INTERVIEW: Information Builders’ Michael Corcoran

Everyone knows that in today’s hyper-competitive business world, precise analytics of corporate data is important.

Which is why two senior executives of Information Builders came to our office recently to talk about business intelligence applications and why organizations need them.

Michael Corcoran, the New York City-based company’s vice-president and chief marketing officer, and Brian Joynt, president Canadian operations, had been updating customers about the latest modules to Information Builders’ WebFocus 8 suite.

They include Social Media Analytics, which pours over posts, blogs and other social networking data to detect patterns in customer opinions; added data relationship and sentiment algorithms within the Magnify search platform; and enhanced data visualization capabilities for showing depict complex data sets as interactive images within WebFocus Visual Discovery.

“What most people want to hone in on is machine-generated data – which might have more applicability in verticals like utilities and banking and heavy transaction-oriented processes – and social media, where industries like retail, healthcare, consumer product goods manufacturers are very interested in what people are saying about them,” said Corcoran.

For more on his thoughts, click on the video below. 

Information Builders is an interesting company: One of only two privately-held BI companies in the industry (the other is SAS Institute) that offers an entire business intelligence stack from data integration, data quality, master data management, data warehouse and data marts to dashboards.

As a result, you can’t learn about its revenues and profits. Joynt says in Canada the company has seen double digit revenue increases in the past couple of years, although the number of staff here has risen slowly from 72 three years ago to 78 today.

The number of big names Information Builders competes against increases every year and includes IBM, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, as well as lesser-known names like Acutate, MicroStrategy, Tableau Software, and Tibco Software.

Size hasn’t stopped it from gaining significant Canadian customers including Air Canada, Via Rail, many banks, Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, Telus Corp., Industry Canada and several municipalities and hospitals.

But what’s the number one BI tool in North America? Microsoft Excel, according to Boris Evelson, vice-president and principal analyst Forrester Research, who specializes in business intelligence. Business users “still find other technologies not as intuitive, not as flexible, not as agile,” he said in an interview.

There’s a disconnect between business and IT, he observed: Business users still think that spreadsheets are the way to go because they’re fast.

There’s a sense that with BI software, staff have to call IT and let them know what they want to answer. Then they have to wait for a developer to build the app to query the data, which will be delivered weeks later and may or may not fill the users’ requirements. Sometimes, these apps can be re-used, but the types of questions that need answering often change.

Information Builders releases WebFocus Social Media Analytics

New self-service capabilities allow users to make their own queries, Forrester says, with tools like automodelling, the ability to add their own formulas, the ability to link to multiple databases

However, says Evelson, “in the modern world we want instant answers to instant questions,” so the spreadsheet still reigns.

That’s why BI is still an immature market, he says, with average scores in adoption compared to other technologies like customer relationship management software, according to a Forrester survey. This despite the fact that BI itself is a mature technology, he said.

But “from usage, adoption, successes, we still have ways and ways to go.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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