The market for business intelligence (BI) continues to grow as organizations realize that business users across the enterprise need to analyze and understand information more effectively and perhaps provide it to customers, suppliers and even ordinary citizens. Using information and analytics business can become more agile and derive a variety of benefits including cost control, revenue generation, improvement of the customer experience, risk reduction and organizational governance. Information Builders (IBI) has been delivering BI for decades and recently took steps to drive wider adoption of it, announcing version 8 of its WebFOCUS platform. The new release advances management of data quality data, is easier to customize and deploy, provides more sophisticated visualization and analytics, and integrates performance management capabilities. Version 8 has been in the works for a while and builds significantly on the release of capabilities that I covered in 2009 (See “Information Builders Rock Nashville with Business Intelligence and More”). Let’s look a little closer at the advancements announced in this new release.
The first major addition of WebFOCUS version 8 is its integration and utilization of iWay Software, a division of Information Builders that provides technology for data quality, data integration and master data management (MDM). Since I analyzed this technology previously (See: “iWay Software is Tooling the Information Freeway”), its developers have added new capabilities for data profiling, real-time data cleansing and advanced support for business rules to ensure consistency of data definitions in MDM. This set of capabilities does not always get noticed in the industry, but access to and integration of data have been a cornerstone of Information Builders’ efforts for a long time. Having them built into the BI platform is a step that most of its competitors have not matched, still having these capabilities in separate products but not completely unified together.
Version 8 also advances in the integration of performance management with WebFOCUS; my colleague already has covered the significant improvements in usability and sophistication in IBI’s performance management functionality (See: “IBI’s Eye Popping New Performance Management Software”). What I find most relevant is the collaboration capabilities that enable a realm of related methods including annotation, blogging and social media tools to interact and discuss performance related information. As well its starter kits have libraries of measures and metrics that help facilitate new deployments. It is important to note that IBI’s product Performance Management Framework was built on WebFOCUS from the beginning, which makes it easier to deploy to meet the needs of business. Information Builders has been achieving deployments in new industries, which provide it experience in the management processes of organizations and not just information and analytics within BI. The company will have to add more forecasting and planning to strengthen its offerings in this critical area and persuade customers that it should not be done in spreadsheets if more than a handful of people are involved. The blending of BI with performance management is a necessary component of BI deployments in the future as it will help organizations to easier meet a set of performance processes .
Information Builders has advanced the sophistication of its BI technology for business analysts through advanced analytics using visualization that supports 64-bit in-memory computing that it calls Visual Discovery. It also has expanded its predictive analytics WebFOCUS RStat, which is integrated into its WebFOCUS Developer Studio and thus immediately available to anyone ready to apply these analytics. Here again Information Builders has taken an integrated approach, rather building separate modules, which eases its use by analysts across business and IT.
I really like the flexible way that Information Builders integrates complex event processing (CEP) and real-time BI in a product called CEP Enable; this integrates what I call Operational Intelligence with BI to respond to the ever-faster cycles of business across the supply chain and networks. Going beyond the typical business activity monitoring (BAM) activity, WebFOCUS can actually provide the ability to take action on the information. It also meets the needs for better information security, have been audited to achieve Level 3 certification of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). Tight security is increasingly important as sensitive data moves across the Internet or from the Internet into the enterprise and must be better secured from cyber threats.
Deployment of business intelligence also needs to be simpler if it is to be used by consumers and customers, who require flexible, thin-client requirements for mobile devices and Web browsers. In this area, Information Builders has adapted its technology to become part of a growing community of what I call Information Applications that extend rich internet application (RIA) movement to deliver dynamic information anywhere. IBI does this through advancements of its Developer Studio but also in a simpler-to-use BI Portal that can be easily customized based on user types and roles. Making information more easily available is a significant need for every business, and Information Builders addresses that in this new version.
WebFOCUS version 8 currently is only in beta testing as IBI solicits many organizations to provide feedback to improve and validate its capabilities before final release later this year. Version 8 will be an important step forward in the company’s competitive posture for a full BI platform and tools that expand to meet business needs. And by the way, I like the lighter side of marketing that Information Builders puts in the 8 signs you need better BI, bringing humor to the reality of challenges in people getting the right BI for business. Information Builders must gain more opportunities to be evaluated against other major suppliers. That requires pointed marketing that can its approach more widely visible. If that is done right, WebFOCUS Version 8 will set a new point of evaluation for a broader platform and tools for BI and comparison to other suppliers.
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Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research