IBI enters BPM battleground

At its Summit 200 user conference last month, Information Builders Inc. (IBI) announced the availability of its business performance management (BPM) framework, formally marking the company’s entry to providing what it calls an orthodox BPM balanced-scorecard approach.

In front of 1,000 Summit attendees, Information Builders Inc. (IBI) president and CEO Gerald Cohen said the “organically” developed solution — as opposed to a patchwork of products added via acquisition — is designed to shorten business cycles and features enterprise-wide scorecarding, financial reporting, performance metrics and dashboards. The WebFocus Performance Management Framework, available now, is standards-based and features analysis of staged or real-time data across a data access architecture, according to need.

IBI also unveiled new report enhancements to its real-time WebFocus enterprise BI suite, including integrated Microsoft PowerPoint reporting and scalable vector graphics (SVG). In addition, WebFocus graphs can new be produced in Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format. The enhancements allow the ability to save an active dashboard as a PowerPoint slide, IBI said.

For Kevin Lam, a Canadian attendee at Summit 2004, the announcements are good news. Lam, a business performance manager for Telus Corp., said the telecommunications firm needed to collect and analyze data from its 3,000 field workers. To that end, Telus recently developed a WebFocus-based scorecarding application that has provided productivity gains of between $1 million to $2 million a month, according to Lam.

The data collected from the field are compiled into a data warehouse, enabling the creation of key performance indicators to improve critical decision making. It was key to bridge the gap between IT and the business side in order to drive these efficiencies and improve return on investment (ROI), Lam said. The announced BPM framework product could potentially make it easier to create company scorecards, he added.

IT often has its work cut out because often it has been allocated strict budgets and resources from the business side. Montreal-based Andy Hanna, manager of financial reporting for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), noted that bridging the gap between IT and business is crucial.

An IBI customer, Hanna said that with more than 10,000 staff employed at the financial institution, RBC is currently using WebFocus 5 and is looking at extending the BI functionality to improve its self-service applications and ability to generate reports.

In terms of achieved higher ROI, it’s about picking “the low hanging fruit,” and reducing the load on the IT side, Hanna said. In particular, end users want easier reporting capabilities of financial data on the desktop; the new enhancements allow staff to more easily create their own reports and in the format they desire, he said.

Industry observers note that the rise of BPM offerings from vendors can be attributed to enterprise demands for higher ROI, as well as the need for better customer service delivery and business efficiency. According to Framingham, Mass.-based industry research firm IDC, the US$12.5 billion BI and BPM market is a bright spot in an otherwise stagnant enterprise business software space.

Within the next five years the market is expected to grow seven per cent (compound annual growth rate). According to Dan Vesset, senior analyst and research manager of analytics and data warehousing for IDC, enterprises can gain a competitive edge from improving the accuracy and speed of critical decision making. Vesset added that in an era of compliance regulations and increased CIO accountability, BPM technology is looking very attractive to organizations.

Certain BI trends are emerging, according to Vesset. These include advanced data visualization, event-based analytics, business activity monitoring, and the increased role of Web services, Vesset said.

Also at Summit 2004, through its subsidiary, adapter vendor iWay Software, IBI announced Data Migrator RT (real-time) and Data Migrator integration products.

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