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4/11/2006
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Put to the Test: BusinessObjects XI Makes It Easy and Tempting to Upgrade

XI Release 2 supports legacy reports while improving Web-based functionality, easing administration and expediting migration from older deployments.

PROS
• Solid migration utilities.
• Existing, full-client reports run unmodified or can be converted to Web-based reports.
• Improved auditing and deployment capabilities.
• Web Intelligence queries and analyzes multiple, synchronized data sources.
CONS
• Running Crystal Reports requires a second metadata layer.
• Java Report Panel interface isn't intuitive.
• Templates aren't available to ensure consistent report formatting.

When I first reviewed BusinessObjects XI last year, I was impressed by improvements in the Web Intelligence query and analysis environment and by the integration of the Crystal Reports architecture. But my reaction for long-time Business Objects customers was lukewarm, as legacy reports were not supported in XI Release 1.

BusinessObjects XI Release 2, introduced late last year, makes it clear that while Web Intelligence may be the environment of the future, the company wants to protect customer investments in existing full-client reports. To that end, these reports run unmodified in XI Release 2. BusinessObjects classic (the tool used to author the full-client reports) has been rebranded Desktop Intelligence, and users now have access to the common InfoView portal, security, scheduling and infrastructure of the BusinessObjects Enterprise platform, which offers greater scalability and performance.

XI Release 2 also brings improvements in Web-based functionality, integrated reporting, migration and administration, cementing the platform's position as one of the strongest products in the business intelligence (BI) market.

Closing the Gap

Despite the pains Business Objects has taken to support full-client reports, many customers have said they will convert them to Web Intelligence to take advantage of Web-based authoring and interactivity. Web Intelligence report consumers can readily right-click against any table to re-sort, filter, drill, remove a column, add a calculation or change the display type of a chart--without launching a full report design environment. The vendor provides a Report Conversion Utility that converts most full-client reports to the Web Intelligence format.

In the past, gaps in functionality between Web Intelligence and the full client limited adoption of Web-based authoring. XI Release 2 changes that. One of the biggest improvements is synchronization of multiple data sources, which lets users create queries against any BusinessObjects universe and OLAP data source and present the results as one seamless cross-tab or chart. Not only can you access data from different sources (such as internal pricing benchmarks and market prices), you can access data at different levels of detail. For example, early adopter Alpha Physicians Resources, which staffs emergency rooms throughout New York and New Jersey, uses this capability to monitor the number of patients treated by a doctor each hour. Multiple data providers are used because patient information is stored at an encounter level of detail, whereas physician hours are monthly. This type of end-user analytic power does not exist in any other Web-based BI product.

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