Information Builders hopes WebFocus 8 is enough

ORLANDO – Improved efficiency, a new graphical user interface and a portal tool that could match the power of Microsoft’s SharePoint will all be included in the WebFocus 8 business intelligence software platform, Information Builders Inc. told customers at its annual Summit user conference on Sunday afternoon.

Canadian enterprises including Scotiabank and Bell Canada will be among those offering presentations around IBI’s WebFocus as well as iWay, the company’s e-business application software product, this week. WebFocus 8, which was officially announced last month in beta form and available in the fourth quarter of this year, will include some features more immediately available through version 7.7 but some unique characteristics as well, executives said.

Gerry Cohen, IBI’s president and CEO, told the keynote audience his company was working hard to help customers grapple with what he called “the time dimension of information. This includes not only historical data (what happened) and real-time, complex event processing (what’s happening now), but also predictive information (what might happen).

“It’s better than guessing,” he said, adding that even more historical forms of BI can provide valuable insights to users. “People will talk about (BI) reports and say, oh, that’s just telling you what’s already happened, what we already know. The reason you get a report, though, is to understand why.”

Cohen said WebFocus 8 will be 16 per cent more efficient than previous versions, though he did not go into more details around this metric. He also said the software would include an expanded security model, offering IT departments more “hardening options” to make sure information stayed with the proper users.

A detailed demo walked attendees through new features that will allow customers to make “guided reports,” or ad-hoc applications with several choices of tables and rows for a variety of scenarios. Cohen watched as a sample report was developed in just over five minutes. “It avoids the need to create many different forms,” he explained.

IBI is standing alone at a time when most other BI firms have been swallowed up by larger entities. This includes SAP, which has released a slew of products following its purchase of Business Objects, and IBM, which bought Ottawa-based Cognos two years ago. Oracle, meanwhile, plans a major update to OBIEE, its own BI product, next month, and Microsoft is positioning its SQL Server product as a component of a BI solution. Like IBI, many of these firms are also focusing on increased data quality and performance management.

Cohen made little comment on the changing competitive landscape, although he acknowledge some influence from Microsoft. He cited SharePoint Server as an example of a wildly popular portal tool, much like IBI hopes its latest BI portal will be to analytics users. The BI portal will allow developers to more easily create dashboard based on users and their roles. It is a new product, he added, not a replacement to its existing portal tool. Some elements of WebFocus 8 may also look similar to the “ribbon paradigm” found in the GUI for Microsoft’s most recent Office products, executives said.
IDC analyst Dan Vesset, who presented at IBI’s Summit, said companies are slowly starting to move beyond simple query analysis and reporting to what he called “pervasive BI,” which would influence strategic as well as operational or tactical decision-making.
“It’s not just a case of giving people WebFocus,” he said, though he acknowledged the potential power of such tools. “It’s one thing to provide access to the tools. It’s a question of, do they take action based on the information it presents to them?”

IBI’s Summit continues on Monday.

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