Software // Information Management
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6/9/2010
03:18 PM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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Information Builders Still Innovating After 35 Years

Few BI vendors can celebrate a 35-year anniversary, as Information Builders did this week at their annual user conference in Orlando, Fla. There are a lot of ways that this pure-play vendor likes to buck the trend in the BI world...

Few BI vendors can celebrate a 35-year anniversary as Information Builders did this week at their annual user conference in Orlando, Fla.

There are a lot of ways that this pure-play vendor likes to buck the trend in the BI world. They remain privately held and based in New York. Some predicted their demise following the industry consolidation in 2007, and yet, they continue to grow and innovate. In fact, they get the highest marks on BI Scorecard's "innovation" category. And while a company's president would typically use the keynote to inspire and talk about strategic directions, president Gerry Cohen used his keynote to delve into a deep discussion of new features in Information Builders' latest release, getting as technical as SQL chasm traps and the FOCUS MATCH command.From a marketing perspective, the company is most excited about WebFocus 8, due to release by the end of the year. From a practical point, though, there is a lot to tout in WebFocus 7.7, which released over the weekend. The two most noteworthy improvements are that users can now build their own dashboards and, well, the MATCH thing.

Information Builders historically touted a "guided-ad-hoc" to self-service BI in which reports are developed by IT but are highly parameterized for interaction by casual users. The company released InfoAssist in 2008 to provide business users with a richer authoring interface. This tool was fine for answering simple business questions, such as "Sales by Customer," but it wasn't suitable for queries that involved two fact tables, such as "Open Orders and Payments by Customers." A developer would have to custom code such a report using the FOCUS MATCH command or HOLD files. This was InfoAssist's biggest competitive shortcoming, but that is now resolved in WebFocus 7.7.

One of the most interesting customer conversations I had here was with Chris Brady, CIO of Dealer Services Corporation, which provides financial services to independent used-car dealers. She reinforced my view that mainstream analytics is the next big wave in BI. Dealer Services had started out building predictive models with a dedicated statistical package. Extracting data from multiple data sources and creating the models was a barrier. With WebFocus Rstat (first released last June), a developer can access data and create models all from the same WebFocus Developer Studio interface used to create reports. So the results of the model can be readily embedded as a column in a WebFocus report. Brady was also recognized by CIO Magazine this week for the significant impact their implementation has had on the company and ensuring that dealers could continue to get financing during the credit crunch.

Regards, Cindi Howson, BI ScorecardFew BI vendors can celebrate a 35-year anniversary, as Information Builders did this week at their annual user conference in Orlando, Fla. There are a lot of ways that this pure-play vendor likes to buck the trend in the BI world...

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