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6/20/2011
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How Information Builders Battles BI Goliaths

A hybrid mobile app, data-visualization upgrades, and unsung add ons bolster the vendor's business intelligence suite.

Attendees at the conference consistently praised Information Builders for its customer service and partnership mentality. One could argue that conference attendees will be skewed on the positive side, but the Successful BI survey and other industry surveys show this is a widespread customer take on the company. (Be sure to take the 2011 Successful BI survey to rate your BI vendor.) In fact, Information Builders is one of only three BI platform vendors that have consistently earned the highest marks in both account management and support in the side-by-side Strategic BI Scorecard.

An Information Builders customer in the messaging industry described a new extranet reporting and dashboard solution built on Information Builders software. The company did not want to be identified outside the event, but if you are a banking customer, frequent flyer, or have school-aged children, chances are you've received a phone call or email from this company warning of low funds, a delayed flight, or a snow closing. The company provides the SaaS engine used by a lot of banks, airlines, and schools to do outbound communication. An executive described how one BI application saved a mail-order prescription drug company millions of dollars per day in returned or damaged drugs by allowing customers to more precisely schedule delivery times.

Information Builders has a strong toe-hold in law enforcement. Offering prebuilt data models and reports, the company has had success in providing police departments across the country with insight into staffing levels and crime patterns.

A few years ago the City of Richmond, Virginia, Police Department won awards for its BI deployment from both TDWI and Gartner. That city's police chief has since moved to Charlotte, NC, where he has launched a similar BI initiative.

At last week's event, Crystal Cody, Systems and Application Manager at the Charlotte police department, described how all officers now have a virtual roll call in squad cars.

"Before, if the officer came on a later shift, he might have missed an all-points-bulletin (APB) from the morning shift," Cody said." Now that all officers reference the same dashboards from their police cars, they never miss an APB, she explained. The WebFocus RStat analytics module was a differentiator in the city's competitive BI tool selection. Released in mid 2009, RStat is a graphical user interface to the open source R statistical language. Predictive models built within RStat can be executed and embedded directly within a WebFocus report, pushing results of predictive models to front-line users.

With total revenues at just over $300 million, Information Builders is smaller than the big-five mega BI vendors -- SAP, Oracle, SAS, IBM, and Microsoft -- but it's larger than dozens of independents in the BI market. Information Builders' customer list is something to brag about, covering multiple industries and company sizes, from American Express to the New York Police Department to Helzberg Diamonds.

Though innovation and determination, this is a company that has won new deals against bigger competitors, making a case for a product that distinctly and effectively serves key segments of the BI user community.

Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard , an independent analyst firm that advises companies on BI tool strategies and offers in-depth business intelligence product reviews.

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