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2/7/2006
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Review: Xcelsius And Xcelsius Workgroup

The Business Objects' tools work with Microsoft Excel and allow the creation not just of presentations, but also dashboard and portal content with KPIs. Our review looks at the products' strengths and weaknesses.

Overview

Business Objects' Xcelsius and Xcelsius Workgroup are two programs for creating dynamic presentations of increasing flexibility – from PowerPoint slides up to dashboard and portal content.

The critical feature of Xcelsius is that it works with Microsoft Excel and is accessible to Excel power users as a means of developing not just power presentations, but also useful dashboard and portal content with all the usual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), drill-downs, and "what-if" analyses. A second key component is that its output is a Flash small Web format (SWF), self-contained program that can be embedded into HTML, PDF and a number of portal systems.

Portals deliver information at your finger tips -- but the ease and timeliness with which those dashboards and portals can be created is still quite mixed. Ease of development often brings proprietary platform restrictions, long lead-times to get new portal views implemented, or expensive per-user licensing costs. Business Objects' Xcelsius provides power users with a little latitude: They can do it themselves with a cross-platform deployment option, at a reasonable (though hardly cheap) cost per user.

Xcelsius is the original brainchild of Infommersion, a software firm that was bought by Business Objects in October 2005. The product is available in two versions -- Xcelsius, which is primarily designed for delivering highly flexible but data-static presentations that can be viewed stand-alone, or as part of a PowerPoint Presentation. Xcelsius Workgroup adds output to an Adobe Acrobat file, an Outlook or any HTML-aware e-mail or embedded in a Web Page. In the latter case Xcelsius Workgroup also can be given dynamic data input capabilities.

But Xcelsius Workgroup is really designed to accommodate the creation of dashboard and portal applications with associated features for security, sharing, performance and management control. Xcelsius Workgroup provides the same design or Analytic Workbench as the one offered by Xcelsius, though with added features for data management and group use. The Analytic Workbench definitely simplifies presentation layout.

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