Business Objects beefs up its flagship tool

The latest version of Business Objects SA’s query and analytical reporting software is aimed at making users’ access to data simpler and more intuitive, according to the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor.

Also known as a decision support system, BusinessObjects Version 5.0 lets users pull information from disparate databases, translate the data into SQL, and create or modify reports using point and click functions, the company said. BusinessObjects also lets users insert calculations into reports.

And BusinessObjects ships with OLAP functionality, so users can drill down into their corporate data.

“What you have with BusinessObjects 5.0 is the evolution of this concept of letting the business user gain access to the critical information they need,” said Alex Moissis, North American vice-president of marketing for Business Objects in San Jose. “The idea is that if you…access raw data, there will be value to your organization.”

Version 5.0 of BusinessObjects ships with a new OLAP dimension bar, which helps map a user’s location in a multi-dimensional array. Business Objects said this feature can help inexperienced users improve their ability to study complex data.

A feature called Broadcast Agent, a scheduling tool that allows business users to get information quickly has been beefed up, Moissis said. In Version 5.0, Broadcast Agent now supports Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), allowing for better scalability and availability. “As report demand grows, that set of servers can scale up to meet the increased user base,” Mossis said, adding that Broadcast Agent prevents bottlenecks.

Version 5.0 also lets programmers control the agents in Broadcast Agent to produce reports according to certain conditions, using Visual Basic for Applications. And BusinessObjects 5.0 now supports OLE DB for OLAP.

Database administrators can restrict user access to data from a centralized location. And since Version 5.0 is also capable of working with Windows NT, the administrator does not have to change the password or other security changes made to NT into BusinessObjects.

Brent Hall, business objects co-ordinator with Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis, Ind., oversees the use of BusinessObjects Versions 4.x through 5.0 among Eli’s 5,000 BusinessObject users worldwide. Eli uses the tool across multiple departments, for a wide variety of functions.

“We pretty much liked the functionality, we have been a customer for a long time. And we had a chance to help develop the products,” Hall said, adding that Eli Lilly offered some input during the development of Version 5.0. The big difference, he said, is on the surface. “The user interface (is) cleaner. You can drag objects on the page.”

However, Hall would like to Web-enable the application, and he said that Version 5.0 still hasn’t come with the functionality to help him solve that problem. “We’re looking at going more with the Web; there’s still weaknesses on the Web.”

BusinessObjects 5.0 ( also comes as part of a more comprehensive business intelligence suite that includes: WebIntelligence, a query and reporting tool for the Web; SetAnalyzer for large databases; BusinessQuery, which allows Microsoft Excel spreadsheet users to query databases; BusinessMiner, a data mining tool; and OLAP service packs and personal training software.

Pricing for BusinessObjects, which is determined on a per-user basis, starts at US$395.

Business Objects SA in San Jose, Calif., is at (408) 953-6000.