means you must work across the enterprise and not be constrained to the local spreadsheet or just to a browser spreadsheet. With BCP, you have an enterprise-quality database managing the tabular data & formula and the collaboration and consolidation requirements of all the users involved in the collaboration regardless of whether they are working on their desktops in isolation or through a browser-based spreadsheet. BCP can be used to extend the Google spreadsheet to include row and column access control, change management, and integration with other applications. Contact us to find out how.

back to top --->

23. What’s the difference between BCP and traditional relational database models in terms how they work with spreadsheet data?

  • The spreadsheet deals with row & column addresses vs. query & update model of RDBMS
  • Ad-hoc changes to spreadsheets break the link between Excel and RDBMS
  • Isolation/sharing is not supported without losing concurrency
  • Automatic merge can’t be supported
  • Collaborative capabilities are limited to file level granularity which is not acceptable in collaborative
  • processes as they don’t support concurrency and true isolations and don’t resolve conflicts

back to top --->

24. Is BCP’s method of working with row & column data in an object-storage relational database world unique?

BCP utilizes methods that are unique and patented.

back to top --->

25. What’s the difference between BCP and traditional relational database models which have been published into an OLAP cube which is then interacting with spreadsheets?

  • Today’s business users are working with a set of denormalized relational database data “reported” to either Excel or OLAP
  • The mapping between ERP <-> OLAP is an expensive and rigid mapping due to the design of data marts/queries
  • The denormalized report created by the OLAP is typically not an updatable report and the users either have to loop through the ERP system or use Email and Excel to come to an agreement on conflicts
  • When business information is delivered through BCP the cost of setup is negligible and it naturally supports an environment to collaborate/consolidate information
  • Today’s OLAP solutions mainly consider ERP database systems as the only source of reliable information and can’t tap into thousands of spreadsheets which are running critical processes as a reliable source of data.
  • By connecting the spreadsheet <-> BCP<-> OLAP, OLAP solution vendors can get into the planning (changed data) side of the enterprise that they have not be able to do so.

back to top --->

26. How does BCP compare with a data warehouse?

BCP and data warehouses are designed with different purposes. BCP is very good at multi-level, multi-site, extra-intra enterprise collaboration and consolidation of spreadsheet data. It provides a stable transactional database to any spreadsheet process. When working with a data warehouse for any collaborative purposes, you will face the following problems:

  • Flexibility
    Changes to the reporting structures are inevitable. With a data warehouse this means high setup and maintenance costs. It means that data warehouse expertise and IT support is needed on an ongoing basis. That means adding new columns or adding new rows is cumbersome and expensive.
  • Offline update of spreadsheet data
    BCP allows users to work in isolation to mature data and then merge the changes to share with others in the collaboration automatically. This means that more than one person can work concurrently on the same region in Excel without any problem. This is not possible in a data warehouse as users overwrite each other.
  • Excel Errors and Access Control
    BCP provides fine-grained access control on the structure as well as the data. This ensures that the structure of the data is controlled and everyone sees the data on need-to-know basis. This means low chance of Excel errors and high security. For a data warehouse, heavy customization is needed to achieve the same.

In general, while data warehouses provide an excellent way to analyze large retrospective data, BCP is an ideal solution for consolidating and collaborating using spreadsheet-based data. BCP is designed from ground up to do this.

BCP can be used in conjunction with a data warehouse solution where BCP is used for collecting spreadsheet information from SBU managers and then you can aggregate and analyze this consolidated information in a data warehouse solution. This will not only provide the best solution to the financial consolidation process but will save tremendous costs for most companies as they can avoid the costly effort of trying to make a data warehouse solution work like a spreadsheet.

back to top --->

27. How does BCP integrate with an ERP system or other system of record?

Since BCP is based on a relational database, it is able to communicate bi-directionally with any data source either though an Excel file format, through BCL, or directly using the API or BWX SQL Adaptor. This data integration is most often treated as another user in BCP. For example, a change coming from Oracle might be the latest "shipped orders" sales information which, once captured by BCP, is then shared with all users interacting with that dataset. BCP also can setup integrations with existing BI vendors where BCP becomes a data source for enterprise data residing in spreadsheets.

back to top --->

28. Why would I not buy an enterprise point solution rather than use spreadsheets for an enterprise application?

Boardwalktech’s solution is an alternative to point solutions which are the typical “evolution” step for spreadsheet-based processes. Some relevant points for this are:

  • The cost of creating/buying an enterprise quality multi-user application to replace spreadsheets is very high.
  • BCP can do the job and manage future iterations to the business data model in a very inexpensive reliable manner.
  • Even if you replace a spreadsheet-based process with an enterprise point solution, one loses all the capabilities of a spreadsheet and replaces it with a rigid RDBMS model-- that is why spreadsheet inertia is the biggest competitor to enterprise software
  • In cases where enterprise software provides a core value, BCP can extend that workflow to the desktop so users can get best of both worlds

Boardwalktech has developed an incremental technology to both relational database and spreadsheet technology which is not currently offered by any other company.

back to top --->

29. What advantages does BCP offer as a client server application, rather than a web-based application?

There are many advantages to an asynchronous client/server model:

  • Allows users to work in isolation/traveling/"perform what ifs" before sharing the information. One of the major reasons to support this functionality is that users always work offline in Excel anyways before they update a centralized database. For example, a sales person will keep a bottom line that is private before he/she enters it in a sales system for the manager to see.
  • It allows users to apply different personalized models on the data before sharing it with the team. This is extremely important in decision making. For example, a manager may apply personalized model on his/her budget before sharing it with the CFO/controller.
  • A web-based model requires connectivity whereas BCP supports both the web-based and client/server models thus allowing the user to adapt more closely to their working styles.
  • This isolation/connect mode allows more users to work offline and increases the concurrency and scalability of the application. Many other systems offer Excel support but require users to lock down the section of the data before updating the server. BCP allows other users to update the shared spreadsheet data while someone else is working on it.

back to top --->


 
     
  Datenschutz Impressum