BI ‘on the fly’ with Active Dashboarding

At the annual Information Builders Summit User Conference in Las Vegas on Sunday, the New York City-based business intelligence vendor announced the next iteration of WebFOCUS, 7.6.1, which includes Active Dashboarding, process-based alerts and Excel plug-ins.

Gerald Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders, announced the new Active Dashboards feature that will be part of the upcoming WebFOCUS 7.6.1.

WebFOCUS is Information Builders’ platform for its enterprise business intelligence offering. Part of the company’s thrust toward ‘Active Technologies’, Active Dashboards focuses on on-demand, on-the-fly applications that can operate in a disconnected environment.

Active Dashboards allows users to do everything from creating charts to adding annotated notes to drilling down into specific parts of a report – all in a disconnected environment, said Dan Ortolani, vice-president of advanced technology services and product management. “This disconnected analysis connects with the Microsoft Office environment. You can export to any Microsoft product, like PowerPoint or Word.”

Ortolani demonstrated other features of WebFOCUS 7.6.1 showing, for example, how the tool can send both static and active reports to a mobile device. “You can do calculations, sorting, add visualizations, and build charts right in the mobile device,” said Ortolani. “It’s very sophisticated analysis, all in a portable environment.”

The program also allows users to define report parameters so the reports are compatible with any mobile device interface.

This emphasis on user access continued with the focus on the Quick Data for Excel add-in to the current WebFOCUS 7.6.1 product.

This gives users the ability to build reports within Excel, and combine multiple reports on one spreadsheet. “And this process keeps an audit trail,” said Michael Corcoran, chief marketing officer at Information Builders.

Like all business intelligence companies, Information Builders is learning how to satisfy a much wider user population, according to David Stodder, vice-president and research director for information management at San Mateo, Calif.-based IT research firm Ventana Research.

“People don’t just like to look at data, they want to collaborate, look at spreadsheets. It’s really important that business intelligence tools expand on that so decision makers can look at that.”

Search was another evolving convergence capability that Cohen and Ortolani stressed, discussing the recent release of Magnify, which uses Google and the open-source search engine Lucene to enable capabilities such as transaction-based searching.

“When a search engine is behind a firewall or within an intranet, how do you get relevance? You get big value with this because we enrich the metadata with products and relations used to tag the transaction so when the user searches for it, it’s grouped very nicely,” said Ortolani.

Such features give users a powerful search tool from a single location, said Dave Berry, CIO of fragrance and beauty giant Coty. “You have all this data sitting around the world, and when you’re asked what’s selling, you don’t want to have to call 15 different people.”

Also new in WebFOCUS 7.6.1 is a process-driven alerts feature, which tips users off to exceptions in things like supply chain.

Another announcement related to iComply, which bundles iWay Service Manager, WebFOCUS Report Card, and the third-party Prizmasoft’s Compliance Solution that provides real-time alerts and automated compliance reporting, along with event-driven data collection and right-time alerts.

Business intelligence is moving toward the third generation, according to Marc Andrews, IBM’s director of strategy and business development for unstructured information. He said this is happening “because people want to analyze intelligence data for future actions, but most manage their business by looking in the rear view mirror.

We don’t necessarily need real-time information, we need to make available information in an on-demand format to help make business decisions.”

Coty’s Berry said his company is hankering for this type of information. For example, the recent launch of the Calvin Klein fragrance cK In 2 U oversold wildly, with Coty none the wiser for a week. “We’re a near-time company. It would be substantially useful as a business to know whether a new product was selling way ahead or was dead in the water,” said Berry.

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