Information Builders Upgrades WebFocus BI Platform

Active PDF reports and an RStat analytics module top the list of improvements.
Business intelligence should do more than report on what has happened; it should inform us about what is happening and what will happen. That's the breadth of insight Information Builders promises with the latest release of its WebFocus BI platform. Announced this week at the vendor's user conference in Nashville, Tenn., the WebFocus upgrade includes an all-new Active PDF reporting tool and the final production release of the RStat predictive analytics module.

Active PDF is a new feature of the vendor's Active Reports technology, which binds data and interactive viewing into cross-platform file formats such as HTML and Flash. The new option has been made possible by recent PDF enhancements that allow interactive, Flex-based applications to be compiled into the file format.

Active PDF reports are said to be ideal for print-friendly reports that also let users sort, filter, chart and otherwise explore data without scouring through dozens or hundreds of pages. Rather, users can click on dimensions and variables and explore the data as they would a live report connected to a back-end data source. Mobile salespeople, for example, could receive general sales reports that also let them drill down to regions, territories and their own sales figures. And customers could receive invoices and statements that support interactive exploration of month-by-month and year-to-date expenditures.

WebFocus reporting capabilities have also been enhanced with upgrades to the InfoAssist ad hoc query interface introduced late last year. To improve intuitive analysis, the InfoAssist interface now supports multidimensional data types with cube browsing and native viewing of cube structures. A new Compose View feature lets users create formatted reports from within InfoAssist so they can create invoices, financial briefing books and other reports with multiple visualizations on a single page.

To help BI users understand what is happening in real time, an upgraded WebFocus Activity Monitor feature blends real-time access to operational data with dashboard-style displays and a new in-memory data caching feature. The combination lets users monitor and analyze, say, financial trading data, manufacturing plant output information or retail transactional data and look at recent trends and point-in-time snapshots (held in cache) compared to historical levels or preset thresholds. More than 300 prebuilt connectors to source systems are available from Information Builders' iWay information integration division.

The vendor's new WebFocus RStat analytics package is geared to helping organizations predict what will happen. Based on the open-source R programming language, the platform enables data minders, statisticians, BI developers and analysts to build models and analytic applications that can then be harnessed by ordinary business users.

"Within our developer's studio, you can build a dashboard or reporting application and embed predictive or statistical models inside," says Michael Corcoran, Information Builders' Chief Marketing Officer. "That makes those models available to everyone, not just the specialized experts who used to provide all the answers."

As an open-source-based product, RStat software is available for free, but there are annual maintenance services costs for this optional module. All other WebFocus upgrades are to existing functionality and freely available to currently licensed customers.

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