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3/23/2005
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Business Objects Gets eXtreme

Fast-growing and increasingly profitable BI vendors are filling out and integrating their product lines according to how they see the markets evolving over the next few years, and eXtreme Insight is no exception.

There are two pitched battles going in the business intelligence community which generally reflect what is happening in the broader IT community. On the presentation layer, browser-based portals and programs are competing with desktop clients, while on the process layer, open, integrated servers/services are pitted against primarily proprietary servers. Against this backdrop, the fast-growing and increasingly profitable BI vendors are filling out and integrating their product lines according to how they see the markets evolving over the next few years -- and eXtreme Insight is no exception.

Portals Everywhere

In their presentation material on eXtreme Insight, Business Objects appears to have cast their vote distinctly in favor of a browser-based approach to BI. Scorecards, Strategic Maps, Metric Tree Diagrams and a variety of Dashboards are the key eXtreme Insight deliverables emphasized in both seminars and demo disks. Of course these are delivered through an integrated platform that emphasizes Business Objects strength's in metadata, process management and data integration services.

But clearly the emphasis was on the ability for eXtreme Insight to deliver BI Portals running in either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla/Firefox browsers and doing advanced report, OLAP cube and graphics preparation plus formatting in the browsers. Even more compelling, just about every graphic and report had drilldown capabilities --some of which are derived from pre-built scorecard templates and some of which must be coded and built by the XI-owning IT shop. Mileage varies with what is purchased.

In addition, eXtreme Insight provided access to both Web Intelligence query and analysis plus Crystal Decisions' prepackaged reports, either through the drill-down mechanism or through Reporting services screens that show users what assets are available to them for use. This was just one example of how Business Objects has integrated Crystal into its platform. Another telling example was the use of the Crystal over the Business Object's Metadata server in providing dynamic query and report-creation information.

That dynamic report-creation allows portal users to go beyond the structured scorecards and drilldowns and, with the proper authentication, do full query and analysis using the Business Object Web Intelligence tools. On first glance, these appear to be roughly comparable with the growing popularity of browser-based report design tools from vendors like Cognos and MicroStrategy.

However, what appears to be unique to Business Object's solution is its new Encyclopedia, which can be attached to any report or graphic analysis. This Encyclopedia contains links to a Glossary of Terms, Business Questions, Guided Analysis and Action Advisories that IT and the BI team set up for those reports that may present interpretation problems to their users. This is much like the help file coaches or wizards supplied in desktop software.

Another useful info panel that has been expanded in eXtreme Insight is the Document Summary, which provides valuable information on data sources used, when they're run, when they're last changed and other report/analysis-specific information that can be vital in the new world of Sarbanes Oxley verification and compliance, as well as interactive design and formatting.

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