Reporting tool tackles vertical markets

When it comes to business intelligence, one size does not fit all – at least that’s what Toronto-based Information Builders (Canada) Inc. claims with the recent roll out of its customizable Vertical Business Reporting Templates.

The industry-focused reporting tools are built upon IBI’s WebFOCUS business intelligence platform that creates report templates for standard business functions such as metrics deviations, trending, variance, dependency analysis and business segmentation, the company said.

The solution delivers a dynamic business discovery environment in less time than it would take to implement a packaged application, or build one with other business intelligence tools. The templates are tailored to meet industry-specific information needs, said Kevin Quinn, vice-president of product marketing at Information Builders in New York.

“Because we have the templates, we’re able to accelerate the building of a customized reporting application for end users,” Quinn said. “From a reporting perspective we have the ability to create reports that are not tied to a specific data source…we can create a template that will allow you to compare a measure over a time period.” The customer’s corresponding data is applied to the templates at a later time, Quinn noted.

Among the available foundations are facilities management for healthcare organizations, warranty management for manufacturers, and agent management for insurance providers. “The templates can basically be applied to any enterprise regardless of where the data is – in a packaged application or in a homegrown solution,” Quinn said, adding that additional vertical market templates such as administration management for post-secondary education and call centre management for telecommunications companies will be available soon.

“It’s an interesting twist on something that’s been out there for a few years,” said Keith Gile, senior industry analyst for the Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., of the IBI offering.

“The emerging trend right now is with these templates, something that’s one-tenth of the cost and yet still supplies a moderate amount of definition…But companies need to understand that when they buy something such as this they are buying an incomplete solution that they are going to have to finish themselves,” Gile said.

Other vendors are moving to release customized templates of applications rather than the entire packaged application, which are much more cost-effective, Gile said.

Sales of business intelligence products have flagged, and the vendors – such as SAS, Cognos and Microstrategy – are realizing that customers don’t necessarily want or need complete packaged applications, he added.

“It’s a realization on the part of the BI vendors that they are not application vendors. They are software vendors and there is a significant business difference and technology difference. They can address the difference and not compete with the application vendors,” Giles said. “The cost aspect is significant, the development aspect is significant and this approach that Information Builders is putting out there is a great step in the right direction.”

Warren Shiau, software research analyst at Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd. Had a slightly different tak eon the issue. “Where vendors would like to take (business intelligence) is to move is it away from business analysts and make it a mainstream tool for use by people throughout the organization.”

“That increases the available market, but it can’t actually happen unless they develop mechanisms or integrate business intelligence into an application’s infrastructure so that the information that can be provided through it is actually useful for users at large rather than just to a business analyst.”