IBI user conference leaves customers satisfied

At its most recent user’s conference in Baltimore, Information Builders Inc. (IBI) showed off its latest upgrade to WebFOCUS, introducing Version 5.2. and the latest release of its Enterprise Integration Suite 2002.

The four-day conference also gave customers a chance to network, take part in labs, roundtables or listen to guest speakers.

WebFOCUS is a business intelligence (BI) solution and integrates several products such as reporting and analysis. iWay Software, launched by IBI in February 2001, is considered middleware for e-business integration.

“I thought it was a great conference because it had a whole lot of different tracks (such as) business tracks, demonstrations, information and executive sharing tracks. It’s a conference for everybody. There are no sales people there and they say this is for our customers,” said John Morgan senior manager of information solutions for Moneris Solutions in Toronto.

Moneris became an IBI customer last February and its Merchant Direct payment system relies heavily on WebFOCUS.

Since the industry is currently enamoured with Web services, that feature has been embedded into the product under the WebFOCUS new release. Morgan said the system Moneris created is a prime example of what the technology can do by using IP (Internet Protocol) and XML.

It remains to be seen whether the promises of Web services will catch on to the technology-using masses, but as it appears to have intriguing business possibilities. Still, it really hasn’t caught fire to date.

“It (Web services) will go and be brought forward. It’s very useful and it’s probably the wave of the future, (but) we’re really not ready for all this stuff yet and it really hasn’t been put together or customized for us,” said Andy Hanna, project manager at the Royal Bank of Canada in Montreal.

As one of the speakers at the conference, he was most impressed with the amount of technical content that was presented there. However, he said he would like to see one change in particular made for next year.

“I’m a mainframe guy, so I’d like to see a little more mainframe content because it (the mainframe) is the best repository for storing information even though we’re accessing it through the Web,” he said. RBC, now in its fourth year as a WebFOCUS customer, used the technology for its bank book reconstruction project last year.

But at this year’s conference was the emphasis was clearly on WebFOCUS and away from iWay, and one industry analyst said that the upgrades made in Version 5.2 merely represent what the rest of the vendor market has already done, including embedding Web services into the software. There was one aspect of the upgrades that he found intriguing, however.

“Business intelligence for vertical markets, that’s more interesting (because) it shows a shift away from the traditional specialized users,” said Warren Shiau, software analyst at IDC Canada in Toronto.