Business Objects offers visualization via Xcelsius

BOSTON—Business intelligence vendor Business Objects SA announced an information visualization tool that allows users to interact with their data through a dynamic yet familiar Microsoft user interface.

Xcelsius Present transforms the usual Microsoft Excel spreadsheet information into visuals that can be shared via PowerPoint and Adobe PDF files. The company said it helps users ultimately make better business decisions by applying data to interactive graphics like dials, charts and gauges to convey business cases and illustrate “what if” scenarios.

The release by the SAP-owned company was announced this week at the Business Objects Influencer Summit. The firm said its product offering aligns with the needs of today’s business user – a shift in demographics due to outsourcing and internationalization; a demand for more user control via consumer-like interfaces and less IT administrator involvement; and a move away from a process-oriented style of working – changes that SAP had discussed at last year’s Summit.

Jonathan Becher, the company’s senior vice-president of marketing, said such changes necessitate that organizations rethink their operations and structure and that it’s “not just about efficiency, but about flexibility and adaptability.” All too frequently, he said, strategy and execution don’t align where the former is often “trapped in the boardroom.”

Closing that gap requires automating repeatable processes, having insight into those processes, and using that insight to rewrite the execution of those processes, said Becher.

Toronto-based pharmaceutical company Apotex Inc., a former Crystal Reports and current SAP BI 7 customer, needed a business intelligence end user layer for access to its business and research and development divisions, to enable market analysis preceding drug development.

Complementing Becher’s comments about increased end user control, Apotex’s director of consulting and testing services, John Mayer, said that while IT has traditionally held a data bottleneck given its mandate to control information, the business intelligence technology gave end users the power to build their own reports. “Really, it’s about pushing that information out to end users,” he said.

But the fact that IT had to relinquish control to end users was, according to Mayer, still “very positive” for the IT-end user relationship. Previously, IT had the burden of generating reports as per user requests, but now it’s up to the end user, and furthermore, there’s a good feedback loop in place to ensure data integrity.

Apotex chief information officer, Michael Davidson, said the setup is “bringing the end user into the whole problem of master data management.”

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Narina Sippy, senior vice-president and general manager of SAP’s governance, risk and compliance group, discussed the role that risk management plays in aligning strategy with execution in any organization.

A business, for instance, will set key objectives around a strategy like target margins, determine the associated risk, set risk thresholds, and have controls within business processes in order to track the execution of those processes against policies and regulations.

However, “that strategy-execution loop is of no value if you don’t trust the data that’s feeding you,” said Sippy. “Do you have data integrity around that to be able to make business changes based on those risk thresholds that you set?”

Businesses have an unnecessary aversion to the idea of risk management and compliance, said Sippy, but it’s really about a framework to obtain checks and balances around business activities regardless of industry. But it should be a robust framework that can be applicable to all regulations, be it Sarbanes-Oxley or Food and Drug Administration “so you don’t have to do it over and over.”

The Business Objects Influencer Summit wrapped up Tuesday.

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