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5/30/2007
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Information Builders Adds Dashboards, Excel Plug-in, Compliance Framework

Business intelligence vendor offers two approaches to sharing data and insight: the usual Excel route, or 'Active' license-free reports with dashboard and collaboration features.

How many times have you heard the yarn about "spreading business intelligence to the masses?" Every BI vendor is talking this talk, and it usually boils down to Web-based reporting and integrations with Excel. At its annual user conference last week in Las Vegas, Information Builders Inc. (IBI) expanded on its unique "Active Reports" approach while also introducing a "Quick Data" plug-in that follows the accustomed path to Excel. IBI's iWay unit used last week's event to introduce a compliance framework that exploits the vendor's integration prowess.

WebFocus Active Reports has been IBI's long-time answer to broad-based sharing from its BI suite. The technology combines data-sharing and analytic capabilities in a single, Java-script-powered document that can be downloaded and viewed within a browser (online or offline), so users don't need licensed BI software. Reports can be published online or e-mailed to anyone, and because the source data is included in the file, users can drill down and perform custom analyses.

Last week, IBI announced it has extended this technology by adding Dashboarding capabilities with various graphical views. As with all Active Reports, the underlying data is included in the document, so users aren't confined to predetermined charting styles. IBI has also added collaborative capabilities to Active Reports whereby each step in an analysis can be saved on separate tab. This feature lets users tab though the step-by-step analyses applied by a collaborator so they can better understand and adapt the same approach. The feature also can be used in presentation scenarios to tell a story with the data.

Following the more typical path to sharing data with the masses, IBI last week introduced a Quick Data plug-in for Microsoft Excel. The plug-in lets users pull WebFocus data into Excel and refresh that data as needed to stay in sync with the latest information. Quick Data also can exploit data connectors from IBI's iWay division to directly tap into more than 300 enterprise applications and business systems. These connectors are a differentiator for Quick Data, but in contrast to some competitive offerings, the plug in does not support write back, so it is intended only for one-way viewing and reporting.

The new iComply framework from iWay is designed to monitor and report on business processes in support of governance, risk and compliance initiatives. The framework combines the third-party Prizmasoft Compliance Solution with iWay's Service Manager and its 300-plus connectors so it can monitor processes that cross scores of systems and information sources. Banks, for example, could use the framework to monitor inbound and outbound transactions across multiple systems to ensure compliance with FDIC solvency guidelines. Manufacturers or distributors could monitor electronic orders, bills of lading and receipt-of-goods confirmations to satisfy audit guidelines on the disposition of inventories. The framework is still in beta testing but is said to be available immediately starting at $300,000.

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