Dashboard Insight recently spoke with Rado Kotorov about his "extended BI strategy," solutions for mobile devices and why he currently prefers his clients thin!
Dashboard Insight: Tell us about the history of Information Builders.
Information Builders’ award-winning combination of business intelligence and enterprise integration software has been providing innovative solutions to more than 12,000 customers for the past 30 years. Our customers include most of the Fortune 100 and U.S. federal government agencies. Headquartered in New York City with 90 offices worldwide, the company employs 1,450 people and has more than 350 business partners.
Rado Kotorov: WebFOCUS is the world’s most widely utilized business intelligence platform. It provides the security, scalability and flexibility needed at every level of global extended enterprises; its simplicity helps create executive, analytical and operational applications that reach dozens to millions of users. Information Builders’ iWay Software suite provides state-of-the-art, multi-purpose, pre-built integration components that address all SOA, application, data and information management requirements. Its integration adapters have been adopted by the leading software platform providers and the company also offers solutions in the performance management, business activity monitoring and enterprise search markets. Our comprehensive enterprise product offerings give Information Builders’ customers the ability to grow and innovate according to their needs.
DI: Where does Information Builders sit on the B.I. stack?
RK: A few years ago we embarked on what we call an “extended BI strategy.” We essentially recognized that BI is a foundational technology for information management and as such it can be used as a base to serve a much broader set of information needs. Thus, we started adding and integrating with the BI core technology a whole set of additional technologies - and now we provide search, predictive analytics, transactional updates, performance management, electronic publishing, office integration, real-time dashboards, XBRL, RIA and Mash ups, etc. Enterprises often need one or more of these technologies and they have to acquire them from somewhere. So the idea behind the “extended BI strategy” is that Information Builders can address all of these needs without its customers having to go to other vendors for these functionalities.
DI: Can you elaborate on your WebFOCUS Mobile BI and reporting solutions for mobile devices? What tools are incorporated?
RK: We are an early adopter of mobile devices. By that I mean that we had a solution for mobile devices in 2001 – a product called “Two Way Email.” Mobile devices did not have browsers at that time, so how did we deliver reports? A user could request a report via email, they could type parameters too, e.g., sales for “France,” and only the sales numbers for France would be sent back. People are still using it today and they love it so much that they do not want to move to browser-based solutions.
Many of our competitors opted for thick-client solutions and developed custom applications for specific devices. We did a serious analysis of the browser trends and came to the conclusion that the industry was about to embark on a mobile browser war similar to the one between Netscape and Internet Explorer. In other words, we concluded that browsers were simply getting better and better. Why? This was driven by consumer demand for mobile content and given the huge diversity of devices, the browser appeared to be the only solution. Very shortly, the iPhone proved the power of the browser and now we have many alternatives. Thus “Mobile Favorites” is essentially a browser-based portal that allows a user to access and run their custom reports from it. It manages the security, the parameterizations of reports, etc. Users can go to their corporate dashboard and add any report to their “Mobile Favorites” by just right-clicking on a report. That is quite easy and gives all the power to the users to manage their mobile content. They receive an email notification with a link that takes them to the mobile favorites launch page.
DI: How does Information Builders plan on continuing to meet BI and reporting requirements, even as devices and browsers change?
RK: Our thin-client approach makes us device independent. As I mentioned in the previous question, we do not want to be in the game of device management. There is the iPhone OS, the Microsoft and Google OS, the Symbian, the RIM, etc. Making device-specific applications creates a lot of management overhead. There are cases where a device-specific application is necessary, fortunately, BI is about dissemination of information. Thus, what is important for us is the ability to deliver and render the requested information on the device. The device browsers offer significant capabilities in rendering information and their rendering capabilities and interactive capabilities are continuously improving. So for BI, the thin-client browser-based approach is sufficient and eliminates the issues with device management.
DI: Information Builders received press last year about how your emergency notification application is being used by the Kennedy Space Center. Tell us about some of your other top clients.
RK: If we are talking about BI applications in general, we have many cases similar to the Kennedy Space Center application. But I assume you are interested in their early adoption of mobile technologies. We are seeing now cities using mobile reports to monitor outstanding 911 calls, current jail mates, inspection activities and so on. The reason why I mention these cases is because the need that drove their application development is very similar to that in the Kennedy Space Center case. For example, there is a regulatory requirement to monitor the 911 calls, but how do you do it? A police officer does not spend a lot of time looking at the screen of his or her laptop. So the best way is to give them access to real-time reports is via a mobile device. We take this even one step further. How does an officer find information when he or she is on duty, like sitting in the patrol car? The easiest way is via search. Everyone knows how to use Google, so now we have police departments using Magnify – officers on duty can search from the police car and retrieve information from multiple systems in real time. You see now how all of our core and extended technology function is in sync to provide the most convenient and timely access to information.
DI: What is the process if someone wants to evaluate your solutions?
RK: It is really easy. If an existing customer wants to try another feature, they can request from their account manager a license key that enables the feature in their current installation. Starting in 769, we made a free trial version of our Active Technologies. This version is enabled in the product and so a customer can try it directly without having to request a key.
For non-Information Builders customers, there is a whole set of programs to help them evaluate the software if they request an evaluation. And those evaluations can range from bringing them into our offices to try the software to having Information Builders consultants help them install and configure in their environment.
DI: What can we expect to see from Information Builders in the coming months?
RK: We are very excited about our Active PDF solution, the extension of our Active technologies that allows users to embed interactive, print-ready content in PDF documents. Making the PDF document interactive will help drive adoption of digital documents and help enterprises save money on paper and go green faster. We are also excited about InfoAssist, our thin-client query and analysis tool. It is as easy to use as Word and Excel, but you do not need to install it on your computer. All you need to do is go to a web page and you have all the power to create reports and do cube analysis delivered in a browser. We are also working on some new UI concepts to drive interactive reporting to the next level. Usability is key for us.
About Rado Kotorov
Rado Kotorov, Ph.D. is technical director of strategic product management at Information Builders. You can reach the author at Rado_Kotorov@ibi.com
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