BI vendor unveils new toolset

Executives from Business Objects SA this month talked up dashboard technology at the company’s user conference while rallying users to standardize on its new business intelligence (BI) suite.

Business Objects officials outlined plans to add functionality to Dashboard Manager 6.5, which will allow users to customize metrics to measure everyday operational performance from transactional data housed in back-end systems.

The new version is slated to ship this month. At the same time, the executives called on users to standardize on the Business Objects XI (formerly Business Objects 11) suite. They said the release, set to ship by year’s end, will knit together query and analysis, reporting, business scorecarding and dashboards, plus underlying data-integration technology.

Dashboards will be an important part of The Tile Shop LLC’s plans over the next two years. The Plymouth, Minn.-based retailer expects to begin using dashboard data to support budgeting for inventory purchases, and it plans to tie manager salaries to key performance indicators (KPI) tracked in the systems, said IT director Gerald Baltrush.

Today, store managers can feel helpless “because they don’t have all the information they need,” Baltrush said. “We’re not just going to come from an ivory tower and say, ‘Here are the KPIs — adjust or else.’ I want them . . . to start doing their own analysis, (and) they’ll have data that has teeth.” Sears, Roebuck and Co. uses Business Objects dashboards to provide 500 merchandising and apparel users with better tools for managing store inventory, said Edgar Aguilar, senior IT specialist at the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based retailer. Aguilar characterized dashboards as the “next logical step in the BI life cycle,” but he doesn’t think users are ready to create their own yet.

Aguilar said Sears is also moving to reduce the number of BI tools it supports. The company has pockets of “every BI tool known to man,” he said. Sears has begun standardizing on Business Objects technology and will likely migrate to XI or its as-yet-unnamed successor, he said.

On the other hand, Thomas Nather, a senior systems analyst at Penske Logistics LLC in Beachwood, Ohio, is evaluating how to provide users with “one-stop shopping” for access to BI data using technology from Business Objects and Hyperion Solutions Corp. Business Objects has strong presentation and semantic layers, while Hyperion is strong in reporting and analytics, he said.

“You need flexibility so you can go from high-level information back to operational data to give users one-stop shopping. We don’t advocate just one vendor, because sometimes you can get yourself in a silo.”

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